July 11, 2014 12:54 pm

Netherlands wants to finish World Cup unbeaten in regular play

Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands (R) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Netherlands and Mexico at Castelao on June 29, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

BRASILIA, Brazil – 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.

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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.”

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.”

The coach had said he didn’t think it made sense to play the third-place match with two teams coming off extremely disappointing losses. Brazil fell 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals, its worst defeat ever.

“I’m disappointed, we came here we only one objective and we had the confidence and faith that we could achieve this objective,” Gaal said.

“We are not the best team in terms of quality, I always said that, but we are the team that is most difficult to defeat. This was being confirmed during the tournament, so I’m quite ashamed we never made it to the final.”

© The Associated Press, 2014

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