Group B recap: The Netherlands and Chile advance while the reigning champions and Australia go home

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle
Netherlands' Arjen Robben, right, acknowledges the fans with teammates after the group B World Cup soccer match between the Netherlands and Chile at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, June 23, 2014. The Dutch team beat Chile 2-0 to top Group B. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

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It was already decided which Group B teams would advance to the knockout stage after the first two matches, but the final order in the table still had to be determined. The Netherlands completed a perfect group stage with a 2-0 win over second-place Chile and Spain saved a bit of face with a 3-0 win against last-place Australia. So the Socceroos and current World Cup holders both go home, albeit with very different levels of satisfaction for their respective showings.

Still Alive

The Netherlands — What a start for the Dutch. Many people believed the 2010 World Cup runners-up would finish third in this group behind Spain and Chile since they lost several stars and replaced them with developing talent from their domestic league. Instead, they came out goals blazin' with a 5-1 win over Spain and didn't look back. They scored 10 goals in the group stage — twice as many as Chile — and the combination of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben look set to trouble anyone they meet in the next phase of the tournament.

Chile — With supporters running wild, Chile made a strong showing in the group stage and won some new fans by playing like a team of turbo-charged bulldozers. Midfield standout Arturo Vidal is still struggling with a knee injury, though. Chile will face the winner of Group A, which will likely be Brazil, in the round of 16. And it just might shock the world.

Man of the Group: Arjen Robben. He scored three goals in the group stage, the same number as teammate Robin van Persie, but Robben has been unstoppable. And he didn't get himself banned from the last match for yellow card accumulation like Van Persie did.

Best Goal: Van Persie scored a flying header that launched a meme, but Tim Cahill's volley was an excellent way to say goodbye to the World Cup. Let's call this one a draw.

Best Match: Netherlands defeats Australia, 3-2 . After beating Spain so emphatically, everyone thought the Dutch would do the same to outmatched Australia, but the Socceroos refused to say die. Cahill's aforementioned wonder volley served as an instant response to Robben's 20th-minute opener. The Aussies then took a 2-1 lead early in the second half before van Persie scored an equalizer four minutes later and 20-year-old Memphis Depay finished them off with his first international goal in the 68th minute. Australia's performance was worth an honorary half point from FIFA for the entertainment value alone.

Deserved Better: Xavi. This was supposed to be the 34-year-old midfield maestro's last hurrah at the international level after playing a central role in their three major titles over the last six years. Instead, he played 90 minutes in Spain's 5-1 loss to the Netherlands and sat on the bench for the rest of the group stage, watching Spain finish out the worst showing in his 14 years and 133 caps with the team.

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