Netherlands 2-1 Brazil

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, 2/7/10.

This match had drama but it wasn’t a classic. It was too stop-start, there were too many fouls. And any game where someone is sent off ends up unbalanced – and unsatisfying. But, as I recall, the Holland-Brazil game in 1974 was a bad-tempered, niggly affair too.

You couldn’t see the result coming at half time. Holland had created nothing, Arjen Robben kept running into blind alleys, Brazil had scored through a very direct route indeed.

In the end Brazil pushed the “destroy self” button, or the Dutch pushed it for them.

The irony is that a team built (against the national stereotype) on being solid at the back was undone by defensive mistakes.

The winning side wasn’t the Holland of Cruyff and Neeskens – nor even Gullit and Rijkaard – but something rather more pedestrian and workmanlike. They’ll probably reach the final now, though.

And maybe go one better than either of those more flamboyant teams did.

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