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World Cup’s third place show

Arjen Robben
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Saturday in Brasilia, Brazil, the Netherlands will play the hosts for the right to receive a medal as the tournament’s third placed team. For the Brazilians it will be slight but needed consolation to win this match to at least be able to say their cup was not a total bust. The Dutch will be content with saying they showed up but will not be lying down, they never do.

There have been quite entertaining third place clashes, such as last cup’s game between Germany and Uruguay (3-2 to Germany), or the 2002 match between co-hosts South Korea and Turkey (3-2 to Turkey).

These games have also been used by top scorers to add to their tallies in search of the cup’s Golden Boot trophy such as Thomas Muller did by scoring the first goal of the match and thus becoming the top scorer in the tourney.

The other side of the coin is that the game is meaningless and that the teams that reach the semifinals do not feel that after their losses there they should have to play another game. For the tournament organizers and hosts, the game is revenue, and often, a last chance to see the home team play—as was the case in 1962, 1990, and 2002.

Brazil coach, Luis Felipe Scolari has pointed to the match as his team’s chance to make amends. Louis van Gaal has said, since at least the last two cups, that he does not feel the game has any place in the tournament.

Today’s match will feature all of the available stars from both teams and each coach will do his best to get the best out of their players, but the bottom line is that short of professional pride little will be at stake for the Dutch while for Brazil, this is the only medal they can keep.

So we will see a fun game, one in which a team that has been unable to produce anything near jogo bonito will play against one of the true contenders of the cup. It should be entertaining because the Dutch will feel no pressure and will be able to play in a liberated manner. The Brazilians will be looking for a result but will also be featuring as starters players who felt they should have been the ones on the pitch earlier in the cup. Those Brazilian substitutes, such as Jo, Willian, and Maxwell, will attempt to show their fans what was missed by their absence.

In the end the Brazilians will be hard put to score again and the Dutch might pull their star players if they see no real danger in being overrun by the host’s energy and need. So we will have either a high scoring match or a scoreless one that was nevertheless fun to watch. Then again, this is the cup of surprises so watch out.

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