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Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 18:11 UK

World Cup 2010: Classic awaits Brazil and Holland

Emerson skips over Philip Cocu during the semi-final between Brazil and the Netherlands in 1998
In 1998, Brazil squeezed into the finals after beating the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties

By Daniel Gallas
BBC Brasil

Friday's World Cup quarter-final between Brazil and the Netherlands has the makings of a classic.

The two sides have faced each other three times in the tournament's history - and all three have been unforgettable matches.

In Brazilian minds, the Dutch team has always been one of flair and creativity, the same adjectives usually applied to their own sides.

Selecao coach Carlos Dunga, who played the Dutch twice in past World Cups, said this week that the Netherlands are the most "South American team in Europe" and boast more skilful players than any other European squads.

It is still important to play beautifully but we all have to understand that it isn't possible to do a nice dribble every game


But flair and creativity are not words being used to describe either Brazil or the Netherlands this time around in South Africa.

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff says that he would "never pay for a ticket" to watch Dunga's squad, which he describes as "not special" and "just like any other team". It is a view shared by many Brazilians.

Fans and journalists in the Netherlands have been equally unimpressed by their side, who have won all of their matches so far but with just enough football to get by.

Brazil and the Netherlands met in the World Cups of 1974, 1994 and 1998.

On the first occasion, much was expected from the Brazilians, who still had many of the same players from the dazzling Cup-winning squad of 1970, but they were beaten by perhaps the best Netherlands team of all time, led by Cruyff.

Twenty years later, flair had already given way to efficiency and force in both teams. Still, they managed to put on one of 1994's truly thrilling matches.

The Dutch came from 2-0 down to tie the match midway through the second half before a superb free-kick by Branco gave Brazil the win and a spot in the semi-finals.

To most fans, Brazil were unremarkable throughout the tournament, except for that match against the Netherlands.

Netherlands players celebrate Johan Cruyff's goal against Brazil

1974 - Cruyff inspires Dutch to win over Brazil

In 1998, both sides had quality players - like Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Dennis Bergkamp - but Brazil were again successful, winning the semi-final in a penalty shoot-out.

In recent years, both the Netherlands and Brazil have moved away from their traditional strengths.

If it is true that the "beautiful game" has been dropped in favour of more efficient but colourless football, and no two coaches have done more do promote that style than Dunga and Dutch counterpart Bert van Marwijk.

Their teams cruised through qualifying for the finals in South Africa and never looked in danger of losing in the earlier rounds of this World Cup. Yet most of their performances have been unremarkable.

The Netherlands won all their games with the minimum of fuss while Brazil, unable to convert more than 60% of possession into shots and goals, only received positive headlines back home following the last-16 win against Chile.

There is a split among Brazilian players about the importance of playing dazzling football.

Goalkeeper Julio Cesar says that the "beautiful game" is a thing from the past and does not exist anymore.

"I would always prefer to play ugly and win than to play beautifully and lose," he says.

Tim Vickery

Defender Maicon and striker Grafite agree. Grafite says that a superb goal, like the one he scored for Wolfsburg against Bayern Munich last year, is just as important as any scored with the knee or the shin.

Yet Robinho and Kaka insist flair is important, since it is what Brazil are famous for. For Robinho, modern football is about finding the right balance between efficiency and creativity.

"It is still important to play beautifully but we all have to understand that it isn't possible to do a nice dribble every game," says the striker.

Dunga, whose philosophy has remained intact despite all the criticism, believes Brazil's match with the Netherlands will be great to watch, as contest between the countries always are.

"The Netherlands have stuck with their tradition of forming good groups and playing well," he says.

"It is not a team worried only about defence and playing long balls. They have good, skilful players. It will be very difficult."

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see also
Can Dutch spring a surprise?
01 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Why 2010 belongs to South America
30 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
1974 - Cruyff inspires Dutch to win over Brazil
15 May 10 |  World Cup 2010

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