Brazil vs Netherlands: What we can expect - Preview and Prediction
You can see why Louis van Gaal disapproves of the 3rd-place playoff. It's a highly meaningless fixture, a hockey concept that has somehow entered football; and after a gruelling month it can be hard to drag yourself back for a sideshow. Having said that, the match isn't wholly pointless - both sets of fans want one last roll of the dice.
In Brazil's case, some kind of immediate closure to Tuesday's hammer blow is necessary. Home fans in the Estadio Nacional can expect a more equal contest - neither side has a good attack, and the Netherlands are extremely defensive. The return of Thiago Silva will return solidity to the back-line, although Scolari will need to choose his midfield more carefully.
Venue: Estádio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasília
Time: 1:30 AM (IST)
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria)
Assistant Referees: Redouane Achik (MAR) and Abdelhak Etchiali (ALG)
Fourth official: Yuichi Nishimura (JPN)
Having exceeded expectations by getting to within a penalty shootout of the final, van Gaal is likely to take a more relaxed view and hand some of the younger players a start.
Netherlands: Krul; Vlaar, de Vrij, Blind, Veltman, Janmaat; de Jong, Depay; Sneijder, Robben; Huntelaar
Brazil: Cesar; Silva, Luiz, Marcelo, Alves; Fernandinho, Oscar, Paulinho; Willian, Bernard, Jo
Arjen Robben vs the Brazilian defense
David Luiz copped a lot of blame for the Germany thumping, but Marcelo was directly at fault for at least 2 goals, and indirectly a third - the corner that Thomas Muller swung in. If Robben chooses to target the left-back, he will find plenty of space in behind to run into. His ability to drift across the front 3 and charge at goal will be a real nightmare for Thiago Silva, given that Brazil's main problem is indisciplined positioning.
The Dutchman's most natural position remains on the right-wing, where both Maicon and Dani Alves have been mediocre of late, though Alves at least offers pace. Luiz is likely to be more reticent, but if Robben starts, Brazil's best bet is on playing narrow and defensive.
Nigel de Jong vs Oscar
The Chelsea man was Brazil's sole attacking threat against the Germans, and like Robben he can drift into space on either flank and centrally. He will be up against the defensive-minded de Jong, a tough enforcer but carrying an injury that could hamper his movement. In Neymar's absence, Oscar offers Brazil's best hope of finding a winner - like Robben for the Dutch, he will be Brazil's go-to man in attack.
Since the narrow win over Australia, their strategy has been to suffocate the game in midfield, ensuring few goals at either end. All 4 goals they have scored since then have come after the 75th minute, leaving little time for opponents to respond; and they have gone 4 hours without scoring or conceding a goal. They key battles will probably be fought on the flanks, where both have attack-minded players. The centre is where Netherlands could frustrate a Brazil side weak at one end and jittery at the other.
- Brazil and Netherlands have played 11 times, winning 3 apiece and drawing 5. Five of those clashes have come in World Cups.
- Their last World Cup fixture saw the Netherlands winning 2-1, in the 2010 quarter-finals.
- In the match against Argentina, they attempted just 7 shots on goal, their lowest in a World Cup match since 1966. Every other match in that period has seen at least 10 attempts.
- The Netherlands had 1 shot on target against Argentina, while Brazil had 8 shots on target against Germany.
- Robin van Persie has the 2nd highest shots on target (after France's Karim Benzema), all fruitless. He has never scored a goal in the knockout stages of a major tournament.
- If this match goes to penalties (yes, that can happen in 3rd place playoffs), Brazil are at an advantage - they've won the only previous shootout between the sides (in 1998).
- The Dutch have an atrocious record in World Cup shootouts, having lost 5 of 7.
A match between a team that can't defend and a team that can't score - logically, this should be a night of missed chances. In this highly unpredictable tournament, that means we might see some very exciting football.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Netherlands