Brazil loses its cool, shot at sixth Cup

Nether­lands picks up in 2nd half, ad­vances to face Uruguay

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By An­drew Dampf

PORT EL­IZ­A­BETH, South Africa — Don’t call the Dutch un­der­achiev­ers any­more. Not af­ter the way the Nether­lands ral­lied to up­set five-time cham­pion Brazil 2-1 in the World Cup quar­ter­fi­nals Fri­day.

Af­ter wak­ing them­selves up at half­time, the ti­tle that has eluded the Dutch for all these years is now just two wins away.

“For 45 min­utes we went full throt­tle,” said Wes­ley Snei­jder. “We were re­warded.”

One of the short­est play­ers on the field, Snei­jder put the Nether­lands ahead in the 68th minute on a header.

“It just slipped through from my bald head and it was a great feel­ing,” Snei­jder said.

The re­sult was a case of role re­ver­sal for both sides.

Brazil, the top-ranked team in the world and one of the most im­pres­sive squads in the tour­na­ment un­til Fri­day, lost its com­po­sure af­ter fall­ing be­hind.

De­fender Felipe Melo was ejected in the 73rd

minute for stomp­ing on the leg of Ar­jen Robben.

The Dutch made the cham­pi­onship match in 1974 and ’78, lost both, and rarely have lived up to their tal­ent in other World Cups. They did this time, helped by an own goal off the head of Melo that brought them into a 1-1 tie in the 53rd minute.

“I’m dev­as­tated. It was hard to see the play­ers cry­ing back there,” Melo said af­ter emerg­ing from the locker room.

“I have to apol­o­gize to the Brazil­ian fans. I came here think­ing about giv­ing Brazil the ti­tle, but I’m a hu­man be­ing. Ev­ery­body can make mis­takes.” He was al­most the hero. Robinho gave the Brazil­ians the lead on Melo’s bril­liant low pass up the mid­dle of the field that the striker put home with a low shot.

But the sec­ond half pre­sented the un­usual sight of the Brazil­ians scram­bling wildly to find an equal­izer.

Brazil also lost in the quar­ter­fi­nals four years ago, fall­ing to France 1-0. For­mer team cap­tain Dunga was hired to coach the team af­ter that de­feat, de­spite hav­ing no pre­vi­ous man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We didn’t ex­pect this,” he said.

Nether­lands coach Bert van Mar­wijk agreed that ev­ery­thing changed at the break.

“We could have lost it in the first 15 min­utes,” he said. “At half­time, I made it very clear to the play­ers. I told them time and time again, ‘You have to play your own game. You have to have pa­tience against Brazil.’”

The Nether­lands reached the semi­fi­nals for the first time since los­ing to Brazil on penalty kicks at the 1998 World Cup, and will next face Uruguay, which de­feated Ghana on penalty kicks.

Hav­ing won all five matches so far, the Nether­lands ex­tended its team-record un­beaten streak to 24 games, stretch­ing back to a Septem­ber 2008 loss to Aus­tralia.

Brazil con­trolled the tempo early on. Be­fore the Dutch come­back, goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg timed his leap per­fectly to de­flect a shot by Kaka that was headed into the right corner of the net.

The one-goal lead wasn’t enough. Brazil be­gan to un­ravel when Melo jumped in front of keeper Julio Ce­sar and in­ad­ver­tently headed the ball into his net.

“We had two play­ers go­ing for the same ball and what hap­pened hap­pened,” Julio Ce­sar said, his eyes filled with tears.

Snei­jder’s goal fol­lowed a corner kick from Robben. Dirk Kuyt flicked the ball with his head to Snei­jder in the mid­dle of the 6-yard box and he rose high enough to de­flect it into the left corner of the goal.

Felipe Melo was given a red card and ejected.

Brazil’s Felipe Melo, sec­ond from right, scores an own goal against Brazil goal­keeper Julio Ce­sar, top, against the Nether­lands, which won 2-1 in Port El­iz­a­beth, South Africa on Fri­day.

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