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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brazil v. Netherlands: A Brief World Cup History

Brazil and the Netherlands have played four times in the World Cup, namely, in 1974, 1994, 1998 and 2010. On all four occasions, the intensity of the clash has matched a World Cup semi-final irrespective of the stage of the tournament in which the match took place. Brazil won in 1994 and 1998 while the Dutch came out on top in 1974 and 2010. With the exception of 1974, Brazil have typically played their traditional, attacking formation in contrast to the total football of the Dutch that relies heavily on teamwork and positional awareness of the challenges faced by teammates all over the field.

1974: Netherlands 2 - Brazil 0

1974 featured remnants of the great Brazil team of 1970, with Jairzinho and Rivelino but without the great Pele. Playing in Germany, Brazil were a ghost of the team that had lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for the third time four years earlier in Mexico. The first half featured rough play on both sides. Dutch players Suurbier and Rep fouled Brazil’s Pereira, Krol fouled Valdomiro, Ze Maria fouled Cruyff and notably, Brazil captain Marinho Peres elbowed Neeskens in the face when the referee had his back turned. The first goal came from a Dutch free kick. Van Hanegem played the ball to Neeskens who in turn passed to Cruyff. Cruyff spotted the racing Neeskens and served up the ball on a platter for his teammate in the center of the box. Neeskens lobbed the Brazilian goalkeeper to give the Dutch a deserved 1-0 lead. In the second goal, Cruyff latched onto a cross from Krol to beat the Brazilian goalkeeper at close range.

1994: Brazil 3 - Netherlands 2

The contest in 1994 took place in a different football era entirely. Brazil had failed to win the World Cup for 24 years. Intent on winning the title with the surfeit of talent at his disposal, coach Carlos Alberto Parreira fielded a cautious, tactically aware side that focused on winning at all costs. But for all of Parreira’s conservatism, World Cup 1994 marked the heyday of Romario and Bebeto and the quarterfinal match against the Netherlands in the second round proved no exception. In the 52nd minute, Romario broke through a tangle of defenders and tapped in a pass from Bebeto to open the scoring. Minutes later, Bebeto latched onto a magnificent through ball from Branco, rounded the keeper and scored before launching into his unforgettable “rock the cradle” celebration with Romario and Mazinho. The Dutch brought the score level through goals from Dennis Bergkamp and Aron Winter before Branco settled the affair with an extraordinary free kick from 30 yards that sunk the Dutch, and embellished South America’s reputation for spectacular curling balls from set pieces.

1998: Brazil 1 - Netherlands 1 (Brazil wins 4 -2 on penalties)

1998 marked yet another epic battle between the Dutch and Brazil in the semifinals in Marseille. The game had been deadlocked for the first 45 minutes with Edgar Davids going head to head against Carlos Dunga. But in the first minute of the second half, Ronaldo finally broke free. Rivaldo threaded a glorious ball behind Jaap Stam to which Ronaldo latched on and dispatched past Edwin van der Sar scarcely seconds after the whistle had blown. Ronaldo singlehandedly continued the attack with some nominal help from the overlapping full-backs Roberto Carlos and Cafu but failed to convert a bevy of high percentage chances due to excellent defending and solid goalkeeping. However, Dutch coach Gus Hiddink was quick to spot the weak link in the Brazilian defense in the form of their aerial vulnerability to corners, high crosses and long balls. In the 87th minute, KIuivert headed home the equalizer and took the game to a thrilling 30 minutes of extra time and penalty kick shoot-out. Brazil goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel saved two penalties as Brazil won 4-2 in an emotional shoot-out that left Mario Zagallo in tears on the field after the victory.

2010: Netherlands 2 - Brazil 1

In 2010, Brazil encountered the Dutch in the quarterfinals yet again and entered the match appearing well on their way to yet another World Cup title, improving with every game and finding ways to unleash their star striker Luis Fabiano. True to the story line, Robinho put Brazil ahead after 10 minutes to score his first goal of the tournament as Brazil continued to press the attack throughout the first half. The Dutch keeper parried Kaka’s curling strike to keep the score at 1-0 going into the first half. In the second half, Arjen van Robben’s histrionics unnerved the Brazilian defense as the Dutch began to play rough and disturb the composure of the normally unflappable Brazilian team. Wesley Sneijder scored twice in the space of five minutes and from then on, Brazil unraveled in conjunction with a red card to Felipe Melo in the 73rd minute.

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