By Gideon Long
FORTALEZA Brazil (Reuters) - Australia pushed the Netherlands to the limit in their thrilling World Cup clash on Wednesday but failed to get anything from the game because while they had one world class striker the Dutch had two.
Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie have scored six of the Netherlands' eight goals at this World Cup. Most strike partnerships would be happy to get that from an entire tournament.
Even when the Dutch have been on the back foot, as they were when trailing 1-0 to Spain and for much of Wednesday's 3-2 Group B victory over Australia, they can rely on the ability of Robben and Van Persie and their hunger for goals to turn a match.
That is not to say the rest of the Dutch side are simply onlookers. The Netherladns march through the qualifying campaign showed they are an accomplished all-round outfit.
But at a World Cup with very few weak teams and where the difference between players is minimal, the likes of Van Persie and Robben can make all the difference by producing something special.
Robben's opener against Australia was, well, pure Robben: clinical and just a touch selfish.
As he advanced on goal, he had Van Persie in space to his right, screaming for the ball. Most players would have passed, but not Robben who took a couple of extra steps before firing it into the back of the Australia net.
TYPICAL VAN PERSIE
Van Persie's goal was also typical of him. One of his greatest assets is the timing of his runs, his ability to beat an offside trap and leave defenders standing flat-footed, arms raised, appealing to the linesman for a flag.
He stayed just onside, picked up Memphis Depay's pass, turned and hammered the ball home to bring the Dutch level at 2-2.
"The equaliser was important. You have to take those sort of chances," Van Persie said as if it was a simple task.
Neither player scored the goal of the match, however. That was Tim Cahill's sublime volley for Australia 13 seconds after Robben's opener.
But while Cahill often looks isolated up front for the Australians, Van Persie and Robben can play off each other as well as their supporting midfielders.
Van Persie will miss the Netherlands' final group match against Chile on Monday after picking up a second yellow card.
But with the Dutch through to the second round, they will not mind too much about that.
He can return to the lineup for the last 16 and few would bet against him and Robben - who both scored twice against Spain - adding to their already impressive goal tally.
(Reporting by Gideon Long; Editing by Ken Ferris)