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Brazil v Netherlands: Plenty to savour in a fixture that never fails to disappoint

In the past two decades, it has offered up the very best football has to offer.

There have been goalkeeping howlers, as England fans of a certain age will testify. Stars have been born: now with over a century of international appearances to his name Bastian Schweinsteiger burst on to the scene with two wonders strikes in the 2006 edition. There have been all sorts of goals; comedic deflections, precise curled free kicks, lightning counter attacks and even a 10-second strike.

Yet, the fixture is still much maligned among football fans across the world. Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands coach, has lamented: "This match should never be played. It's unfair."

The match in question is the third-place play-off. Yes, that meaningless precursor to the World Cup final, the pinnacle of international football. Many question why the game continues to be played. No-one remembers who comes third, let alone who loses in this battle of the defeated. In a knockout competition it is certainly a valid opinion to believe that finishing anything other than first is irrelevant. After all the Scottish Cup, Champions League and even the European Championships do not have an equivalent.

So why does FIFA insist on continuing the agony for the losing semi-finalists? Whether the fixture is inspired by tradition or the desire to increase revenue we don't know. We probably will never know but that is beside the point.

We should not need an explanation for a pointless game, we should just enjoy it for what it is. But Van Gaal may believe that it can put on a damper on a team's strong World Cup performance. "The worst thing is I believe that, chances are, you lose twice in a row and a tournament where you've played so marvellously well you'll leave as a loser after losing the last two matches."

He has a point but his is the view of a pessimist and, well, football fans are eternal optimists.

There is another side of the coin, however. For disgraced teams such as Brazil there will be no offer of unequivocal redemption, but they may be able to rekindle hope in a nation's passion. It is unlikely that Luiz Felipe Scolari will stick with the same side that went to war with Colombia and were devoid of any discipline and skill against Germany. A fresh team-sheet may offer a fresh start.

After hitting rock-bottom, a reshuffle may give Bernard, Oscar and Hernanes the opportunity to play with a freedom unseen from the hosts in the tournament so far. They can demonstrate that there is still life left in the old footballing giant. They have the chance to prove Brazil can still be Brazil.

Individually, David Luiz will want the chance to prove he is more than a headless chicken with a big heart. Marcelo will want to remind us that he does understand the necessity of defending to be a left-back. Luiz Gustavo will be out to show he can be more mobile than a mannequin in the heart of the Brazil team.

Likewise Van Gaal, despite his self-confessed genius, has a point to prove. After a cagey and defensive performance against Argentina he will want to show he has the ability to put out a side that can break teams down; not just disarm them on the counter-attack. Wesley Sneijder will hope to reproduce the form of his formative years, not wanting to accept that he is past his best.

In the grand scheme of things there is no denying that the third-place play-off is a menial fixture.

However let's ignore the whys, accept that the fixture is here to stay and enjoy it. This World Cup has provided goals and excitement in equal measure - the right and proper response is to halt the cynicism, enjoy the game and watch with intrigues as the dethroned kings begin the painful process of rebuilding a glorious empire.

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