The final World Cup weekend is upon us. A magical, unforgettable month of football in Brazil is coming to a close. This was, by far, the best tournament ever. Surprising moments, stunning wins, disappointing losses, exciting matches, and a great spectacle by fans coming from all over the world. It was awesome. Now it's almost over.
Before it's over, though, there are two games left. The first one, on Saturday, is the infamous third place match. Unless you are Croatia (1998), South Korea and Turkey (2002), you don't really plan on this being your seventh game. But Brazil and Netherlands are forced to play one more time in Brasília to decide which one of them is going to be in third place at the World Cup. The loser, as you can probably guess, will finish fourth.
Neither Brazilians or Dutch wanted to be here. Both of them -- Brazil even more -- entered the tournament with title aspirations. Big Phil Scolari, Brazil's coach, even said he wanted to face Netherlands at the final to get revenge for their loss at the 2010 World Cup. Well, they can do it on Saturday, but it won't taste as good as if it was at Maracanã, with the trophy on the line.
Sidenote: by the way, the World Cup hosts will finish the tournament without playing at least ONE match in the country's most famous stadium. Brazil played in São Paulo, Fortaleza twice, Mineirão twice, and Brasília twice. Those are great venues, but they're not Maracanã. It's a shame. Come on, FIFA!
Anyway, for the Dutch, this is not their favorite spot, either. They entered the semi-final against Argentina with favorite status, after cruising through the Group Stage -- which included a 5-1 behind-kicking over Spain -- and winning the two knockout matches against Mexico and Costa Rica in dramatic fashion. Both Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie were having a great tournament, but both of them disappeared in the biggest stage, and Netherlands lost in penalty-kicks against the Albiceleste.
Brazil is facing deep depression. The country is still stunned after the 7-1 loss to Germany, and the people can't believe that they have suffered the worst defeat in their football history. Now, they enter the third place contest with mixed emotions: the National Stadium in Brasília is not even expected to be sold out on Saturday, and it is possible that you will hear more from the Dutch fans than the Brazilians. They're that sad.
Both coaches don't seem to take this game seriously, and the training practices have been quick and with little preparation for the game. Different from another third place matches from previous World Cups, don't expect this to be a fun game. For Brazil, especially, this will be painful. Even with a win.
Team Lineups (there may be changes, especially with Netherlands lineup):
Brazil (4-1-4-1) - César; Maicon, Henrique, Luiz, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho, Hernanes, Oscar, Willian, Jô
Netherlands (3-4-1-2) - Cillessen; Vrij, Vlaar, Indi; Kuyt, Wijnaldum, De Jong, Blind, Sneijder; Robben, van Persie