KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA:
** The World Cup has changed shape and character. Out with the logical and notional fairness of group stage football. In with the one-off drama of the knockout rounds.
Here was – and is – the historical legacy of the original format applied by the fledgling Football Association it launching its FA Challenge Cup all the way back in 1871 – in the days, even, before FIFA had been dreamed up for better or worse.
Netherlands, under the wise guidance of Louis van Gaal, are emerging as masters of the styles essential for both after becoming the first entrants into the quarter-finals of the 202 World Cup with a 3-1 defeat of United States in the Khalifa International Stadium.
In the end it was tournament men against boys as the Dutch allowed the Americans the freedom to run busily all over the pitch while picking them off with three razor sharp counter attacks. The only irritant for Van Gaal will have been the mid-match complacent sloppiness which allowed US a brief foot back in the game.
Yet the Dutch should have been a goal down within three minutes. The ball bounced back loose off a Dutch boot from a tangle on the edge of the penalty box but Christian Pulisic saw his unnecessarily hasty shot ricochet wide off keeper Andries Noppert’s outstretched leg.
As if to show how it should be done Netherlands raced back down the other end and Denzel Dumfries’s right-wing cross was driven firmly home by the inrushing Memphis Delay.
US attempted to recover lost ground and pressed forward eagerly but they found themselves repeatedly trapped in a tight net of Dutch midfielders and defenders.
Right on halftime Netherlands broke away again with a carbon-copy right-wing raid. This time Daley Blind was the man freed to run through the centre and shoot home. The goal demonstrated the inexact worth of possession since the US had enjoyed 78pc in that phase of the game.
Patterns remained unchanged after the break as US pushed on. Cody Gakpo hacked a loose ball off the Dutch goal-line and then Weston McKennie shot high over the bar.
Netherlands could have killed it all. Depay had a shot tipped over the bar by Matt Turner who also saved a drive from substitute Teun Koopmeiners.
The danger to the Dutch was their own complacency. First one sloppy backpass let in Haji Wright who let the ball run too far and saw his shot cleared at the post. Second time, however, he did score though he cannot have known much about the manner in which a Pulisic right-wing cross ricocheted off his heel.
Netherlands, awoken from their slumber, created a third goal for Dumfries. Now it was the turn of the creator of the two first goals to volley home the decisive third.