After losing a bitter semifinal to Argentina in penalty kicks Wednesday, Dutch Coach Louis Van Gaal wanted to do what almost every other World Cup coach was free to do after his team was eliminated from the tournament — namely, go home.
That didn't happen, though. Instead the Netherlands will have to play Brazil, the other semifinal loser, in Saturday's consolation game in Brasilia. And despite the name, Van Gaal finds no consolation in having to play a game to determine which is the best team not to make the final.
''This match should never be played,'' Van Gaal said. ''I've been saying this for 10 years. You shouldn't have teams playing for third and fourth place. There is only one prize that counts and that is being world champion."
Van Gaal has reason on his side. The game will be the third in seven days for the Dutch — and the first two went to overtime, leaving his team exhausted. But Van Gaal said he's also worried about his team's mental health. The players should be celebrating making it to the semifinals, he said. But a loss Saturday would send the Dutch home with consecutive losses.
"The worst thing is, I believe, that chances are that you lose twice in a row," he said. "A tournament where you've played so marvelously well, that you go home as a loser just because you could possibly lose the last two matches. "
The Brazilians, meanwhile, appear to be looking forward to the game. Not only will they have an extra day of rest to prepare but they'll also be playing in front of a home crowd, eager to erase the stain of Tuesday's 7-1 loss to Germany, the most one-sided World Cup semifinal in history.
''Life goes on, we need to look forward to our next goal, and our next goal is to win the match for third place,'' Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. ''We have to play it. It has become our main goal.''
Study sessions paid off
Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero was spectacular in Wednesday's penalty-kick tiebreaker, stopping two shots to send his country on to the final for first time in 24 years. Afterward, his coach, Alejandro Sabella, said luck had nothing to do with that performance.
"Romero has this huge binder regarding all teams and all players — how many penalties they scored and where they scored the penalties, where they were shooting," Sabella said.
Romero said he spends a lot of time studying his notes. But Wednesday, he also got from help from his teammates between shots.
"I was thinking of a lot of things," he said. "I had my companions from the bench helping me, [telling] me where each player could shoot. But what was going through my mind [was] I had many of the options."
Suarez appeal denied
FIFA has turned down an appeal from Luis Suarez and the Uruguayan soccer federation, letting stand the player's four-month suspension for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder during the final game of group play last month.
Suarez's sanction also includes a nine-game ban preventing him from playing for his national team.
But FIFA said the ban won't prevent Suarez, who scored an English Premier League-leading 31 goals for Liverpool last season, from undergoing a medical exam and other prerequisites for signing a transfer deal with Spanish club Barcelona.
"The player cannot have any activity related to football but a medical examination for a transfer? Yes," Claudio Sulser, chairman of FIFA's disciplinary committee, told a television interviewer. "The sanction is not linked to transfer rights."
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