Dutch pile more misery onto Brazil's nightmare

By Ridge Mahoney

For a few minutes, the downtrodden Brazilian players and their despondent fans rallied together.

As they had prior to the opening game against Croatia, the fans and players sang their national anthem with passion. Banished as they were to Brasilia for the third-place game against the Netherlands, their singing carried an undertone of defiance as well as national pride.

Redemption for a 7-1 humiliation by Germany in the semifinals was beyond them, so the hope that some measure of pride could be restored shone on every face and resonated in every word. Crushing pressure had certainly affected the Brazilian players during the tournament and Germany merely increased the stress on those widening fissures to split them asunder. The championship had taken flight so perhaps with that burden lifted there would be energetic play, a resurgence of spirit, and a victory against one of the world’s top teams.

Reality had one more embarrassment to dispatch. Two early goals, one of them questionable, pushed the Dutch in front and stripped away any semblance of Brazilian brio that might have survived the semifinal. The Dutch scored a third goal to claim third place with a 3-0 win, a laudable accomplishment given how uncertain the future looked two years ago in the wake of a first-round fizzle at the 2012 European Championships.

Louis Van Gaal signed off as national team coach and will this week start up his new job at Manchester United. Stalwart veteran Dirk Kuyt completed his international career with 103 caps, and doubtless there will be other changes when another experienced Dutchman, Guus Hiddink, takes over as head coach.

For the Dutch, boosted by their World Cup showing led by veterans Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Ron Vlaar, and well-stocked with younger players who in a year or two or three should be nearing their peaks, the future looks as bright as their traditional orange jerseys. Brazil also favors a colorful shirt but its prospects look much darker than the yellow attire worn by the players and early everyone in the stands at the Estadio Nacional.

Seated on the bench for inspiration, the injured Neymar sang the national anthem as forcefully as did his teammates and countrymen, then as the game unraveled looked just as confused and depressed. Questions about whether he could lead his team to the crown had been answered even before a flying knee in the back from Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga knocked him out of the competition. He might have been good enough to handle the task had his teammates been capable of doing their fair share. Defensively brittle and creatively starved, Brazil in its last two games were rudely exposed.

Thiago Silva’s return to the lineup following his suspension for the Germany game didn’t much shore up the middle. Robben burst through in the second minute of play and Thiago Silva shrewdly grabbed him by the shoulder a yard outside the penalty area, into which Robben fell. However, referee Djamel Haimoudi wasn’t as sharp and pointed to the penalty spot and pulled out a yellow card instead of a red one. The officials and Brazil were off to a bad start and neither really recovered.

Left back Daley Blind -- son of former international and assistant coach Danny Blind who watched from the bench – controlled a poorly headed clearance from David Luiz to score a second goal. The goal stemmed from a cross by Jonathan De Guzman; he was a last-minute replacement for Sneijder, who suffered an injury in the pregame warmup. The Dutch kept its identity despite Sneijder’s absence, which gave Brazil that much more to ponder of what had plagued it during the tournament: chronic ball-watching on defense, terrible transitions especially when falling back to defend, and stilted attacking play. So desperate is the situation that there's talk of hiring a foreign coach to replace Luis Felipe Scolari, whose selections and tactics deserved a share of the blame yet were superseded by poor performances.

The Dutch looked nothing like the flat, cautious bunch who labored through 120 scoreless minutes against Argentina before losing the semifinal on penalties. Once the Netherlands took command, Brazil responded better than it had against Germany but still did little to please its heartbroken fans. Once those fans tired of whistling and booing, they departed in huge numbers.

A very empty and quiet Estadio Nacional heard the final whistle, like that of a train whose journey is grinding to a halt. The Dutch players hugged each other and posed with their medals. Pleasure of a job well done and optimism registered in every gesture and expression.

Brazil is at the opposite pole. Its glorious quest to win a World Cup as host and eradicate the demons of 1950 ended in a sad and forlorn place, which leads to a future path no less foreboding.


11 comments about "Dutch pile more misery onto Brazil's nightmare".
  1. Ramon Creager, July 12, 2014 at 9:51 p.m.

    "Two early goals, one of them questionable..." Both were highly questionable. The first, a PK from a light foul that happened just outside the box. I say light, because there certainly was far less contact by Thiago Silva on Robben than in the incident that led the shameful yellow to Oscar for supposed simulation, when in fact he'd been rather heavily fouled in the box. The second occurred after a play that was clearly offside. In the second half the same AR called Brazil offside when he was about a yard to the good. Seems fitting that this game showcased the very shaky refereeing in this WC.

  2. Kent James, July 12, 2014 at 10:30 p.m.

    The foul on Robben that led to the penalty kick shows why Robben goes down. If he stays on his feet, he'll never get that call. But in this case, I don't have a problem with Robben going down (unlike his dive against Mexico), because in this case, Silva knew what he was doing; Robben was past him, and there was no way to legally stop him, so he grabbed him. But his incident also highlights a problem with the red card; this should have been a free kick outside the box (where the foul occurred) and a red card (for denying a goal scoring opportunity). But in a 3rd place game that meant little, making Brazil (or any other team) play a man down for 88 minutes because of a tactical (not malicious) foul, seemed too harsh and might ruin the game for the spectators. While it may have been unconscious, I think the referee's decision to award the PK and yellow made a better game than a free kick/ejection would have. But in a game that mattered, no doubt Silva should have been ejected. I think the best way to solve this problem is to eject the player who commits the foul, but allow the team to replace him (if they still have subs). And perhaps award a PK for any ejection, regardless of where it occurs (to avoid making Silva's calculation that he should "take one for the team" encourage him to foul Robben as he did). This would allow refs to eject more individuals (theoretically reducing bad tackles) without ruining the game. And ejections nearer the end of the game probably would result in man down situations (as teams run out of subs), but that often adds to the excitement at the end (unlike a red card early in the game).

  3. Kent James, July 12, 2014 at 10:38 p.m.

    Ramon, you're right about the ridiculousness of Oscar getting a card for diving, but Oscar was looking to draw a penalty. When his right foot is touched, he chooses to leave it back instead of moving it forward to take his next step; a classic move to draw a dive (and I'm guessing this is what the ref saw that encouraged him to give the card). But then Blind hammers Oscar's left leg, committing the foul (and I think the contact was what forced Blind to leave the game). Brazil probably should have had another penalty a few minutes before, when Hulk (I think) crossed the ball from the endline into an approaching Dutch defender, who appeared to move his body (and his arm, which was by his side) into the path of the ball. Tough non-call. It was just not Brazil's day to get any breaks.

  4. Allan Lindh, July 12, 2014 at 10:45 p.m.

    The first two Dutch goals were bogus, the second was clearly offside. And Brazil was denied a clear penalty (and given a diving yellow). The ref was totally incompetent, and ruined the game, which Brazil could have won 1-0, despite being the lessor team. The problem is total incompetence and corruption at FIFA -- time to be done with them. Expand UEFA to include whoever wishes to join, and announce a real world cup, not one run by crooks and fools.

  5. Santiago 1314, July 12, 2014 at 10:59 p.m.

    Great stuff Kent JAMES(Santiago means St. James, check it out in Wiki)...Shame about Blind, Hope it wasn't ACL...3rd Place Game is the stupidest thing... Imagine Kobi wrecks a knee vs OKcity, in a NBA 3rd place Game...Who gives a Flying F$CK, about finishing 3rd in World Cup... SHITAKE...Who cares, Who Finishes 2nd???....Nobody cares, if you win Ugly((Brazil'94,2002-WGer'90-2006???)) Just Win Baby, Win...

  6. beautiful game, July 12, 2014 at 11:25 p.m.

    Brazil played like a second rate team, and Luiz's clearance that led to the second goal was a U-10 brain dead header.
    I agree about the questionable refereeing in this tournament. The rules of the game were not always followed, perhaps less followed would be more appropriate; and FIFA needs to get into the 21st century. Off-sides must have daylight between players, ARs need to be involved more, what are the headsets for? All fouls/diving in the box can be reviewed within seconds and in that case, the headsets are useful for a change. As for your commentary Santiago ####, your delusional, get a grip and enjoy life, and stop comparing other sports which have their own unique systems. You're like a boring politician, on an ego trip.

  7. Ramon Creager, July 13, 2014 at 8:44 a.m.

    Kent, you're right about Oscar doing something when contact occurred. I recall an incident (can't recall the details) where a young player fought through a similar incident and got an ACL injury for his trouble. Maybe Oscar was just protecting himself. After all, the contact was heavy enough to injure Blind. Whatever Oscar did, what Blind did certainly was a foul, and a PK. I'd love to see FIFA try to eliminate these very dangerous challenges. They add little to the game and often end with someone stretchered off the field, often to the competitive advantage of the team committing the foul (see France v. Nigeria).

  8. Marilyn Oldham, July 13, 2014 at 9:11 a.m.

    Regarding the position of the foul on Robben, the FIFA Law 14 reads:
    [Read the last sentence.]

    pg 114
    Holding an opponent
    Holding an opponent includes the act of preventing him from moving past or
    around using the hands, the arms or the body.
    Referees are reminded to make an early intervention and to deal fi rmly with
    holding offences especially inside the penalty area at corner kicks and free
    To deal with these situations:
    • the referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is in
    • caution the player if the holding continues before the ball is in play
    • award a direct free kick or penalty kick and caution the player if it happens
    once the ball is in play
    If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues
    holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.

  9. David V, July 13, 2014 at 10:29 a.m.

    to anyone who knows football, the ONLY reason why brazil were in the conversation of winning this tournament was because they were playing at home... there is NO NEW CRISIS...if there is a crisis, it's been happening for decades...ridiculous... we aren't talking about Pele, Tostao, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Clodoaldo, Garrincha, Didi, Vava, Zico, Socrates, Junior, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho playing games...history doesn't mean a thing when you have low level players, less skillful...whatever has happened in Brazil has happened, less skillful thugs (even Neymar was Barcelona's 4th forward behind Messi, Pedro, and Alexis) ... the other two better performers/top quality they have are also in Spain: Alves and Marcelo, not sure about Dani Alves, one of the better performers, and Marcelo is an odd combination of a thug with some skill at times... most of the others are in England aren't they? That's not a league for flair and skill...all about pace/power and some thuggery really works there...Brazilian players playing in England is part of their top it all off, the quality of all these teams in 2010 are pretty mediocre... so that's another reason Brazil might have had a chance... there's no new crisis in Brazil

  10. TK TK, July 14, 2014 at 10:56 a.m.

    Robben dives twice this tournament inside Pk area and gets rewarded. Good job Fifa!! Shouldnt have gotten past Mexico with almost same exact play.

  11. uffe gustafsson, July 14, 2014 at 5:18 p.m.

    All this talk about diving getting old.
    Robin had beaten every defender and what they do, stick a foot out from behind at the attacker in full stride. You don't need a whole lot of contact to take some one down when they are at full speed.
    If they then roll over a cpl of times too when down don't make it a dive, sorry.
    Try it yourself run at full speed and let someone clip you from behind and see if you can stay on your feet. It's desperation on the defender to stick his leg out from behind, end of story.

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