NETHERLANDS 2-1 BRAZIL, Port Elizabeth, 02/07/10
Sneijder 53, 68; Robinho 10
The Netherlands mounted a stunning second-half comeback, as they defended their UFWC title and booked a place in the World Cup Semi Finals, sending one of the tournament favourites crashing out.
The first half belonged to Brazil, as they looked like world-beaters for the majority of the 45 minutes. And it looked like they could wind up winners by a good margin, as they got the ball in the net twice in the first 10 minutes. Even though the first one was ruled out for offside, the second one most definately was not. A magnificent pass from Felipe Melo from half way found the run of Robinho, who latched onto the ball and hit it to the left of the Dutch goalkeeper, giving the Brazilians a dominant start.
This goal was shortly followed by a decent effort from Dirk Kuyt for the Netherlands, but for the most part the champions failed to get into the match, as the Brazilian defence stood firm and smothered out any attacks as they came. Brazil could easily have doubled their lead in the 25th minute, as a cross in from Daniel Alves found Juan in the box, but under pressure from the defence he could only hit the ball over. And Kaka had his own chance of a goal after 30 minutes, as he curled a shot towards the top corner, only for a save from Maarten Stekelenburg to deny him.
The Netherlands’ first half performance was summed up by their attempted ‘sneaky touch’ corner which failed miserably, as they seemed to lack any fresh ideas, with even Arjen Robben struggling to get past the defence.
However a moment of luck for the Dutch early in the second half was enough for them to spark an incredible revival. A cross in from Wesley Sneijder from a free kick had the Brazilian defenders confused, and while Julio Cesar missed the ball, it found Felipe Melo who headed the ball into his own net (a goal which would later be awarded to Sneijder), giving the Netherlands a free pass back into the match. And they were more than happy to take advantge of it, as they stepped it up a gear against a visibly shaken Brazil. And after some decent chances, they eventualy took the lead. A corner, taken by Robben, found an unmarked Dirk Kuyt at the front of the box, who flicked it back into the mass of bodies, where Wesley Sneijder was on hand to head the ball passed Cesar to the delight of the Dutch fans.
But things were about to get worse for Brazil. In a moment of madness Felipe Melo stamped on Arjen Robben after fouling him, forcing the referee to give him a straight red card, making Brazil’s almost impossible mission even harder. But neither side took their foot off the pedal, as both sides went in search of another goal to help their cause. However even though they had the lead it was the Netherlands who looked most likely to score, as Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Kuyt both had golden chances of putting Brazil out of their misery, but failed to convert.
The result comes as a major surprise as Brazil, one of the pre-tournament favourites, were also favourites to overthrow the Netherlands as UFWC champions. It also means that this incredible reign by the Netherlands is now the joint-longest in terms of title defences, a record which they will break if they make it to the World Cup Final.
Their next UFWC title match will be against the winners of the Quarter Final match between Uruguay and Ghana, on July 6th.