Brazil vs. Netherlands World Cup 2010: Clash of the Titans

Obi Wan AsterixContributor IJuly 1, 2010

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 28: Dirk Kuyt of the Netherlands picks up Wesley Sneijder in celebration sfater he scored the second goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Netherlands and Slovakia at Durban Stadium on June 28, 2010 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


Match Preview

Netherlands vs. Brazil





Winner Plays Versus

Uruguay or Ghana



1600h GMT +1



Port Elizabeth Stadium—Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth—The best match played here so far was South Korea’s 2-0 demolition of Greece, but the camera work has been distant and uninspiring so far. Many long-range pivotal views and too few close-ups combined with some mediocre live editing can hopefully be improved for this classic, and we will be able to hear both the Dutch and Brazilian fans over the Vuvuzela drone.



Yuichi Nishimura of Japan has kept a clean, controlled and impressive refereeing record so far at this tournament, and certainly has been right up there with the big-name referees like Rossetti, who has already been sent home and blamed for FIFA’s shortcomings. Nishimura did a great job with Uruguay-France. He is one of the few fully professional referees in this tournament, and we can only hope for more in future World Cups.

Date of Birth: 17.04.1972

Height: 181 cm

Occupation: Professional Referee

Mother tongue: Japanese

Other languages: English

International since: 2004

First international: Thailand-United Arab Emirates (13.10.2004)

Hobbies: Golf

Fondest memory: FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007: Final Spain—Nigeria



The revolutionary differences in this World Cup so far could not be better described than by two teams that have historically represented the flowing, entertaining attacking game, Brazil and Netherlands, now impressive more for their tactical and defensive styles despite the vocal dissatisfaction of many of their fans.

Netherlands is the most extraordinary team in World Cup history that never won anything, with the Golden Generation of the 1970s only managing two second places and one of the most talented teams ever to grace the World Cup, Netherlands of 1994, got kicked out in the quarterfinals in a historic 3-2 match which was settled by Branco’s famous dive and free kick very late in the game.

Nevertheless, the talent collected on the pitch today is more than enough for us to witness a real classic. Powerhouse Brazil versus talented Holland should not be missed, as only one of these top teams is going to the final.

Install seat belts on your couch, and turn off all other media... This will be a thrill ride .


Historical Matchup

The teams have played three games at the World Cup, with one win, one loss and one draw each.

Brazil coach Dunga and Holland assistant Frank de Boer were both on the pitch during World Cup 1998 when the two clashed in Marseille for a riveting semifinal. Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 46th minute, but Patrick Kluivert responded in the 87th minute, forcing the game into extra time tied at one. The extra time led to penalties, where Brazil won 4-2 following Dunga's winning penalty. Frank de Boer scored one of Netherlands' two penalty kicks, while twin brother Roland de Boer had his attempt saved.

In 1994 at the Cotton Bowl, the Netherlands' Golden Generation met the future World Champions in the quarterfinals, only to lose 3-2 in one of the most thrilling games in the history of the competition. Dunga was on hand as was Frank de Boer, and the match was 2-2 until the 81st minute. Then Branco obviously dived for a foul, and smiled cunningly while the Costa Rican referee awarded a free kick. Branco stepped up to take it and scored, eliminating Holland on a referee mistake.

This was sweet revenge for the Brazilians for the 1974 2-0 demolition that Holland gave their own golden generation, with the legendary Johan Neeskens and Johan Cruyff scoring goals for a major upset of the then World Champions in front of 52,000 fans in Dortmund.


Suggested Menu With Your Game

Don’t eat before... this will be a gut-wrenching thriller.


Netherlands Squad Analysis

Unofficial Theme Song to Accompany Style of Play:

Again, it's 2 Unlimited, as it worked last time, and it's a tribute to the 1994 generation that lost.

An oldie, Dutch ‘90s dance group 2 Unlimited, provides us with “Get Ready for This” and “No Limit” (one of the best electronic songs of all time really) because we still haven’t seen the real Netherlands and now is the time, and so far Netherlands has looked limited... and because there is no limit when Netherlands plays at its best.

