PORT ELIZABETH - Netherlands scored two
second-half goals from out of the blue to stun five-times
champions Brazil 2-1 on Friday and march into the semi-finals of
the World Cup.
sent their strongly favoured opponents packing
after unleashing a scintillating second half sucker-punch that
saw Brazil crumble having produced a dazzling display of football in a match they had looked set to win.
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Midfielder Wesley Sneijder was the
man of the moment for
Netherlands, heading home the winner on 68 minutes and driving a
goal-bound cross eight minutes after the break that was steered
into his own net by Felipe Melo.
"It's fantastic, we are in the
last four in the World Cup -
we beat Brazil," an ecstatic Sneijder said.
"You have to be happy with that. If
you eliminate Brazil, one
of the biggest, best teams of this championship, the feeling is
meet the winner of either Ghana or Uruguay,
who play in Johannesburg later on Friday, in their first
semi-finals appearance since the 1998 World Cup.
Brazil at times played smooth,
breathtaking football, with
Robinho and Kaka creating chances from nothing with silky
footwork and neat breaks that had the Dutch running around in
circles and staring at defeat.
Robinho had an early goal
disallowed for offside but got
Brazil off the mark on 10 minutes when he latched on to a
pinpoint 30-metre through ball from Felipe Melo to beat the
onrushing keeper from inside the area.
Netherlands opted for tough and
untimely tackles to try to
disrupt Brazil's rhythm and nearly conceded a second on the half
hour mark when Kaka unleashed a sumptuous strike that was
acrobatically turned away by Maarten Stelkelenburg.
But the Brazilian onslaught
subsided after the break when
the Dutch emerged like a completely different team, with Arjen
Robben in the thick of all the action, linking up well with
Sneijder, and Dirk Kuyt always troubling the defence.
Netherlands levelled on 53 minutes
after a rare mistake from
Brazil's usually impenetrable defence. Sneijder drove in a
weighted cross which keeper Julio Cesar missed completely before
it hit the head of Felipe Melo and ended up in the net.
The goal was a killer blow for
Brazil, who were wound up by
their opponents' physical approach and fell to pieces before
Sneijder popped up to head home after Kuyt flicked on Robben's
flared throughout the match and Felipe Melo was
given his marching orders 17 minutes from time after stamping on
Robben, venting his frustrations at the Dutch striker's ease in
tumbling to the ground under challenges.
Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk
praised his players' resolve
and reiterated his belief that his team were genuine candidates
to lift the World Cup.
years ago I said we have a mission to come here to
become world champion. You have to believe in something
completely," he said.
think you could see all that we have. For 45 minutes we
went full throttle and we were rewarded for it."
Brazil coach Dunga, whose angry
antics in the dugout had
been as entertaining as his team's play, admitted he was taken
aback by the defeat.
all extremely sad and we didn't expect it," said
Dunga, who made it clear the match was his last game in change.
"We were not able to maintain the
same rhythm in the second
half. I feel very proud to have been at front of these players
and of the dignity the Brazilian team has always shown."
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