For some teams, certainly, the chance of a bronze medal does little to ease the pain of having fallen at the final hurdle before the Final itself. For others, it is a chance to do their Nation proud, or a chance to show the World that they are ready to contend for future honors. For Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, for example, the third place playoff was a coming of age for a relatively young team.
Tomorrow’s game between Brazil and the Netherlands is, or at least certainly could be, a bit of both. For the Brazilians, an utterly humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans in the Semi-final on Tuesday has put them in an awkward situation. They are at home, playing in a tournament they felt they were destined to win, riding on a wave of optimism and 200 million hoping hearts. Or they were, until Germany crushed their dreams in the most emphatic of ways. Now they must prove to their nation and to themselves that they are better than the 7-1 scoreline suggests. A resounding win in their final game would do little to reverse the negative public opinion surrounding them and their most recent game, but it would do far more than a second straight loss.
As for the Dutch, well, Coach Louis van Gaal has already publicly stated that he believes the third place game is a waste of time (source: The Daily Mail) and that FIFA should abolish the match all together.
I personally disagree with this sentiment. For the neutrals, the prospect of a Brazil/Netherlands matchup under any circumstances is rather exciting. Neymar might be out, but Arjen Robben & Robin van Persie pitting their skills against a back line of David Luiz and Thiago Silva is still something great to look forward to. Add the mental and emotional condition of the Brazilian team into the mix, the need to win a game that has little competitive value in order to restore some badly hurt pride, and the tie becomes mouth-watering.
And finally, and most selfishly, the opportunity for the Chelsea boys involved to end the tournament on the highest note possible, given the circumstances, is something that I am grateful for. True, former blue David Luiz was more at fault for Brazil’s defeat against Germany than current blues Oscar, Ramires or Willian, but as those three were integral parts of the Chelsea squad last season, I would like to see them return to West London in the highest possible spirits.
To tomorrow, then. For third place and a chance at redemption, for Blues and former Blues. The whole world waits for one of the most meaningful “meaningless” games that has been played in recent memory. And no matter who wins, this game is just another in a long list of reasons why the 2014 World Cup has just been so, so great.