Brazil shellshocked as Dutch turn it around
The Netherlands has caused a seismic World Cup shock, beating 10-man Brazil 2-1 after a dramatic second-half turnaround in the quarter-finals.
A costly mistake from 'keeper Julio Cesar gifted the Netherlands the momentum before Wesley Sneijder dealt the killer blow, heading in unmarked as the tournament's top side disintegrated.
The turnaround was stunning. Brazil was undoubtedly the best side in the first half, mixing awesome skill with physical defence to shut out the Dutch and score an incisive opener.
But Arjen Robben gradually came into the game in the second half and made the Netherlands look a totally different side, eventually unsettling Brazil's defenders who had no answer but to concede fouls.
But it could have been all so different were it not for an amateur mistake from Cesar.
Coming out for Sneijder's looping freekick, the stopper failed to reach the ball with his punch, bumping into Felipe Melo who got the last touch of the ball into the net.
Disaster had struck and suddenly the Selecao were coming apart at the seams. Robben, who had been effectively shut out in the first half, was finding plenty of space down the right to torment substitute Gilberto Melo.
The Dutch winger was relentless as he forced a string of corners for the Netherlands. Robben's corner was flicked on by Dirk Kuyt towards the unmarked Sneijder, who profitted on poor organisation at the back to give his side the lead.
Robben bore the brunt of some rough challenges in the first half but none nearly as bad Felipe Melo's, who after a tussle on the byline, put in a nasty stamp on the winger's thigh to be sent off on 72 minutes.
Brazil should have already had Michel Bastos sent off for a second yellow - given in the first half for persistent fouling on Robben - when he scythed down the winger on the flank. The referee's leniency meant Bastos was subbed off for Gilberto Melo.
Minutes later, Robben was hauled down again by a trip in the corner, sparking the fury of Robinho who did not hesitate to give the Netherlands star a vocal dressing down.
Brazil's implosion and frustration were evident as Kaka lashed out after being fouled by Andre Ooijer.
But the Netherlands still showed plenty of nerves having to defend their lead in the dying stages when Lucio's volley was deflected behind, before Maarten Stekelenburg fumbled the corner on his line, only for the ball to be desperately hacked away.
On the other side of the pitch, Brazil was a mess as a mixup between Maicon and Cesar nearly ended in disaster with Robben lurking.
Kaka tried vainly to weave some magic as the seconds ticked by, but the Netherlands' collective defending had all the answers as the Dutch pulled off the upset of the tournament to dump Brazil and give themselves every chance of reaching the final.
Robinho electric, Robben targeted
Brazil was gifted its first-half opener when a mistake at the back put Robinho clean through to finish on 10 minutes.
Ooijer, starting his first game of the World Cup in place of the injured Joris Mathijsen, and John Heitinga got their lines mixed up when Heitinga advanced prematurely to disrupt the offside trap, as Robinho finished Felipe Melo's throughball with consumate ease.
The early setback sparked an immediate response from the Netherlands. Kuyt combined with Mark van Bommel to force a smart save at the near post before Kuyt pickpocketed Maicon to cross for Robben.
Robben seemed to be targetted by Brazil's defenders as the forward came in for some rough treatment by Michel Bastos. The full-back totted up the fouls before finally being carded on 35 minutes.
But while Robben could not quite spark the Dutch into life, Robinho was an ever-present danger going forward and was at the heart of many attacks after his goal.
Robinho held off three defenders down the left flank before supplying Kaka, who curled an effort at the top corner only to be denied by the acrobatic Stekelenburg.
Netherlands: 2 (Felipe Melo [OG] 53', W Sneijder 68')
Brazil: 1 (Robinho 10')
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