PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Louis van Gaal can pinpoint the moment he knew his Netherlands team would be able to hold off Australia and secure the win that ultimately put them through to the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
With just over 20 minutes to go in a frantic, seesawing match, Australia missed a golden chance to take a 3-2 lead. Sitting on the bench, van Gaal saw that as the sign and turned to his assistant coaches to tell them.
“I said to Patrick Kluivert and Danny Blind, ‘We’re going to win this match because if they miss that kind of chance, we will score the goal.’ ”
Seconds later, he was proved right. From the very next attack, substitute Memphis Depay drove a swerving, speculative shot toward the goal from 25 yards. Australian keeper Maty Ryan didn’t sight it early enough and the ball shot past his outstretched right hand.
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It capped a game that intensified suddenly when a 20th-minute solo run and strike by Arjen Robben was canceled out seconds later by a stunning volley from Australia’s inspirational veteran Tim Cahill.
Australia then went ahead with a second-half penalty, only for Robin Van Persie to equalize four minutes later.
“Bitterly disappointing,” Australia manager Ange Postecoglou said. “Just for the players, they were magnificent. They took it to a world-class team. Full credit to them, but I just feel bitterly disappointed they weren’t able to get some reward out of it today.”
MANAUS, Brazil — Mario Mandzukic scored two goals to keep Croatia in the mix with a 4-0 win over 10-man Cameroon, which will be going home after the group stage.
Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil through suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.
Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and set up another for Ivica Olic.
Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.
Croatia now has its future in its hands. If the 1998 World Cup semifinalists beat Mexico on Monday, they will guarantee themselves a spot in the second round. The Mexicans will advance with only a draw.
• Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, dealing with a troublesome left knee, is fully fit to play against the United States in their crucial Group G match Sunday, backup goalkeeper Beto said.
• U.S. officials declined to update the status of Jozy Altidore’s strained hamstring. Though Altidore’s World Cup may be over, coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he wants to keep Portugal guessing.
• Klinsmann did say defender Matt Besler, who also strained his hamstring against Ghana, will play Sunday.