The FourFourTwo Preview: Brazil vs Netherlands
The biggest comedown in world sport.
For the victors, the spoils. For the losers, the cucumber sarnie of football: a feast of limited nutritional value that arrives with a watery, unpalatable flavour; the unwanted toffee at the bottom of the Roses box. The duel for not quite the biggest bozo in the semi-final stages.
Granted, there have been one or two cracking fixtures in this slot over the years (and for some players it presents a last chance stab at confirming their grip on the Golden Boot), however in the case of both the Netherlands and Brazil, spirits are at a low ebb.
Big Phil’s men resemble something of a tragic unit, emotionally decimated by goals, tears and unanswered prayers during their drubbing by Germany. It’s probably fair to say that the majority of this squad would happily get on the first plane out of Dodge such is the ill-feeling directed towards their semi-final performance. Especially Fred. Poor, poor Fred.
The Dutch and Louis van Gaal have already made their feelings clear on this fixture following their penalty shootout defeat to Argentina: “I think that this match should never be played," said the manager. “I have been saying this for the past 10 years.
“We will just have to play the game but it is unfair. We will have one day less to recover and that's not fair play. But the worst thing is, I believe, there is a chance that you lose twice in a row in a tournament in which you've played so marvellously well. You go home as a 'loser' because possibly you've lost the last two matches.”
He’s not selling it, is he?
What the local media say
“Before the tournament there was much talk of the Maracanazo [curse] of 1950, when Brazil lost the final 2-1 to Uruguay. This was worse. The heaviest defeat in the history of the World Cup semi-finals and the heaviest defeat the Brazilian national team has ever suffered.” - Rio Times Online.
"A lack of guts did for the Dutch XI. At one point this display of monumental dullness had to yield a winner. What could have been an ode to Alfredo di Stefano, the pioneer of attacking football, became a game of technical tricks thought up by the trainers.” - Volkskrant.
Key battle: Thiago Silva vs Robin van Persie
The Brazilian captain experienced a Freddy Krueger-style nightmare on Tuesday. Forced to watch his country’s most humiliating defeat due to suspension, Silva’s stunned reaction will present a stark warning from history for decades to come. Photos of his wobbly-lipped anguish (twinned with that silly cap) is Brazil’s horror captured for posterity.
He’ll have to summon serious reserves of mental strength if he’s to salvage some semblance of dignity from this tournament. Shackling Robin van Persie - a player with much to prove following his anonymous performance against Argentina - might slap a Band-Aid on Brazil's chest-sucking emotional wound.
Facts and figures
- Brazil have conceded the most goals in the current World Cup campaign (11). The last time they conceded 11 was in 1938 and they’ve never conceded more than 11.
- This will be Brazil’s fourth appearance in the third place game, but their first since 1978.
- Only Karim Benzema (15) has had more shots on target than Robin van Persie (10) in this World Cup, but the Dutchman is yet to score in the knockout stages.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Mass Havaianas-burning and David Luiz tears all round. Holland to romp home. 1-3.