Saturday, July 3, 2010

Brazil’s Ugly Exit Opens a Door for Everyone Else

Brazil is out of the World Cup, and suddenly the tournament is wide open.

The Netherlands’ victory on Friday, with the Dutch coming from a goal down to defeat Brazil, 2-1, at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, is proof that Europe can strike back at Latin America’s presumed supremacy in this tournament.

It was the first time since the Dutch era of Johan Cruyff, in 1974, that the Netherlands beat Brazil. The key to Brazil’s losing this match is written in another statistic: for the first time in more than half a century — since the 1954 World Cup — Brazil had two men sent off for foul play.

The red card Friday for Felipe Melo was fully justified. Melo’s inclusion in the national team at all was an embarrassment to the style of play that Brazil is famous for.

He was selected to stamp a defensive authority on midfield. He instead stamped on the leg of a fallen Arjen Robben. Melo had already been both hero and villain for his team after providing an uncharacteristically wonderful pass for the first goal, but later heading the ball into his own net for the equalizer.

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