Netherlands stuns defending champion Spain, 5-1


By Mike Tierney

By Mike Tierney

Los Angeles Times

SAO PAULO (MCT) — What at a blessing that the Spanish comfort food paella is commonly served on extra-large platters. Spain's haughty soccer interests might feel an urge to pig out in search of comfort after watching the harshest defeat ever for a World Cup defending champion.

Netherlands, 5-1. One more goal, which the Dutch nearly mastered in the closing minutes, and the score would have seemed taken from a tennis match after the opening set.

Somewhere in Brazil, a witch doctor is taking credit for a curse placed on Spain. Fans in Ola Bola Stadium unconnected to either team rained boos on striker Diego Costa, a Brazil native who accepted Spanish citizenship while playing professionally in Europe, then a role on the national squad.

Their ire was raised when Costa became a central figure in Spain's lone goal. During a foul-laden opening half in which the Netherlands, carrying over their nastiness from the 2010 Cup finale, were whistled 11 times. One of the milder no-no's was a leg-on-leg take-down by Stefan de Vrij of Costa. The striker might have been slipping before the mishap, but because it transpired in the box, a penalty was assessed. Xabi Alonso made it count.

The jeers increased in intensity when Costa went unpunished for a head-butt that was undetected by the referee.

By then, the Dutch had surged ahead 2-1 on a sublime long-distance header by Robin van Persie and some serious contortionism by Arjen Robben for a score.

The goals, they kept on coming, one more apiece by Van Persie and Robben, along with a gimme header by De Vrij.

By that time, paella surely was heating up in kitchens all over Spain.

To be followed by this fitting dessert: a slice of humble pie.

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