2014 WC third place

Watch: Robin van Persie makes one Dutch fan very, very happy

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There’s a good chance you’ve seen this Netherlands fan in the stands, cheering on his team. He wears a modified military/sombrero type hat, a red, white and blue striped bowtie, and a jacket adorned with pins. All oranje, of course. The man’s also been known to hoist his replica World Cup trophy when the camera pans to him.

Turns out that Winifried Witjes, a shop manager from Elst, is more or less the biggest Netherlands supporter in the world. He follows his team from tournament to friendly, and estimates that, since 1988, he’s attended 80% of their games.

On Saturday night, after Netherlands beat Brazil 3-0 to claim their third place medal, Robin van Persie rewarded Witjes for his dedication and love of the national team. The striker strode toward the crowd, pointing straight at Witjes. He then handed the superfan his captain’s armband — and was rewarded with a kiss on the hand from van Persie.

Watch — it will make your heart melt just a little:

Awww. That man’s evening was made. Or quite possibly his life. Witjes didn’t get to witness his beloved team lift the World Cup, but he did have his devotion rewarded in an extremely touching manner. Well done, Robin.

Scolari wants Brazil players to “honor the shirt”

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Brazil may have a tough afternoon ahead. Just four days ago, they were demolished 7-1 by a fantastic Germany side, with Oscar’s goal in extra-time not even qualifying as a consolation. Now, they must face Netherlands to compete for third place in the World Cup, an honor that seems dubious to most.

(READ MORE: THE PRESSURE IS OFF, SO THIS ONE MIGHT BE FUN)

The hosts also must do this in front of a crowd of fans who might well be antagonistic, raining boos upon the side that humiliated themselves in the semifinal. Many Brazil supporters left at halftime of that limp defeat, but many of the ones that did stay clapped Germany, indicating their disgust and dismay at the Seleção.

Usually, third-place matches do not carry that much pressure for those participating. After all, they’ve already lost out on the chance to hoist the trophy, so they can throw caution into the wind — or at least, attackers forward. But this particular game has some significance for Brazil. They have a demoralizing defeat to get past, and the best way to do that is to put on a better performance.

Preferably, a winning one. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insists he did well to bring the team into the tournament’s top four. But at the same time, he wants his players to do their best to give the country something more to be proud of. Scolari said:

I know my career will be marked by this defeat but we have an obligation to move on and think about the next goal, which in this case is the match for third place on Saturday in Brasília. I know it’s a much smaller dream than we all wanted but we have to honor the shirt of the national team.

Brazil face Netherlands at the Estádio Nacional this afternoon. Kickoff is 4 p.m. ET.

Brazil vs. Netherlands: less pressure means more potential for fun

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On Tuesday, Brazil lost to Germany in a most heartbreaking fashion, down five goals by the break and ultimately losing 7-1. On Wednesday, Netherlands’ loss was just as cruel, albeit in a different way, with the Dutch taking Argentina to penalties before crashing out.

Now, the two teams must meet to determine who will be crowned third-best of the 2014 World Cup. The match to determine third-place takes place today, at 4 p.m. ET.

Many players and managers involved in this penultimate match of the Brazil tournament don’t see the point. They came so close to having one hand on the World Cup trophy. In the case of Brazil, their pride is shattered. For Netherlands, they played a match that exhausted, both mentally and physically, only to miss out on the final by mere inches. Why play for the honor of third place, when the only real honor is being proclaimed world champions?

(READ MORE: FRANZ BECKENBAUER QUESTIONS THE NEED FOR THIRD-PLACE MATCH)

A quick scan of World Cup history gives no concrete reason for the introduction, in 1934, of the third place match. Perhaps it’s our need, as sports fans, to have things placed into a neat order. First place will be sorted, second will be the team that lost the final. But third, that tantalizing bronze medal — that’s hard to determine if the two sides that lost the semis have never met.

But while the teams involved may hate the idea of playing out this game, preferring instead to head home to lick their wounds, it’s usually a match loved by those who watch. The pressure is off both sides. Throughout the tournament, up to the semifinals, teams needed to play cautiously, intent on surviving to make it to the next round.

These teams, however, did not always follow the script. Sure, Holland took their last two games to penalties, but they demolished Spain 5-1 before playing out a 3-2 thriller with Australia. Brazil, meanwhile, beat Croatia 3-1 and Cameroon 4-1 before that historic demolishing in the semifinal.

That means we should be in for some fun soccer today. Brazil will want to be remembered in a better light, rather than as a side that conceded five in less than twenty minutes. As for Netherlands, they have nothing to lose. After their shambolic showing in Euro 2012, no one thought they’d be moments from a second consecutive World Cup final. It’s one last chance for the oranje to show just how far they’ve come.

Finally, there’s a great chance this match could be a thrilling, chaotic game, hearkening back to those heady days of the group stages. In the past eight tournaments, a total of 35 goals have been scored in the third-place match. Only in 1990 did the game provide less than four goals. What sort of excitement might we see today?