Where do Brazil go from here? How does a champion team survive a 1-7 margin of defeat? This is a country that is supposed to be the spiritual home of football. How can they possibly motivate themselves to play for the third place? Tough questions with no concrete answers.
History will remember this team, and each member, as the ones that lost 1-7 to Germany in a World Cup semifinal. But that is not all they need to be remembered for. ‘Playing for pride’, as a concept, is not as woolly as it seems, and Brazil must certainly do all they can to get as far away as possible from that doomed score-line. From experience, no team that has made it to the semifinals of a major tournament likes to play for third and fourth place. It happened to us in Italia ’90, when we had to play the hosts, in what was to be my final World Cup appearance for England, and I remember how tough it was to stay focused after having come so close to a place in the final.
We had nothing like Brazil’s excuse. We, too, had lost to Germany in the semis via a penalty shootout, when we missed two chances and they converted four. Against Italy, the fans were really behind their team, which added spice to the encounter, and we had to work hard to overcome our disappointment and put up a fight.
We eventually lost 1-2 on a disputed penalty, but our fans turned out in thousands at Luton to cheer us for having got so close, which was an unexpectedly warm welcome home.
Brazilian fans may be feeling slightly less forgiving at the moment, but their team ought to realise that things can only get better from here, because they can hardly get any worse. So from the word go against Holland, they need to show the fans that they mean business. They must come out of the nightmare of that semifinal, pull themselves back from their shell-shocked state, and get back to reality. On a micro level, I know what Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar, in particular, must be going through.
Twice in my career I have been at the receiving end of seven goals in a game, and I know all too well the helplessness of an unprotected goalkeeper, watching the ball whiz past again and again, as though he was in a training session. Honestly, Holland are expected to win this one on form and will be out to prove a point. At the same time, Brazil have everything to gain and nothing to lose. So this playoff could be full of vigour and intent.
The writer is a former England goalkeeper