Brazil entered Saturday's third-place game of the 2014 World Cup hoping to salvage something from its home tournament after a horrific 7-1 loss to Germany in Tuesday's semifinal. After only a few minutes against the Netherlands, the Brazilians had to deal with more of the same.
In the second minute, defender and captain Thiago Silva — who missed the Germany thrashing on suspension for yellow-card accumulation — pulled down Arjen Robben from the back after the Dutch attacker had sprinted past the Brazilian defense:
It was very obviously a foul — the only question was if Silva would see a red card and if Robben had earned the Netherlands a penalty. While a red card seemed likely with Silva as the last man denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity, referee Djamel Haimoudi of Algeria gave Silva only a yellow card. He did, however, award a penalty, which striker Robin van Persie slotted perfectly into the top right corner:
There was some controversy as to whether the penalty should have been given. Silva appeared to foul Robben outside the box, although Robben fell inside. According to FIFA rules, if a defender holds a player outside the box but continues to do so as they travel inside, then it is a penalty. It's not entirely obvious that Silva kept his grip on Robben for that long, but Haimoudi has some basis for making the call, even if not a ton. Of course, Silva also should have been sent off within two minutes regardless of the position, so maybe we should call this one a wash.
At any rate, the result was that Brazil continued a run of goal concession that ranks among the worst in the history of the World Cup. It got worse — in the 16th minute, midfielder Daley Blind scored after a poor clearance from David Luiz to make it 2-0.
Blind's goal made it 13 goals conceded by Brazil in the tournament, the most of any nation. It's also the most Brazil has ever conceded in a World Cup. By comparison, Brazil conceded a grand total of 10 goals in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 World Cups combined. After entering the tournament as favorites, the hosts now look like a shell of their former imposing selves.
The silver lining is that it's nearly over. A loss in the third-place match would serve as a fitting end to a disappointing tournament, but it would also allow Brazil to start assessing what went wrong and begin figuring out how to solve it.
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