Things are looking rather grim as the Netherlands and Brazil gear up for the 3rd place match of the FIFA World Cup. The Brazilian squad emerges from a demoralizing defeat at the hands of Die Mannschaft, and the Netherlands look to regroup after two consecutive games that went to extra time and penalty kicks. The game, which will take place at the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasília, is a must-win for both squads: a matter of redress for the host nation, and a matter of ego for the Dutch. Despite the apathy that surrounds a 3rd place play-off, the Netherlands will look to add salt to Brazil’s wounds by handing them another defeat.
The plight of Brazil began with the absence of Neymar and captain Thiago Silva. The social media aftermath of the German demolition was not just a mere blip on the radar, it was a catastrophic fallout. Coach Louis Felipe Scolari has received so much criticism from fans, players and agents, that a loss to the Netherlands would test the skills of even the best PR rep.
Neymar’s agent was one of many who levied some heavy-handed criticism at Scolari. The easiest medium to convey one’s impulse for grade-school-like playground bullying these days: Twitter. The severity of Brazil’s loss notwithstanding, the social media reactions have illustrated the fickleness and narrowness of fans with wounded egos, if little else.
All this hype has made the plight of Louis van Gaal seem rather agreeable. Over the past decade, the Netherlands coach has been arguing for the removal of 3rd place games. “You shouldn’t have teams playing for third and fourth place,” van Gaal stated. This is a stance that is undoubtedly magnified as van Gaal tries to rally the troops after two games that have gone to extra time. The players are exhausted at this point, and a 3rd place victory is an anticlimactic finish, let alone physically risky for some of the starting players prone to injury.
Aside from the heartbreaking injury incurred by Neymar against Colombia in the quarterfinals, Brazil will have a full squad. The return of the captain will be beneficial for the team’s defense, which will have the task of subduing the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. The two Dutch attackers will be eager to deliver a final blow to the Brazilian squad in an Oranje victory that is bound to add salt to the wounds of Brazilian fans and players alike.
The Dutch may make an alteration to their starting lineup, or at the very least find a relief substitute for Nigel de Jong. It was a surprise to see the midfielder on the pitch against Argentina after reportedly having torn a groin muscle just 10 days prior against Mexico. In any case, van Gaal may find it prudent to rest de Jong and bring in some of the younger players to gain international experience.
Each of the players on the Dutch roster have received some playing time this World Cup, save for third goalkeeper Michel Vorm. The topic of goalkeepers is liable to be a very touchy subject for the Dutch after Jasper Cillessen’s inability to live up to Tim Krul’s performance in penalty kicks. If Brazil is looking for a weakness, the best bet would be a downtrodden Cillessen, assuming van Gaal has him in the net against Brazil.
In truth, van Gaal’s lineup stands deviate from his normal tactical overseeing. Van Gaal’s opinion on consolation matches is less than favorable, his squad had one day less of rest than Brazil, and the reality of playing in match that no one wants to field may sway the coach’s decisions for the starting XI. Regardless, the Dutch will step on the field with every intention of pouring salt on Brazil’s wounds with a victory today, albeit a 3rd place victory in the 2014 World Cup.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Read more Guardian Liberty Voice coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup