Van der Wiel Heitinga Oojier Van Bronckhorst
Robben Van Bommel Sneijder Kuyt
Maicon Lucio Juan Michel Bastos
Gilberto Silva Felipe Melo
Dani Alves Kaka Robinho
Felipe Melo (og) 53'
That was not supposed to happen.
It was all set up for Brazil. Once again, the team I'm rooting for concedes an early, junior varsity-style defensive error, aided by Mathijsen injured in warm-ups. Melo's 50-yard through, Heitinga caught upfield, and Robben failing to track Robinho's run (not that it's his responsibility) put the Manchester City misfit one-on-one with the keeper, easily beating Stekelenburg from the top of the box.
An early goal feeds right into how Brazil loves to play under Dunga. They could stifle Dutch possession through Silva and Melo. Robben's disregard for passing the ball (it's beneath him, dammit) and van Persie's petulant invisibility also helped. Brazil soaked up the pressure, sprinted down the field on the counter with attacking fullbacks, and the Robinho-Kaka-Fabiano triangle perpetually frightened. Brazil could have been two goals up if not for Stekelenburg's marvelous 31st minute save on Kaka's curler. Meanwhile, the only times Holland tested Julio Cesar in the first half were Kuyt's narrow, low shot in the 11th and Sneijder's 36th minute free kick from approximately four miles away straight down the keeper's throat.
But it didn't matter in the end. I can't remember how many times I've written that you pay for not scoring more when a goal to the good. It's happened a lot.
Holland pulled one back less than ten minutes after the interval thanks to Sneijder's brilliance and an absolute mess from Melo and Julio Cesar. Sneijder's cross on a short free kick, Cesar somehow misses his punch, and it glances in off Melo's back. Should be Sneijder's as it was on target, but I'm not complaining either way.
The equalizer absolutely shell-shocked the Brazilians. Again, that was not supposed to happen. The Dutch dominated possession, finding an extra gear, before Sneijder got his deserved goal 15 minutes after the first, thanks to that man Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt, cleverly running into space, flicked a corner on for Sneijder's free header from four yards out. Ecstasy.
Unsurprisingly, the Brazilians completely lost the plot. Dunga broke down on the sideline, fortifying me with his delicious tears, and five minutes later, Felipe Melo was given his marching orders for a stupid, frustrated, typical stamp on Robben after conceding yet another soft foul. That combined with his assist perfectly encapsulates Melo.
It was never done and dusted; Brazil can terrify even with ten men, especially in crunch time, but the Dutch held out admirably. They stayed resilient, batting away every set play, including a crucial clearing header from Kuyt in the 82nd, while Ooijer did brilliantly to close down Kaka on a break in the 86th. Holland should have added a third on the break, but a win is a win is a win.
I expect to never, ever find it necessary to defend Dirk Kuyt from the haters after today. He was the only Dutch player who didn't disappoint in the first half and set up the crucial second goal, yet again the key man on a set piece. He kept Maicon occupied for long stretches, and had innumerable clearing defensive headers, including that vital one with eight minutes to play. Were he a step faster, he could have scored a game-sealing third after some jaw-dropping fancy footwork that would have sent hacks to the fainting couch were it performed by Messi, running past Maicon and Lucio as if they weren't there only to see Juan get back. He is utterly immense and I love him to bits.
I won't lie. I love seeing Brazil beaten, and it's especially awesome that Holland are the ones to do it. For all of South America's dominance, the best South American side was just beaten by the best European side. For once, the Dutch didn't fall apart in the face of adversity, and Dunga's well-organized team helped Holland to the victory by beating themselves in the second half. It's gonna be hard for Felipe Melo to show his face in Brazil. Dunga will be heavily criticized as well, but, honestly, he shouldn't be. Samba football is a thing of the past. You win games by beating hard to beat, and Holland won that battle today.