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They say a tie is like kissing your sister. If that's what a tie feels like, then I don't want to know what having to play in a consolation game feels like. Even the word "consolation" feels wrong. You're not consoling these players, you're destroying them. To be so close to the World Cup final, yet come up short has to be devastating. You probably just want to go home, or, if you're Brazil, go on a vacation for a long, long time.
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal criticized the match as having "nothing to do with sports." And I can't blame him for feeling that way. He elaborated:
"We will just have to play the game but it is unfair. We will have one day less to recover and that's not fair play. But the worst thing is, I believe, there is a chance that you lose twice in a row in a tournament in which you've played so marvelously well. You go home as a 'loser' because possibly you've lost the last two matches."
He makes a compelling point. Why does this game still exist? Perhaps one day FIFA will change it, but FIFA and "change" don't necessarily go hand in hand, so we'll see if they ever consider banishing this game. First, they need to get something in place to monitor concussions, because that's also a pressing issue.
So, we know the Netherlands aren't too pleased to play this game and I'm sure Brazil is not either. They have to pick themselves off the ground after being completely humiliated by Germany in their semifinal match. Their 7-1 defeat was the largest margin of defeat in World Cup history by a team playing on home soil. HISTORY. The previous high was a 3-0 loss by South Africa to Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup. Brazil blew right by that measly three-goal margin.
To put the loss into more perspective, Brazil hadn't dropped a competitive match in Brazil since 1975. That's 39 years. And in that 39 years, they went 45-0. A loss of any kind would have ended a very impressive streak. Losing 7-1 with a ticket to the World Cup final on the line on home soil makes it one of the biggest debacles in the history of sports and makes Brazilian reaction shots look like you when something horrible happens on Game of Thrones. Sheer disbelief.
I mean, Brazil played like a bunch of amateurs out there. They let the Germans walk all over them, never pressing them defensively. Germany was comfortable in the offensive third and it showed. And the lack of hustle by Brazil was inexcusable. Okay, maybe they weren't as talented as Germany, fine, but hustling and marking your man is the simplest aspect in soccer.
Miroslav Klose's goal to make it 2-0 was a glaring example of how pathetic Brazil played. Klose took a shot and goalkeeper Júlio César made a good save, but no one on Brazil decided to help on defense and the 36 year-old Klose got to his rebound and put it in the net. To add insult to injury for Brazil, that goal by Klose was his 16th career World Cup goal, which set the record for most career goals scored in the World Cup. Klose was previously tied at 15 with Brazilian legend Ronaldo. When it rains, it pours.
Although neither team necessarily wants to play after losing, they are competitors - right Brazil? - and will want to win once the ball is in play. Here's how each team will win:
Thiago Silva, their captain, is back. He was sorely missed against Germany. Although David Luiz has been sensational, he isn't the steady presence of Silva. Brazil's back line looked lost and had constant miscommunications, which led to an onslaught of German goals. Expect Silva's presence to bring an immediate jolt to Brazil's defending.
Also, Oscar, a 22 year old midfielder, scored Brazil's lone goal against Germany. He has scored two goals this World Cup and will most likely be Brazil's most potent scoring threat against the Netherlands. Brazil wants to groom him alongside Neymar, who is also 22, but is still unavailable to play due to a broken vertebra. Although they underachieved in 2014, Brazil will be looking to rebound in 2018 with Neymar and Oscar hitting their prime.
With only two days rest and a coach who has spoken out about this game leads me to believe the Dutch may not play a great one and hope to get FIFA to recognize how unnecessary this game is. But like I said, these guys are pros and no pro enjoys losing, no matter the circumstance. Arjen Robben looked inept against Argentina. I'm sure he'll want to go out on a high note. Van Persie too. He was subbed out in the 96th minute and he was even less effective than Robben. They are two premier players and will surely want to send the Dutch home with a victory.
Even van Gaal, with all his pouting, has to realize his players haven't performed for the last two games and should want to improve. They went their last two matches without scoring a goal. And both matches went 120 minutes. Shocking for a team that scored 12 goals in their first 4 games.
Brazil wins 3-2
Brazil's creativity seems gone and without Neymar it seems hopeless as well, but I still have to believe this Brazilian squad has one good match in them. They have played this tournament unlike the usual Brazilian style of football. It has been hard-nosed and physical. Maybe, with the pressure of winning the World Cup gone, the players are less apprehensive on the ball and more willing to create and take chances. Brazil personified how "the beautiful game" was played and now it's time for them to take it back.
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