(WFI) Holland progress to the World Cup semi-finals, overturning a half-time deficit to beat favourites Brazil 2-1 in Port Elizabeth.
A second half own goal by Felipe Melo and Wesley Sneijder’s header were enough to overcome Robinho’s tenth minute opener and stun Brazil.
In the end the prophesy of Holland coach Bert Van Marwiijk that today’s quarter final would not be a classic were realized.
Yesterday the Dutch coach insisted that the days of the Dutch Total Football against Brazil’s “samba” style were over.
“It was a long time ago, Total Football – if you play like that now it’s very hard to win the Cup,” Van Marwijk had said, adding that the physical rigours of the modern game also made it harder for Brazil’s traditional free-flowing style to prevail.
Not helped by a poor pitch in Port Elizabeth neither side imposed the style with which they are synonymous, in a compelling but niggardy encounter.
Brazil had the best of a first half which they led for its majority. Just ten minutes had passed when Felipe Melo’s through ball caught the Dutch defence sleeping to find Robinho; he took his time to place the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Juan and Luis Fabiano may have added to that lead, as might Kaka whose curling shot from 20 yards on 31 minutes was destined for the top corner until tipped away superbly by Stekelenburg.
Indeed the goalkeeper was the only player keeping Holland in the game, as a sterile Dutch side failed to summon meaningful attacks. On the stroke of half time he expertly denied Maicon after a move down the Brazil right that evoked memories of Carlos Alberto’s famous goal in the 1970 final. Who said Samba football was dead?
As poor as Holland were in the first half, they were outstanding in the second. Masterminded by the maurading Sneijder – who is emerging as the player of the tournament – they tested and probed Brazil at one end of the pitch and nullified them at the other.
They came back into the game in surreal manner. On 52 minutes, Bastos was unlucky to evade a second yellow card for a late tackle on Robben. From the resultant free kick the ball was worked to Sneijder on the right flank. His deep cross into the penalty area was completely misjudged by Julio Cesar and Melo completed the comedy of errors by heading into his own net.
Thirteen minutes later they were ahead. Juan needlessly gave away a corner, which Robben curled in. Kuyt flicked the ball on and the effervescent Sneijder headed home.
Brazil at this stage, threatened to implode, giving away needless fouls and looking shell shocked. On 72 minutes Melo lost his cool, fouling Sneijder and then stamping on his opponent; the red card was as necessary as his ugly hack was petulant.
To their credit they regained their composure, but their best chances came from penalty area scrambles. Throughout, Holland snapped at their heels, killed time when they could and might ultimately have added to their lead.
“In the changing room at half-time, everyone said to each other ‘let’s give everything’,” said Sneijder afterwards.
“We pressured their defence and to score twice was fantastic.
“It was an amazing game. I think we showed the whole world how we can play. Finally we won, we beat Brazil.
“This was my first header here, I don’t think it will happen again, but it was great. The ball slipped on my bald head and went into the net, a great feeling.
“If you can eliminate Brazil, one of the best teams in this championship the first feeling is relief, we always believed in it.
“Brazil have a strong defence but nonetheless we scored two goals. We did a great job – just so happy going on to the semis, it’s a moment to savour – from tomorrow we will concentrate on the semi-final.”
By INSIDER’s James Corbett
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