Play-off gives Brazil a chance to ease some pain
Published 12/07/2014 | 02:30
LOUIS VAN GAAL believes that tonight's third-place World Cup play-off in Brasilia is a game that "should never be played", but it is doubtful the fixture has ever been freighted with more relevance for a host nation.
Tuesday night's humiliation against Germany seems to have thrown Brazil into such a deep vale of hurt, the need for some kind of redemptive stance now becomes compelling.
Nothing defines the country's self-image like football and, right now, that image is a tattered flag. Beating Van Gaal's Dutch team wouldn't undo that damage, but it might offer a marginally softer perspective through which the hosts can reflect upon this past month.
They got a lot of things wrong, not least the almost creepy attempts to beatify Neymar before Tuesday's game when a more appropriate gesture might have been a minute's silence for the two people crushed to death under a collapsed World Cup fly-over in Belo Horizonte four days earlier.
Chile should probably have evicted Phil Scolari's team as early as the last-16 stage and, let's face it, were just the width of a crossbar from doing just that.
Brazil had two world-class players – Barcelona's Neymar and PSG central defender Thiago Silva.
The rest could have been pulled from the Golden Pages.
Finishing third in the world wouldn't ever have constituted the nation's pre-tournament prayer but, right now, it might just provide them with a fire-escape from the worst of the self loathing.