Third-place play-offs have a reputation for being dull and ultimately pointless affairs, which is more than a bit unfair. But even forgetting 39 goals being scored in the last 10 play-offs, neither manager was going into their last game at the 2014 World Cup with the notion it meant nothing to them.
Luiz Felipe Scolari had declared that after being annihilated 7-1 by Germany, an embarrassment that will be felt for years to come, this match was an opportunity for his team to restore some pride (though even a 20-0 defeat probably wouldn't have been enough to do that). In return, Louis van Gaal wanted to be the first manager to finish a tournament with the Netherlands "undefeated". OK, Louis, we'll forget the existence of penalty shootouts if you insist.
The Manchester-bound gaffer was typically ruthless in his team selection, ignoring the opportunity to give lesser-used squad players a start. Only one change in personnel was planned, Nigel de Jong missing out through injury and replaced by Feyenoord's Jordy Clasie. However, Wesley Sneijder succumbed to a hamstring pull in the warm-up and had to be withdrawn before kick-off for Jonathan de Guzman.
Scolari brought in six new players. Jo was given a longer run-out in place of Fred, Ramires and Willian replaced Hulk and Bernard, Paulinho stepped in for Fernandinho, who had endured a torrid time against Germany, captain Thiago Silva returned from suspension with Dante making way and Marcelo was dropped from his left-back position so viewers could remember the existence of Maxwell. With all those changes, there's no way Brazil could suffer the same fate in Brasilia as they did in Belo Horizonte, right?
Within three minutes Brazil were 1-0 down. It had taken only 90 seconds for their defence to be undone, having failed to learn the harsh lessons of the semi-final. Thiago Silva was the obvious culprit, first losing a battle of strength to Robin van Persie which allowed the Dutchman to play Arjen Robben through on goal, then tugging Robben back. The result was a harsh penalty (the contact was outside the box) and a lenient yellow card (as the last man by a distance, the Brazilian should have been sent off, however early into the game).
But once again David Luiz was also to blame. The curly-haired defender was up the pitch supposedly marking Robben, but backed off to allow him a free header - flicked on to Van Persie, initiating the attack - and then failed to track his run, leaving Thiago Silva hopelessly alone, two-against-one. Plenty for him to look forward to when partnering Luiz at Paris Saint-Germain next season, then.
As the game settled down after this frantic start, it was interesting to see the difference in each goalkeeper's touches on the ball. Jasper Cillessen was entrusted with the ball much more than Julio Cesar, suggesting the Dutch defence had more confidence in his footballing ability, but also showing their opponents' insistence to play forward at almost every opportunity.
Just as Brazil looked to be recovering from their horrific start, Daley Blind struck to make it 2-0. This time, David Luiz headed a clearance needlessly back into the danger zone - and Blind was allowed so much space that he had time to take two touches by the penalty spot before firing the ball home with aplomb.
The hosts continued to leave gaps at the back - some baffling defensive marking left De Guzman free to shoot wastefully over the bar - but were at least attacking with some more danger, as Oscar embarked on some winding runs and whipped in a couple of very good free-kicks. Indeed, Scolari's side were making more passes in the final third than the team with a two-goal lead.
There wasn't a great deal of flow to the game, however, partly down to the Dutch breaking up attacks with deliberate fouls. Over half an hour into the match, they'd somehow managed to commit three times as many fouls as tackles, even if they were of the niggly variety, rather than that special '2010 World Cup Final' vintage.
That said, centre-back Stefan de Vrij was playing the Brazilian defence at their own game, completing nearly as many dribbles as the whole Selecao XI.
At half-time the Dutch led 2-0, with plenty for Scolari to dwell on, not least the amnesia apparently affecting his team after the shellacking to Germany, as they were making the same mistakes again. At least Maicon's attacks were keeping Blind honest down one side... apart from his goal, of course.
David Luiz - him again - was carrying on where he left off in the semi-final, Chelsea's £50 million sale looking ever the wiser as the defender tried to find the Hollywood pass instead of sticking to the basics. A perfect example came in the second half: Luiz drove forward, ushered forwards into the box to receive his cross, then wildly overhit the ball with his wrong foot straight out for a goal-kick. At least he was restricting his long balls to 18% of his passing output, as opposed to 28% against Germany.
Of course, unlike in that defeat, Brazil weren't out of the game by half-time. In fact, they'd had 55% possession - but precious little in front of the Dutch goal.
Van Gaal's side had been solid above anything else. De Guzman was getting stuck in, leading the foul count, while Georginio Wijnaldum mopped up loose balls with a table-topping number of ball recoveries.
Scolari made one change at half-time, as Luiz Gustavo made way for Fernandinho. The temptation must have been to withdraw Paulinho, who was virtually anonymous in the first half, making all of 8 passes.
