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Down goes Brazil

Friday, July 2, 2010
Jul 02

Notes from the last 10 minutes of Brazil's self-destruction …

Watching Brazil was akin to witnessing a bully crumpling after being punched for the very first time. Brazil wrote the future and now lies on the tournament scrap heap alongside the likes of North Korea, Honduras and England.

The game itself was a testament to two things:

The unpredictability of football. For all the ink we spilled salivating over the prospect of a steely defensive matchup, all three goals could be attributed to defensive errors. Dutch defenders were caught napping as Robinho tiptoed through to open the scoring. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar (who looked as if he has been enjoying the joys of the breakfast buffet a little too much) whiffed on a cross he simply had to clear to give up an unnecessary equalizer and Brazil's suddenly suspect marking on a set piece left 5-foot-7 Wesley Sneijder free to head home the winner from point-blank range.

Football as a game of momentum. When Robinho collected Melo's through ball (on an embarrassing wreck of a pitch -- that pass bobbled, skidded and bumped past the Dutch defenders) and opened up his body to slide home the opening goal, it felt like an emphatic Brazilian rout was on. Brazil was physically dominant and the Dutch appeared overwhelmed. One gifted goal changed everything. Panic set in. The Brazilians, who had seemed so rigorous, efficient and professional, were overwhelmed by panic. Melo received a red card that everyone could see coming. And Kaka, poor Kaka, appeared almost Lampard-esque in his bewilderment. They never saw this coming.

Farewell, coach Dunga. Your wardrobe was very "substitute geography teacher" throughout. You handcuffed your team and promised a nation that football did not need to be beautiful. Only winning was beautiful. And you return a loser ready to be vilified. And not in a Fabio Capello-English media kind of vilification that melts quickly into a feel-good cuddle and a no-hard-feelings love-in. Your name will be forever blackened in Brazilian football history.

For the Dutch, Arjen Robben was a delight as the most tenacious, throbbing cranium in world soccer. Perhaps the sight that will thrill Dutch fans and those climbing aboard the Heineken-soaked bandwagon the most was to see their petulant Nos. 9 and 10, Robin van Persie and Sneijder, parading together around the hacked-up turf to celebrate victory. If the hatchets have truly been buried, Holland must be feared.

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