Concrete Ron, "Roncrete", whatever you choose to call the Villa captain, played a key role in a stunning 5-1 win for the Dutch over World Champions Spain. Extremely solid throughout, Vlaar often bailed out his team mates. In the first half he helped the Dutch stay in the game, whilst in the 2nd he was a reassuring presence that allowed the attack to run riot.
In any other game he might have been man of the match, but with Robben, Van Persie and Blind also sensational he might not get the recognition he deserves from the national press. But fear not! He will get it here. And he’s not for sale, by the way.
After 22 seconds, Vlaar made his mark early. A "welcome to the World Cup" hefty challenge on Diego Costa. As the senior defender in the Dutch back 3 including Stefan De Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, they played a pretty high line early on looking to engage rather than drop deep.
You always got the sense Ron’s inexperienced teammates my drop him in it and De Guzman gave it away idiotically in the 13th minute. Diego Costa looked to be through but Vlaar put in a great sliding block, before getting up well to challenge the next man and clear into touch. He’s not for sale.
In the 20th minute Vlaar was there again to put his body in the way after a scramble on the edge of the box. Again in the 22nd, he put in a strong tackle on Costa. At this stage the commentator suggests Ron is "enjoying himself" and was certainly the player of the first quarter.
The Spanish got in behind once too often and De Vrij didn’t do the solid job on Costa that Vlaar had been doing, diving in and conceding the penalty. Alonso converted.
Despite the goal, Vlaar continued to look composed, the pivot in the back 3 keeping it simple and retaining possession. On 32 he stepped up again to win the ball from a throw, before an interception and incisive forward pass a minute later.
On 42, Iniesta’s beautiful ball split the defence and Vlaar marking 2 men, but Silva’s shot was well saved by Cillessen.
But the Dutch through level on 43 with a gorgeous goal. Blind crossed from halfway to Van Persie on the edge of the box, who proceeded to execute the best and probably only lobbed diving header you’ll ever see. It’s fair to say Vlaar and Iniesta were the best players for each side going in at half time, with the scores level but the Spanish marginally the better side.
Second Half (OMG)
The Second half though…well, if you missed it I’m sorry. A potentially huge moment in international football history that could illustrate the decline of the great Spanish side. It began steadily, Vlaar sticking to Costa like glue in the early stages and the Dutch offside trap tweaked to prevent Spain chipping so many through balls.
On 52 the Dutch went ahead with another brilliant cross from Blind finding Robben, who plucked it from the sky, beat 2 men and smashed it in.
A couple of interceptions and clearances from Vlaar on 57 and 58 minutes represented an increasing rarity, the Dutch taking control and keeping the Spanish at bay.
On 60 minutes, RVP almost found the net again after a lightening Dutch counter.
Then came the third goal. De Vrij, probably the least deserving of a goal in the Dutch backline, nodded in on the far post with keeper Casillas battered out of the way.
Spain had to attack now and Vlaar was powerless to stop an offside goal. Diego Costa, who will be fumbling for a way out of Vlaar’s pocket in days to come, made way for Torres. It didn’t take long for Vlaar to make his mark on him either, outpacing the Chelsea striker to clear for a throw.
Casillas proceeded to really stick the knife in for the Spanish, clumsily and casually strolling around his box. Van Persie robbed him and tapped in the fourth. Surely it was game over now but the Dutch were quite clearly not finished. Robben completed the annihilation in spectacular style. Burning Ramos in a foot race from behind the halfway line, a casual pirouette brought him back inside and once again showed remarkable composure to beat 2 men on the line.
The only time Vlaar looked troubled was on the 80th minute. As Torres cut inside from the right, Vlaar attempted a tackle but couldn’t get to the ball. Torres threw himself to the floor and was lucky to escape a yellow card, not that it would have had any effect on the game at that stage.
But if Vlaar had introduced even a glimmer of doubt into his performance, he put it to bed, bailing out Robben after he lost it in his own box. Another strong headed clearance even prompted praise from Mark "there is no joy in the world" Lawrenson: "He’s been rock solid, hasn’t he?". Vlaar, of course, is not for sale. Hands off.
The Dutch should have had a couple more and Blind’s last ditch tackle stopped a final consolation for Spain.
An unbelievable result for the Dutch and Villa fans can be proud that their captain was part of such a brilliant team performance and famous victory. Vlaar didn’t play a single poor pass, only conceding possession on clearances and balls the target man failed to win in the air.
Match Rating: 9/10. Not for sale.