The Oranje came from a goal down to sink the Samba Boys 2-1 in a thrilling encounter and became the first team to book a semi-final berth. Felipe Melo’s unfortunate own goal cancelled out Robinho’s early strike, before Wesley Sneijder hammered the final nail in the Brazilian coffin.
The eagerly anticipated encounter lived up to the pre-match hype with both sides displaying some delightful football. As early as in the third minute, the tone of the match was set right, with the attacking intent showed by both the teams. Within the next couple of minutes, few rough challenges from both sets of players served a warning to the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura that he must restrain the on-field nuisance with some strict whistling.
However, it was Brazil that implanted its dominance on the game early on. Robinho had made the ball go past Stekelenburg’s goal-line in the sixth minute, but the linesman correctly waived the offside flag. The deadlock was eventually broken in the 10th minute, when Fellipe Melo produced a delicious defense-splitting through ball from the halfway line for Robinho, who beat the Dutch offside trap to slot the ball past a helpless Stekelenburg, to give Brazil a deserved lead. Netherlands shook off the early nerves and responded almost immediately through Dirk Kuyt, but the shot lacked venom to trouble Julio Cesar. Brazil could have doubled their lead in the 25th minute, but Juan wasted the opportunity by firing the ball well over the cross-bar, from a decent position.
Around the half-hour mark, Robinho squeezed past three markers on the left wing to lay the ball for Luis Fabiano. In a wonderful display of silk-touch passing, Fabiano flicked the ball to an unmarked Kaka at the edge of the box, but the Brazilian playmaker’s excellent curling effort was palmed away brilliantly by Stekelenburg. Sensing urgency, Netherlands pushed forward in search of a goal with just five minutes remaining in the first half. Arjen Robben was looking lively and menacing with his bagful of tricks. De Jong and Robben combined well on the right wing, but an alert Brazilian defence averted the possible danger. Brazil immediately launched a sensational counter attack, but Maicon’s final effort could only find the side netting.
The action-packed first-half came to an end and Netherlands went into the lemon break with a tough task ahead of them, in preserving their record run of 23 unbeaten matches.
The Oranje started off the second half brightly and pressed the Brazilian defence in search of an equalizer. Within five minutes of continuous pressure, the mighty Brazilian defence relented. Julio Cesar, who had not been truly tested thus far, misjudged a Wesley Sneijder teasing cross from the right, only to find Fellipe Melo unfortunately head the ball into his own net.
After getting the deserved equalizer, the Dutch kept attacking with renewed vigour. The hard effort got rewarded in the 67th minute of play when Sneijder headed home an Arjen Robben corner, after the ball was flicked on by Kuyt.
Proceedings were not looking good for the five time champions and Melo made the matters further complicated by getting himself sent off for stamping on Robben. Up against a ten men Brazilian side, Netherlands took complete reigns of midfield battle and unleashed a series of attack down the right wing. Sneijder came close to doubling the Dutch lead with ten minutes to go for the final whistle, but Kuyt took one touch too many in the final delivery and Cesar prevented the danger.
Five minutes from elimination, Brazil, in a last ditch attempt to set the scores level, went all out in attack. Their effort produced a series of corners resulting in some nervy clearances from the Dutch defense, but the determined Oranje held their fort firmly and the Samba magic came to an abrupt end this time around.
TheHardTackle’s Player Of The Match:
Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
The Bayern Munich winger was a livewire on the pitch. He not only assisted Sneijder with a measured delivery to set up the second goal, but also helped to open up a lot of space for his team-mates to explore. Moreover, Robben’s trickery got Melo sent off at a very crucial juncture and even forced Dunga to substitute Bastos, in an endeavour to prevent his player from receiving a second yellow.
Other Key Performers:
Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands): Set up the first goal with a deceiving delivery and scored the second. He was influential and combined well with Robben to win the key midfield battle against the Brazilian holding midfielders.
Maartin Stekelenburg (Netherlands): Produced a superb reflex save to deny Kaka in doubling Brazil’s lead, in the first half. Dealt decently with the crosses and looked confident. He cannot be blamed for Robinho’s goal, as he was completely exposed by his defenders.
Robinho (Brazil): Robinho was Brazil’s top performer of the night. Besides scoring Brazil’s first goal with a perfectly timed run, Robinho was a continuous threat for the Dutch defence throughout the match.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card:
Yuichi Nishimura (Japan) – Grade: C
Confused, tensed and baffled by the occasion – the Japanese official had a night to forget. He could not distinguish between hard tackles and bad tackles, as he failed miserable to protect the ball players from rash challenges. He could not spot shameful play-acting and was unsuccessful to curb continuous swearing and indecent gestures, from Maicon and Robinho in particular.
NETHERLANDS 2-1 BRAZIL
Venue: Nelsen Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Netherlands line-up: (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Ooijer, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, De Jong; Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt; Van Persie (Huntelaar 85’)
Cautions: Heitinga (14’), Van der Wiel (47’), De Jong (64’), Ooijer (76’)
Sent offs: None
Scorers: Sneijder (67’)
Brazil line-up: (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos (Gilberto Melo 62’), Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo; Alves, Kaka, Robinho; Luis Fabiano (Nilmar 77’)
Cautions: Bastos (37’)
Sent offs: Melo (73’)
Scorers: Robinho (10’), Melo (53’) [OG]