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Brazil crashes out

Richard Williams

The Netherlands upsets five-time champions


Arjen Robben had a role in setting up both goals

The breakdown of one of Brazil's best combination moves led to Holland's equaliser


— PHOTO: AP

CLOCKWORK ORANJE:Wesley Sneijder (third from right, number 10) heads in the goal that helped the Netherlands stun five-time champions Brazil 2-1 and enter the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup for

PORT ELIZABETH: The first Brazilian own goal in 97 World Cup matches, off the head of Felipe Melo, set up a victory in which Holland avenged their defeat at the hands of the South Americans in the 1998 semi-finals. Now the inquests will start on Dunga's regime after Bert van Marwijk's side won through to the last four with a victory in which Arjen Robben's skills proved decisive. The Bayern Munich winger had a role in setting up both goals, the second of them scored by Wesley Sneijder, while also provoking Melo into a stamp that saw Brazil playing the last 17 minutes a man short.

On the eve of the match Dunga and Van Marwijk had been unanimous in their declaration that total football and samba football were archaic concepts with no relevance to the present day. And from the moment Juan barged Robin van Persie out of the path of Dirk Kuyt's looping cross in the opening minute, this was always going to be a match with an edge.

There was a late change for Holland when Joris Mathijsen, who had played all four of their previous games partnered by John Heitinga in the middle of the Oranje defence, suffered a knee injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Andre Ooijer, formerly of Blackburn Rovers. The change may have had some influence on the opening goal, which came in the 10th minute when Melo, from inside his own half, measured a straight ball that invited Robinho to run between the two centre-backs and stroke the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg from 15 yards as unfussily as a man peeling a ripe banana.

Brazil had two chances to increase their lead before the interval, first when a right-wing corner was returned to Daniel Alves, whose cross was met by Juan with a first-time drive that just cleared the crossbar, and then when Robinho's persistence provided an opening for Kaká, whose curling right-foot shot was turned around the post by the diving Stekelenburg.

For Holland there were no such clear-cut openings by that stage. Every time Robben, stationed wide on the right, turned inside to try and exploit his strong left foot, he found himself running helplessly into a thicket of three powerful defenders.

It was the breakdown of one of Brazil's best combination moves, involving Kaká, Robinho and Luís Fabiano, that led to Holland's equaliser after 53 minutes. Robben finally found himself one-on-one with Michel Bastos, who had been booked in the first half for persistently fouling the Dutch winger. Going to ground this time under minimal contact, Robben turned the free-kick back to Sneijder, who delivered a long head-height diagonal ball into the middle and watched as Júlio César's attempt to punch clear was impeded by the jump of Melo, the ball skimming off the top of the defender's head and into the net.

Robben's increasing ability to sow panic on the left flank of the Brazil defence paid further dividends after 68 minutes, when he swung in a corner from the right that Kuyt, at the near post, glanced on to Sneijder, who had no need to jump in order to guide the ball home. Five minutes later Melo's stupidity saw Brazil reduced to 10 men and no longer able to mount the coherent attacks that might have kept them in the competition. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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