Brazil nuts after Dutch treat
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Wesley Sneijder celebrates his goal against Brazil at the World Cup on Friday. (REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)
PORT ELIZABETH -- The Dutch used their heads.
The Brazilians lost their's.
And when it was over, when the final whistle had blown, when the five-time World Cup champions came to the sobering realization that they were going home, many bowed their heads in disappointment, faces buried in their hands.
How did this happen? How could this happen?
Brazilians don't blow second-half leads. They normally don't blow any leads. And they certainly do not blow their stacks, at least not with regularity.
But as they slinked off the chopped-up Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium pitch after their devastating 2-1 loss at the hands of the Netherlands on Friday, mere sidebars to the euphoric Dutch players who were celebrating with the thousands of their orange-clad fans in the nearby stands, the Brazilians must have been second-guessing themselves.
The throngs of shocked Brazilian supporters in the stands certainly were. Maybe this wasn't the quality Brazil team many thought it was when it came to South Africa as pre-tournament co-favourites along with Spain.
Maybe we are all blinded by the rich heritage of those trademark bright yellow Brazilian jerseys whenever we see them. Maybe the Brazilians should have demanded to wear their yellows Friday against the Dutch instead of their blue tops.
Most importantly, maybe we should have listened to the likes of Johan Cryuff and Diego Maradona when they stated that this Brazilian side lacked the quality and creativity of those in the past.
"I don't think any spectator would pay to watch them," Cruyff told the British publication The Daily Mirror earlier this week. "I would never pay for a ticket.
"Brazil need to play with more intensity, more bite on the pitch, because they are not special. Always the fans want to enjoy Brazil, enjoy their fantasy at World Cups, but they do not have that this summer."
In the end, the Dutch legend was right on the mark.
At least Brazilian manager Carlos Dunga, fairly or unfairly, took the blame for the loss. This was going to be Dunga's last tournament at Brazilian boss. That was the plan all along. He said it last December. He just didn't plan on it happening this soon.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, I am the coach of the Brazilian team, I have the greatest responsibility," Dunga said. "It's sad. It's difficult. Nobody prepares to lose. We are all extremely sad and we didn't expect it.
"We were not able to maintain the same rhythm in the second half."
Indeed, their crumbling collapse in the final 45 minutes was so astonishing, so stunning, so, well, un-Brazilian. It had all been going so well, too.
In the 10th minute, enigmatic Brazilian superstar Kaka sent a beautiful pass up the seam between Dutch defenders to a streaking Robinho, who made no mistake in beating Dutch goalie Maarten Stekelenburg to put Brazil up 1-0.
Surely this would be a cakewalk. Cue the meltdown.
Just eight minutes after the halftime break, Dutch star Arjen Robben delivered a free kick that leaping Brazilian defender Felipe Melo, attempting to clear the ball out of harm's way, instead deflected with his noggin past goalie Julio Cesar for an own goal, tying the score at 1-1.
Then, in the 68th minute, a Dutch corner kick glanced off the temple of Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt and sailed directly to Wesley Sneijder, who directed it with his head into the net.
In this series of head games, the Dutch led 2-1. Enter Melo, who decided to play the role of head case.
Still languishing in the humiliation of his earlier own goal, Melo pretty much squashed his team's chances of a comeback by embedding his cleats into the thigh of fallen Dutch star Arjen Robben, the man Melo had just fouled.
Melo immediately was ejected. And rightly so. From that point on, Brazil's fate pretty much was sealed.
"If you play with only 10 players against a quality team like Holland then it makes it difficult," Dunga said.
In the end, it was just too difficult. And now the second-guessing begins. Why was Kaka a flop at this World Cup, just like fellow superstars Wayne Rooney of England and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal?
Why did Dunga leave certain former stars off the team, with the hot-and-cold Ronaldinho immediately coming to mind? And why did Melo suddenly lose his cool at the worst possible time? There will be plenty of time and lots of second-guessing to figure those things out in the coming months.
"It's not the end of the world," Cesar, on the verge of weeping, told a television reporter. "I just think now we have to leave with our heads held high.
"In Brazil, people always put a lot of pressure on us. This was a result no one expected. Every game Brazil enters, we enter to win."
Pressure. You want pressure? Sorry Mr. Cesar, but you haven't seen anything yet.
In four years, your country will be hosting World Cup 2014. At that time, your entire nation will demand nothing short of a tournament victory on home soil.
Now THAT's pressure.