Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Steven Beacom: No sniping, Wesley is a real star

The future may be Oranje after all. It’s not Brazilian, that’s for sure.

Well, not for four years anyway, when Brazil will host the next World Cup.

It could take them that long to get over this.

The five time winners were in total control of their quarter-final with Holland.

They were dancing to the samba beat, but after a desperate defensive mix-up, they lost their rhythm, their cool and the match.

And now coach Dunga, who lifted the World Cup as captain in 1994, has had to walk the plank.

You could say it was the last waltz for him.

Even before the hugely disappointing 2-1 defeat in Port Elizabeth yesterday, the Brazilian media, more vicious than a hungry great white, were lambasting Dunga. Reason: For not playing the Brazilian way.

The truth is the modern Brazil does not possess an abundance of flair players like days gone by.

It doesn’t help when one of the few real talents, Kaka, like so many other big names in South Africa, fails to deliver.

Ironically Brazil’s best player was Robinho, castigated by just about everyone in the English game for being a lazy, selfish sod at Manchester City.

He provided an expert finish to give the Brazilians an early lead against a Dutch side who must have thought they were starring in Watership Down. Talk about rabbits caught in headlights.

They were playing the Brazilian reputation, not the current team.

Then they got lucky. Maybe they were due.

I’ve watched countless World Cups over the years in which the Netherlands have fallen when they deserved more.

The current side is not a patch on the 1974 and 1978 vintage, or the XI spearheaded by Marco van Basten in the late 80s or even the Dennis Bergkamp outfit a decade later, but now they could do what all of those couldn’t and win the biggest footballing tournament on the planet.

One man who would have fitted into all of the above is Wesley Sneijder.

What a year he is having. He was Jose Mourinho’s brains on the pitch last season as Inter Milan swept to a treble; Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League.

And he’s just as cunning for the Dutch. He’s a midfield maestro who influences games.

True, he was well shackled in the first half, but eight minutes after the break, it was he, combined with slack defending and that vital slice of fortune, that transformed the fixture.

Sneijder whipped in a cross to a dangerous area which had Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar flapping and then colliding with Felipe Melo, who ended up cursing his luck as the ball brushed off his head and into the net.

Melo’s day was to get a whole lot worse. Sneijder’s better and better.

Entering the final quarter of the match, Arjen Robben floated in a corner that was nudged on by Dirk Kuyt for the unmarked Inter Milan playmaker to head home.

More inept defending and yet another decisive moment from Sneijder. It was his third goal in South Africa, 17th in a Dutch shirt and easily the most important of all.

Brazil needed to compose themselves, be patient and strike back.

They struck back alright, just not in the way that was required.

Bayern Munich winger Robben is one of the most annoying individuals to have ever donned a pair of boots and many an opponent would be quite happy to thump into him with a meaty challenge, but smart players know there is a time and a place.

Trailing 2-1 in a World Cup quarter-final in Port Elizabeth with 17 minutes left was not it but that didn’t stop Melo stupidly lunging into the former Chelsea star.

Melo saw red and Brazil were on their way out of the competition, back to Rio to face the music.

Last eight? Unacceptable. Even finishing as gallant runners-up would not have been good enough.

For Holland, though, the dream is on to lift the trophy for the first time.

It’s possible now. They will be favourites in their semi-final.

And as long as they have Sneijder in form, there is a chance it could be their time.

These Oranje men are on the march.

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