World Cup post-game: Netherlands 2, Brazil 1

Wesley Sneijder's header in the 68th minute sent the Netherlands to a 2-1 victory over Brazil and a berth in the FIFA World Cup semifinals.

Wesley Sneijder's header in the 68th minute sent the Netherlands to a 2-1 victory over five-time champions Brazil and a berth in the FIFA World Cup semifinals. 

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Main storyline

Two titans of soccer. Two teams with very similar tactics, formations and styles of play, which begs the question, how would this game be decided?

Well, it was a tale of two halves.

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This was a testy match with its share of hard tackling, play acting and flaring tempers as each side attempted to unsettle the other.

In the first half, Brazil commanded control with fluid passing and stringent defending to lead 1-0 on Robinho's goal after 45 minutes. The Brazilians never looked in doubt of conceding a goal and could have carried a multiple-goal lead into the half had the finishing been better. 

Kaka had a sure goal stolen from him by Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, whose stretching one-handed save prevented the star midfielder from finding the top right-hand corner and giving Brazil a 2-0 lead.

But in the second half, it was a different story. The Netherlands came out more determined and Brazil became unglued, falling behind 2-1 and losing defender Felipe Melo to an undisciplined red card in the 73rd minute. 

Midfelders Sneijder and Arjen Robben especially came alive for the Netherlands in the second half, Sneijder with his distribution and Robben with his menacing runs down the right flank.

It was the Netherlands' first win over Brazil since the second round of the 1974 World Cup, when Johan Cruyff was the team's star and "total football" reigned.

The Netherlands will now set its sights on its first World Cup title, while Brazil is left to wonder how it all unravelled. 

What this result means 

The Netherlands becomes the first team to book its ticket in the semifinals, where it will play the quarter-final winner of Uruguay and Ghana.

The turning point

Brazil defender Felipe Melo's sending off in the 73rd minute for stomping on Oranje playmaker Arjen Robben.

Melo, who assisted on Robinho's first half goal with a perfect through ball between the Netherlands defence, was already feeling the heat after his own goal tied this game 1-1 in the 53rd minute. But it went from bad to worse when he lost his temper after fouling Robben, resulting in his ejection and leaving his team to fight for victory with 10 men.

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The winning goal 

Robben's curling corner kick in the 68th minute went off two Dutch heads and into the Brazilian goal, much to the dismay of helpless goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Dirk Kuyt flicked the ball behind him to a surging Sneijder, who headed into the corner of the goal, sending the thousands of Oranje fans on hand in Port Elizabeth into a frenzy.

Man of the match 

Sneijder elevated his game in the second half, having a foot on both goals. His long cross into the 18-yard box was deflected into the Brazilian net by the back of Melo's head and his winning goal on the header was picture perfect.

The Dutch perspective

"The first half was really difficult for us. We were 1-0 behind, a great save by our goalkeeper on Kaka kept us there. At halftime we said to each other that we had to improve things and put more pressure on the Brazilian defence. For 45 minutes, we went full throttle and we were rewarded." — Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder.

The Brazilian perspective

"We didn't expect this. We know that any World Cup match is about 90 minutes. In the first half we were able to play better and we weren't able to maintain that rhythm in the second half." — Brazil manager Dunga