The Netherlands secured the consolation of third place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ courtesy of a straightforward 3-0 victory over Brazil, who were denied an opportunity to sign off from their own tournament in style at the Estadio Nacional.
Recording a third consecutive clean sheet at the competition, Louis van Gaal’s charges therefore depart for home – and in the coach’s case, new employment in club football at Manchester United – having avoided defeat in standard or extra time. For Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men, though, there was little to celebrate.
Perhaps the sharpest of edges to the spine-tingling renditions of the Brazilian anthem was missing, but voices were raised pre-match as A Seleção sought redemption. Yet hopes of banishing lingering memories from their semi-final dismantling by Germany were dashed within 90 seconds of kick-off in Brasilia.
Robin van Persie’s slide-rule pass inside the left channel of the hosts’ defence married with a blisteringly fast Arjen Robben dash in from his right and the winger was pulled down at pace by returning captain Thiago Silva as he surged dangerously within shooting distance. Penalty, said the referee, and Van Persie found the top corner with aplomb.
On 17 minutes, it was 2-0. Jonathan de Guzman, a late inclusion in Van Gaal’s line-up following an injury to Wesley Sneijder during the warm-up, collected a Robben pass and drove to the byline. Once there, he lofted a seemingly harmless cross into the area only for David Luiz to nod a header straight to Daley Blind, who took one touch to control, another to set and then calmly found the roof of the net.
Oscar rasped a long-range drive into the palms of Jasper Cillessen, De Guzman clipped too high from a central position after being set up by more incisive work from Robben, and Georginio Wijnaldum had to position himself perfectly at the back post to glance away a troublesome free-kick that was travelling kindly towards Paulinho. Yet another devilish Oscar set-piece then somehow eluded his team-mates following a Luiz Gustavo flick-on.
Keen to increase his World Cup goal tally at the outset of the second half, Robben completed a rapid one-two with Blind from a free-kick scenario and powered into the Brazil box; making amends, however, was Silva, sliding in quickly to block a blast from the 30-year-old as Julio Cesar steeled himself to prevent another addition to the scoresheet.
Ramires single-handedly earned space for a shot at Cillessen shortly before the hour mark by skipping around a challenge from centre-back Ron Vlaar at the edge of Dutch territory, but the Chelsea midfielder dragged his effort wide to the left of the target. Next, the Netherlands goalkeeper was unconcerned by Luiz’s dead-ball piledriver.
Seeking an injection of creativity and invention, Scolari introduced Hernanes and later Hulk to proceedings, but the home nation were met with frustration at almost every turn. When Oscar did scurry into freedom on the left side with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, the playmaker disappointingly curled high and wide of the far post.
Wijnaldum, in fact, added further gloss to the scoreline for Van Gaal’s team in the first minute of stoppage time, firing home low at the near post after being left unmarked in a central position inside the box and found by an accurate delivery from the right flank by substitute Daryl Janmaat.
So the history books will show that the Dutch finished third at the 20th edition of the World Cup, relegating Brazil to fourth spot. Now the focus here and everywhere around the world shifts to the last remaining outcome to be decided on world football’s greatest stage – with Argentina and Germany competing for the Trophy on Sunday.