After tough semifinal losses against Germany and Argentina, Brazil's David Luiz (left) and the Netherlands' Arjen Robben, respectively, will take the pitch one last time for the World Cup third place match on July 12, 2014 in Brazil.
What a long, strange, intense — and amazing — month of World Cup soccer it's been.
Two matches remain, and before we determine a winner — the best soccer nation in the world — we have to find out who comes in third. So while you wait for the redemptive rematch between Germany and Argentina, here's what to expect in the World Cup third place match.
Brazil vs. Netherlands, 4 p.m. ET
Before we get to the actual meat and bones of the matchup, the very nature of the third place match requires a moment of consideration. What is the purpose of the third place match?
Some say it's a nice break from the soul-crushing intensity of the rest of the tournament. Both sides play with a lot less to lose, since truthfully the only placing that matters at the World Cup is first. Still, countries such as Sweden, which hasn't been to a World Cup since 2006, still look back on their third place in 1994 with fond memories.
But those proud, accomplished feelings of a third-place finish in the World Cup come from countries who were living out Cinderella stories that year. For top-tier teams heavily favored to win the entire tournament, the third place match feels more like a snub than it would have felt to a dark horse team like Costa Rica this year.
What's more, you have all the semifinal drama from both the Netherlands and Brazil, a factor in both team's motivation to win.
For the Netherlands, playing for third means almost nothing — so little, in fact, that head coach Louis van Gaal went out and said that FIFA shouldn't hold the third place match.
Maybe this is bitterness stemming from the fact that the Netherlands were so close to their third World Cup final, and had a shot at winning the country's first title in history. When it comes down to a penalty shootout like it did for the Dutch on Wednesday, that makes for a heartbreaking loss.
It's a loss made worse when it's at the hands of Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero — the player van Gaal reportedly taught how to block penalties at AZ Alkmaar— who became a national hero blocking two Dutch penalty kicks.
Or maybe van Gaal has a point. With a day less to rest, the Netherlands could likely lose twice in a row — adding salt to a fresh wound. Whatever the case, van Gaal's players will still put those bright orange jerseys on and play for the last time in Brazil.
Brazil also finds themselves caught between two overwhelming feelings. To take the pitch after the embarrassing, disastrous, record-breaking 7-1 loss to the Germans might be the hardest thing the Brazilians will ever have to face.
Days after the Mineirazo, it's possible many players are still feeling humiliated by the greatest loss on Brazilian soil since 1950 and the dreaded Maracanazo.
Luiz Felipe Scolari noted moments after their semifinal defeat that the team still had to play on Saturday, with the chance at placing third. Scolari's statement probably did very little in remedying the pain players and fans were feeling.
In retrospect, with days to grieve and mourn, there's more hope in Scolari's words compared to van Gaal's — a much more admirable spirit about taking the pitch. Maybe it's because Brazil's soccer federation — the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol(CBF) — will reportedly receive $22 million if the Selecao takes third; more likely it has to do with the squad's need to redeem itself.
But can Brazil actually take third?
If you look at overall performances this World Cup, you'd have to give it to the Netherlands. Brazil ultimately made it to the semifinals, but their group stage performance and their knockout round run was lacking. It became clear how much Brazil relied on two of their star players, Neymar and Thiago Silva.
Brazil's one glimmer of hope on Saturday will be that Silva will return to the pitch after his one-game suspension, so it's possible we won't see the complete breakdown of the Brazilian defense that we saw against Germany.
As the return of Silva means a much stronger defense for Brazil, it also spells out problems for the Netherlands.
A strong Argentinian defense proved to be the bane of the Dutch attack, led by Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Though the two — along with Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas Jan Hunterlaar — were able to find some shots on goal, the attempts that weren't thwarted by Argentina's Javier Mascherano's stalwart defense were lacking in finish.
Ultimately, this third place match is a strange one to judge. Brazil and the Netherlands don't necessarily want to win as much as they just don't want to lose again.
Tags: BRAZIL, ENTERTAINMENT, SOCCER, SPORTS, THE NETHERLANDS, World Cup