After a few offside mishaps, Robinho managed to nab an early lead for the Brazilians and the rest of the first half seemed to come along fairly similarly: Brazil dominated. It was hard to imagine the Dutch making a breakthrough as each ball looked to be dead even before it was passed to a hapless Robin van Persie, who has yet to hit his stride at this tournament. The inevitable Dutch in-fighting rumours popped up after he was subbed off during their match against Slovakia, complaining that he wasn’t being passed the ball — a Sneijder v. RVP attitude that has allegedly crept into the Dutch camp has also been cited. The pressure on van Persie to perform today was great and, almost predictably, desperation seeped into his game as he made lazy decisions and took botched shots.
The second half told a much different story however, as the Dutch midfield led by Robben down the left pressed Brazil to defend deeper and deeper into their own half. When you’re defending as deep as Brazil were after the interval, it’s no longer a possibility that the other side is going to find a way to score but simply a matter of time. A matter of time, that is, until you make a mistake and let a ball fly loose which is exactly what happened when Brazil keeper Julio Cesar made a rare slip in goal – an error that resulted in Felipe Melo nudging in an own goal equalizer.
Once Holland reached level, Brazil seemed to lose their nose for the game entirely. One could even go as far to say that the story behind this match isn’t so much about the Dutch playing particularly well (Ooijer looked leaky in defense) but rather about the complete lack of mental toughness on the part of Brazil. It was this lack of emotional stability – the ability to remain composed after losing a lead — which brought about their own unraveling. Like water slipping through tiny cracks in cupped hands, we saw the shape of this Brazilian side deflate with each call that didn’t go their way. In its place impatience and panic crept in. Maicon led the charge with his extravagant exclaiming; Dunga was also doing his part on the touchline kicking things and shouting at an official.
Holland went another goal up after a piece of lofty defending from Juan saw the Dutch earn an easy corner which Robben swung in to Kuyt and Sneijder capitalized on. The breaking point for Brazil seemed to come around the 70th minute when Melo, in a moment which must have been born out of sheer frustration but can only really be described as Sani Keita-sque stupidity, stomped on Arjen Robben’s thigh to garner himself a red card. Melo left the pitch in disgrace, in his wake the carnage of a Brazilian team on the verge of collapse. It was all gravy for the Dutch from here on in as they created more opportunities yet: Robben slipping down the left flank pestering the Brazilian defense further, Kuyt making a great a few great runs into the area. Brazil looked frantic and shaken in the dying moments, shell-shocked. Dunga will no doubt have questions to answer when he makes the dreaded voyage back to Brazil.
Holland will take on the winner of today’s second quarterfinal match up, either Uruguay or Ghana, on Tuesday.
photo credit: bobster855