July 3, 2010 Leave a comment
Friday’s two World Cup quarter-finals were nothing if not eventful, providing us with a montage of memorable moments, from great goals to senseless red cards, and producing scenes of both elation and despair – not to mention possibly the most dramatic end to a match the World Cup has ever seen. But ultimately the tantalising – or depressing, depending on your point of view – prospect of two all-South American semi-finals will now not come to pass, and we sadly said goodbye to Africa’s final representative in the tournament.
Holland 2 Brazil 1
This was, truly, a game of two halves. The first 45 minutes was dominated by Brazil. Ten minutes in, Robinho ran unattended through Holland‘s hastily reorganised back line – Joris Mathijsen having been injured in the warm-up – and swept home Felipe Melo‘s through-ball. Had Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg not been in fine form, Brazil would have had one foot firmly in the semi-final by halftime. First he tipped over a curling shot from Kaka, then he turned away a thunderous shot from the full back Maicon.
But the game turned early in the second half when a Wesley Sneijder cross caused panic in the heart of the Brazilian defence. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar tried to punch the ball away but collided with Melo, with the ball bouncing off the latter into the unguarded goal. With the momentum shifting in Holland’s favour, Dirk Kuyt then flicked on a corner for Sneijder to head in what would turn out to be the winner midway though the second half.
Under pressure for the first time in the tournament, Dunga‘s team lost their composure. Melo experienced a rush of blood to the head, and his deliberate stamp on Arjen Robben received the red card it deserved. Although Brazil surged forward desperately in the last 15 minutes in search of the equaliser, none was forthcoming, and as gaping holes started to open up in Brazil’s back line Holland missed a couple of great chances to put the result beyond doubt.
Nonetheless, it is the Dutch who qualified for Tuesday’s first semi-final. On every previous occasion Holland and Brazil have met in the knockout stages, the winner has always gone on to the final. You have been warned.
42 – Defeat against Holland brought to an end Brazil’s streak of 42 unbeaten World Cup games (excluding penalty shootouts) outside of Europe. Their previous defeat in a non-European World Cup was in July 1950 against Uruguay.
2 – Holland join an elite band of France, Hungary and Italy as the only sides to have beaten Brazil twice at the World Cup.
1 – Felipe Melo is the first player in World Cup history to score an own goal and be sent off in the same game.
97 – Melo’s own goal was the first ever conceded by Brazil at the World Cup – in their 97th game.
Uruguay 1 Ghana 1 (aet, 90 mins 1-1) – Uruguay win 4-2 on penalties
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has caught the eye in two respects during this tournament. On the plus side, he has contributed three fine goals which were instrumental in propelling his country into this quarter-final. In the minus column, however, he has been perhaps the single worse perpetrator of what FIFA likes to euphemistically call ‘simulation’. In other words, he is a diving cheat. So it was perhaps inevitable that Suarez would have a hand – literally – in the outcome of this match.
An entertaining game had finished 1-1 after 90 minutes. Diego Forlan‘s spectacular free kick from the left corner of the penalty area early in the second half cancelled out Sulley Muntari‘s swerving, dipping drive from the nearly 40 yards out in first half stoppage time. On both occasions, the less than true flight of the derided Jabulani ball made both goalkeepers look rather silly through no fault of their own.
Unusually and refreshingly, both sides played with ambition in extra time, but the game was heading for the dreaded penalty shootout when Suarez first cleared Dominic Adiyiah‘s goalbound effort off the line with his knee, then batted away Adiyiah’s follow-up attempt with his hand. It was an instinctive and desperate reaction, but the punishment was swift and correct: a red card for Suarez, and a penalty for Ghana. Asamoah Gyan, scorer of two penalties already in the tournament, fired his spot-kick off the top of the bar with the final act of extra time.
After five well-taken penalties in the shootout – Gyan himself bravely stepped up to take Ghana’s first and blasted it into the top corner – John Mensah, Maxi Pereira and Adiyiah failed in succession to convert their efforts. This left Uruguay substitute Sebastian Abreu to cheekily chip the winning penalty into the space vacated by the diving Ghana keeper, Richard Kingson, triggering scenes of celebration in Montevideo.
Suarez will miss the semi-final, but will feel justified he did the right thing given the eventual outcome. Ghana and Gyan will rue the fact that a red card and a penalty were ultimately not sufficient punishment for the deliberate prevention of a match-winning goal.
Africa has lost its last representative in this first African World Cup, and the continent’s record of never having had a semi-finalist will continue for at least four more years. Meanwhile Uruguay travel to Cape Town for a date with the Oranje next Tuesday.
40 – The teams combined for a total of 49 shots (26 Ghana, 14 Uruguay).
3 – Asamoah Gyan has struck the woodwork three times, more than any other player at this World Cup.
3 – Gyan’s penalty miss at the end of extra-time was the third unconverted penalty of the tournament (excluding shootouts) – and arguably the most costly.