Brazil loses its cool, shot at sixth Cup
Netherlands picks up in 2nd half, advances to face Uruguay
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.