Football / World Cup USA '94: Bitter Dutch criticise 'poor decision'

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(First Edition)

DICK ADVOCAAT, the Dutch coach, yesterday complained about a decision which he believes cost the Netherlands a place in the World Cup semi-finals. Saturday's 3-2 loss to Brazil contained 'everything a football game should,' he said, but it also had one thing a game should not have: a poor decision.

The controversy arose early in the second half, when the Brazilian attacker, Bebeto, put his team ahead 2-0 with a goal the Dutch defence stood watching while they waited for an offside decision form the linesman on the retreating striker, Romario.

Jan Wouters, Bebeto's marker, stopped when he saw the Brazilian receive a pass, because no other Dutch player was ahead of Romario except the goalkeeper, Ed De Goey.

De Goey also seemed stunned when Bebeto danced around him and casually tapped the ball into the net.

'Everybody could see that it was offside,' Advocaat said. 'This shouldn't happen at such a level.' The Dutch players disputed the second goal. 'It's terrible,' Rob Witschge said. 'I think the linesman is absolutely blind; he was three yards offside 'It is something we will never get over. It's one of the saddest things in my career.'

The Dutch dressing-room afterwards was deathly quiet as the players reflected on how close they came to staging one of the greatest World Cup comebacks. 'You couldn't hear a thing,' Witschge said. 'We all had to deal with it in our own way. But it will take a long time,' he added.

In the Brazil camp, Branco came up with the perfect riposte to his critics by scoring the goal which took his team to the semi-finals. 'This was for those people who didn't believe in me,' he said. 'They said I was no good, that I shouldn't be playing in the national team. But God gave me this chance to repay the confidence that my team-mates, the management and the medical staff have placed in me. This was the most important goal of my life.'

Branco, brought in at left back for the suspended Leonardo, scored Brazil's winner with a blistering 30-yard free kick in the 81st minute. The ball flew low past the Dutch wall and into the right-hand corner of the net, carrying Brazil to victory after they had just surrendered a two-goal lead. 'I looked up at the clock, saw there were 10 minutes left and said to myself: 'It has to be now',' Branco said.

Branco was playing his first game for a month and many Brazilians had feared he would be overshadowed by the Dutch winger, Marc Overmars.

'This is my third World Cup and people should have had more respect. A big thing was made of my presence in the team - a lot of people were putting pressure on me,' he said. 'Overmars is the best player in the team, but I kept him under control.'