By Iain Rogers
AFTER Brazil’s utter humiliation against Germany, anything less than a win in Saturday’s third-place playoff against an indifferent Netherlands team would deepen the gloom hanging over the World Cup hosts.
Brazil’s astounding 7-1 semi-final thrashing by rampant Germany ended their dream of winning a sixth World Cup, and a first on home soil, and plunged the nation into despair.
There is still the prospect, an appalling one for many Brazilians, that arch-rivals Argentina could win Sunday’s final in Rio de Janeiro.
Although third spot would be scant consolation for many, the match at the national stadium is one Brazil, and under-fire coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, must take very seriously.
By contrast, Scolari’s Dutch counterpart Louis van Gaal, whose side exceeded many people’s expectations by reaching the last four, has said the third-place game is pointless and that too will ramp up the pressure on the hosts.
Savaged in local media after the Germany match, Scolari labelled the semi-final disaster the worst day of his life and he and his staff are widely expected to step aside after the tournament whether they beat the Dutch or not.
“We have a deal … until the game on Saturday and after that, probably, we will have a conversation to sort some things out,” Scolari said.
“I will continue with my life, the players will also continue to be winners and we must continue,” he added.
“History will have to record that Brazil, for the first time since 2002, reached the semi-finals.”
Van Gaal also came in for criticism after his side, who began the tournament by thrashing holders Spain 5-1, failed to score in either their quarter-final against Costa Rica or Wednesday’s semi against Argentina.
They beat the Costa Ricans on penalties but lost their shootout to Argentina when goalkeeper Sergio Romero stopped two Dutch spot-kicks.
Van Gaal, who will take charge of Manchester United after the World Cup, told a news conference the third-place game “should never be played” and noted he had been saying the same thing for 10 years.
“But the worst thing is I believe that chances are that you lose twice in a row,” he said.
“And a tournament in which you’ve played so marvelously well, you would go home as a loser just because you could possibly have lost the last two matches and this has got nothing to do with sport in my view.
“So, in a football tournament particularly not at the last stage 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.”
The Netherlands have never won soccer’s global showpiece despite reaching the final three times. They lost in 1974 and 1978 to West Germany and Argentina respectively and were beaten 1-0 by Spain in South Africa four years ago.
Brazil and the Netherlands have played 11 times and four times at the World Cup, including the quarter-final in 2010 when the Dutch came from behind to win 2-1.