And now we've come down to just two - Germany and Argentina will square off in tomorrow's World Cup final, repeating the final duels we saw in 1986 (Argentina winning, 3-2) and 1990 (West Germany winning, 1-0). But today, we get the third place game, a meaningless affair that rewards the winner with . . . exactly nothing:
The Netherlands squad must stay at the World Cup when coach Louis van Gaal dearly wishes they could just go home. Next up? The game no one wants to play. Faced with the prospect of the third-place game against host Brazil on Saturday after a disappointing semifinal loss to Argentina, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal has criticized the match as meaningless and "nothing whatsoever to do with sports."
While the Dutch have little-to-no-interest in the third place game, having set their sights on winning the World Cup that eluded them in South Africa four years ago, a title that Arjen Robben was just inches away from clinching, for Brazil, today's game means everything:
Scolari on Wednesday said they have to find a way to move on, and the team already has a new objective: win the third-place game Saturday to give fans some reason to celebrate.
"Life goes on, we need to look forward to our next goal, and our next goal is to win the match for third place," Scolari said. "We have to play it. It has become our main goal."
After being devastated by Germany in a 7-1 rout that featured a blitzkrieg of goals in a five minute window that left the Seleção shell-shocked and beaten just 30 minutes into the match, the Brazilians desperately need a win to reclaim some national pride and begin healing for a nation where football is more than a way of life, more than a religion, but rather, a definition of the very essence of being Brazilian.
The game itself will kick off at 1 p.m. PST on ESPN, with the Brazilians boosted by captain and defensive stalwart Thiago Silva. Neymar remains out with a devastating back injury (but one that probably would have made no difference in the ultimate outcome against the ruthlessly efficient Germans), and for Big Phil, he'll have his first crack at making the fundamental changes Brazil need to get back to the top (plus it'd help if Fred . . . yes, Fred . . . wasn't your top striking option). Don't be surprised to see a revamped Brazilian line-up, with major disappointment Hulk likely on the bench in favor of youngster Bernard, who just might be the few Brazilians on the current roster to still be with Seleção in Russia in 2018.
For the Dutch, soon-to-be Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal will probably rest his captain and United talisman Robin van Persie, who has been ineffective in the knock-out rounds and nursing various minor injuries throughout the campaign. Likewise, quarter-final shoot-out hero Tim Krul will probably be rewarded with a start, while young reserve defenders Joel Veltman and Terence Kongolo will probably get their first taste of World Cup action. Expect Arjen Robben to captain the side in van Persie's absence (with Huntelaar likely to start up top) and it will be interesting to see Jordy Clasie likely step in the line-up, the young midfielder many expect to be the lynch pin for the Dutch in 2018 alongside injured Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman.
Our boys in Red, White, and Blue are out of the tournament, but the road to the World Cup in 2018 begins now, plus we have the CONCACAF Gold Cup to prepare for next summer, followed by us hosting the 100th edition of the Copa America during the summer of 2016. So, if you came out for the Yanks for the World Cup, stick around for a while - it won't be much longer before our boys are back and fighting for trophies for the Stars and Stripes.
Alright folks, it's time to tune in and see who will exit the World Cup with a meaningless third place finish, and who will walk away with two consecutive defeats after a deep run in Brazil. This is your World Cup third place game open thread, so fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune in today to watch Seleção versus the Oranje.