Friday, 2 July 2010
Bad-tempered Brazil Crash Out
Brazil 1 Holland 2, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
The favourites are out. There is to be no 6th World Cup victory for Brazil this time. A second consecutive quarter-final defeat and there will surely be calls for Dunga's head. Time to pack the bags and let the inquest begin.
The build-up to the weekend was dominated by talk of the success of the South American teams. 10 wins, 4 draws and only one defeat in the group stages. For the first time ever four South American teams had reached the quarter-finals. While the Europeans flattered to deceive, the South Americans were enjoying themselves. Chile were gone but had made many friends along the way. Now with this defeat it is up to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to fly the flag for the continent.
To the match. Holland's game plan was clear: frustrate their opponents at every turn. And boy did it work. By the end of the game Brazil were running out of ideas and running out of patience. Bastos was substituted before he was sent-off. Melo was red-carded for a blatant stamp on Robben. There could have been more as the smiles and exuberance disappeared.
It all started so well for A Seleção. They took the lead as early as the 10th minute and the goal was one of the best of the tournament. Melo played a delightful ball straight through the heart of the Dutch defence and Robinho didn't even have to break stride before slotting firmly past Stekelenburg. Quick and incisive. Classic Brazil.
There were some lovely touches but the stop-start nature of the game meant they could never really get their rhythm going. This is a physical Brazilian team but they don't like it when the roles are reversed. There were endless tackles from behind and cynical trips. Every time there was a battle in the air for the ball it seemed to result in a blow of the referee's whistle.
Still there were glimpses of the Brazil of old. Robinho looked bright and he span beautifully on the left, burst through a tackle before finding Fabiano. The striker's first-time flick found Kaka and his curling shot was tipped over before it could find the top corner. When they snap into action like this with such pace, with the players knowing instinctively what positions to take, no-one can live with them.
Then there was a moment that recalled THAT goal from the 1970 World Cup final. Maicon was cast in the role of Carlos Alberto but his thumping drive on the stroke of half-time was tipped round the post.
Frustration for Maicon and for his manager who had spent much of the opening period raging on the touchline.
The second half started badly and got steadily worse for his team. Julio Cesar's name must now be added to the list of goalkeeping bloopers in this World Cup. He completely missed a swinging free-kick from the right and Melo continued his eventful game by heading into his own net. But Cesar must take the rap for his complete and utter misjudgement.
Could his team-mates help him to erasre the pain? They huffed and puffed. Alves dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area. Kaka tried to place a volley into the top corner but saw it go narrowly wide. Not close enough.
There were signs that the passing game was coming together again but, like the first half, it was sporadic and when the Dutch scored the second the wheels really came off.
The goal was simplicity itself. The oldest move in the book. Another cross into the box, this time from a corner, flicked on at the front post from Kuyt and Sneijder nodded in his third goal of the finals. Something was happening in Port Elizabeth and it was happening for the men in orange.
At every turn there was frustration from the men in their change strip of all blue. A heavy challenge from Alves, Robinho screaming in Robben's face and of course Melo's moment of madness. He didn't even look surprised to be sent from the field. As the dream slipped away, the plot was being well and truly lost.
As the fruitless quest for a goal to take the game into extra-time continuted, the ill-discipline kicked in with a vengeance. There was some kamikaze defending and oceans of space for Holland to grab another on the counter. Only some wasteful finishing prevented a final flourish.
The game was up for Brazil. By the end, all composure had gone and they could only try to force a goal through a succession of corners. It never came and the final verdict must be that, when placed under pressure, Dunga's men cracked.
For some the dream lives on. For Brazil it's over.
How they lined up: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio (Captain), Juan, Bastos (Yellow card, Gilberto, 62), Daniel, Melo (Red card), Silva, Kaka, Fabiano (Nilmar, 77), Robinho