Brazil Collapses From Its Own Petulance

Brazil looked like the favorites to win the tournament, but they didn’t look like champions. Champions rally. Champions keep their composure. Champions score when they are on top. Brazil crumbled to pieces. It looked like a team that felt it was entitled to glory and looked ill-equipped to deal with adversity. Brazil had no team USA spirit. They weren’t fighters, they were performers, and when the show went bad, they pouted.

One would have thought that the Dutch would have had to play their best to Brazil. They didn’t. Poor defending in the first half gifted Brazil an early goal. Holland pushed a bit in the second half and one felt more attacking changes were imminent with Elia, Huntelaar, and Van Der Vaart. But in the end the Dutch didn’t have to make the changes. An own goal and a well worked corner by the Dutch put Brazil behind. It was fortunate, but Brazil never put the game away and one felt the Dutch also had goals in them. But when Brazil went behind – even when they went level they seemed to crumble.

And because of that Dunga deserves blame. He looked throughout this tournament to resemble more Brazil’s number one fan than their manager. His petulant complaining on every call seemed to spill over to his team. Was Robben an annoying theatrical pest, yes. But Brazil took the bait – and even so despite Robben going down like a fly and often looking like he was tagged by a sniper on almost every case he was accentuating what was actually a legitimate foul. It is rich that a South American team, one that did its fair share of play acting not just against Holland but throughout the tournament complaining about diving. In fact, it was petulant Brazil that play acted their way into getting Kaka sent off against Ivory Coast and that lost their composure when Felipe Melo – who was emulating his coach moments earlier in frustration at the ref – stamped viciously on Robben.

For all Brazil’s complaints, the man of the match in my eyes was the referee. The abysmal state of the pitch, something I saw in person in Port Elizabeth during the round of 16, was truly shocking for a World Cup quarterfinal. It inhibited both teams ability to move the ball and meant this was always going to be a chippy affair. Another referee could have easily started pulling yellow cards out early and this could have been a match that ended up 8 vs. 8. Fortunately, cards were kept to a minimum and were largely deserved. Perhaps Van Bommell earned one at the end with multiple cynical challenges, but the anger and frustration exhibited by Brazil by the lack of cards seemed to demonstrate a team that was looking for extra help from the referee.

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