The FIFA World Cup 2014 has reached its epic conclusion: the final two games of the competition. We start with the third-place play-off fixture: Brazil vs. Netherlands.
Luiz Felipe Scolari will lead a downcast Brazilian side into this fixture, but he is at least serious about realising what he's labeled a "much smaller dream" (h/t SuperSport.com).
Neymar is still missing, but Thiago Silva comes back in from suspension, likely to partner David Luiz, despite the latter's nightmare against Germany.
Simply put, too many players had a bad game to be able to drop them all, but if the same XI (bar Silva) starts, the home fans will not be happy.
Fred, Bernard, Marcelo and Oscar are all candidates to sit out.
Louis van Gaal doesn't want to have to participate in a third-place play-off, and he made his feelings clear to reporters ahead of the game (h/t SuperSport.com):
This match should never be played. I've been saying that for 10 years; it's unfair. There is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions.
The worst thing is that there is a chance you are going to lose twice in a row. And in a tournament in which you have played so marvellously well you go home as a loser.
So, we expect changes from the Netherlands. There's even a chance the rest of the squad—the ones who haven't played a minute yet—come in and soak up the World Cup atmosphere.
It leaves the potential formation up in the air too, and the Oranje nearly impossible to project overall.
2 Tactical Points
1. 3-5-2 is Perfect Against Brazil
The law of probability suggests Van Gaal will go with a 3-5-2 formation again. He says he hates the fixture, and he likely does, but he hates losing more and will try to win this game.
With Brazil certain to play 4-2-3-1, it allows Van Gaal to match up three vs. three in central midfield, two vs. two in attack and retain spare men in defence.
The attacking permutations are therefore endless: through the middle to Wesley Sneijder in behind the midfield, quickly out to Arjen Robben in a temporary wide role or attack the space behind the advancing Marcelo or Maicon/Dani Alves.
Van Gaal's 3-5-2 matches up against Brazil's brand of 4-2-3-1 exceptionally well.
2. Shoots of Recovery?
Brazil need to show they are not indeed reliant on one man to win games, and that starts here in the second match sans Neymar.
Scolari is stubborn in his tactics, refusing to change much (if anything at all). The byproduct is that the team settled into a dangerous rhythm of looking to Neymar to win each game, and Scolari did nothing to switch it up when Fred and Hulk underperformed game after game.
If he has any hope of keeping his job, the recovery—or some slight notion of it—starts here.
That means a changed approach, perhaps a different formation and certainly a different strategy entering the final third.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.