Arjen Robben made key contributions on the cut-up pitch of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
  • Richard Heathcote
  • Arjen Robben made key contributions on the cut-up pitch of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazil were brilliant for 53 minutes. Holland were terrible for 75. For about an hour, Brazil had constant midfield pressure, were recovering the ball with ease, winning the tactical battle, attacking with fluidity and pace. Kaká was playing well, looking comfortable on the ball. Robinho was running hard, Dani Alves and Maicon were causing problems for the Dutch, there was no beating of Lúcio and Juan in the air. The orange defense struggled to cope with blue movement. Robinho’s goal was all too easy, exposing the total confusion in the Dutch ranks. Brazil deserved to be winning by two, but a flying Stekelenburg spectacularly denied Kaká.

Brazil played beautiful football for the first time in the tournament. Really. The sequences that began the second half and the attacking moves that defined the first, made me doubt that Brazil could be beaten. What team was capable of competing with them technically and physically? I had just started to rethink my anti-seleção stance, was starting to want them to win, primarily because Brazil were not playing futebol de resultados, and they were winning convincingly.

How could they lose when their football was SO MUCH BETTER than the dour Dutch?

Dunga’s tactical structure combined with an insane technical skill set to produce a team that looked the business. They were putting on a show de bola. Everything was working. 1-0 at halftime.

Brazil dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half. Juan was always finding himself with free headers on set pieces. Holland wandered around the pitch, replacing the divots they made chasing Maicon. Dunga screamed on the sidelines, happy as ever. Despite his general mal-estar, Brazil’s 1994 captain had made sure that Brazil were one of the tournament’s better organized teams. Robben rode his one trick pony then dived onto the crappy grass, again, looking for pasture. Holland were going out. Brazil were going through.

Then it fell apart.

Julio César, considered by many to be the best goalie in the world, collides with Felipe Melo and misses a relatively harmless cross. The ball skims off Melo’s head and into the net. Um frango (easy goal) monumental. 1-1. No worries, these things happen. Even to the best goalie in the world on a relatively simple cross. Felipe Melo got in his way, didn’t mean to. Everything under control.

Even after the gift of a goal, Holland didn’t threaten. They were terrible, and had been up to absurd tricks throughout. For example, in the 34th minute, Robben took a corner kick. Instead of kicking it towards the goal, he rolled it just a little bit forward and then ran away as if he hadn’t touched it. Dani Alves saw what happened and cleared the ball off a Dutch player and Brazil regained possession. It was beyond absurd. Did no one inform the Dutch that they were playing in the quarter-finals of the world cup, down 1-0. That was their set-piece? WTF?

In the 46th minute, Dutch midfielder Weil was booked for diving. One minute after the kickoff, diving in lieu of playing football? Horrible. Clueless. Disorganized. Going out of the Cup. Definitely.

Before I could really figure out whether I was going to want Brazil to win through footballing virtue, Robben won a free kick in midfield. Sneijder’s quick ball played in Van Persie, who won a corner. The in-swinging ball was flicked on by Kuyt to THREE UNMARKED DUTCH PLAYERS INSIDE THE 6 YARD BOX! Sneijder heads home, 2-1.

From there, Brazil looked crestfallen and had no way back into the game, although they still created some chances. That was until Felipe Melo was sent off in the 73rd minute for stomping on Robben. Then it was really over. What happened?

Brazil had defended free kicks very well throughout the tournament. Julio César looked comfortable on nearly every other ball that came into the box. Why did he miss that one (with Felipe Melo’s help)? Were these lapses in concentration? Or was something more sinister at work? Were Brazil simply comfortable with a 1-0 lead and decided to muck about? How did a team that was so completely dominating the game in every category lose so pathetically? Why wasn’t Marc Van Bommel cautioned or expelled for his hacking every Brazilian as they tried to go by him on their way to the semi-final?

Theory #1
The CBF sold the game to FIFA/ FIFA bought the game from the CBF.

Let’s say that Brazil beats Holland convincingly, as they had been doing up until J.C.’s frango, progressing to the semi-final against Ghana or Uruguay. Uruguay or Ghana in the final? I don’t think so. Once in the final, the chance for the 6th (hexa) World Cup is pretty high. With the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the expectations for a trophy on home soil will be enormous, and from there what nation could ever catch Brazil in the trophy count? Better to lose in Africa with a coach that is generally hated by the Brazilian media. It’s hard to crucify J.C. because he’s clearly one of the best players in the world, having just won the Champions League and the Scudetto with Inter Milan. It’s easy to crucify Felipe Melo because he’s a bit violent, caused an own goal, and saw red. It’s easy to pillory Dunga because the seleção needs a new coach, no one liked his brand of football, and he’s already at odds with the Brazilian press. Kaká? He’s so pure and handsome, even if he didn’t score a goal

The dirty dealings between the CBF (Confederação Brasilieira de Futebol) and FIFA are notorious, as are those between the AFA (Associación de Fútbol Argentino).CBF president Ricardo Teixeira is the son in law of former FIFA president João Havelange, and may be in line for the FIFA presidency after the 2014 World Cup. AFA president Julio Grondona is also the treasury secretary of FIFA, privy to all of the ways in which money flows in and out. He also has an eye on the FIFA presidency, should Herr Blatter start behaving like the Jabulani. Something went down behind closed doors to get Brazil to stop playing football in the second half. Will something similar happen to get Argentina to the semi-final against Spain/ Paraguay?

As I was walking home there was a very drunk woman sitting on a very dirty wall, moaning “Foi comprado! Foi comprado!” (It was bought.) Many of my co-spectators felt the same way. Many other people I have talked to were convinced long before the Cup started that Brazil were not going to be allowed to win so that they could win in 2014, in the R$1.4 billion Nova Maracanã.

Theory #2

Julio César’s frango destabilized the Brazilians psychologically.

The lack of concentration was something that was evident against North Korea. The goal disrupted the delicate balance that made for such attractive football for the first hour. From there, the Dutch took more control. Scoring the second goal 15 minutes later.

Theory #3

Holland out-played Brazil.

This is the least likely of the conspiracy theories. Even at the end of the game when Brazil had completely given up and the Dutch had Robben, Kuyt and Sneijder with only Juan and J.C. to beat, they blew it. The result could have easily been 4-1, but the orange machine couldn’t count that high.

Theory #4
FIFA’s eugenic plan for the world includes a Holland v. Germany final as a symbolic and functional European dominance of Africa. (Thanks to my friend Kaká (not the player) for this theory).

Theory #5
Add your own.