It’s the World Cup game that no one wants to play.
The Netherlands and Brazil will meet tomorrow to decide the soccer tournament’s third-place team with both squads lacking motivation after semifinal losses. While the world will focus on the following day’s title match between Germany and Argentina, the game in Brasilia won’t help lessen the host’s pain from a record 7-1 drubbing in the last round.
“Third place at the World Cup isn’t worth anything,” Celso Ditadi, 54, who owns a fabric company near Fortaleza said while waiting for a flight at Sao Paulo’s airport. “I have watched all Brazil’s games, but I don’t even know if I will bother with this one. The World Cup is no fun any more.”
The July 8th loss to Germany scarred the country, bringing back memories of 1950, the last time the tournament was in Brazil, when its team blew the chance for the championship by losing to Uruguay in the final game. Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal -- who is about to take over English soccer’s Manchester United for a season that starts next month -- isn’t interested in the third-place game.
“I think this match should never be played,” van Gaal said about the third-place playoff after losing to Argentina in a penalty shootout. “I’ve been saying that for 10 years.”
It will be worse for the home team. Brazil’s players will be forced to face their disgruntled fans, who booed them during and after the nation’s biggest-ever loss and first-home defeat in a competitive match since 1975.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team was savaged by Brazil’s biggest-selling newspaper O Globo, which gave every player against Germany a score of zero out of 10.
Scolari had promised a record-extending sixth World Cup win, and instead the team delivered the records of the wrong sort.
For the loss to Germany, Brazil was without its leading scorer -- injured striker Neymar -- and the suspended Thiago Silva, its captain and defensive leader. It and Spain are the only soccer heavyweights never to have won the World Cup on home soil, with the 1950 defeat still described as national tragedy.
Words like “shame” and “catastrophe” were used by Scolari and his team to describe the most recent loss. Brazil spent $11 billion to host sport’s most-watched event, and national soccer federation head Jose Maria Marin said before the tournament “We will all go to hell” if the team doesn’t win.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t get to the final,” said Scolari, who described the loss as the worst day in his life. “We will continue working and honoring what our team means for the third-place match in Brasilia.”
The teams have played 11 times, with each winning three games and drawing five times. Brazil has 6-5 odds to win, meaning a successful $5 bet will return $6 plus the wager, while the Dutch have 2-1 odds at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc.
There is only one prize that counts and that is being champion" -- Dutch coach van Gaal
Netherlands knocked Brazil out of the 2010 World Cup with a quarterfinal victory. Coach van Gaal said he would rather get on the plane back to Europe than try to repeat the feat and secure $22 million for finishing third. The fourth-place team gets $20 million, while the champion receives $35 million.
“The worst thing is there is a chance you lose twice in a row in a tournament you’ve played so marvelously well,” van Gaal said. “You go home a loser, that’s got nothing to do with sports. There is only one prize that counts and that is being champion.”
The Dutch lost the shot at the title match two days ago when Argentina won 4-2 in the penalty shootout after 120 minutes of soccer that didn’t produce a goal for either team.
As Argentine players danced around the field, twirling their jerseys above their heads and singing along with their supporters, the orange-shirted Dutch players wearily walked away from the Sao Paulo arena.
Dirk Kuyt, who ran more than any of his teammates, said it was hard to focus on another match after losing such an important one. Still, his team doesn’t want to lose another time, he said.
“We were so close to reaching the final, and I had confidence we could beat Germany,” Kuyt said. “Now we have to focus on another game. We did so well, we came so far that it would be a shame to go home with two losing games.”