Friday, February 23, 2018

Brazil attempt to save face game the Netherlands don’t even want


After Brazil’s utter humiliation against Germany, anything less than a win in today’s third-place match 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 (today) 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. Van Gaal said the third-place game “should never be played” and noted he had been saying the same thing for ten years. 

“A tournament in which you’ve played so marvellously well, you would go home as a loser just because you could possibly have lost the last two matches,” he said.