Brazil vs. Netherlands: Final Preview for World Cup Third-Place Play-off

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2014

Netherlands' Arjen Robben pauses before the start of extra time during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

It's not the honour that either team would have been hoping to end this summer's World Cup with, but Brazil and the Netherlands will nevertheless jostle for their highest-possible consolation prize on Saturday.

The third-place play-off is never an easy fixture to determine, with low morale and wavering loyalties often a factor in the final outcome.

That being said, Brasilia plays host to two of the most powerful nations in football on Saturday in what promises to be a fascinating display.


Home Pride

TERESOPOLIS, BRAZIL - JULY 10:  Neymar attends a press conference on July 10, 2014 in Teresopolis, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

For Brazil, a fourth-place finish will do no more than rub salt in the wound of what could have been, but their 7-1 thrashing at German hands showed that this team doesn't deserve a home World Cup triumph.

Broadcaster Sam Matterface recently discussed just why this is such an important fixture for the hosts, however, where saving as much face as possible against elite opposition is still key:

The Maracana is Brazil's football monastery, but playing in the nation's capital this weekend brings something of a pilgrimage feel to this matchup, too, and the Dutch will be far from inviting crusaders to overcome.

A mixture of aggression, angst and acceptance came from the Brazilian population in response to Tuesday's mauling, but this is an opportunity for the Selecao to show there is still promise in their game.


Best Of A Bad Bunch

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JULY 11:  Head coach, Louis van Gaal speaks to the media during the Netherlands press conference prior to their 3rd Place Playoff match between the Netherlands and Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Estadio Nacional on July 11, 20
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

One of the most intriguing storylines to emerge in advance of Saturday's head-to-head has been Louis van Gaal's criticism of the occasion altogether, claiming there should be no third-place playoff.

According to the Oranje head coach, it adds a sour tone to any one team's tournament. He is quoted by BBC Sport as saying:

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. This has got nothing to do whatsoever with sport, not in my view.

One can certainly see where Manchester United's helmsman is coming from, and after concluding matters in Brazil, the veteran tactician will join up with his new club on their tour of the United States.

Ahead of this game, it's worth remembering that both sides have been terrific in their own right for periods of this campaign. That being said, it still makes for one more thrilling addition on the schedule.


Key Battle

Thiago Silva vs. Arjen Robben

Andre Penner/Associated Press

Neymar's spinal injury might be looked upon as the most pivotal absence in Brazil's semi-final loss by some, but when goals are conceded in such heavy numbers, Thiago Silva certainly stands out as the key man missing.

With his suspension now through, the Paris Saint-Germain captain is free to return against the Netherlands, and Arjen Robben will be one of the key targets in his sights.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Robben admittedly isn't the most natural threat to come down Silva's central route, but Robin van Persie's failure to delight of late has meant that the Bayern Munich man has drifted further and further inside as this competition has progressed.

One can expect to see Robben doing his usual part in cutting in off either flank in a bid to find space, using his inside man as platforms to move off, but Silva stands to be the blockade preventing such movement from leaving a scratch.