As the world still reverberates from their astonishing semi-final defeat to Germany, Brazil play their final match of the 2014 World Cup as they take on the Netherlands in Brasilia in the third place playoff. Team experts Jack Lang and Mohamed Moallim are on hand to preview the two sides for the final time this summer…
Jack Lang on Brazil: After the staggering, era-defining defeat to Germany on Tuesday, it is anyone’s guess how Brazil will line up against the Netherlands. Really, Luiz Scolari could scour the Estádio Mané Garrincha for a team of cleaners, chefs and cameramen for all it will matter to most Brazilians after the Mineiraço. The only certainty is that Neymar will miss out again.
Mohamed Moallim on the Netherlands: A game neither side wants, the World Cup isn't the Olympics where finishing third is a prize, but the Dutch have the opportunity to finish their campaign on a high. Few expected Oranje to get this far; keeping things in perspective, they've exceeded all expectations. His reservations regarding the third-place play-off – loss would mean successive defeats tarnishing what has been a successful tournament – will see Louis van Gaal field his strongest possible XI in what is his final game as manager of the Netherlands. One major incentive is defeating the hosts in their backyard. The Dutch, in three previous meetings, have never beaten the five-time world champions on Brazilian soil (two draws and one loss).
Jack Lang: What can you say about that 7-1 loss? What words could possibly express the shattering fashion with which the hosts’ World Cup hopes were torn asunder? The worst thing about the game, which may fade out of memory in the years and decades to come, was that the scoreline, the brute numbers, do not even capture Germany’s dominance. Losing by six goals is something, but this was more visceral, more earth-shattering for Brazil. It was not just a defeat but an historical landmark.
Mohamed Moallim: So near and yet so far, just when it seemed the Dutch lifted their 'penalty curse' it returned with vengeance, on balance maybe Argentina – who were more proactive: their system at least – deserved to go through in the semi-final. But Oranje, finishing normal time stronger, could have snatched victory. They weren't necessarily outclassed. A side which finished with six Eredivisie-based players (ages ranging from 22 to 24), all with bright futures, gave it as good as they got against Lionel Messi and company. Along with a plethora of talents in the Dutch U21 (and U19 squads), future looks promising, Van Gaal in the last two years has laid the groundwork for his successors Guus Hiddink and current assistant Danny Blind (who takes over after Euro 2016).
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Brazil’s Luiz Felipe Scolari: "If I could explain what happened in those six minutes I would. I cannot explain, I will not justify. We can lose by one or two but we lost in a way that we had never done before in the history of Brazilian football.”
Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal: "I think this match should never be played and I've been saying this for 10 years. You shouldn't have players playing match for third-fourth place because there is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champion."
Jack Lang: If Brazil defend anywhere near as tragically as they did against Joachim Löw’s side, this could be a busy World Cup farewell for Júlio César. The goalkeeper, made a scapegoat for his errors against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup, is one of the few players likely to emerge from this tournament with any credit at all.
Mohamed Moallim: The last time the Netherlands contested the third place play-off was in 1998, a game they lost to Croatia. If they are to secure 'third spot' then, unsurprisingly, Arjen Robben will need to at his mercurial best. He's currently Oranje's joint-leading scorer (three goals), but hasn't been able to add to his tally in the Netherlands' past four outings – not for want of trying – this game (which could easily be his last at the World Cup) could be a final chance to equal or surpass Johnny Rep's tally of seven World Cup goals, a Dutch record.
Jack Lang: Netherlands win at 3.30. This goes one of two ways. One: Brazil gulp back the tears, raise their chins and claim some kind of vague consolation for the Germany defeat. Two: no one really wants to be there and the Netherlands grind out a scrappy win. The odds on the latter are more favourable.
Mohamed Moallim: Oranje, after recording 12 goals in both the group phase and last-16, have failed to score in their last two games. If they are to rediscover the back of the net and end their World Cup with a victory it is more likely to happen in the second half – 10 of their 12 goals occurring in the final 45 minutes – it what should be a cagey affair: they are priced at 6.40 to win the second half 1-0.
Jack Lang: Brazil 0-1 Netherlands at 13.00.
Mohamed Moallim: Brazil 0-1 Netherlands at 13.00.
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