By CARL SETTERLUND
Brazil’s spectacular fall continued into the World Cup’s third-place game on Saturday in their capital city of Brasília.
After having its title hopes dashed in a shellacking by Germany on Tuesday, Brazil conceded twice early and couldn’t play its way back in, as the host nation fell, 3-0, to the Netherlands.
Arjen Robben drew a penalty in the box on Thiago Silva under two minutes in, and Robin Van Persie converted the ensuing PK to send the Dutch in front for good in the third minute.
Van Persie didn’t give goalkeeper Júlio César a chance, taking his long run-up and smashing a high shot inside the right post to ensure a Bronze Medal for the Netherlands.
Daley Blind made it a two-goal advantage off a poor headed clearance by David Luiz in the 16th minute. Blind settled with his left foot, then cracked a righty shot past the oncoming César.
Georginio Wijnaldum then completed the scoring in the first minute of second half stoppage time, sending his first touch inside the right post on a right side center pass from Daryl Janmaat.
Robben played a role in creating all three goals, despite finishing without an assist.
He sprung Jonathan de Guzmán down the right sideline on Blind’s goal. De Guzmán caught up with the ball just in time to cross it in to the far post where Luiz headed it back out in front.
Robben similarly advanced the ball to Janmaat to allow the assist on Wijnaldum’s tally.
Brazil had a great opportunity in the 38th minute when Oscar drew and then took a free kick from a dangerous are on the right side.
Oscar served the ball in across the face of goal, but a glancing header at the near post by Luiz Gustavo couldn’t do the trick.
David Luiz and Paulinho were both free at the far post, but neither could get on the other end of the ball.
The early penalty included a pair of judgement calls by Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi, whose name may sound familiar from his calling of the USA-Belgium Round of 16 match.
Silva’s takedown of Robben happened at the very edge of the 18-yard box, and Haimoudi chose to rule the foul inside.
The FIFA guidelines for this type of situation specify that, “If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area but continues holding inside the penalty area, the referee shall award a penalty kick.”
Haimoudi also decided to issue Silva just a yellow card instead of a straight red, despite Robben having only César to beat.
Silva has struggled with bookings this World Cup. The Paris Saint-Germain captain memorably had to miss the Brazilians’ semifinal debacle versus Germany due to yellow card accumulation.
Brazil may have been a bit unfortunate in the 68th minute when Oscar was awarded the first yellow card of the World Cup for diving after he went down inside the box on a challenge by Blind.
Blind reached his left leg across the Oscar, who went stiff-legged at the point of contact.
The play also resulted in an injury to Blind, who was stretchered off to end his breakout performance at this World Cup.
Swansea City goalie Michel Vorm replaced Jasper Cillessen during second half stoppage time, as departing Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal capped his career as national team coach by inserting the final player on the 23-man roster that had yet to play in the World Cup.
This marks the first time the Dutch have ever won the third-place game. The Netherlands, which has never won a World Cup, has finished in second place three times and fourth place once.