World Cup number 6 will have to wait. In 4 years time, Brazil may well get their hands on the trophy with the added bonus of doing it in front of their own fans at the historic Maracana stadium, but at the moment that will be scant consolation for the most fanatical lovers of football in the world.
The record will show that a Julio Cesar mistake saw them eliminated. You can’t argue with the raw data, but in truth it was Brazil’s new-found conservatism and betrayal of their traditional values that did the damage. In the opening minutes, it looked like the Netherlands would do well to avoid humiliation. The Samba Boys started like a stylish tornado and should have had more to show for their dominance than their one goal lead.
But it didn’t happen and like a fatigued fighter who’s been on the receiving end of a battering but hasn’t been broken, the Dutch survived to keep themselves within a puncher’s chance of catching Brazil. And it came. Not in the manner the Oranje purists would savour, but it’s enough to move them one step closer to World Cup glory.
As for Julio Cesar, it was an agonising way to end a season that has been almost perfect. Worse still, it was exactly the type of mistake so often highlighted to question his place in the debate about the best goalkeepers on the planet. Much has been made about the vuvuzelas that have provided the soundtrack to events in South Africa, was but their influence significant enough to knock Brazil out of the World Cup? Players have complained that the constant drone makes it difficult if not impossible to communicate with team-mates during the match. Certainly Cesar looked determined to clear the Dutch cross, but equally Felipe Melo seemed determined to take care of it himself. If there was a call, it didn’t register with the midfielder. Even so, the Brazilian goalkeeper didn’t cover himself in glory. With his height and punch, he should have taken any uncertainty out of the equation. In terms of technique, Cesar wasn’t getting to the ball at his highest possible point and not nearly commanding enough. Plus he seemd to get the line of it completely wrong. It’s difficult to know if there was some late deviation from the infamous new World Cup ball, but even without the presense of Melo, it looked like Cesar wasn’t in the right position to collect the ball comfortably.
It’s very harsh on a goalkeeper who has enjoyed a wonderful season and improved consistently in recent years, but of all the mistakes ever at the World Cup, have there ever been one so slight that has caused such a ripple?