The Netherlands’ remarkable campaign ended on a high note after Robin van Persie and Daley Blind scored early goals to help give the team a 3-0 win over Brazil in the third-place game Saturday.
“We can look back at a very successful tournament,” Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal said. “I’m proud of my players.”
The Netherlands finished a World Cup unbeaten in regular play for the first time, having lost to Argentina on penalties in the semifinals. After finishing runner-up in 2010, the third place is the best position for the Dutch squad since it lost the final in 1974 and 1978.
The Brazilian fans loudly greeted the Dutch players after they received the third-place medals.
“I would like to thank all people in Brazil for their great support,” Arjen Robben said. “For us it was the best way to end this tournament. We fully deserved third place the way we played. It’s a very big achievement.”
The loss added to Brazil’s frustration at the home tournament following the disastrous 7-1 defeat to Germany. After the final whistle, the team was loudly booed by the nearly 70,000 fans that attended the match at the National Stadium in Brasilia. Many had already left even before the late third goal by the Dutch. It’s the first time since 1940 that Brazil lost two consecutive competitive games on home soil.
“It’s a terrible feeling, I don’t know what to say,” Oscar said. “After a huge loss to Germany, today we tried our best from the beginning to win third place but it wasn’t our day. We have to see what went wrong so we can improve for the future.”
Brazil conceding 14 goals in the tournament, the most ever for the team. The previous worst had been 11 goals in the 1938 World Cup. Now it conceded 10 in its last two games.
“It was supposed to be an even match but after the early goal things started going their way,” Scolari said. “I don’t think we played that bad. The players fought hard from the start. They created chances, so it’s difficult to lose 3-0. But they deserve all the credit in the end, they reached the semifinals.”
Van Persie converted a penalty kick three minutes into the match after Robben was brought down by Brazil captain Thiago Silva on the edge of the area. Blind added to the lead in the 17th with a shot from near the penalty spot after defender David Luiz made a mistake while trying to clear a cross in front of the goal. Georginio Wijnaldum rounded off the win in injury time with a shot inside the near post.
“It’s frustrating,” Silva said. “We didn’t deserve to have it end like this. But unfortunately it’s football. I have to apologize to our people. The fans supported us even during the 7-1 loss and again today. They booed in the end, but it was normal. They have feelings too.”
Brazil looked lost from the start, making many of the same defensive mistakes that marked the historic defeat to the Germans four days ago. The Netherlands took advantage with quick passes and speed in the attack.
Silva had to foul Robben after being beaten on the run, leading to van Persie’s firm left-foot shot into the right upper corner to put the Dutch ahead.
The Dutch wanted a red card for Silva for a professional foul, but Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi only gave him a yellow. Silva had missed the semifinal against Germany because of a yellow card suspension.
Blind added to the lead after Luiz failed to clear a cross, heading the ball right back to the Dutch defender for an easy goal.
It was the fourth time Brazil played in a third-place match. It beat Sweden in 1938 and Italy in 1978, and the only other loss had come against Poland in 1974.
The Netherlands had played in the third-place match one other time. It fell to Croatia 2-1 in 1998 after being beaten by Brazil in the semifinals.
Van Gaal, in his final match with the Netherlands before joining Manchester United, had to play without midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who was injured while warming up for the game.
Scolari made six changes from the team that started in the loss against Germany, the national team’s worst defeat in its 100-year history.