FOR Brazil, there was no consolation.
Scorers: Netherlands - van Persie (3 pen), Blind (16), Wijnaldum (90)
Luiz Felipe Scolari had insisted that the third-place play-off, which Louis van Gaal had admitted he regarded as a waste of time, was vital for restoring some pride to Brazilian football after the humiliation of the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-final. That sort of shock, though, cannot be so easily dismissed, and Brazil had lost the game almost before it had begun, conceding twice in the first 17 minutes as they suffered another defeat to complete arguably the worst week in their football history.
Brazil seemed locked in the same hapless pattern. This game wasn’t played in quiet the same emotional frenzy as the semi-final, but still there was the morbid obsession with the injured Neymar, his kit laid out in the dressing-room. Neymar himself seems to be the only Brazilian not mourning his back injury. The press conference he gave last week was both moving and sensible, but his presence on the bench couldn’t draw Brazil into a more proportionate response.
Only two minutes had gone when Robin van Persie slipped a pass through for Arjen Robben. His pace took him into the space Brazil had recklessly left behind their defensive line and Thiago Silva, back from suspension after missing the semi-final, was gripped by the same panic as everyone else. He hauled down Robben and, although the foul had probably ended by the time Robben tumbled into the box, it was as clear a professional foul as its possible to imagine. The Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi incorrectly gave a penalty and, just as incorrectly, showed only a yellow card, the third red Brazil have escaped in the tournament. Van Persie thumped home the penalty.
The embarrassment went on. Every time the Dutch went forward there were gaps. Robben, kept so quiet by the compact nature of Argentina in the semi-final, revelled in the lack of attention.
With 17 minutes gone, he played Jonathan De Guzman, who was a late replacement for Wesley Sneijder after he tweaked a hamstrung in the warm-up, into space on the right. He crossed, David Luiz headed mystifying back into the centre of the box, and Daley Blind had time to take the ball down and smack it into the top corner.
Brazil did offer some threat going forwards and Oscar sent two awkward deliveries fizzing across goal, but they seemed mesmerised every time the Netherlands counter-attacked.
Oscar should even have had a penalty midway through the second half as he was caught by Blind – the contact so strong the Dutchman ended up being stretchered off – but instead suffered the indignity of becoming the first player booked in he tournament for diving.
Georgino Wijnaldum turned in a Daryl Janmaat cross in injury-time as the Dutch took a third place they had made clear they cared little about, while Brazil limped away to lick their wounds, their tilt at some kind of salvation have become a drab non-event, undermined by more almost incomprehensibly poor defending. They could be licking those wounds for a long time yet.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Luiz, Thiago Silva, Maxwell,
Paulinho (Hernanes 57), Gustavo (Fernandinho 46), Ramires (Hulk 73), Oscar, Willian, Jo.
Netherlands: Cillessen (Vorm 90), De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Clasie (Veltman 90), Blind (Janmaat 70), Robben, van Persie.
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria).