THE SMALL margins? As Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk admitted his side could have been out of yesterday’s World Cup quarter final to Brazil after the first 15 minutes, his opposite number Dunga was out of work wondering where it all went wrong.
Dunga made it clear he would not continue as Brazil coach after his country’s 2-1 loss – “We knew when I started that I would be here for four years. It’s sad, it’s difficult, nobody prepares to lose,” he said – but his Dutch counterpart could, and perhaps should, have been preparing for such a fate.
Brazil had only themselves to blame for imploding in the second half, as they surrendered their lead and had a man sent off to leave their World Cup campaign in tatters.
Robinho opened the scoring in the 10th minute and Holland were not at the races for the first quarter-of-an-hour. Van Marwijk admits he needed to motivate his men during the break, and was thankful the game was not already over.
“We could have lost it in the first 15 minutes,” he said. “At half-time, 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’.
“When the (own goal) goal was scored, we just got better and better.”
Felipe Melo was the villain of the piece despite providing an excellent assist for Robinho’s opener. The defensive midfielder – often linked with Arsenal – scored the own goal that got Holland back into the game, although the blame should be placed on goalkeeper Julio Cesar for missing his punch, and he then received a red card after a stamp on Arjen Robben.
Van Marwijk added: “I think if he (Melo) looked carefully, he would be ashamed, ashamed for Brazilian football.”
Now the Dutch coach is convinced his team can go on to lift the World Cup. “I will make it very clear to my team: we have still got two matches to play and the next match is the most important. We will have to really concentrate on that.”
Holland will continue their mission in Cape Town on Tuesday evening, but will do so without Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong, who both picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Wesley Sneijder also applauded his colleagues’ fighting spirit after his header gave the Dutch a famous victory against a nation so often their World Cup nemesis.
“In the changing-room at half-time, everyone said to each other ‘let’s give everything’ and that’s what we did. We fought for each other,” he said.
Brazil had started brightly with Felipe Melo, returning from an ankle injury which kept him out of the second round match against Chile, setting up the first goal after 10 minutes, threading a 30-metre pass through the Dutch midfield and Robinho timed his run perfectly to score with a shot past Maarten Stekelenburg.
The game turned niggly, although Brazil managed to produce some flowing moves and should have extended their lead.
Juan volleyed over from close range after a jinking run on the right by Dani Alves and Stekelenburg produced a superb one-handed save to tip away Kaka’s curling effort, following a dazzling Robinho run down the left.
Just before halftime, Maicon fired into the side-netting after Luis Fabiano rolled the ball into his path.
The Dutch rarely threatened with Arjen Robben far too predictable to outfox the Brazil rearguard. But they levelled out of the blue eight minutes after the break when Felipe Melo touched Sneijder’s looping cross-shot into his own net.
Kaka missed an excellent chance to put Brazil back ahead, side-footing wide from the edge of the area after the ball was gifted to him by a poor clearance.
They paid dearly in the 68th minute when Dirk Kuyt flicked on Arjen Robben’s corner at the near post and Sneijder headed into the net. Shortly afterwards, Felipe Melo was sent off for stamping on Robben.
“If you play with only 10 players against a quality team like Holland then it makes it difficult,” Dunga said.
The Brazilian players looked truly stunned afterwards as they wandered aimlessly around the pitch. “It’s not the end of the world,” goalkeeper Julio Cesar said as a tear rolled down his face. “I just think now we have to leave with our heads held high.”
Sub for Netherlands: Huntelaar for van Persie (85).
Subs for Brazil: Gilberto for Michel Bastos (62); Nilmar for Luis Fabiano (77)
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