Why third-place match is important for Brazil
In these dark times for Brazil, a match for third place has suddenly become very important
BRAZIL v HOLLAND
(Tomorrow, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)
Huge dark clouds rolled over Rio hours before Brazil's World Cup semi-final with Germany on Tuesday, and they have not gone away.
As the countdown to the final on Monday morning (Singapore time) at the Maracana gathers pace, the sun continues to be blanked out, rain is having its way and Brazil's fans know why.
I spoke to a group of them on their way to the airport for the team's third-place play-off against the Dutch in Brasilia tomorrow morning and they believe god is so sad after the harrowing loss to the Germans he can't bear to turn on the light again.
They only managed a weak laugh. There is still a heavy pall hanging over the country after the national team were taken to school by the Germans.
Despair is everywhere but Luiz Felipe Scolari's men can begin the healing in their final match of the 2014 World Cup.
Nothing will take away the pain of what happened in Belo Horizonte, but, as the stricken Neymar said at a surprise press conference after he visited his teammates yesterday morning, tomorrow's match must be about restoring some pride and, crucially, the start of the climb back up for the nation.
It will also likely be the match to say farewell to Scolari.
He guided Brazil to a record fifth world crown in 2002, skilfully meshing a side peppered with world-class talent and similar-styled egos into an all-conquering unit.
But the 65-year-old will bow out forever tarnished as the manager who was powerless to stop a historic humiliation that plunged Brazil into mourning, and Brazilian football into chaos.
Calls for his head have been loud.
Zico says Sao Paulo coach Muricy Ramalho should be tasked with winning back Brazil's place at the top of football's mountain.
Former Corinthians manager Tite has been mentioned in some circles and quite bizarrely, the name of former ringmaster Vanderlei Luxemburgo has also cropped up.
Scolari will be desperate to leave with a final win, even if it is a match few pay heed to in the history books.
It will be important to him, it will be critical as the first balm on a searing national wound.
Hangovers in such circumstances are extreme and hugely difficult to overcome and maybe the Dutch will find it even tougher to deal with after their jarring loss to Argentina.
Louis van Gaal and his men are dealing with a case of what might have been, Brazil have only the "up" button left on their elevator.
I would think Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder will all want to play in what is probably their final bow at the World Cup, but van Gaal will be tempted to give Holland's future a taste to tempt their tastebuds for the Euro 2016, and beyond.
Scolari will restore captain Thiago Silva in his defence to ensure calm and physical presence - so damagingly missing in the semi-final - but he will surely hesitate from fielding a flood of reserves in this game.
In Neymar's absence, the 22-year-old Oscar must start to show growth.
He was inconsolable after Tuesday's nightmare, but, blessed with considerable creative ability, he must begin to show he has the maturity to run games.
Willian and Bernard are also young enough and will be given the chance to prove their worth in attack.
Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho have gone from midfield titans to stalled engines after 90 minutes of football, but age is on their side and maybe this game will provide them the opportunity of slight catharsis.
It has been said over and over that Brazil are a nation of 200 million football coaches.
In football shows on various TV channels and radio stations, in interviews and press conferences and sponsor appearances and roundtables at this World Cup, you get the likes of Junior, Ronaldo, Mario Zagallo, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, Cafu, Kaka and Zico being pressed for answers and opinions.
They guest-write in various newspapers.
Garrincha has a stadium named after him. Pele seems to be everywhere.
Brazil are the only side to have defended the world title.
The Jules Rimet trophy was retired by this country.
This is a serious football nation, and it is in serious pain.
The road to redemption in 2018 for once-mighty Brazil starts in what is usually a meaningless run out for third place.
Argentina last won the World Cup 28 years ago. Germany's third title came in 1990.
Brazil have been world champions twice in that time, to give some perspective, even if these are dark times for Brazilian football.Their next coach faces a mission of huge challenges. New mouth-watering talent must be found and blooded to shine alongside the star Neymar, and the clutch of players that will survive the cull after this tragic World Cup. The 2015 Copa America in Chile will be vital, and the elusive men's Olympic gold medal has to be a target for the hosts.
All roads lead to Russia 2018 for Brazil. The journey starts now, and Scolari and his men can at least take the first step.It is time they turn the light back on.