Here comes a game that no one wants to be involved in. What glory two losers can achieve from a third-place deciding game? For teams, nothing but the Cup matters. It's just cruel to ask one of the losing semifinalists to lose again.
Crushed emotionally, both the Brazilians and Dutch badly needed a break from football and frustrated fans as well. All they want right now is to hide themselves somewhere for some time and lick their wounds. But Brazil and the Netherlands have no choice. They have to take the field once more and play out the frivolous formality on July 12.
It will take Brazil decades to get over the humiliation they suffered at the hands of Germany. A 7-1 drubbing was a slap across the face of a country that won more World Cups than any other football-playing nation.
Brazil never lost a match by such a huge margin, with their 6-0 defeat by Uruguay coming in 1920, 10 years before the inception of the World Cup. That memory does not possibly even exist in the mind of the last few generations of Brazilians. The German mauling was just gross and a little more than a public flogging. Quite unabashedly, Brazil fans screamed and wept openly in the stands before booing their players off the ground.
Brazilian footballers are always treated as celebrities. They are hardly jeered at by the fans. In fact, the endless expectation of fans drives footballers, adorably called Selecao by their admirers, to be entertainers and winners. But everything has changed so dramatically since that crazy July 9 evening. To make matters worse for Brazil, arch-rivals Argentina advanced into the final against Germany. Their neighbours too did not look impressive. But they played their semifinal the way Brazil should have played: More defending, less attacking.
Getting back on the field in a competitive match three days into the disaster will be like getting punished twice for the same crime. The reception the Brazil players will receive from the stands when they take to the pitch tomorrow will be interesting to see. And what if they lose again? May God bless Brazilians!
The Netherlands too will want little to do with the match. The Dutch possibly played the most entertaining football throughout the tournament. They were attacking and attractive. Arguably the best team, Netherlands choked on penalties for the sixth time in a World Cup. The quest for their maiden World Cup ended in the most agonising manner. The Dutch would dread playing this meaningless match.
Neither team nor their fans are interested. But Fifa, the game's world governing body, has a pervasive reason to keep the tradition of the third-place play-off going: more revenue. Fingers are crossed for the losers.
- Brazil are taking part in their fourth third-place playoff at the World Cup. They beat Italy in 1978, lost to Poland in 1974 and scored a 4-2 victory over Sweden in 1938.
- The Netherlands have taken part in the most unwanted game at the World Cup only once, losing 2-1 to Croatia in 1998.
- Despite conceding seven goals against Germany in the semifinals, Brazil have one of the best defences and have won the most tackles (91) of any team at the tournament, according to FIFA statistics.
- No player has covered more ground in the World Cup than Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder. In six matches, Sneijder has run 69.6 kilometres, just ahead of Dutch teammate Arjen Robben with Germany forward Thomas Mueller third.