PORT ELIZABETH - Netherlands tweaked
Brazilian nerves, rode their luck, enjoyed some inspiration from
Wesley Sneijder and ousted the five-times champions in 20
minutes of World Cup mayhem on Friday.
Brazil, with a solid defence and lethal counter-attacks, had
looked almost unstoppable in their previous four games and, for
the first 45 minutes, another win looked the only likely
Boosted by Robinho's 10th minute goal, they gave a dominant
first-half performance and, at least in flashes, played some of
their best football of the tournament.
One move in particular stood out as Robinho left half the
Dutch team in his wake, slipped the ball to Luis Fabiano, who
backheeled to Kaka, who in turn saw his chipped effort
brilliantly saved by Maarten Stekelenburg.
The Netherlands were poor, with Arjen Robben's refusal to
use his right foot leading into dead-ends as the Brazilian
defenders comfortably blocked his progress.
But it was clear even in the first-half that the Brazilians
were allowing themselves to get wound up.
Throughout the tournament, Dunga and his players have
criticised referees, giving the impression that they feel the
world is against them, while at the same time harassing the
Possibly feeling they could exploit this, the Dutch
infuriated Brazil and their feisty coach with some blatant
theatrics and crunching tackles, and it seemed enough to put the
South Americans off their game.
Coincidence or not, eight minutes into the second half,
Brazil's four years of meticulous planning for the World Cup
began to unravel in dramatic style.
Sneijder, playing against his Inter Milan team mates Julio
Cesar, Maicon and Lucio, floated a long cross-shot into the
penalty area, Brazil's Felipe Melo went up for the same ball as
his goalkeeper and touched it into his own goal.
The goal changed the course of the game completely and the
Dutch appeared to believe they could win.
Clearly aware that the Brazilians, playing under huge
pressure with the hopes of 190 million compatriots on their
shoulders, were already edgy, they continued to play on the
fraying nerves of their opponents to great effect -- even if it
Robben rolled on the ground every time he was nudged and
there were plenty of sneaky tackles, time-wasting and needless
remonstrating with the referee.
In the middle of this, Sneijder popped up to head the
Netherlands in front, before the Brazilians lost their heads
completely and had Felipe Melo sent off five minutes later.
If Kaka had been anywhere near his best, Brazil could have
saved the game and stayed on course for a possible final with
When Kaka was gifted the ball on the edge of the area with
the score at 1-1, a goal seemed a certainty, yet he side-footed
the ball wide.
After the Dutch goal, he began one of his characteristic
bursts down the touchline and a goal seemed on the cards.
But, instead of powering into the centre and scoring as he
might have done in his heyday, he allowed himself to be pushed
wide and shot weakly into the side-netting.
His miss left Brazil with a long flight home to face the
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