Brazil vs Netherlands: Battle of bruised ego

RIO DE JANEIRO (TIP): In the battle between Louis and Luiz, an otherwise irrelevant football fixture has assumed a strange but different meaning for the teams involved. It is called the Losers Final, but for the losing semifinalists, Brazil and the Netherlands, Saturday’s third place playoff game in Brasilia becomes one where damaged reputations can be repaired and hurt egos soothed. Still, all this is just humbug for the hurting Dutch. “This match should never be played, I’ve been saying that for 10 years,” thundered the Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal after his team had been bundled out by Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the semifinal in Sao Paulo. In charge of his last match as the Dutch coach before he takes up the job at Manchester United in the coming season, this consolation prize is not what he was looking for as a farewell.

“There is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions. The worst thing is that there is a chance you are going to lose twice in a row, and in a tournament in which you have played so well, you go home as a loser. This has got nothing to do whatsoever with sport… not in my view,” he said, mincing no words. His opposite number, Luiz Felipe Scolari, may share the same view in private but at the moment he will clutch at even this Brasil ia straw after what he and his team were made to go through in their semifinal against Germany in Belo Horizinte. Scolari will be forever be known as the Brazil manager under whom the Selecao plunged to its worst-ever defeat in its football history.

“I know my career will be marked by this defeat,” he said after the 7-1 mauling, but still offered a forwardlooking approach when he said, “We have an obligation to move on, thinking about the next goal, which in this case is the match for third place in Brasilia.” Up until then, nobody had given the thirdplace match any thought, but Scolari saw that as an opening for a belated shot at redemption. “I know it’s a much smaller dream than what we all wanted but we have to honour the shirt of the national team,” he said, attempting to sound sage-like about the freefall of his team.

Brazil had played before the Argentina- Netherlands semifinal a day earlier, and immediately the wily Scolari had caused a tizzy, briefly deflecting from the larger issue of the 7-1 humiliation and having the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight away from him. The irrepressible Brazilian fan suddenly saw another ‘final’ looming with their bitter, old rivals Argentina in the event of Leo Messi and mates failing against the Dutch.

All of Brazil’s eyes were firmly trained on Argentina, and Scolari could breathe easy. Later, a triumphant Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella was even asked – in jest – whether he was relieved to avoid a meeting with Brazil in the ‘real final’. Was he scared? Sabella broke into a rare smile, and nodded that it would have been a disaster for Argentina had they been forced to play the Third Place game. “That ‘final’ would have been very tough for us,” he said, but was clever to bring the real issue back into the frame -that Argentina and not Brazil were going to the Maracana on Sunday.

Recent third-place play-off winners
2010: Germany 3-2 Uruguay
2006: Germany 3-1 Portugal
2002: Turkey 3-2 South Korea
1998: Croatia 2-1 Netherlands
1994: Sweden 4-0 Bulgaria
1990: Italy 2-1 England
1986: France 4-2 Belgium
1982: Poland 3-2 France

171 – The 1998 World Cup saw more goals than any other tournament. So far, there have been 167 in 2014

10 – There have been fewer red cards in the tournament than any other edition since 1986 (8)

10 – of theNetherlands’12 goals in themeet have come after half-time.

4 – Second half substitute Ramires had more shots than Bernard, Willian, Hulk and Fred put together (3) against Germany

0 – Robin Van Persie is yet to score a goal in the knockout stages in his WC career.

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Volume 4 Issue 41 | Dallas | Oct 21

Print Edition ~ Digitally   Issue 41 ~ Dallas ~ Oct 21  
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