Imagine the heartache and embarrassment felt by Brazil’s soccer team as it walked off the pitch following Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to Germany in a World Cup semifinal match.
It would have been an excruciatingly painful defeat if Brazil had lost 1-0 or on penalty kicks following extra time. But beaten by six goals? In Brazil? Where its national team had not lost a competitive home match since 1975?
What could be worse for Brazil?
Well, how about losing the World Cup’s third-place game Saturday against the Netherlands?
It could happen. Brazil’s heart – as a team and as a nation that identifies itself with its soccer team unlike any other – is broken and hasn’t started to heal after being ripped from its chest and stomped on by Germany for 90-plus minutes.
Now the team is expected to play hard for third place?
Imagine Brazil trailing early against the Netherlands. Don’t expect the home crowd to sit in stunned silence as it did in the semifinal against Germany. Jeers and whistles will be loud and clear, and one of the biggest targets will be coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who said “the shame will never leave me.”
And a victory by Brazil would only be a Band-Aid on a compound fracture.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal and his players weren’t shy Thursday about their opinion of the World Cup’s third-place game: “They can keep it,” Netherlands forward Arjen Robben said. “Only one prize counts, and that is becoming world champions.”
The only nation likely to have been thrilled to play in a World Cup third-place game would have been the United States, which never has reached the semifinals.
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