SAO PAULO – Furious Netherlands head coach Louis Van Gaal blasted FIFA for its refusal to scrap the World Cup’s third-place consolation game and insisted the controversial playoff should be consigned to history.
Van Gaal’s Dutch side will be forced to play host nation Brazil in Brasilia on Saturday after losing its semifinal to Argentina in a heart-stopping penalty shootout at Arena de Sao Paulo on Wednesday night.
The coach, who takes over English Premier League team Manchester United at the end of the tournament, claimed he has urged soccer’s hierarchy to abandon the game for more than a decade, to no avail.
“I think that this match should never be played,” said Van Gaal less than an hour after his team’s 0-0 tie and subsequent 4-2 loss on penalties. “I have been saying this for the past 10 years.
“We will just have to play the game but it is unfair. We will have one day less to recover and that’s not fair play. But the worst thing is, I believe, there is a chance that you lose twice in a row in a tournament in which you’ve played so marvelously well. You go home as a ‘loser’ because possibly you’ve lost the last two matches.”
The third-place game is much derided and is rarely memorable. Teams often select weakened teams in order to give playing time to squad members who have gotten little playing time in the tournament.
This time around, the game will have some significance for Brazil, which is desperately seeking to regain some pride following its crushing 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany. But playing for third place obviously means very little to Van Gaal.
FIFA has insisted on keeping the match as part of the World Cup schedule and it has been a part of the format since the inception of the competition. Even then, however, it was not very popular.
The United States won third place in the inaugural tournament in 1930 when its scheduled opponent, Yugoslavia, refused to play the game.
Van Gaal hinted he may make widespread changes to his lineup on Saturday and could not hide his displeasure.
“This game has nothing to do with sports in my opinion,” he added. “But I have said this 10 years or 15 years ago and nothing changed. No tournament, no football tournament, especially in the last stage, should you have players playing for third or fourth.
“There is only one prize and one award that counts for anything and that is becoming champion.”