11 July 2014 14:46
After semi-final humiliation, Neymar has called on Brazil to salvage a measure of pride in the FIFA World Cup third-place play-off.
Having seen his participation in the tournament ended by a cracked vertebra suffered in the quarter-final win over Colombia, Neymar watched on as the hosts capitulated in dramatic fashion in Tuesday’s last-four clash with Germany.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side conceded four goals inside six scarcely believable first-half minutes on the way to a 7-1 hammering as the dream of World Cup glory on home soil was shattered at the Maracana.
As it is, they must settle for the scant consolation of a play-off with Netherlands in Brasilia on Saturday, after Louis van Gaal’s men suffered the agony of a penalty shoot-out defeat following a 0-0 draw with Argentina in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
And Neymar, Brazil’s only likely absentee for the clash as captain Thiago Silva returns from suspension, believes the game in the capital provides a chance for the team to begin the healing process.
“I told them [the rest of the squad] we started together so we should finish this together regardless of the result,” he said.
“What matters is that we are united and we are going to finish this with honour on Saturday.
“We had the chance to be champion in our country and we failed. We didn’t get it right, we fell short. We know we had a good campaign, but we did not play our best.
“We did not show how good Brazilian football is, its superiority and charm, but we have to look at this last match as if it were the final.
“Victory won’t assimilate all the pain we feel today, but it is important.”
Netherlands, meanwhile, seemingly have little interest in the encounter, with Van Gaal already voicing his criticism of the concept ,while Arjen Robben has been similarly disparaging.
“They can keep it,” he said. “Only one prize counts and that is becoming world champion.”
Van Gaal, in his last match in charge of the national team before departing to take over at Manchester United, is likely to make changes.
Robin van Persie has struggled with a stomach complaint and looked out of sorts against Argentina, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the man most likely to deputise as the spearhead of the attack.