Friday 15 December 2017

Orange Crush

Holland 2
Brazil 1

Wesley Sniejder acknowledges the Dutch supporters at the end of the quarter final against Brazil.
Wesley Sniejder acknowledges the Dutch supporters at the end of the quarter final against Brazil.

Tim Rich

One of the best books written about Alf Ramsey was called 'Winning isn't Everything' and it is a phrase Dunga, in one form or another, will take to his grave. Had Brazil won the World Cup, with a team stripped of its style and with panache sacrificed to efficiency, the applause in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro would have stopped short of an ovation.

But Brazil did not win: they were expelled from the World Cup in the grimly appropriate setting of Port Elizabeth, the centre of South African heavy industry, by Holland. By the end, reduced to 10 men when Felipe Melo stamped on Arjen Robben, who had been ruthlessly targeted all afternoon, they made the kind of exit from a tournament they are expected to win by right with the kind of display Dunga's many critics expected.

The dung will very soon be dumped on Dunga and now Carlos Verri, to give him his proper name, will find the Brazilian FA rather less forgiving of failure than their English counterparts.

If his plan had been to win the World Cup in the manner in which he captained the Selecao to the trophy in 1994, then Holland made ideal quarter-final opponents. They had met at precisely this stage of the competition 16 years ago.

Just as they did here, Brazil took the lead and lost it, only then they were rescued by a 30-yard drive by the improbable figure of their rather portly left-back, Branco, who left the field muttering that now he might get some of the respect he deserved. He got a transfer to Middlesbrough. Yesterday, there was no late salvation.

And yet, it had begun so seamlessly. This has been a World Cup where the long ball has come into its own and a drive from Melo bisected the entire Dutch back-four. Robinho anticipated better than any of them what would happen next and Andre Ooijer and John Heitinga were left flat-footed and stranded as he slid the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg.

It was then that Brazil looked utterly dominant and had they given free rein to their natural instincts, Holland might have been crushed. Kaka, who looked more dangerous than at any time during this tournament, forced a full-stretch one-handed save from Stekelenburg.

Later in the second half, Kaka, whose only taste of a World Cup final was a place on Luiz Felipe Scolari's bench in 2002, picked up a sliced clearance and returned it between two defenders just wide of the Dutch goal.

"We had every reason to be thankful we were only a goal down at half time," Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk reflected. "But after the break we might have scored four or five. I said it at the start of the tournament and I will say it again now. We have come to South Africa to win the World Cup. People laughed when I said a couple of weeks ago but I am confident we can go all the way."

There is an often forgotten history of Brazilian football, although it was one that South African television had the wit to highlight because it undid them in Port Elizabeth. Before kick-off, they showed highlights of the bitter encounter between these two sides in Dortmund in 1974. Brazil played in blue and played brutally, attempting to kick Johan Cruyff out of the tournament. They lost then, as they were to lose now, but this time their target was Robben.

When he was at Real Madrid, Robben was known mockingly as 'El Hombre de Cristal' or the Man of Glass, because of his propensity to be injured. Yesterday, he was picked out remorselessly first by Dani Alves, then Melo, who was finally dismissed when driving his studs into his thigh. Holland, with their treatment of Kaka and Luis Fabiano, proved they could dish it out, too.


Under the circumstances, the banner of "Give Peace a Chance" that was on display proved mockingly inappropriate.

The goal that brought the Dutch back into the World Cup was an accident. Wesley Sneijder's cross was meant for Andre Ooijer but, although the former Blackburn centre-half went up for the ball, he didn't reach it. He did, however, do enough to put off Julio Cesar and the cross skimmed Melo's head and nestled in the back of the net. Brazil seldom seemed able to recover their composure.

Their captain, Lucio, might have given away a penalty for handball and once more they were undone by a ball sent high into their box. This time it was delivered by Robben, flicked on by Dirk Kuyt and headed into the net by Sneijder, who ran over to the bench in a state of euphoria, tapping his forehead and yelling into a nearby camera.

Once Melo was dismissed, there was only one outcome and Kuyt almost walked the ball into the net only for Sneijder to kick at air when presented with an empty goal. It would have been one of the misses of the tournament but by then it had ceased to matter. Brazil were already on the canvas. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Holland -- Stekelenburg; Van Der Wiel, Heitinga, Ooijer, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, De Jong, Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt; Van Persie (Huntelaar 85).

Brazil -- Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos (Gilberto 62); Alves, Melo, Silva; Kaka, Robinho, Fabiano (Nilmar 77).

Ref -- Y Nichimura (Japan).

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport