Friday, July 2, 2010

QF 1 : Holland vs Brazil : Tenacious Holland keep European hopes alive

Prior to this match, both teams knew that winning this match may effectively give them an entry into the final. With all due respect to Uruguay and Ghana, both Brazil and Holland must have been licking their lips on seeing the draw after group stages. They both saw off Chile and Slovakia clinically and this was the main hurdle in their paths.

The first ten minutes made it look almost as though it was men vs boys. Brazil took the game to Holland, had a beautiful move which culminated into a goal ruled out (correctly) for offside; and then went ahead by a superb through-ball and a first time shot by Robinho while the Holland defence had gone to sleep. Brazil continued to dominate, keep possession, draw fouls, and amidst all this, Kaka had a beautiful curling shot saved in a move which had originally been created by Robinho's industriousness down the touchline. In another flowing move, Maicon had a thunderous shot saved down the right flank.

Brazil, probably playing their most attractive football all tournament went into half-time 1-0 feeling pretty comfortable. Holland huffed and puffed, and for all the hard work by Sneijder and De Jong, and the threat posed by Robben, they were unable to impose themselves on the Brazilian midfield.

All great football coaches, the Mourinhos, the Fergusons are known by what they say to their team at half time. Whatever Bert van Marwijk, the Holland coach did say to his team, it had a tremendous impact. They came out looking sharper, began to close down Brazil far more swiftly and Sneijder began to show his capabilities. Much like Xavi Alonso or Xavi Hernandez, the play-maker; he began to influence the game.

The goal when it came had a touch of fortune, where a decent cross into the six-yard area caused confusion and the Brazil goalkeeper collided with Felipe Melo inducing an own-goal. Communication (which was lacking in this case) is often to key to handle such situations.

The situation changed dramatically thereafter. Not having to chase the game anymore, Holland looked more comfortable while Brazil tried to regain the earlier dominance. However, Sneijder, Van Bommel and ever-hard working Kuyt did not give an inch of space this time around. Another innocuous corner for Holland, led to another goal, this time surely through something that must have been rehearsed in the training ground. One touch header, nodded on goalwards, another touch - goal. Simple, effective and for all its predictability, still a goal worth its weight in gold. Holland lead, suddenly Brazil looked insecure, panicky and tried to press forward, but the Holland midfield kept them superbly in check.

A red-card to Felipe Melo for a spiteful tackle further changed the complexion of the game. Was it a red card offense? Yes. Period. To give credit, Brazil continued to press forward and earned a few corners in quick succession, but the closest they came was Kuyt safely diverting a header away standing 2 feet in front of his goal. For all the quality of Kaka and Robinho, there were no clear-cut chances and the no-nonsense Holland midfield and defence stood stubborn.

Did Brazil deserve to go out. The purists might disagree, but based on Holland's second half performance, they definitely deserved to go through. They may not have the flair that South American teams have but they have the tenacity and the stomach to fight, something which is typical of European teams. And for flair, they can look to one man - Wesley Sneijder.

Man of the match : easily Wesley Sneijder, and not because he scored the winner, but primarily because of ability to dictate the play against the likes of Gilberto Silva, Maicon and co.

1 comment:

  1. nice post mamu. informative as well as analytical :)