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Socceroos 'here to make history'

Mark Bresciano says the Socceroos have one last chance to survive to the next group as the team prepares for their clash against the Netherlands.

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Was it a fluke, or the first and most dramatic shot in a football revolution that will rock the game to the foundations, sweep away the defending champions and cause coaches all over to re-think the way they do things.

The Netherlands' 5-1 destruction of world titleholders Spain in the opening fixture of Group B  has been the result of the World Cup so far.

Deadly double act: Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.

Deadly double act: Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. Photo: AFP

Stunning in its completeness, extraordinary for its unexpectedness and thought provoking in the manner of its execution, Louis Van Gaal's team has immediately become the talk of the tournament, with many now tipping them to go one better than they did in South Africa 2010, when the Oranje lost an ill tempered final to Spain in Soccer City, Soweto.

But wiser heads have counselled caution. The World Cup has thrown up some bizarre results before, when teams have seized momentum in one game and looked like world beaters only to come up short later. Argentina put six past Serbia in the 2006 World Cup, but lost in the quarter-finals to host Germany, while back in Mexico in 1986 the rampant Danes smashed Uruguay for six in a group game, and then promptly lost 5-1 to Spain. Still neither result was quite as dramatic as The Netherlands, as neither Serbia nor Uruguay were world champions at the time. 

But it's too early yet to say that the Dutch have one hand on the trophy, while it's also to soon to write off Spain, although they go into their next fixture against Chile knowing that a loss would almost certainly eliminate them from the competition.

Robin van Perise led the Dutch destruction of Spain.

Robin van Persie led the Dutch destruction of Spain. Photo: AP

The Socceroos, smarting from what they believe to have been a self-inflicted wound in their 3-1 loss to Chile that same day, now loom as the next test for the rampant Dutch.

On paper it should be no contest.  But football has a habit of confounding all expectations - no one predicted the maelstrom that befell the Spanish in Salvador - and it would not surprise to see Australia put up a bold show against a Netherlands side which will be buoyed by its success in the opening fixture.

Australia has learned plenty of lessons from that loss to Chile. The first is not to be such a huge respecter of reputation.

Alex Wilkinson: set to face the team that put five past Spain.

Alex Wilkinson: set to face the team that put five past Spain. Photo: Getty Images

They were, as both their coach, Ange Postecoglou, and players later admitted, rather overawed by the occasion and the reputation of the Chilean team and some of its players, leading to a kind of paralysis for a 10-minute spell that ultimately cost them the game.

The Dutch have better known names but in some senses that familiarty might help. For a tyro international like Alex Wilkinson the thought of marking Robin van Persie might be fearsome, but the former Central Coast Mariners centre back, rather than being perturbed the prospect, is looking forward to it.

As are many of the Australians. As Postecoglou has said, they have come to the World Cup to test themselves out against the best, and after last Friday the Dutch, even if only temporarily look like the best.

The Netherlands' performance highlights the unpredictability of the game. In the lead up to the competition many were focussed more on the dissension with the Dutch camp and the fact that Van Gaal was planning to abandon the cherished 4-3-3 which has been the philosophical bedrock of Dutch football since the country emerged as a powerhouse in the game in the mid 1960s.

Some were prepared to write off their chances of even progressing from the group, such was the doubt and concern about a squad which, its three stars Wesley Sneijder, van Persie and Arjan Robben apart, is crammed full of Eredivisie players.

Yet in one half of football all those concerns seem to have been swept away. The Dutch, playing with pace and directness, used plenty of long balls to over-run the Spaniards, who seemed to tire in the second period after leading early. Australian, having been given an intense physical preparation, are unlikely to slow down in the latter stages.

Postecoglou and his team will be determined to show that all the paens to the Dutch might be a little premature, even if the rest of the world gives them little hope.  Australia has a good record against the Duch, including a 2-1 win  in Eindhoven  in 2008 and a 0-0 draw in Sydney two years later. 

In fact the Oranje has never beaten Australia, having drawn 1-1 with Guus Hiddink's team in Rotterdam in 2006 as part of both nation's preparations for the World Cup in Germany a few weeks later. The Netherlands can guarantee their second round berth with a win here, while Australia needs at least a draw to stay mathematically alive. While the formbook might make it look a foregone conclusion, it might be a keener contest than many expect.