Football: Brazil v Holland preview

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Brazil have the chance to begin the process of restoring their battered reputation when they go head-to-head with Holland at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia in the World Cup third place play-off.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men were humiliated in their 7-1 semi-final mauling at the hands of Germany on Tuesday night, a result which stunned the football world and left the host nation in a state of shock as the Selecao were brutally demolished.
Only a slender measure of redemption can be gained with victory in the meeting between the two beaten semi-finalists after such a tame surrender in Belo Horizonte, but Scolari insists they must begin to put one of the darkest days in Brazil’s illustrious history behind them.
“I know my career will be marked by this defeat, but we have an obligation to move on and think about the next goal, which in this case is the match for third place on Saturday in Brasilia,” said the Brazil coach.
“I know it’s a much smaller dream that we all wanted, but we have to honour the shirt of the national team.”
Scolari will at least have the imposing presence of Thiago Silva available once again, with his captain’s leadership, discipline and organisation missed to an alarming extent due to his suspension for the game with Germany.
Talismanic forward Neymar, one of 10 players in the frame to win FIFA’s Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player, continues his recovery from the serious back injury he sustained in the closing stages of the quarter-final triumph over Colombia.
Scolari may opt to make further changes on Saturday, with striker Fred being singled out for particularly harsh vilification from the Brazil supporters after being substituted in the semi-final mauling.
Netherlands counterpart Louis van Gaal, who initially dismissed the third place play-off as a match which ‘should never be played’ has softened his stance somewhat as he brings the curtain down on his stint leading his country.
Van Gaal, who will head to his new post as manager of Manchester United once Holland’s World Cup concludes, now insists that his side will be going for glory against the beleaguered hosts.
“We are going to do everything to finish third,” he said. “We want to leave the World Cup unbeaten, something a Dutch side has never achieved.”
Van Gaal saw his side’s hopes of glory ended in a dramatic penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina on Wednesday night after 120 goalless minutes.
And he claimed the manner of their exit from the tournament was tougher to take than Brazil’s rout by Germany.
“It’s exasperating, it’s better to lose 7-1 than that (0-0 after extra time, 4-2 on penalties),” he said.
“To be deprived of the final by a penalty shoot-out without ever having been beaten, it’s the worst thing that can happen.
“What I take from this semi-final is that we didn’t lose, that’s hard.
“We went so close but the dream has disappeared in just a few weeks for this superb side that we put together.”
Van Gaal’s only absentee for the game with Brazil is Norwich midfielder Leroy Fer and he added: “I’ll use the players I think are mentally the strongest. The mind is stronger than the body.”
Paul Merson’s prediction
The third-place play-off is as memorable as your divorce papers when they come through. Nobody wants it!
Who can remember who won this game four years ago or eight years ago? Maybe it would have been good if it had been Brazil v Argentina because of the rivalry between those two nations, but I don’t think the Dutch want this game.
So Holland will rest everybody and I can’t see anything but a Brazil win because this is like a cup final for them. They have to win it. After losing 7-1 to Germany they can’t be losing again.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0 to Brazil

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