PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa - Don't call the Dutch underachievers anymore.
Not after the way the Netherlands rallied to upset five-time champion Brazil, 2-1, in the World Cup quarterfinals on Friday. After waking themselves up at halftime, the title that has eluded the Dutch is now just two wins away.
"For 45 minutes we went full throttle," Wesley Sneijder said. "We were rewarded."
One of the shortest players on the field, Sneijder put the Netherlands ahead in the 68th minute on a header. "It just slipped through from my bald head and it was a great feeling," Sneijder said.
The result was a case of role reversal for both sides.
The top-ranked team in the world and one of the most impressive squads in the tournament until Friday, Brazil lost its composure after falling behind and defender Felipe Melo was ejected in the 73rd minute for stomping on the leg of Arjen Robben.
The Dutch made the championship match in 1974 and '78, lost both, and rarely have lived up to their talent. They did this time, helped by an own goal off the head of Melo that brought them into a 1-1 tie in the 53rd.
"I'm devastated. It was hard to see the players crying back there," Melo said. "I have to apologize to the Brazilian fans. I came here thinking about giving Brazil the title, but I'm a human being. Everybody can make mistakes."
He was almost the hero.
Robinho gave the Brazilians the lead on Melo's brilliant low pass up the middle that the striker put home with a low shot. Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg made a crucial save on a shot by Kaka not long after Robinho's goal, a save that kept the Dutch in the match.
The second half presented the unusual sight of the Brazilians scrambling wildly to find an equalizer that never came.
Instead, it was the Oranje and their fans doing the dancing as Brazil's players lay on the turf. Brazil also lost in the quarterfinals four years ago, falling to France, 1-0. Former team captain Dunga was hired to coach the team after that defeat, despite having no previous managerial experience.
"We didn't expect this," he said. "We know that any World Cup match is about 90 minutes. In the first half we were able to play better and we weren't able to maintain that rhythm in the second half."
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk agreed that everything changed at the break.
"We could have lost it in the first 15 minutes," he said. "At halftime, I made it very clear to the players. I told them time and time again, 'You have to play your own game. You have to have patience against Brazil.' "
Said Sneijder: "At halftime we said to each other that we had to improve things and put more pressure on the Brazilian defense."
In the semifinals the Netherlands will face Uruguay, a winner over Ghana on Friday.