Do you believe in (Dutch) miracles?

July 2, 2010

The miracle isn’t that the Netherlands beat Brazil. Not at all, as the two nations now have the same record against each other. The miracle is that the Dutch are winning ugly. That’s never happened before in my lifetime.

So, at halftime the score was 1-0. Brazil barely had the ball in the first half, but they had all the scoring chances. In the 5th minute Dani Alves (I think) was marginally but noticably offside, though for some reason Brazil continued playing and put the ball in the net.

Robinho’s goal was the sort of goal the Dutch haven’t been giving up. Brazilian attackers just ran away from the middle of the field, all the defenders followed them, and Felipe Melo played the ball into space and Robinho slotted in home with all kinds of time. Good vision from Melo, but really that’s just a large defensive error.

My other notes at halftime were: 1) Holland hasn’t really shown up yet, 2) referee is having a great game, 3) if we’d had the same Russian ref from the Holland Portugal game 4 years ago, there would already have been 8 red cards, 4) Brazil looks strangely nervous and whiny.

Holland came out to play in the second half. I had that written down in my notebook before they scored an ugly goal, apparently written down as an own goal from Felipe Melo, although considering that the ball was headed into the net, I’d call it more of a miscommunication. A lucky goal. The Dutch second was also lucky*, as Kuyt made a near post run, skipped it on with his head, and the ball fell to Sneijder in perfect position to deflect it home.

In my opinion, the referee had a brilliant match. Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura did his best to avoid giving out cards. Truthfully, he could’ve given out a ton and been correct in doing so. The Argentine announcers thought that he should be giving out cards; I disagree. He let the players decide the game. While Felipe Melo received a red card with 20 minutes to go, it was a pretty clear red card: he tripped Robben and then purposely stepped on his leg. That’s going to get a red card like 98% of the time. I thought he also showed incredible restraint in not giving yellow cards out to Brazil for dissent in the first half. He would have been correct, but it’s better that the players can decide the outcome of the match without referee interference.

Holland will have to play its semifinals without Van Bommel and without Van der Wiel. That’s tough. And I can’t understand how Holland failed to score a 3rd goal.

Good riddance to Dunga. With the game tied, Brazil didn’t create much. Down a goal, Brazil didn’t create much. That’s the danger to playing like you did. That’s the danger of bringing Brazil’s B team.

Highlight video:

* Though also probably planned and well-executed.

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Brazil v Netherlands: the 10th meeting

July 1, 2010

Tomorrow’s matchup between Brazil and the Netherlands is a strange matchup: the un-Brazil vs the un-Holland. With all due respect to Argentina, these are the two nations with the strongest commitment to playing attractive, stylish football.

It’s been a common refrain on this blog: under Dunga, Brazil plays a boring, joyless football. Despite having one of the most talented player pools in the world, Dunga chose a boring defensive-oriented team. He doesn’t seem terribly interested in who is in form, which explains how two players maintain their starting positions for la Selecao despite the fact that they couldn’t crack the starting lineup for 5th place Manchester City (Robinho, Elano). He chose Maicon over Dani Alves, only to replace an injured Elano with Dani Alves at right mid/wing, a position at which Alves looked a little lost for Barcelona the few times he played there.

Holland, likewise, is doing something they’ve never done before: win ugly. While they’re getting criticized back home, instead of attacking and leaving defending to chance, they actually defend. They don’t take silly chances. They still try to possess the ball with flowing football, but without overdoing it. Can you tell I’m a fan? Eljero Elia was right: the best from the Dutch is still to come. They haven’t even come close to their capacity.

Brazil is 3-2-4 through the first 9 meetings of these two teams. I think Holland is going to even the score tomorrow. Of course, I would say that since I have a Dutch last name…and because I’m really not a fan of Dunga. Like I indicated in my writeup of Holland, there’s a happy middle ground. If you’re up 1-0 with 2 minutes left in the game and the other team is collapsing into their end: you don’t have to attack.

I think this could be another Brazil v Holland World Cup classic. I hope the Dutch get a little luck — unusual for a World Cup — score first and come away with the win.


Johan Cruyff on Brazil

July 1, 2010

Dutch star Johan Cruyff spoke to UK newspaper The Mirror:

I would never pay for a ticket to watch the matches of this Brazilian team. Where has the Brazil team we all know disappeared to in this World Cup? I look at this team and I remember people like Gerson, Tostao, Falcao, Zico or Socrates. Now I only see Gilberto, Melo, Bastos, Julio Baptista. Where is the Brazilian magic? I could understand why Dunga has picked some players but where is the playmaker or skill in midfield? I don’t think any spectator would pay to watch them. Brazil need to play with more intensity, more bite on the pitch because they are not special, they are just like any other squad in this World Cup. Always the fans want to enjoy Brazil, enjoy their fantasy at World Cups but they do not have that this summer. They have talented players but they play in a way which is more defensive and is less exciting. It is a shame for the fans and the tournament. They are one of the teams people want to see.

Johan Cruyff is correct. This is the antithetical Brazilian team. Yes, it is true that if Brazil hadn’t always been the country (along with the Netherlands, perhaps) on which you could depend for an entertaining match, Cruyff wouldn’t say this. But Brazil always played with class, which is why this Dunga-ized joyless Brazilian team disappoints.


Halftime: Brazil 0, North Korea 0.

June 15, 2010

Wow.

As I sat down to write this, I realized: it is possible to choose a better Brazilian team than the one starting against North Korea even if you exclude all the people on the field.

That is, if you give me Brazil’s bench and the Brazilians not on the national team’s roster, I think I could make a team that would beat Brazil’s starting 11 more often than they lose.

Let’s make it even harder: restrict me to only being able to choose defenders from Brazil’s bench, and the rest have to be players Dunga didn’t select for the 23 man roster.  I could still beat Brazil’s starting 11.

Not only does Dunga make Brazil play ugly, boring Italian-style football, but he hasn’t picked nearly the best starting 11.  Wow.

The crazy thing is that even with Dunga as manager, there is a reasonable chance that Brazil wins the World Cup.


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