The two favorites in today’s matches maintained their dominance, with Brazil blasting Chile 3-0 and Netherlands holding off Slovakia 2-1
Returning winger Arjen Robben established his presence early in his first start since injuring his hamstring before the World Cup. Robben scored his first tournament goal in the 18th minute, cutting inside and tucking the ball past the keeper on the near post. After taking the early lead, though, Netherlands failed to capitalize on the momentum and continued to hold a 1-0 lead into the second half. Slovakia appeared to finally find some attacking ability midway through the second period, putting Dutch fans on edge with a couple of near-misses. Following this lively stretch, though, Netherlands managed to extend the lead on a short range effort from Wesley Sneijder. By the time Sneijder received the low cross inside the box, Dirk Kuyt had already done the hard work, and Sneijder was left to calmly slot the ball home.
Slovakia finally managed to break onto the scoreboard, but, unfortunately for them, it came in the final minute of stoppage time. Robert Vittek, who missed a great chance earlier, scored on a penalty kick after Dutch keeper Maarten Steckelenburg tripped him up inside the penalty box. But it was too little too late for the Slovakians, and Netherlands will now look forward to a quarterfinals date with Brazil.
As for the Brazilians, they showed their ability at both ends of the pitch with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over fellow South Americans Chile. After Chile managed to stay even at 0-0 for the first half hour, Brazil, as they’re always likely to do, struck twice in quick succession. First Juan nodded home a 35th minute corner kick, nicely placing his header in the upper left corner of the net. Then, only a few minutes later, Luis Fabiano gave Brazil a 2-0 lead after receiving a Kaka pass at the top of the box, turning, rounding the goalkeeper, and passing the ball into the open net.
Chile showed some fight coming out of halftime, but after failing to notch a goal, Brazil put the game out of reach in the 59th minute with a goal from Robinho. Robinho owed most of the credit to Ramires, who made a nice run with the ball to the top of the box before slipping it to Robinho. Robinho, for his part, hit the ball one touch, placing it perfectly into the side netting. Despite the amount of time left and Chile’s attacking ability, you’d have been hard pressed to find even the most optimistic fan predicting a Chilean comeback at that point. Despite some nice combinations on the offensive end, Chile only managed one or two threatening moments, and Brazil’s defense took over from there, managing to not only preserve the win but hold on for the shut-out.
Tomorrow brings one of the better matchups (at least on paper) of the knockout stage as Portugal face Spain. In the day’s other match, Japan faces Paraguay.