As the World Cup draws to a close, we can all safely say that this tournament has been one of the most enthralling spectacles in modern football. The majority of games have been enjoyable and full of drama, exactly what you expect on the biggest stage of all. It’s where everyone wants to be, however, in the case of the two teams that contest the third place play-off on Saturday, they’d rather not be.
Brazil and Holland were knocked out at the semi-final stage and will hope to gain some pride for their country as well as a 3rd place finish. Brazil will want to give their devastated faithful something to cheer about following an incredible defeat to Germany. The 7-1 hammering sent shockwaves around the world and left most of the country shell-shocked after witnessing the worst capitulation they had ever seen.
Holland, on the other hand, will count themselves unlucky to go out on penalties to Argentina after looking the better side in a fairly dull contest. The shoot-out is a lottery that sometimes goes for you, as it did for Van Gaal’s men against Costa Rica, but can also leave you inconsolable in the case of Wednesday night, after goalkeeper Romero saved spot kicks from both Vlaar and Sneijder. Although it is not a match both teams want to necessarily be a part of, there’s no doubt the pair will give it their all for their respective fans.
The 7-1 defeat to the Germans was nothing short of embarrassing and deeply exposed the frailties in a relatively weak Brazil side compared to its previous squads at World Cup tournaments. Without Neymar as the attacking force and Thiago Silva being the defensive rock, the hosts were cut open at will, indicating the dependency on these two players in particular. Several players have failed to turn up and perform at level which would normally be standard for them. Fred and Hulk have been poor so far and only Oscar has shown attacking intent apart from Neymar. The advantage for this match in a way is that it gives the Brazilian team a chance to right a few wrongs and end the tournament on a positive note.
Neymar will be out for a considerable amount of time after being injured in the quarter-final against Colombia. Bernard replaced Neymar in the last match and wasn’t able to have any sort of impact on the game. Willian may come into the side in Hulk’s place, who is bound to be disappointed. Fred was booed off the field when being substituted against Germany and has had a poor tournament so far, citing Brazil’s lack of options up front. He may make way for Jo.
Thiago Silva will come back into the side to partner either Dante, his replacement for the last game, or David Luiz, who had an awful match without his regular cohort in defence.
Key Man – Oscar
Apart from Neymar, Oscar has been the only other person to be counted within the Brazilian attacking force. He scored Brazil’s only goal in the game against Germany to make sure there wasn’t a clean sheet involved and was the only one who looked like offering something in the final third.
Oscar did notch a goal in the first game against Croatia, giving him two goals for the tournament, creating seven chances in the mean time with two assists to his name. With a shot accuracy of just over 78%, Oscar will need to have his shooting boots on to fire his team to a third place finish.
Van Gaal’s men have been on both ends of a penalty shoot-out in this World Cup. After jubilation against Costa Rica in the quarter-final, they suffered the opposite fate against Argentina after the game finished 0-0. There were no heroics from Tim Krul on this occasion as he wasn’t substituted on and Holland found themselves out in the latter stages of a World Cup again, after also losing in the final four years ago.
Holland started off the tournament fantastically, hammering current world champions Spain 5-1 in their opening game. They cruised through the group stages and finished top of the group in front of Chile. You could argue that they somewhat struggling in the knockout rounds after needing two goals in the last two minutes to beat a resolute Mexico side in the last 16. The surprising fact from the last two games is that in 240 minutes of regular time, Holland have failed to score a single goal and needed to take both games to penalties to force a result. Now whether this is just down to a lack of quality in the final third or a conservative approach to these important games is a debatable matter. Either way, Holland will want to finish off a decent tournament will a win against the hosts.
Nigel De Jong made a surprising comeback in the last match after having been all but ruled out of the tournament with a groin injury. He is unlikely to be risked again and Van Gaal may decide to make other changes to his squad to maybe give some of his fringe players an opportunity to shine. Krul could be chosen in goal with Fer, De Guzman and Clasie pushing for starts in the midfield.
Key Player – Arjen Robben
Robben has had an excellent 18 months of football, showing his world class abilities time and time again – but it unfortunately wasn’t enough to save his team from elimination. Although he has been prone to diving, as he did for the penalty against Mexico, there is no doubting his ability with lightening pace and dribbling giving any defender a nightmare on his day.
The Bayern Munich star started off the tournament in brilliant fashion, scoring twice in the 5-1 win against Spain after a man of the match performance. He then netted in the next match against Australia, but failed to score again in the tournament, giving him three goals in total. The 15 chances he has created has yielded just the one assist but his trickery and sharp movement on the right of midfield has been clear to see and will want to again showcase his skills against Brazil on Saturday.
Possible Team Line-Ups
Brazil will have a lot to prove going into this game and have some pride to restore, so I think they will come out with more intent to win the game. If Holland go in with same conservative mentality as in the last two games, I can see Brazil winning the game by the odd goal.