Dutch demolition of Spain leaves Brazilian media purring

Legendary Tostão hails ‘magisterial’ front three but won’t write off Spain just yet

Brazil’s players trained on Friday morning so the squad could get lunch out of the way early and sit down to watch Mexico play Cameroon, their two remaining opponents in Group A.

But according to the reporters at the Brazilian camp tucked up in the Rio mountains, the players, like everyone else yesterday, were really interested in watching the game afterwards – the Group B clash between Spain and the Netherlands, one of whom is likely to be second-round opponents for the host nation.

It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall during the second half as Spain suffered the biggest hiding in World Cup history by a defending champion. The thoughts of the Brazilian players are as yet unknown but the country's press, like the TV pundits the night before, were not shy in heaping praise on the Dutch.

Saturday's front pages were full of a certain Flying Dutchman, ironic Olés and Orange Machines. But one word dominated: 'Massacre' screamed Folha de S.Paulo. "Holland cleanses its soul, thumps Spain and gets revenge for its defeat in 2010," summed up Lance!


So total was the Dutch rout that Diego Costa’s treason in picking to play for Spain over his native Brazil suddenly seemed unimportant, even a poor decision on his part.

There was of course instant analysis on what the result meant for Brazil, where most people assumed Chile and the Netherlands would fight it out for second spot and the right to face Brazil in the second round.

Renato Maurício Prade in O Globo said Spain's defeat left him fearing Brazil now faced a potential run only against former champions in the knock-out stages: "Spain, Italy, Germany (or France) and Argentina is now a possible route until the final . . . and that is without mentioning Holland!" But for Spain to advance he warned Vicente del Bosque had to be courageous and drop Xavi, whom he described as burnt-out at 34.

The Chileans might feel slighted by such a comment considering their comfortable start to the tournament. But other Brazilians were not ready to write Spain off just yet. Cartoonist and football commentator Luis Fernando Veríssimo wrote in Estado de S.Paulo their defeat came in "a game that resists theses and hurried conclusions".

"Can we say that the great Spanish team is now over?" asked Tostão, one of the heroes of Brazil's 1970 World Cup triumph and a revered football columnist. "It seems so, but it is too early to tell". But he was unwilling to explore the idea further, too busy waxing lyrical over an "exceptional" Dutch show led by its "magisterial" front three.

Something of a non-conformist himself, Tostão explored the roots of such a performance. “Dutch football is a reflection of the country, different, daring, transgressive,” he noted. “While the Spanish were confined to their hotel, the Dutch, on their day off, played in the sea and went out that night, without a curfew. They said they were back at 11pm. They were all happy. And because of this they played well.”

Most of all, for commentators the game seemed to properly kick off the footballing action. “A game like that and a Holland like that, on just the second day of the competition, are the strongest indicators yet that we can hope for many things from this World Cup,” wrote Fernando Calazans expectantly.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America