Brazil & Netherlands,
Some say it’s a match for honor, but it feels more like the game to save face. Every World Cup has one of these, and every four years, it serves only as the place and time to stage the deflated feelings of 22 men whose dreams were destroyed way too close to becoming reality.
As they drag themselves to fulfill a commitment, only the die-hard and the emotionally nearsighted will believe that there’s any purpose at stake. The Dutch may have been there one too many times, and Brazilians always equated third place to a shot at being last.
Nevertheless they will soldier on, bless their bleeding hearts, and many a time it’s been an entertaining clash. Something to do with nothing being worth anything any longer, or really, the last display of their fighting spirit, triggered by sheer sportsmanship.
It’s doubtful that anyone in the Netherlands takes the sobriquet, ‘best nation to have never won the cup,’ with any sense of pride. Which is a pity because they really have earned it. And this time they did started it all with a bang, thrashing the world champions, Spain. It was downhill from there.
As for the Brazilians, oh they’re still hurting alright, still reeling too much to care. The moving pictures that circled the world, of fans copiously weeping after Tuesday’s massacre by Germany, are still too fresh in everybody’s mind for them to be able to wipe the slate clean and put up another battle today.
The agony that both teams endured throughout the tournament will surely last even longer, as an entire generation of brilliant Dutch players will be retiring soon, and a whole set of assumptions by Brazilians about themselves, pulverized for good, will have to be replaced by a more realistic vision for the future.
Let’s hope, though, that at least for half an hour, players will rediscover the joy of football just for the sake of its beauty, and produce if not drama, then at least a few great moments to remember. After all, it’s the last time anyone will see them playing together as such. So it’ll be fitting for them to create a dignified farewell.