After an opening match that left them floating on air, the Netherlands were brought back down to earth with a bump on Wednesday. Australia were the team doing the grounding, often outplaying an *Oranje *team that, just days before, had crushed the reigning champions.
Louis van Gaal's side ultimately eked out a 3-2 win, with captain Robin van Persie again leading the comeback and young substitute Mephis Depay sealing a 3-2 win. And while, to some, this unconvincing Dutch performance cast fresh doubt on their FIFA World Cup™ chances, Van Persie believes that it may have proved the perfect wake-up call for the squad's less experienced players.
"Yes, it was tough," he told FIFA, "but welcome to the World Cup! This is the biggest tournament in the world, with the very best players, so you know you will have a hard time. That was the case against Australia, and it will also be the case next week and the week after that. As I said, this is the World Cup. But the main thing is that we are through. I don't think anyone expected that [after just two matches] and it's a very nice situation for us to be in."
The fact that his team have booked their place in the Round of 16 before facing Chile has also spared Van Persie a potentially excruciating experience. After all, his goal was preceded by a yellow card that will rule him out of the meeting with* La Roja*, and which made his vital equaliser all the sweeter.
"That was the goal that got us back into the game," he said. "It was important; I knew we had to get one and preferably as quickly as possible. As soon as I scored, I had a good feeling again that we could win it. And especially from my point of view, I wanted it extra badly because I knew I wouldn't be in the team for next match. I'm annoyed about that."
The Dutch are sure to miss their inspirational captain and record goalscorer when they face an impressive and in-form Chile side on Monday. However, while Van Gaal's side will need to better their performance against Australia if they are to secure top spot in Group B, Van Persie believes that, in slaying the Socceroos, they did display another hugely important character trait.
He said: "I think it says something about us that we can come back like that twice. It's especially impressive under that kind of pressure, because Australia kept on running. They actually played very well.
"We certainly did not play well in the first half but, again, you can't play every match in a tournament fantastically from the start to the end. There are also matches like this, which you need to win. It's to our credit that we did that."