World Cup: Holland edges Cowdenbeath FC

Holland 2, Brazil 1

Holland woke up at halftime and upended Brazil to set up a winnable semifinal vs. Uruguay.

Brazil ripped Holland open time after time in the first half, but only had Robinho’s goal on 10 minutes to show for it. A confused back line played Robinho onside with Andre Ooijer the most likely culprit, and Robinho made no mistake. That play came seconds after Brazil should have opened the scoring but were denied by a very late flag.

The tournament’s worst pitch (Port Elizabeth) was in bad shape before the action started, It degraded further as the match went on. I thought the players would have more trouble, especially the Brazilians, but they dealt with it well for the most part.

It all fell apart for Brazil at the back in the second half. Michel Bastos should have picked up a second yellow and his marching orders on 50 minutes for a bad sliding tackle but the Japanese ref seemed intimidated. The soccer gods took matters swiftly into their own hands off the ensuing free kick sequence: Felipe Melo and goalkeeper Julio Cesar converged on a long ball in from Wesley Sneijder which glanced off the back of Felipe Melo’s shoulder into the goal, 1-1. Another defensive lapse let Sneijder bang in the winner on 68 minutes, and Brazil quickly lost their heads. Five minutes later, Felipe Melo was sent off for stamping on a fallen Arjen Robben’s hamstring.

That was pretty much game over, although Holland was wasteful with several late chances that would have put matters totally out of reach. All in all it was very much a game of two halves, and he who laughs last laughs longest.

Uruguay 1, Ghana 1 (Uruguay win 4-2 on penalties.)

Luiz Suarez got a red card for Uruguay. In the process, he became a national hero.

Both teams resolved not to make a mistake in the first half; the mistake at the end was Uruguay’s. Uruguay had the better of the first half hour but then Ghana took over the rest of the first half. Sulley Ali Muntari put Ghana ahead with the last kick of the half from 40 yards out as it seemed that Uruguay lost their concentration. The goal was just what the game needed as each team had spent spells of the game treading cautiously: Ghana had never seen a World Cup quarterfinal before this tournament; two time champions Uruguay’s last quarterfinal was in 1970, before these players were born.

The game opened up a little in the second half and Diego Forlan pulled Uruguay level on 55 minutes with a lovely, long, swerving free kick. Ghana looked better and better as the Uruguayans started to tire and Asamoah Gyan had several half-chances for the Africans in regular and extra time.

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With 120 minutes played but time for one last Ghanaian free kick, the ball was hoofed in to the box and it ping-ponged about. Dominic Adiyiah headed the ball on goal, and Suarez, the man who led Uruguay in goals scored, brazenly fisted the ball off the line—saving Uruguay temporarily, but drawing a red card and conceding a penalty.

Gyan stepped up to the spot for the final touch of extra time and cracked the ball off the crossbar and over, basically snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Ghanaians looked brutally poor in the shootout. Goalie Richard Kingson is a scrub for starters, and John Mensah took no run up on his weak penalty attempt. Uruguay went 4/5 with the miss over the bar; Ghana was 2/4, and are heading home. Substitute Sebastian Abreu hit the winning penalty, an insulting, teasing, childish, brilliant chip.

Suarez will miss the Holland game through suspension. The Puritans in the crowd will also want him suspended for Uruguay’s finale, be in the Championship or the third-place match. Centre back Diego Lugano left injured on 38 minutes; his status for Tuesday is in serious doubt.