Van Persie scored the goal of the tournament so far as he sent a diving headed lob over Iker Casillas as Spain surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 5-1 to Netherlands, the team they beat in the 2010 World Cup final.
The Manchester United striker beat the offside trap as left wingback Daley Blind sent in a raking, 40-yard diagonal cross, with the striker launching himself into the air to meet the ball and head home. The magnificent stike made him the first Dutch player to score at three World Cups.
Arjen Robben also scored twice and Van Persie added another, with Stefan de Vrij also getting in on the act as Spain - and particularly goalkeeper Casillas - crumbled in Salvador. Van Persie was struggling to contain his enthusiasm after being named man of the match.
"It was a brilliant goal, I have to be fair," said the former Arsenal striker. "It was a bit of a gamble but just before the pass I saw Iker Casillas out of his goal. It was a header, really a lob-header, but a great goal...
"It was incredible. We had a setback when they scored but our equaliser came just before half-time, just at the right time.
"At 3-1 we went for the fourth and in my opinion it could have been five; well, actually it was five ... I mean six, seven or eight," he added, perhaps betraying still some disbelief at the emphatic nature of his team's triumph.
The Netherlands' demolition of Spain was an unforgettable assault on the senses, but for all Robben's blistering pace and trickery, the enduring moment of this unforgettable game was the audacious first goal from Van Persie, diving at speed to dink the perfect lob header over Casillas. Few players in history would have had the imagination even to try such an effort, let alone have the technique to turn their vision into one of the tournament's finest ever goals.
Truly this was an iconic World Cup moment - absolutely unique in its brilliance. Diego Maradona has scored a lob header before, and from a greater range, yet this was an entirely new kind of goal. Van Persie wasn't just nodding the ball over a stranded keeper, he met a swirling 40-yard pass with a Superman leap to send it arching into the net. Against Spain. The reigning champions. At the World Cup.
Football has never seen its like before.
TWEET: Without wishing to over-exaggerate, that's surely Van Persie's Cruyff turn moment. Inventing a whole new move: the lob-header.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
To borrow a phrase, Netherlands go again. Up next for the Oranje are Australia, who lost 3-1 to Chile last night but managed to rattle the South Americans for a period. Spain will beat face Chile and really must win that one to have any chance of progressing. Even if they make it through, they would be almost certain to do so in second place and thus face Brazil in the last 16. No wonder bookies make them distant 7-2 shots to make the quarter finals.
TWEET: With #CHI win over #AUS, Group B now looks like this: ✔️Netherlands 90% ✔️Chile 77% ✖️Spain 70% ✖️Australia 97%
It is the busiest day of the World Cup, with no less than four matches being held across Brazil. Kicking us off is Colombia v Greece at 5pm in Belo Horizonte, before a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay tackle Costa Rica in Fortaleza at 8pm. Then England face Italy in the Rumble in the Jungle in Manaus at 11pm before, finally, Ivory Coast take on Japan in Recife at 2am. If you are doing the lot, then good luck and godspeed.
WHAT LOUIS VAN GAAL SAID
"I didn't expect the result but I did expect goals. We have players who can turn a match. I think we did it really well and then we were excellent at getting the ball directly forward to our strikers and when you've got players like Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, well then you've always got a chance. We only had five weeks to work on a new system because we had played 4-3-3 throughout the qualifiers. To be honest the 3-5-2 didn't go too well in the warm-up matches against Ecuador, Ghana and Wales but we kept training and working at it. I didn't think we got it right in the first half either, we lost too much possession to Spain."
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID
Paul Wilson, The Guardian: "From a Spanish point of view it came from nothing anyway, though Daley Blind must be congratulated on a stunning diagonal ball from halfway on the left touchline. Robin van Persie’s run picked it up almost magnetically and though Blind probably had a volley in mind when he played the pass, the ball was not in quite the right place and the Manchester United striker repositioned himself expertly to beat Casillas with a diving header instead. It could almost be described as a headed volley, the last thing Spain were expecting, and it put Holland right back in the game."
- Sports & Recreation
- Iker Casillas
- Arjen Robben
- Manchester United
- Daley Blind