Armchair Pundit

Kiss of Keegan brings down Brazil

Alex Chick

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What a time for Brazil to start defending like Brazil again.

The tournament favourites looked so assured, they led Holland one-nil. And then it all went horribly, horrifically wrong.

Following a controlled first-half display, they came out after the break and stepped into a horror movie. Three-quarters of an hour later a series of self-inflicted wounds had sent Brazil home.

Something drastic changed at half-time, and I can only think the moment it all changes was when Kevin Keegan came out in praise of the Brazil defence.

"The rock of the Brazilian team." Keegan called it. And everyone in the ITV studio nodded in agreement.

The Kiss of Keegan was enough to turn world-class defenders into gibbering wrecks.

Even before the equaliser, Michel Bastos should have seen a second yellow card for a challenge on Arjen Robben that was so late it should have been required to fill out tardy slip.

The referee took pity on Bastos, but Brazil had not finished bungling. Wesley Sneijder flighted the free-kick in, goalkeeper Julio Cesar missed it and Felipe Melo did not, glancing it into his own net.

Julio Cesar said before the World Cup the Jabulani was a "supermarket ball" because of its unpredictable flight.

Well, this was a case of spillage in aisle five, as Brazil let a semi-final position fall crashing to the ground.

Incidentally, it was an interesting one for fans of the so-called Nike Curse - an Adidas ball bringing down the World Cup's most prominent Nike-clad team.

Minutes later the Netherlands snapped up a buy one get one free offer as some abysmal marking let 5' 7" Wesley Sneijder nod the men in orange ahead.

How would the most successful team in World Cup history react to this setback? Well, like England.

They lost their heads completely, and chief headless chicken Melo was deservedly sent off for a stamp on Arjen Robben.

Melo, who plays for Juventus, won Italy's not-so-coveted Golden Dustbin award given to Serie A's worst player.

When he gets back to Rio, he could have collected a selection of rotten fruit to put in his gilded garbage can.

As time ticked down, Brazil were so chaotic and so disjointed that what should have been a wafer-thin lead seemed unassailable.

Dunga could have brought Emile Heskey off the bench and his team's cause would not have been any more hopeless.

So what to make of it? It's not that the Dutch were really the better team. They barely forced Julio Cesar into a save, yet emerged victorious because their opponents collapsed.

Brazil coach Dunga has already gone, paying the price for his team's slackness and indiscipline.

More than anything it shows you the fine margins at the World Cup. Brazil are a superb team with quality in every position, but a couple of clangers and they are out.

Winning the World Cup is often not a matter of who plays the best football, but who makes the least mistakes.

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One of the great things about following the World Cup on Twitter is the endless flow of up-to-the-minute statistics from the likes of OptaJoe (and family), InfostradaLive and 2010MisterChip.

During the Brazil-Netherlands game, the live stats told a story by themselves - first Brazil looked imperious, unbeatable. Then they were setting records for incompetence.

Here's how the game panned out if you had been following the stats alone:

Brazil have not lost any of their last 42 World Cup matches outside Europe. Absolutely awesome.

6 - Robinho has scored 6 goals in his 7 matches with Brazil in 2010. Ripe.

33 - Brazil have scored more goals from outside the box at the World Cup finals than any other team since 1966. Ping.

1 - In the last 24 years, the only team to concede against Brazil in the World Cup and still win are Norway in 1998. Immovable.

19 - Brazil have won the last 19 matches that they have been leading at half-time. Ended?

28 — None of the 28 teams to have been behind at half-time this World Cup have won. Resigned.

1 - Felipe Melo has netted Brazil's first ever own goal in World Cup history. Howler.

Italy is the only country to have won the World Cup after having conceded an own goal (Zaccardo in 2006 vs USA)

4- Brazil have failed to keep a clean sheet in their four World Cup encounters against Netherlands. Thorn.

Netherlands' Sneijder scored v Inter teammate Júlio César. Is 2nd time this has happened in World Cup. In 2006, Real's Zidane v Casillas.

1 - Felipe Melo is the first player ever in World Cup history to score an own goal and get sent off in the same game. Shambolic.

Netherlands have not lost a friday match for the last 86 years (vs Uruguay in 1924) and have won their last seven on this day of the week.

2 - Holland join France, Hungary and Italy as the only sides to have beaten Brazil twice at the World Cup. Hup Holland Hup.

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