And It Only Gets Worse

Brazil Falls to Netherlands; A Nation Reels

The Netherlands handed Brazil its second straight devastating loss, topping the World Cup’s host country to capture third place in the tournament.

The Netherlands’ Robin van Persie and Daley Blind scored in the early minutes, demoralizing a heavily partisan Brazilian crowd at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia.  Georginio Wijnaldum added an insurance 3rd goal in injury time.

The 3-0 loss added to the agonizing frustration for Brazil, which had been seeking a record sixth World Cup championship.

The Brazilians suffered a humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals that marked their worst-ever margin of defeat and the first time in 80 years that they allowed seven goals in one game.  They also finished the World Cup with back-to-back home losses for the first time since 1940.

When the final whistle sounded Saturday, the Brazilian team was loudly booed by the nearly 70,000 fans in attendance.

A “Terrible” Feeling

“It’s a terrible feeling, I don’t know what to say,” said  midfielder Oscar, whose team allowed 14 goals, the most-ever for a host team.  “After a huge loss to Germany, today we tried our best from the beginning to win third place but it wasn’t our day.  We have to see what went wrong so we can improve for the future.”

In contrast, the Dutch finished a World Cup unbeaten in regular play for the first time, losing to Argentina in a penalty shootout in the semifinals following a scoreless draw.  After they finished second at the World Cup four years ago, third place is their best showing since losses in the finals in 1974 and 1978.

On Saturday, they started fast at the same time that Brazil looked confused.

Van Persie scored in the third minute on a penalty kick, hooking the ball into the upper corner of the net past diving goalie Julio Cesar.  It appeared that Brazil’s Thiago Silva had yanked van Persie down outside the box, but the referee awarded a penalty kick.

In the 17th minute, Brazilian defender David Luiz mistakenly headed the ball to Blind, who punched it through uncontested for a 2-0 lead.  Luiz was trying to clear a cross in front of the goal.

Brazil played catch up from there, trying a series of free kicks that failed.

The Dutch were proud of their performance despite falling short of their first World Cup championship.

“It was a great end,” forward Arjen Robben said.  “You can get rid of a bit of the shock of not going to the final but not completely.  The disappointment stays, we’ve been so close.  We deserved more.  I’m finished, I’ve given everything.  That’s why third place is so deserved.  I’m so proud of this team.  Compliments to them.”

For the second straight game, the Brazilians played without star striker Neymar, who fractured a vertebra in the quarterfinals and was lost for the tournament.  Silva, Brazil’s captain, was back after serving a one-game suspension for earning his second yellow card.

The Dutch played without one of their top scoring threats, midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who was injured in the pre-match warm-up.

“The most beautiful was our resilience,” Wijnaldum said.  “We were knocked out, but we came back and finished third.  We wanted to close it out well.”

Germany, Argentina to Meet for Title

On Sunday, perennial  powers Germany and Argentina clash in the championship game at iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Argentina, which is led by mega-superstar Lionel Messi and stingy goalie Sergio Romero, will face a German squad with an array of offensive weapons such as Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose, the all-time scoring leader in World Cup history with 16 goals.  Germany is the highest-scoring team in the tournament with 17.

Argentina and Germany have met twice before in the World Cup championship game.  Argentina won in 1986, and the Germans won in 1990.  Argentina is seeking its third title, and Germany its fourth.

No European team has ever won a World Cup championship in the seven times the tournament has been played in the Americas.  A South American team has prevailed each time.

Up In the Sky... It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's...

The Flying Dutchman!

The Flying Dutchman at work.

Robin van Persie, the Flying Dutchman. (AP | Christophe Ena)

Robin van Persie was just trying to help the Netherlands defeat Spain in their opening Group B match on June 13 – he surely wasn’t looking to become an Internet sensation.

But van Persie managed to do both: his spectacular header didn’t just contribute to the Netherlands’ 5-1 rout of Spain, but inspired thousands of internet memes and earned him the nickname “The Flying Dutchman.”

In the days following his impressive performance, fans around the world have Photoshopped van Persie’s famous shot into various positions and locations…

…from World Cup-related shots…

Take that, Spain! Van Persie over Brazil.

…to pop culture references…

Van Persie leading Peter Pan. Van Persie as Mario. Van Persie, the wrestler.

…to locations around the world…

Van Persie at the Taj Mahal. Van Persie surfing. Van Persie in the skies.

…it’s even inspired a flipbook…

…and a hashtag – #Persieing!