Netherlands rallies to beat Brazil 2-1 at World Cup

The 5-foot-7 Wesley Sneijder heads the ball in for the Netherlands’ winning goal.

Associated Press

The 5-foot-7 Wesley Sneijder heads the ball in for the Netherlands’ winning goal.

Netherlands 2Brazil 1

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — Friday, the Netherlands wasn't an underachiever.

Not after it rallied to upset five-time champion Brazil 2-1 in the World Cup quarterfinals.

The shortest player on the field at 5 feet 7, Wesley Sneijder put the Netherlands ahead in the 68th minute on a header off a corner kick — a thrill so huge he ran to a TV camera, tapped the lens and stuck his face in for a close-up.

"It just slipped through from my bald head," Sneijder said.

The result was a role reversal.

Brazil, the No. 1 team in the world, had outscored opponents 8-2 in three wins and a tie. But it lost its composure after falling behind, and defender Felipe Melo was ejected in the 73rd minute for stomping on Arjen Robben's leg.

The Dutch, meanwhile, lost in the final in 1974 and 1978 and had reached the semifinals just once (1998) despite having what was considered top-level talent.

Friday, they trailed 1-0 until Melo jumped in front of keeper Julio Cesar and the ball skimmed his head and in.

"I'm devastated," said Melo, whose pass set up Robinho's first-half goal. "I have to apologize to the Brazilian fans. I came here thinking about giving Brazil the title, but I'm a human being. Everybody can make mistakes."

Brazil lost in the quarterfinals four years ago, 1-0 to France. Ex-captain Dunga was hired as coach despite having no previous experience.

"In the first half, we were able to play better," Dunga said. "And we weren't able to maintain that rhythm in the second half."

Soon after Robinho's goal, Brazil almost made it 2-0. But goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg timed his leap perfectly to deflect Kaka's shot headed into the right corner of the net.

"We could have lost it in the first 15 minutes," Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said. "At halftime, … I told (the players) time and time again, 'You have to play your own game.' "

Said Sneijder: "For 45 minutes, we went full throttle."

Sneijder's goal came off a corner kick from Robben. Dirk Kuyt flicked the ball with his head to Sneijder in the middle of the 6-yard box, and he deflected it into the left corner of the goal.

"It was an amazing game," Sneijder said.

"I think we showed the whole world how we can play."

Netherlands rallies to beat Brazil 2-1 at World Cup 07/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 9:44pm]

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