Ahead of the 3rd & 4th Place Play-off game later today, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal has said, “this match should never be played. I’ve been saying that for 10 years – it’s unfair…there is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions.”
Now whilst many may consider that the fixture holds little merit and is the game that nobody wants to play in, the fact is that when you enter the competition you know it is there, it’s part of the tournament and therefore it’s a possibility you may have to take part in it – whether you like it or not. Of course the only prize is that of becoming World Champions, but only one team can achieve that.
You might think that this game was a recent addition to the World Cup as a way of providing extra revenue and another fixture for the media to fill their pages or airtime with. However, the play-off was introduced as early as the second tournament in 1934 hosted by Italy, where Germany beat Austria 3-2.
But I digress. Van Gaal feels that to possibly end the tournament by losing two games is ‘unfair’. I don’t see it. If he’s talking about whether a coach stays in a job on the outcome of this play-off game, well again I don’t agree. A win over the Netherlands by Brazil tonight is not going to save Scolari’s position as coach.
Given that this fixture is likely to be the last as national coach for both men, how do they approach it? Do they field their strongest available team and go for the win? Do all those who haven’t played get a run-out? Surely they both want to leave their positions with a victory?
It will also be interesting to see how the Brazilian public react after the mauling on Tuesday. Will they get behind their team and come out in numbers, or will they shun the side that was widely condemned in the media in the days after the Germany defeat?
See Louis, there is a sub-plot…it’s just not all about you.