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Netherlands looking to finish World Cup unbeaten

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POSTED July 12, 2014 12:32 a.m.

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal is trying to motivate his players for the third-place match against Brazil by giving them the mission of becoming the only Dutch squad to finish a World Cup unbeaten in regular play.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is just hoping Brazil can finish on a high note in front of the home fans following the devastating 7-1 loss to Germany.

After being eliminated by Argentina on penalties, the Netherlands has the chance of ending the tournament without a loss in seven matches. The Dutch won its first four games, then drew Costa Rica 0-0 in the quarters and Argentina 0-0 in the semis.

Van Gaal had been saying the third-place game was pointless and that he would rather not play it, but on Friday he changed the tone a bit, saying that going out without a loss would be a good reason to stay motivated.

“We are realizing that there is something else we need to defend and we have to go for it,” Van Gaal said through a translator. “Never a Dutch team returned home unbeaten, and that has to be the next target.”

Scolari said the third-place match will be important to give Brazilian fans some reason to celebrate in the team’s final World Cup appearance at home.

“We already know that we can’t reach our main goal anymore,” the coach said. “But we still have the third-place game and we want to win so we can give at least some happiness to the Brazilian people.”

Scolari said he is expecting to make two or three changes to the lineup that played against Germany, but didn’t give any hints. In a training session earlier Friday, he used a lineup without striker Fred, who has struggled throughout the World Cup.

Brazil captain Thiago Silva, who didn’t play against Germany because of a yellow card suspension, was in the team that lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“I couldn’t be more motivated,” Silva said. “It’s a different objective, but we will be playing for our honor and our dignity. When you wear the Brazilian jersey you have to respect it and you always have to play motivated. We have to move on.”

It is the second time the Netherlands is playing in the third-match game at a World Cup. It fell to Croatia 2-1 in 1998 after being beaten by Brazil in the semifinals.

“Losing hurts a lot, the pain doesn’t go away so fast, but it’s part of sports,” striker Dirk Kuyt said. “There’s always the next match. We want to win here and return unbeaten. It will be easier to get on the plane with a good feeling. It would be wonderful to close this World Cup by winning. We are still not satisfied, but third place gives you a much better feeling than fourth place.”

Van Gaal recalled that even the great teams of 1974 and 1978 were not able to finish the World Cup without losses. The 1978 squad had two losses in the tournament in Argentina.

“There’s still something for us to do, we haven’t lost a match and we are working to keep it that way,” Van Gaal said. “I’ve been focusing on Brazil and I hope that I can prepare my players so we can play a good match and defeat Brazil for third place. That way we will be writing history, we will say that we played seven consecutive matches and never lost.”

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