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June 23, 2017

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Van Persie, Robben star as Dutch maul Spain

SALVADOR, Brazil--Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben both scored twice as the Netherlands avenged their 2010 World Cup final defeat by routing holders Spain 5-1 on Friday in a record-breaking humiliation.

As well as it being the worst ever-mauling inflicted at a World Cup on the reigning champions, it was the worst defeat suffered by Spain in more than half a century, coming 51 years after a 6-2 defeat to Scotland in 1963.

Manchester United striker van Persie produced a stunning first-half header and slotted home the Netherlands' fourth.

"We never stopped going and in my opinion it could have been six, seven or eight goals," said man-of-the-match van Persie.

"But I've been here before, this is my fifth tournament and it's just one win and three points, now we have to focus on our next game, against Australia."

Not to be outdone, Bayern Munich star Robben scored two second-half goals with Stefan De Vrij compounding the misery for Vicente del Bosque's world and European champions.

Veteran midfielder Xabi Alonso gave the Spanish a first-half lead when he drilled home a highly contentious penalty after Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa, who was jeered constantly by local fans, went down in the box despite not appearing to have been touched.

But van Persie's diving header 90 seconds from the break put the Dutch level before the Oranje ran wild in the second half.

The Dutch triumvirate of Robben, van Persie and Wesley Sneijder caused the Spanish defense all manner of problems, but it was Daley Blind's superb long passes which created their two opening goals.

"I feel really bad, very upset and very disappointed, but I have enough courage to understand this defeat," said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.

Spain conceded two goals at the last World Cup and three in their qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014, leaving Del Bosque at a loss to explain the five-goal mauling.

"I can't find the words to explain that, we are normally solid in defense, but today we were very weak," said Del Bosque.

"You have to acknowledge the performances of van Persie and Robben."

'Dutch can improve still'

Spain went ahead when Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli judged Costa had been fouled by De Vrij and Alonso drilled the 27th-minute penalty past Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

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