David Luiz a laughing stock as Brazil beaten by deadly Dutch
Louis van Gaal’s final act as Netherlands national boss saw him steer his charges to third place at the World Cup, and looks likely to prove the coup de grace for Brazilian counterpart Luiz Felipe Scolari.
‘Big Phil’, as he was christened by the British media, is leaving his own future up to the Samba Boys chiefs, but successive defeats to two European giants means at the business end of a hosted tournament means his prospects are bleak.
To deal with the positives first, however, the future is considerably brighter for Clockwork Orange. No, not the film and book it was based on, but Dutch football. We’ll come on Scolari’s selection choices later, but Van Gaal has left a clear legacy and recipe for success to the incoming Guus Hiddink.
Dirk Kuyt and perhaps reserve right back Paul Verhaegh apart, it is easily conceivable to see the other 21 members of the Netherlands’ World Cup roster being retained for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. That should be a breeze for Hiddink, and his backroom team that will see Danny Blind, whose son Daley has been a revelation, kept on and Ruud van Nistelrooy get a crack at coaching.
Clockwork Orange are odds-on at 1/4 to top their pool and book their place at the finals in France. What is much more attractive right now, however, is the 10/1 price on the Dutch being crowned champions of Europe in two years’ time. Punters will have to wait of course, but could well reap rewards.
An expanded format, plus a qualifying group that contains the Czech Republic and Hiddink’s former charges Turkey as the closest thing to credible challengers should make for plain sailing. Van Gaal’s clever blend of a youthful defence, marshalled by surprise star Ron Vlaar, and experienced, proven attackers operating in a 3-4-3 may be retained, as Hiddink has used wing backs before.
Elder statesmen Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneider and Robin van Persie have certainly shown they have enough left in their respective tanks to continue playing for the Netherlands. Hiddink will have his own favourites, but there is plenty to work with during his forthcoming second stint coaching his country and managerial swansong.
Now we come to Scolari. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but yet again his selections come into question. Coral experts outlined an entire starting XI’s worth of players Big Phil overlooked for the finals, but here our focus is on the third place play-off.
The sensible thing to do after being demolished 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final was to take stand-in skipper David Luiz out of the firing line. Never mind letters from children inspiring the former Chelsea man to pick himself up. Thiago Silva was back from a ban and replaced Dante in a match that was almost a free hit for Scolari.
He could and should have done the same thing with Luiz, letting Henrique – a Coppa Italia winner with Napoli last term – have a game instead. Both Scolari and Luiz exhibited serious lapses in judgment once again against the Dutch.
If defensive errors were glaring from him in the Germany game, then Luiz surpassed himself in the third place play-off with a truly terrible decision. Rather than heading a harmless cross behind for a corner, he opted to nod backwards facing his own goal blissfully unaware Blind junior was waiting to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net.
That was 2-0 and 15 minutes into a first half that saw home fans booing Brazil and jeering Scolari. Silva’s own stock took a hit here too as he brought Robben down in the second minute, allowing Van Persie to convert an early penalty. The wily winger fell into the area, while initial contact was clearly outside.
Pointing to this as a reason for defeat from a Samba Boys perspective is clutching at straws, however. Brazil were once again second best in every department; no Neymar to get more than two shots on target out of 11 and a support that turned toxic in a quarter of an hour.
Misery was compounded in second half stoppage time when substitute right back Daryl Janmaat left Maxwell, picked as Marcelo’s understudy by Scolari ahead of La Liga title winner Filipe Luis, for dead and crossed for Georginio Wijnaldum to sweep home.
If readers glanced at Coral’s alternative Brazil XI plugged above, then it will not have escaped notice that Big Phil ignored the claims of an entire back four of trophy winners when selecting his Samba Boys squad.
Granted, club success does not necessarily translate into the same thing at international level – just ask England fans. And yet, the likes of Luis and Miranda (both Atletico Madrid), young Marquinhos (PSG) and Rafinha (Bayern Munich) did not lift silverware in some of Europe’s elite leagues by accident.
Decisions about who to include make or break managers all the time, and Scolari’s now tarnished legacy – let us not forget he won the World Cup in 2002 – is certainly a classic case of that. The players he did pick let him down, however. Big Phil needed decidedly more up front from athletic attacker Hulk and some semblance of mobility from target man Fred.
Real strength in depth was missing from the forward line, while an almost identical midfield from the Confederations Cup success of 2013 suddenly lacked dynamism. We could go on. Expect sweeping changes to be made by Brazil in time for next summer’s Copa America.