It's Been 8 Years To The Day Since Robin Van Persie Took Flight At The World Cup
It's a little unsettling and depressing to think that, were things running as usual on the international calendar, we'd be at the start of the month-long carnival that is the World Cup.
June 13 has marked some unforgettable World Cup moments in the past, but none more so than what transpired eight years ago on this day at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.
On Day 2 of the 2014 World Cup, following on from Brazil's opening victory over Croatia and Mexico's narrow win against Cameroon, the event really got going with a rematch of the 2010 final in Johannesburg between Spain and the Netherlands.
Spain, of course, won that final while also claiming glory at both the 2008 and 2012 European Championships. La Furia Roja had the most decorated team in Brazil, led by captain Iker Casillas, defender Sergio Ramos and the midfield quintet of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and David Silva.
The reigning champions started well enough with Diego Costa winning a controversial penalty and Xabi Alonso converting it in the 27th minute, and viewers at home thought Spain might well spend the final hour tiki-taka-ing the Dutch to death.
However, one minute before the halftime whistle, Robin van Persie worked a bit of space on Ramos to meet a gorgeous raker from wingback Daley Blind. Then, instead of taking a touch, the Flying Dutchman improvised a preposterous diving header from 15 yards out that looped over the stranded Casillas.
Van Persie, despite having a bum groin, then went on a 10-second sprint with one end goal: a high five with manager Louis van Gaal.
On this day in 2014, Robin van Persie scored this thumping header against Spain pic.twitter.com/g1sMbWFCPw— Sportive23 (@Sportive_23) June 13, 2022
"After I scored, the stadium exploded, the bench exploded, but so did my head," Van Persie later revealed. "I did something which I had never done before. I kept looking at the ball while I was flying, until I landed with a massive bang with my face forward on the ground."
The goal was transformative in the second half. Arjen Robben made it 2-1 eight minutes after the restart, and Stefan de Vrij and Van Persie added a couple more so it was 4-1 by the 72nd-minute.
Robben's second to make it 5-1 in the 80th was pure agony for Casillas, Ramos and Jordi Alba.
Catch him if you can (spoiler: Spain couldn't)⏪ #OnThisDay in 2014, Arjen Robben scored this stunning breakaway goal as @OnsOranje served up a shock 5-1 demolition of the #WorldCup holders pic.twitter.com/EBpB51yDak
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 13, 2021
The shock of that defeat carried over into Spain's second match — a 2-0 defeat to Chile that eliminated the defending champion. The Dutch would complete a perfect group stage before eliminating Mexico and Costa Rica in the knockout stages. Their tournament came to an end in the semifinals against Lionel Messi's Argentina.