Brazil and the Netherlands enter the 2014 FIFA World Cup third-place playoff with shared disappointment. Both nations missed the final, but the emotional responses of the two squads may be very different.
The Dutch will feel the anguish of coming as close as a penalty shootout to besting Argentina and reaching the final. But while Louis van Gaal's squad rues a near miss, host nation Brazil will still be shamed by their 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany.
That was a result that naturally reverberated around the football world. After such a massacre, Brazilian players are likely to still be feeling the pain of wounded pride.
So despite third place being the hollowest of consolation prizes at football's major international competition, both teams have enough motivation to want to finish the tournament with a flourish.
Before delving into the latest odds, here's the updated bracket for the penultimate day of this World Cup:
Here are the latest odds for this playoff, courtesy of OddsShark.com:
|Match||Date||Time||Venue||Brazil Win||Netherlands Win||Draw|
|Brazil vs. Netherlands||Saturday, July 12||9 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. ET||Estadio Nacional Brasilia||5-4 / +125||2-1 / +200||14-5 / +280|
Despite the way they were toyed with during the semi-final, Brazil are narrow favourites. The return of a key defender could have a lot to do with that.
Here are some predictions for this battle between vanquished semi-finalists, beginning with the man who could make a big difference for Brazil:
Thiago Silva's Return Will Solidify Brazil Defence
Despite some of the talent the Dutch possess in attack, the Brazil defence simply can't be as bad as it was against Germany. The return of star centre-back Thiago Silva will ensure manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's back four are more solid.
Löwest ebb. pic.twitter.com/EgazhD7QI8— AS English (@English_AS) July 8, 2014
Silva was suspended for the semi-final against a rampant Germany. If there was any doubt about his importance to this team, it was permanently erased by the sight of German runners waltzing through Brazilian defensive ranks unopposed.
Without Silva by his side, fellow central defender David Luiz couldn't cope. Admittedly, Luiz received little help from hapless full-backs Maicon and Marcelo.
Silva can and will make a difference. He is an ultra-athletic stopper, who combines his physical gifts with an underrated ability for reading the game. Silva spies danger as quickly as he thwarts it.
The 29-year-old's pace will be vital in trying to subdue a quick-breaking Dutch forward line, headlined by speedy forwards Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
Brazil won't be impregnable, even with Silva back in the starting 11. But they certainly won't be as open as they were without him.
Arjen Robben Will Cap His Tournament with the Winning Goal
Veteran winger Arjen Robben has enjoyed a superb World Cup. The FC Bayern Munich ace has helped himself to three goals in Brazil.
His trademark direct pace and feared, left-footed shooting have made Robben the one Dutch player opponents truly fear. The problem has been that teams quickly realised that if they stopped Robben, they stopped Van Gaal's men.
Costa Rica did it in the quarter-final, routinely ganging up on Robben whenever he received the ball. The tactic was repeated by Argentina in the semi-final:
The dour Scolari is likely to favour a similar approach. He certainly has the players to do it. Scolari's squad is bursting at the seams with defensive-minded midfield players such as Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo.
But Robben can escape that rugged pair, provided Van Gaal structures the team to give him some support. That's something the manager's tactics failed to do in the semi-final, according to Owen Gibson of The Guardian:
For Robben, who has done more than anyone to drag his side to this point, it was a frustrating experience. As Van Gaal shuffled his tactics to pack the midfield and stifle Argentina, he found himself isolated but still he kept going. As throughout a tournament that has yielded three goals and a consistency of performance that has endlessly caught the eye, he looked hungry. He started off on the left alongside Van Persie, before switching to the right to try his luck against Marcos Rojo. Frustrated, he went back to the left. Then, five minutes before half time, back to the right.
Robben is sure to be a marked man once again. Eventually though, the 30-year-old will wriggle free to net a stylish winner.
It will be a fitting way to end a tournament in which he has flourished.
The Dutch have provided some thrilling moments at this tournament. Before Van Gaal signs off to take over at Manchester United, he'll need Robben to help him deliver one more.
Brazil, still smarting from the unforgettable capitulation against Germany, won't make it easy. However, try as they might, this squad is simply not forward-thinking enough to get the win.
One more defeat will be a final condemnation of Scolari's negative selection and tactics at this tournament.
Predicted Final Score: Brazil 1-2 The Netherlands