Holland beat Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals. A masterful display, some might say. Not many people had picked Holland to progress through to the semifinals, but there you have it; the beautiful game at its best, with all kinds of twists and turns. What made the game great was not just that Holland won, but also the way that they won. The Dutch were down 1-0 only ten minutes in against the mighty Brazil, the team ranked number one in the world and favorites to win the competition for a 6th time. Most teams would have capitulated and Brazil would have wiped the floor with them, but Holland never gave up.
Although Wesley Sneijder was rightfully chosen as man of the match, the Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg must be given a huge amount of credit. When Brazil was on the front foot after Robinho’s goal gave them the early lead, Kaká took a wicked curling shot from just outside the box, which Stekelenburg parried. A brilliant, and perhaps game changing save. At 1-0 down, Holland always had a chance to come back. At 2-0, you’d feel that Brazil was on their way to the semis.
Let’s be honest, some amount of luck fell the Netherlands’ way. Sneijder wanted to take credit for the excellent ball he swung in that nestled into the back of the net to make it 1-1, but it was the slight touch off of Felipe Melo’s head that deceived the goalkeeper. The midfielder unwittingly let Holland back into the game, and in the end, they really made their own luck. Suddenly the momentum switched allegiance. Holland attacked with intent and Brazil, for the first time in the tournament, looked afraid.
In the 67th minute, the floodgates opened for Holland. With another good cross and a pristine header by Dutch maestro Sneijder, Holland came back from 1-0 down to take the lead 2-1. Grolsch must have been hitting the roof of every bar in Holland. And within six minutes, Brazil fell apart. Melo fouled Robben, and in his frustration stomped on the winger’s thigh to earn himself a shiny red card and an early shower. After his assist to give Brazil the opening goal, Melo went from hero to villain by first committing the own goal, then getting a red card and leaving his trailing team a man down. He is perhaps the most hated man in Brazil at the moment.
The last 15 minutes of the game were tense, to say the least. But the Dutch kept their cool, and Brazil were the ones to capitulate in the end; tears of joy from Holland, tears of sorrow for Brazil. It has to be said that although they were favorites, they didn’t come up against a team as strong as Holland before the quarterfinals. North Korea put up a noble fight, the Ivory Coast played too cautiously overall, and Portugal, with the exception of their 7-0 thumping of North Korea, looked a dim version of the team they should be. Chile looked bright in the group stages, but Brazil easily wiped them aside. Holland, however, blocked their paved road to the semis by putting on a rugged and heartfelt display.
This is a quarterfinal win that speaks volumes about this Dutch team and the World Cup overall. They are the country that almost every football fan can agree are the best team to have never actually won a World Cup. Winning from a position of being behind against a team like Brazil is brilliant enough, but Holland must see this as their golden opportunity to finally win the prize that has eluded their talented team for decades. Sneijder, who has been a revelation for his country, scored the winner and is probably counting the minutes until he can take the pitch once more next week. Holland have the talent, the tactics, the confidence, and all the momentum going forward. They not only could win this World Cup, they absolutely should win it.