Spain’s reign as World Champions hangs by a thread after they were humbled in the rain of Salvador by Louis Van Gaal’s ruthless Dutch side.
They took an early lead through Xabi Alonso’s penalty but after that it was all Holland as giants of the world stage like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas left the field shell-shocked and humiliated.
It was a tactical masterclass from new Manchester United boss Van Gaal and virtuoso performances by his two chief lieutenants, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, who scored two each.
This was the battle of the last tournament’s finalists but the game bore no resemblance to the one in South Africa, where there were 14 yellow cars, one red and a single Iniesta goal deservedly won it for Spain against an over-physical Dutch side.
When Wesley Schneider passed up a very presentable early opportunity one on one with Casillas and Spain won a penalty when Stefan de Vrij caught Diego Costa’s foot, it looked like business as usual for the holders.
Alonso stepped up and coolly drilled the penalty into the bottom corner and Spain ought to have extended their lead three minutes from the break when Iniesta sent in David Silva but Jasper Cillessen palmed away the Manchester City man’s lob.
It was to prove an expensive miss because in under a minute Holland were level.
A superb diagonal ball from Daley Blind found van Persie sprinting behind the Spanish defence and a flying header from 16 yards out beat the stranded Casillas.
The tournament is only two days old but we won’t see many better goals and van Persie’s sprint to embrace his manager Louis Van Gaal on the sidelines was something United fans will expect to be repeated next season.
And it got worse, much worse, for Spain.
Seven minutes after the break young Blind, whose father Danny is one of Van Gaal’s assistants, again provided the supply and Robben the excellent finish,
Two minutes later Costa was lucky that referee Nicola Rizzoli missed his clear movement of the head into Martins Indi’s face at a corner.
Holland could have put the game out of sight on the hour when van Persie crashed a shot against the bar after a great run by Robben.
Vicente del Bosque reacted by taking off Costa and Alonso and sending on Torres and Pedro but within a minute the Dutch had their third.
De Vrij squeezed it in at the far post with Casillas complaining bitterly that he was fouled by van Persie as he tried to reach Schneider’s cross.
Silva was flagged offside as he poked the ball in after Cillessen’s mistake and Casillas saved from van Persie.
But in the 72nd minute the Spanish keeper, the most capped player at this World Cup, miscontrolled a backpass and van Persie punished his mistake by pouncing for a Dutch fourth.
Eleven minutes from time Robben ran half the length of the field, outpaced Ramos and belted the ball past Casillas.
Amazingly, Casillas had to make two superb saves from Georginio Wijnaldum and Robben late on to keep the score down to five.
And Spain’s miserable night was summed up when Fernando Torres failed to walk the ball into the net for what would have been a consolation stoppage time goal.