Round of 16, day 3: Brazil and the Netherlands on a crash course
A Brazil/Holland fan takes in the day’s action.
Arjen Robben vs Robinho. Wesley Sneijder vs Kaka. Luis Fabiano vs Robin van Persie.
Pretty tantalizing for a quarterfinal, no?
The Dutch sent Slovakia home in about the same fashion as they won their group stage games – casually. Perhaps there’s a sense of urgency to this team, but if so, they hide it better than most athletes. Other than Dirk Kuyt, who doesn’t know how to play any other way than running his ass off all game, Holland seemed perfectly content to relax. They created chances, enough that they should’ve put the game to bed much sooner than they did, but they never seemed that concerned about finishing. van Persie was pretty wasteful in particular, shooting right at the keeper and then wide with a couple of his juicy opportunities.
Wesley Sneijder continues to stake his claim to the title of World’s Greatest Playmaker, orchestrating most of those meaningful build-ups, playing the key ball to set up Robben’s opening goal and then taking matters into his own hand to finish Slovakia in the waning minutes. Between those, Slovakia proved a handful on a few occasions, at one point forcing Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg into 2 big saves within a minute in the second half. But their goal didn’t come until an irrelevant penalty kick in the 94th, after which they called the game.
The Netherlands are indisputably more threatening when Robben runs opponents ragged on the right; how Brazil will match up with him if Felipe Melo is still hurt will be fascinating to watch.
Speaking of Brazil, they won in much the same fashion as Holland. Despite some fairly even play to begin the game, once Maicon put a corner kick right on the head of Juan to open the scoring, they basically cruised the rest of the way. Luis Fabiano’s confidence is approximately 1043% higher than it was to begin the tournament, and his dismantling of the Chilean keeper for his 3rd goal of the World Cup was proof. Robinho drove the final stake into the hearts of Chile, and the rout was on. Chile never seemed to get into rhythm today. Despite winning possession, Brazil’s players constantly ran right at them and forced a harried approach that resulted in only 1 shot on target.
Germany-Argentina and Holland-Brazil will both be barnburners in the quarters. Can’t wait.