Netherlands and Brazil will be facing none another in the unnecessary fight for third place in this year's world cup. For both sides this is a huge disappointment considering their expectations before the tournament, but they can really blame nobody else.
Brazil is there after crashing wildly on the expectations and their lack of preparation and focus. The humiliation by the Germans could give the players an incentive to try to get a bit of honor. On the other hand the huge level of disappointment at not playing the final could result in a poisonous lack of motivation.
The Dutch started the tournament flying against Spain, but steadily worsened. Already in their second match they struggled to defeat Australia. In their third match they played cynically to defeat a Chile side that was not nearly as good as people said. The Dutch then made it to the semifinal with a controversial win and an unimpressive penalty win against Mexico and Costa Rica respectively. Against Argentina they were unable or unwilling to take a risk and only had one meager shot on target.
With the offensive traditions and capabilities of Dutch football, this World Cup has continued the Dutch national team slide into boring result-oriented football that we saw in 2010. One of the most likable teams in the world has become one of the least unlikeable defensive side in the world.
The match today will be the fifth time the two sides are facing one another. In 1974 they played for the first time in a match where the Dutch won 2-0, exposing a violent and poor Brazilian side. This in fact led to a revision of Brazilian approach to youth development that still resonates today.
In 1994 they played what is perhaps the best match between them in the quarterfinal. Brazil was ahead but Netherlands equalized to 2-2, before the great Branco scored on an angry free kick
to give Brazil the victory.
In 1998 both sides met again in the semifinals, in a match that went into penalty kicks. With Cocu and Ronald de Boer missing for the Dutch, Brazil made it to the final against France, which until recently remained their heaviest World Cup defeat!
The two sides lastly met in the quarterfinal of the 2010 World Cup. Netherlands came back from being 1-0 down to winning 1-2 on two strikes
by Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch did not win many friends and went on to lose the World Cup final to Spain 1-0.
The match for bronze between Brazil and the Netherlands today, will be between two sides that have strayed away from their football roots; two sides that after being admired for decades, are now largely seen as shadows of their former selfs.
I hope that I am not the only football fan out there that hopes that the match today will be the first step in both sides returning to their former glory, and to the admiration of football fans all over. Football Total and Jogo Bonito have given the world of football so much that I hope they return to their roots.