Brazil will contest the Netherlands in Saturday’s third place play-off match, with much criticism directed at the credibility and importance of third place play-off matches. Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal recently called for Fifa to scrap the third and fourth place play-off matches, blaming the affects a potential loss could have on his players.
With the credibility of the third-place off match called into question, here’s a good time to look into some of the best moments and matches in the history of the third place play-off.
1958: France vs Germany
France faced Germany in a thrilling third place play-off encounter, which saw France’s Just Fontaine net in four goals in France’s 6-3 win over bitter rivals West Germany. In terms of excitement, this match has no equal. Only in 1982, which saw Hungary despatch El Salvador 10-0, has more goals been scored in a World Cup match.
1974: Brazil vs Poland
With the loss of key players Pelé, Gerson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão and Clodoaldo, Brazil looked nothing like the magical 1970 team, although Zagallo was still their manager. Brazil’s decline came into fruition in 1974 who, after being steam rolled by the Dutch, were no match for Poland and finished the tournament in fourth.
1978: Italy vs Brazil
With the score 1-0 in favour of the Italian’s, Brazil equalised following a wonder strike from Nelinho. Brazil went on to win the match, and claim third spot, 2-1. However, this particular match has been cemented in history due to the brilliance that was Nelinho’s strike, which has been regarded as one of the best World Cup goals.
1998: Croatia vs Argentina
Going into the third place play-off encounter, Croatia’s Davor Šuker was level on five goals with Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta and Italy’s Christian Vieri. The Croat put in a match winning performance, and netted the winner to secure a famous third-place for Croatia, and claim the golden boot for himself.
2006: Germany vs Portugal
The host’s involvement in the third place play-off encounter certainly enhanced the match’s general appeal. Germany played a high tempo match, with the hosts scoring three goals in 20 minutes with the help of 21-year-old midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. His first goal beat the Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo with sheer pace. The German did not stop, and netted his second goal, which swerved away to the keeper's left, in the 78th minute.
Germany’s performance in this match was seen as a catalyst for future success, with young talent such as Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski asserting themselves as future stars of the game.
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