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Friday, July 02, 2010

Dutch Fightback Buries Brazil

The Netherlands came from behind to break Brazilian hearts and take a huge step towards a third FIFA World Cup™ final appearance. Trailing at half-time to Robinho's early goal in Port Elizabeth, Bert van Marwijk's men drew level through Felipe Melo's own goal before Wesley Sneijder headed the winner with 22 minutes remaining. Brazil ended the game a man short after Felipe Melo's dismissal as, like in Germany four years ago, the South Americans, unbeaten since last October, saw their dream of a sixth world crown dismantled at the quarter-final stage.

For the Dutch, this was their fifth straight win at these finals and leaves them one victory short of a first Final appearance since they finished runners-up twice in the 1970s. They will travel to Tuesday's Cape Town semi-final against Uruguay or Ghana as favourites despite the suspensions of Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong. History will be on their side too, given the winners of their three previous FIFA World Cup meetings with Brazil marched on to the Final each time.

Yet it was not the Dutch, but Brazil who looked likely to prevail in the first 45 minutes. Robinho had already had one effort ruled offside when he broke the deadlock in the tenth minute. Advancing unchecked from inside his own half, Felipe Melo played a ball straight through the centre of the Dutch defence from the halfway line. Robinho, free of his marker Van der Wiel and played onside by Ooijer, was in the clear and he tucked a first-time finish beyond Maarten Stekelenburg.

The Dutch sought an immediate reply when Kuyt tested Julio Cesar with a low drive but Brazil were carrying the greater threat and, after 25 minutes, they came close to a second. From a half-cleared corner, Dani Alves, out on the right, drove in a low cross and Juan got there first only to shoot over from close range. Robinho then wriggled away from two orange shirts on the left, gave the ball to Luis Fabiano and his flick set up Kaka whose curling shot was bound for the top corner before Stekelenburg reached out his right arm to palm the ball away.

The teams' 1994 quarter-final, won by Brazil, produced five second-half goals and this game grew as a contest after the restart. Second-best in the first half, the Dutch drew level in the 53rd minute. Sneijder had already miscued an attempted volley when, following a short free-kick with Robben, the Inter midfielder swung in a cross from out on the right. Julio Cesar and Felipe Melo got in each other's way with the midfielder unwittingly flicking the ball on into the net.

Michel Bastos, booked before the break and under pressure from Robben, now made way for Gilberto Melo but Brazil's self-assurance was fading. Although Kaka guided a volley just past the post, the Dutch soon had their second goal. It came from the head of Sneijder who profited from slack marking in the six-yard box to nod home his third goal of the finals after Kuyt had flicked on Robben's corner. Brazil's prospects dimmed further with 17 minutes remaining with Felipe Melo’s red card for a stamp on Robben, now a constant nuisance to the South Americans. In a frantic finish it might have got even worse for Dunga's men but Sneijder scuffed his shot straight at Julio Cesar.


Bert van Marwijk, Netherlands coach

It took us about 25 minutes of today's game to deal with our nerves, and I was pleased to be only 1-0 down at the interval. During the break I told them to play their usual game during the second half. Once we scored our first goal we played much better and proved that we've got a very strong squad. We'll celebrate tonight but then we need to turn our focus to our next game.

Dunga, Brazil coach

There's no doubt we're all down because, even though we knew this would be a very tough game, we weren't expecting this. After the interval we weren't able to play with the same style or level of concentration as we had in the first half. A World Cup match is decided by small details over the course of 90 minutes and unfortunately we fell short of our primary objective, the title. But the most important thing was to revive the spirit of the national team and if anybody were to go into the dressing room now and see the players' faces they'd realise we've done that.

Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands midfielder

We showed the world that the Netherlands versus Brazil is a fantastic game. Finally we beat them [after defeats at USA 1994 and France 1998]. At the break all we said to each other was that we needed to improve and put their defence under more pressure. We gave it our all for 45 minutes and we were rewarded. For the goal I just had to get my head on the ball – it was a great feeling. We've got to celebrate now, because we're in the semi-finals.

Arjen Robben, Netherlands winger

It was a great game for the fans. Both teams played top-class football. For the first 20 minutes we struggled to find our feet, we were maybe a bit nervous. But in the last 15 minutes of the first half and throughout the second period we played much better, we created chances and we deserved the win. We kept trying to put their defence under pressure. What matters now is focusing on the next game, we've not come here to settle for the semi-finals. Of course what we're experiencing now is fantastic because we've beaten one of the favourites, but the tournament starts for real from now on. We're in the last four and we know we're capable of reaching the Final.

Julio Cesar, Brazil goalkeeper

None of us expected this result, because the squad went into the game with the confidence built up over the last three and a half years. But that's football. They deserved it in the second half, they played really well. Their first goal hit us hard, it was a huge blow. I went for the ball and got caught up with Felipe Melo. I missed the ball and it clipped his head. We're all really sad but we'll leave with our heads held high. It's not the end of the world.

Robinho, Brazil forward

I can't explain it. We were excellent in the first half but conceded two silly goals in the second and got knocked out. Anyone who saw the first half would have thought we'd end up thrashing them but we ended up conceding twice. Everyone's gutted and we know we could have done better. Football's a great source of joy but today, unfortunately, the people of Brazil are sad.

Source: FIFA.com

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