Brazil's Daniel Alves (L) and Thiago Silva take part in a training session in Teresopolis on Thursday as they prepare to take on the Netherlands in the play-off today. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Neymar has urged his Brazil teammates to rescue some of their battered pride after their humiliating World Cup semifinal defeat to Germany by beating the Netherlands in Saturday's third-place play-off in Brasilia.
It is the one game that no team ever wants to take part in, but the encounter at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium took on extra significance after the hosts' dream of lifting the trophy at the Maracana 24 hours later was ended by their record 7-1 loss against the Germans.
Neymar missed that match after fracturing a bone in his back in the quarterfinal win against Colombia, but the 22-year-old superstar faced the media on Thursday as he called for Brazil to bow out on a high.
"It was unbelievable, inexplicable. We had the opportunity to write our names into history in a positive manner, and we failed," he said of the Selecao's embarrassing semifinal loss, their heaviest-ever defeat.
"We haven't had a good campaign. We were consistent, which is why we reached the semifinals, but we didn't play the kind of enchanting football associated with Brazil.
"Now we need to approach Saturday's game as if it were the final and finish the World Cup smiling, with a victory. It is not going to lessen the pain, but it is important."
The match could prove to be Luiz Felipe Scolari's last in charge, and the coach is likely to make changes to a team whose confidence has been so badly damaged.
Captain Thiago Silva will return after suspension, while his Paris Saint-Germain colleague Maxwell, the only outfield player yet to feature, may play a part.
Despite Neymar's rallying cry, almost all of those involved in Brasilia would rather be elsewhere, with Daniel Alves having made clear his lack of appetite for the bronze-medal clash.
"The important thing is first place. Nothing else matters," said the right-back. "We represent millions of people, so we have to digest this defeat and go out onto the field on Saturday. But, for me, every game is about being first."
The mood in the Dutch camp is the same. The Oranje have a day less to prepare for the match after their agonising defeat on penalties to Argentina in Wednesday's second semi-final in Sao Paulo.