Statistics So Far

7 GF, 2 GA

63 fouls committed, 65 suffered including eight yellow cards

Two penalties given away (against Cameroon and Slovakia)

45 attacks (17 on left, 19 in the center and nine from the right)

14 times offsides

55 percent average ball possession (good)

74 percent pass completion rate (52 percent for long, 31 percent for crosses, 82 percent for medium, 72 percent for short, 25 percent for corners)

Most shots on goal—Wesley Sneijder with 15

Highest player statistical-ratings according to the Castrol Index so far

Right wingback Gregory van der Wiel—9.11

Central midfielder Mark van Bommel—9.06

Attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder—9.03


This is the most defensively minded and defensively secure Netherlands the World Cup has seen since the 1970s. Playing a similar 4-1-1-3-1 formation with a defensive midfielder (De Jong ), a central midfield organizer (Van Bommel ), a central free-roaming playmaker (Sneijder ), two great wingers (Robben and Kuyt), and a technically skilled attacker with creative ability (van Persie), Holland looks very attacking on paper and exposed in defence... but in practice the opposite is true.

All the players have contributed defensively so far, and van Persie has been rather inefficient in front of goal. The attacking midfield has a little more work given the defensive posture going forward, but if anyone can break Brazil’s defence, it's Netherlands with the attacking options on both sides and through the center, even if Chile didn’t manage.


Skill and experience at the top level is not lacking in this Netherlands team, and there are a number of very talented offensive players, not in the least the hard-working Dirk Kuyt, lighting fast Robben and top-of-the-World Wesley Sneijder .


The defence has not yet played a top opponent, and looked vulnerable for the first 45 minutes against Denmark and at the end of the game against Slovakia... can they hold Brazil?

Key to Beating Brazil

The Dutch and Brazilians have been two of the best teams in football history, but Brazil has won the World Cup five times to Holland’s zero.

The Dutch must exhibit a determined resistance to Brazil’s attack, perhaps taking the model of Portugal in their 0-0 draw, and counterattacking with the skill and speed of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder . Van Persie has been on poor form and I would perhaps start Klaas Jan Huntellar for this game as he seems in better finishing form.

If the Dutch hold and hit back efficiently, they can really win this game and have a bit of historical revenge.

If anyone in this tournament can beat Brazil, Holland should be able to. The best approach is hit hard, hit first and keep attacking without sitting back.

Key Squad Members

Maarten Stecklenburg has received praise for his World Cup performances, but the Ajax keeper will be truly tested with Brazil’s shooting ability thus far. Is he up for it?

Mathijssen of Hamburg and Heitinga of Everton are really up for a challenge today, and have to disprove all of the worries about the state of the Dutch central defence that arose before the tournament arose.

Nigel de Jong has performed excellently against weaker opposition, but will his defensive midfield talent be enough for Brazil? His fast pace and rather good technique will be applied to limiting opportunities caused by Kaka ; this will be a very interesting matchup given Kaka’s poor form.

Wesley Sneijder is one of the best performing Dutch players at this tournament, and will be another member of the Inter team on the field Friday. His long-range shooting and creativity for Holland has been key, but it will take something really special to beat Brazil.

Dirk Kuyt is a very hard-working right winger for the Netherlands, although he's normally an attacker. His efforts and goal have been important for the Netherlands, and here he will need to unsettle a spectacular Brazilian defense. This will be a historic match for Kuyt. Is he up for it?

Weakest Link

Robin van Persie has had a miserable tournament so far; even though he has scored a goal, it was much less than is expected of him. His injury-ridden season with Arsenal seems to have affected his physical form, but what drove him to arguing with Dutch coach van Marwijk when subbed against Slovakia? There is a possibility he will start on the bench or be quickly dropped to it if he fails to score.


Brazil Squad Analysis

Unofficial Theme Song to Accompany Style of Play

One of the best Samba rhythms from Rio de Janeiro sings about what other than football? “O mundo e uma Bola” or “The World is a Ball” was performed by the Beija Flor Samba School in 1986 in support of their team and became something of an anthem. It is a perfect example of a rhythm that Brazil need to find in order to please their fans, the neutrals, and progress at the same time.

Statistics So Far

8 GF, 2 GA

58 fouls committed 59 suffered with six yellow cards and one second yellow for red (Kaka )

Zero penalties given away

59 attacks (15 on left, 21 in the center and 23 from the right)

Four times offsides

57 percent average ball possession (very good)

80 percent pass completion rate. Fantastic! (60 percent for long, 23 percent for crosses (poor), 85 percent for medium, 79 percent for short, 46 percent for corners)

Most shots on goal—Robinho with 10 although this is more distributed for Brazil than Holland.