Brazil's problems at the back were well-documented - here, for a start - but the Dutch defence wasn't impressing on the tackling front either.
Having apparently failed to do whatever Scolari was expecting within 10 minutes of the restart, Paulinho was removed from the action. Hernanes came on to commit 2 fouls within a minute. Robben was unsurprisingly being targeted; Oscar was getting his own share of a kicking.
Oscar should actually have had a penalty, instead being booked for simulation after a collision with Blind in the area. The Dutchman was carried off after the clash of knees, Daryl Janmaat replacing him, and Hulk was substituted on in place of Ramires for the trailing side.
Unusually for a winger, the hard-working Willian had made more passes than anyone else in the game. By way of symmetry, Robben was topping the Netherlands' own pass count, behind five other Brazilians.
Going into the final 10 minutes of a match drifting away from them, Brazilian individuals seemed keener than ever to be the hero - an issue that arguably plagued the team throughout the tournament. Hulk tried to dribble past a defender despite Brazil having an overlap outside the Dutch area; even Oscar, an unselfish player who had impressed in fits and starts, shot wildly off-target when he had time to choose a better option. Their attempts on goal were coming from increasingly desperate areas, while the Dutch players were happy to wait until they reached a good shooting position.
Brazil didn't come any closer to scoring. Clasie became the latest player to climb aboard the stretcher, Joel Veltman his replacement, before Dirk Kuyt nearly nearly rubbed salt in the wound with a header (from Holland's only corner). Wijnaldum felt less generous, tucking home substitute Janmaat's cross in the dying minutes to make the score 3-0.
Scolari's team had now conceded 14 goals in the tournament, the most they'd ever let in during a World Cup; the most any team had conceded since Belgium in 1986; and enough to make them join Saudi Arabia and North Korea in the group of sides to have let in a dozen or more goals since the 32-team format was introduced. Not good numbers, basically.
Full-time: 3-0. A sign of the Netherlands' more pragmatic approach was evident in their use of dribbles: fewer of them, but with more success. Most of Brazil's failed efforts near the left-hand corner flag came from Oscar, who beat a man with just 4 of his 10 attempts.
The places where each team took their shots said a lot, too: look at this screen and consider which situations were more dangerous.
Willian was a rare threat for Brazil, while Robben was his usual dangerous self for the victorious Dutch (and yes, he did go down easily for the penalty).
Even Michel Vorm got involved, being brought on in stoppage-time as the Netherlands became the first nation to use all 23 of their players in a tournament since the 23-man squad came in. You can't argue with 100% pass completion from a goalkeeper, either. Pull your socks up, Cillessen.
So what did we learn from this match? One: that neither Scolari nor his side - and particularly his defenders - learned from a disastrous result just days previously.
Two: that Van Gaal deserves credit for taking a young, unfancied Dutch side to third place, displaying a combination of class, grit and ruthlessness against the hosts to summarise their tournament in microcosm.
And three, for the 3-0: this result meaning there hasn't been fewer than three goals in a third-place play-off since 1974 (Brazil lost that one too, 1-0 to Poland), these supposedly pointless kick-abouts do have a future at the World Cup after all.
Facts and figures
- This is the first time since 1940 that Brazil have lost consecutive matches on home soil (in 1940 they lost 0-3 vs Argentina and 3-4 vs Uruguay).
- Brazil conceded their 100th, 101st and 102nd goals in World Cup history.
- 9 of the 14 goals Brazil have conceded in this World Cup have come in the first 30 minutes of their games.
- Robin van Persie’s goal was his first World Cup strike not to come in the group stages.
- The Netherlands have scored with all 10 of their penalties (in normal time) in World Cup history.
- Daley Blind (1 goal, 3 assists) has been involved in 4 goals in this World Cup, more than any other defender in Brazil 2014.
- Brazil have failed to score in 2 games in a World Cup tournament for the first time since 1978, when they also failed to find the net in 2 games.
- Oscar’s yellow card was the first for simulation awarded in this World Cup.
- David Luiz is the only outfield Brazilian player to play every minute of his team’s 2014 World Cup campaign.
- This is only the second time in the last 10 World Cup third-place play-offs that a team has failed to score (Bulgaria lost 4-0 vs Sweden in 1994).
- Belgium in 1986 (15 goals conceded) were the last team to concede 14 or more goals in a World Cup finals before Brazil this year (14).
- Jasper Cillesen is the first goalkeeper to be subbed off 2 times in World history.
- The Netherlands scored 3 goals from 4 shots on target in this match. Over this game and the semi-final, Brazil conceded 10 goals from 14 shots on target conceded.