World Cup Roundup: Netherlands, Brazil to face off

The Netherlands and Brazil will face off in Saturday's third-place match
07/10/2014 11:28 PM ET
By Grant Tunkel

Brazil will be without Neymar again in Saturday's third-place match.(AP)
Can Brazil get off the canvas and finish with a bang?

The Selecao take on the Netherlands on Saturday in the third-place game in Brasilia. Both sides are looking to end the tournament on a high note following semifinal defeats.

But for Brazil, the playoff represents a chance for a bit of redemption. Winning the consolation match won't erase the bitter taste of a 7-1 semifinal dismantling at the hands of Germany. It won't soften the blow of seeing a 39-year home winning streak in competitive matches come crashing down.

A win, though, could be the starting point as Brazil build toward the 2016 Copa America tournament.

Holland head coach Louis van Gaal has already made his thoughts about the third-place game known. Van Gaal said he's been lobbying FIFA to eliminate the match for quite some time.

"I think that this match should never be played," the coach told reporters following the Dutch's loss to Argentina.

Forward Arjen Robben felt similarly.

"Only one prize counts, and that is becoming world champion," Robben said, according to The Associated Press.

The match also presents a quick turnaround for the Netherlands. They'll have just two days to recover compared to three for Brazil.

Third-Place Game History

Brazil have played in the third-place game three times. They defeated Sweden, 4-2, in 1938; lost to Poland, 1-0, in 1974; and defeated Italy, 2-1, in 1978.

The Netherlands have appeared in this contest just once. They lost to Croatia in 1998, 2-1.

Key Players

The third-place game sometimes features unusual lineups, with teams choosing to give playing time to non-starters. So predicting who will start and who will sit is a difficult proposition.

But Brazil are unlikely to take this game lightly after what happened in the semifinal. Strikers Fred and Jo have been non-factors throughout the tournament, and both may feel they have something to prove in their final match at the competition.

Holland's lineup is anyone's guess. Perhaps Memphis Depay will return to the starting 11 and make an impact for the Netherlands.

Key Number

7-1. Is there anything else that needs to be said? Brazil want to give their fans something to cheer about before this World Cup is over. "7-1" won't soon be forgotten, but a display of free-flowing, "joga bonito" style of play could raise their spirits.

240. The Netherlands haven't scored or allowed a goal in 240 minutes of playing time since Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's penalty sent the Oranje past Mexico in the Round of 16. Holland played to a scoreless draw against Costa Rica before advancing on penalties, then played scoreless soccer vs. Argentina in the semis.

Three Questions

What does Brazil have left in the tank? The hosts -- and the nation -- were stunned by the semifinal defeat. A working knowledge of Portuguese isn't required to gauge the reaction to the Selecao's loss to Germany; the newspaper covers tell the story. If Brazil can tap into its reserve and find the strength to climb off the mat, perhaps they'll end this tournament on a high note.

Will van Gaal's comments have an impact on Holland?  Van Gaal doesn't think the third-place match should be played. He said the prospect of losing two straight contests to close out an otherwise-successful run is unfair. Holland will have to overcome playing on the road and playing a match their coach wants no part of.

Who scores first (and how quickly)? A grind-it-out style match likely won't do the Dutch any favors. With van Gaal making his feelings known, a sluggish match could make for a disinterested European side. Should the Netherlands score early, though, watch out. Brazil probably need the first goal to get the crowd engaged and take the Dutch out of it early. This has the makings of a first-goal-wins game. Then again, the third-place playoff has a history of being a high-scoring affair.

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