Highest player statistical-ratings according to the Castrol Index so far (very defensive)

Central defender Juan—9.56

Left wingback Michel Bastos—9.34

Central defender Lucio—9.30

Defensive midfielder Gilberto Silva—9.28


Brazil has historically been the best attacking team, and after defensive midfielder Dunga became the manager and revolutionized the side , they defend like the world’s best. A highly disciplined team deploys the classic Brazilian 4-2-2-2 formation but with many changes.

The most important difference between the South American teams and the European teams in this tournament has largely been that the old-world teams deploy symmetrical, tested formations and force the players to fit in, while Brazil and the South American teams deploy unsymmetrical, tailor-made formations to accentuate their players' abilities. There are of course drawbacks to both ways, but the Brazilian 4-2-2-2 sees all the 2s with rather unique ability-centred responsibilities on the pitch.

For example, Robinho plays wide as a playmaking forward and Luis Fabiano as the dedicated penalty box terrorizing striker in the offensive duet, while Kaka plays centrally and Elano or Dani Alves wide in the offensive midfield duet.

The result is that Brazil has been carefully constructed to complement their players' abilities, and thus there is little room for non-conformist superstars like Ronaldinho , Adriano, Pato, or Diego in the team.


A defensive and offensive punch like few other teams, despite a sacrifice of creative freedom. Brazil showed against Chile that if you give them a finger they take your entire hand.

3-0 was the score, but the game was far closer in terms of attacking and possession. What Brazil showed is ruthless efficiency with the opportunities they had, and a disciplined, tight defensive game to base their attack on.

Individually, they have a squad of 11 players that on any given day can count themselves among the best in the world.


It is hard to attribute weakness to Brazil, but they have been vulnerable to the attack, and it hasn’t been impossible to reach their penalty area on counter attacks.

It remains to be seen, but the Brazilian team has a lot of negative pressure to win, which could result in the team coming unstuck in the middle of a big game and losing their current harmony.

Key to Beating Netherlands

Test and stretch the Dutch offense, especially on the wings with the experienced but slow van Bronckhorst on the left, and the fast but inexperienced van der Wiel on the right. The Dutch should be vulnerable to good crosses. Marking out Wesley Sneijder has to start with high pressure against Nigel de Jong and van Bommel in midfield... simply prevent the forward line from getting the ball high up on the pitch and the Dutch attack will be frozen.

Easy, right?

Key Squad Members

Julio Cesar has been superb for European Champions Inter all season and is in terrific form for Brazil; such goalkeeping has often been the key to World Cup Winning teams.

Maicon , the unusually strong right back, is another treble winner with Inter and has scored perhaps the goal of the tournament, but now his performances give slight indications of getting more and more relaxed. He will have the tough task of stopping the superb Dutch wingers, and contributing to the offense.

Lucio of Inter gets all the credit and is more famous, but Roma’s Juan has been superb in defence for Brazil, winning the deserved Man of the Match award against Chile and contributing a perfectly-timed headed goal. They have formed the defensive unit to beat so far.

Gilberto Silva is Brazil’s veteran defensive midfielder , and plays the same role for Brazil as Dunga in their 1994 win and 1998 road to the final. Today he will have to stop one of the best attacking midfielders in the world right now, Wesley Sneijder , and show that at 33 he is not yet over-the-hill.

Luis Fabiano thinks the world of himself, but many fans doubt he can emulate the performances of Ronaldo or Romario in the past. He is a skilled diver and con artist, has scored a goal with a double handball, but possesses truly incredible finishing power and skill which he still has to show. His finishing and run will be vital to Brazil’s success, especially if he can create space between Dutch defenders Mathijssen and Heitinga .

Weakest Link

Based on input to the tournament so far, Kaka has been inefficient with his passing and shooting, and picked up a red against the Ivory Coast—albeit a controversial one. His weak(er) form for Real Madrid this season is causing rumours of an impending sale and this could be a reason for his apparent lack of focus in this tournament.


Expected Result

Brazil are favourites to beat Holland 2-1 more or less.


A Slight Surprise

Holland beat Brazil 2-1 in a tight game after extra time.


A real shocker

Either team wins big.


Obi Wan Asterix Says

I am saying Holland will pull a 2-1 upset here. It's more of an intuitive guess but I often support the underdogs.


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