Brazil (4-3-2-1): Cesar 6 - Maicon 6, Luiz 5, Thiago Silva 6, Maxwell 5.5 - Gustavo 5 (Fernandinho 45 5.5), Ramires 6 (Hulk 70 5), Paulinho 5 (Hernanes 57 5.5) - Oscar 6.5, Willian 5.5 - Jo 5.5. Coach Felipe Scolari 4.
Holland (3-5-2): Cillessen 6.5 (Vorm 90+3 unrated) - de Vrij 7, Vlaar 6, Martins Indi 5.5 - Kuyt 6, Wijnaldum 7, Clasie 6 (Veltman 90 unrated), de Guzman 6, Blind 7 (Janmaat 70 6.5) - van Persie 6, Robben 8. Coach Louis van Gaal 7.
Goals: Van Persie 3 (11m), Blind 17, Wijnaldum 90+1
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria) 4.5
Man of the match: Arjen Robben (Holland) 8
In Brazil, most players were on a very average level, with Oscar being the best Brazilian on the pitch, Willian attempting something, Maicon making several good forward runs, and Cesar doing ok but conceding a goal in his corner. On the other hand, David Luiz didn't do anything, let alone defend, and with Gustavo and Paulinho he was the worst player on the pitch. A special mention goes to Luis Felipe Scolari, the coach who didn't design neither defensive nor offensive tactics for the World Cup he wanted to win.
In Holland, there were average performances across the board, with Arjen Robben being by far the best player. Wijnaldum, De Vrij and Blind deserve a mention for good performances. The others didn't excel, including goalkeeper Cillessen who was actually untested throughout the match.
Referee Djamel Haimoudi lost control of the match in the second half, and the penalty kick for Holland in the 3rd minute didn't exist. He didn't whistle two penalty kicks in the second half, one for Holland when Robben was fouled, one for Brazil when Vlaar handled the ball. Awful performance, one of the worst in this World Cup. Near the end of the match the players started making brutal tackles and he didn't do anything to stop that. Some of the decisions during the match were ridiculous. Awful. Coincidentally, Yuichi Nishimura was the 4th official.
The Brazilian humiliation is complete. After losing 1-7 to Germany in the disastrous semifinals match, they didn't use the opportunity to say farewell to their fans with a victory and to win at least the bronze medal. Brazil were outplayed by Netherlands and didn't even manage to create a dangerous scoring situation. But it could get even worse, as Argentina could win the world title in the spiritual home of Brazilian football, the Maracana.
There were several substitutions in both sides, most notably Fred and Wesley Sneijder were on the bench. Thiago Silva was back on the pitch to captain Brazil. However, the match started very wrong for Brazil and they must have felt they are still playing against Germany as Netherlands scored from a penalty kick in the 3rd minute. The very poor Algerian referee Djamel Hamoudi made a mistake, as the foul was outside the box. But for Brazil, what goes around comes around, as they have had their share of wrong penalty decisions in their favor in this tournament. In the 17th minute Daley Blind raised the score to 0-2, therefore using the expected confusion of the Brazilian team as they step onto the pitch for the first time after the 1-7 defeat. Brazil then started playing, and they were the better team, but the Dutch were a constant menace in offense while the Brazilians were failing to do anything meaningful in offense.
In the second half Brazil again - just like against Germany - ran out determined to make this happen, and again failed. There were several solid moves but it's far too less for any serious football team. It was blatantly obvious that Luis Felipe Scolari didn't develop offensive tactics at all as these eleven players attempted to score a goal on pure instinct, trying to use the moves and tactics they were taught in their respective clubs. Of course, it didn't work. Brazil weren't much more stable on the defensive end than in the semifinals, but the Dutch didn't use the open space the way Germany did. Brazil tried everything they can to find a goal and to get back into the match, but by this time the Dutch were defensive and there was no way through. Brazil didn't even shoot on target. In injury time, Wijnaldum got a deserved goal for Netherlands as he played a great match, and then Louis van Gaal brought on third goalkeeper Vorm and therefore used all 23 players in this World Cup.
Netherlands therefore win the bronze medal which they did not want, judging by Van Gaal's disrespective comments the day before when he said the match for the third place shouldn't be played at all. He therefore disrespected all the bronze medal winners so far, and now he became one of them and looked elated because of it.
For Brazil, the tournament is not over. They still have to dread the possibility that their fiercest rival Argentina will win the trophy on Brazilian soil, in a tournament Brazil were heavily favored to win. If Argentina win, Brazil would suffer two embarassments on Maracana. The first one, known as Maracanazo - the Maracana disaster - happened in 1950 when Uruguay won the game from behind to win the trophy, and Argentina winning the World Cup on the same stadium with Brazilians watching would be the maximum embarassment which would never fade.
After Brazil were shellshocked in the first semifinal match yesterday, Argentina and Netherlands come up to the stage today to play their semifinal duel. Lionel Messi is the prime candidate for the Golden Ball award, but if and only if he leads Argentina to the throne. Can he do a Maradona? Everyone is expecting him to. He's the only remaining top player in the competition as Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar bowed and made their exit.
Being Lionel Messi is not easy. Whatever he does, Diego Armando Maradona has done it before and the little wizard will live in his shadow until he does something amazing. Even if he wins the trophy with Argentina - Maradona has done it before. Messi can only join him on the throne for now but can't top him.
Messi has been unrecognizable and looked jaded in the group stage, but was that just a very wise move, saving his energy for the most important matches? Could be. In any case, Lionel Messi is the leader of this defensive team and he brought them to the semifinals with his key goals scored when the team was in desperate need of his magic. Two matches to go, Messi has to do it two more times and he'll finally earn the right to be put in the same sentence with the much more famous number 10.
On the opposite side are Netherlands, a side which may not be too happy with the 1-7 yesterday as their 1-5 against Spain will not be remembered as the most shocking result in this tournament. But they're here and have a chance to win the title after losing in the 2010 final. Louis van Gaal redesigned this team of average players plus Robben and Van Persie and managed to progress through this extremely difficult tournament which saw many favorites go home early.
Arjen Robben is the leader of this team, with Robin van Persie being quiet for several matches now because he was caught off side repeatedly, but if the offside traps start failing he'll suddenly wake up. Wesley Sneijder picked up his game as the tournament progressed, and now he seems to be ready to be the key player in central midfield. The other players are doing well also, but only because of Van Gaal's good tactics. In reality they're average players who happen to be overperforming in this tactical setup and in this tournament.
This will be a duel between defensive Argentina and offensive Netherlands. So far, the more stable team always won the knockout stage match, and in this case that would be Argentina. They haven't played spectacular matches but are reminiscent of the German machine. They're unattractive and criticized, but they're winning. Netherlands are a more romantic side not only concerned with winning matches but preoccupied with doing so in a beautiful way. All similar teams have exited the tournament already and they're the only such team remaining in the competition. They look like the bronze medal candidate, teams like this usually end up third, but they could hurt Argentina and then do something amazing in the final. The talent is definitely there.
The match between Argentina and Netherlands is played in Sao Paulo tonight at 21.00 UK time, 17.00 local time. Cuneyt Cakir from Turkey, one of the top referees in the world, will officiate this match. As opposed to yesterday's duel, FIFA decided to break the rule that a European referee can't officiate a match in which a European team is involved. Not that it matters with fantastic and professional referees such as Cakir.
The stage is set for another spectacle. Can Argentina and Netherlands top what happened yesterday? Highly unlikely, as Mineirazo - the tragedy in Estadio Mineirao - will be remembered as the most shocking result of all time. But something memorable will happen tonight as well.
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