As a friend commented today, when fans start singing “It’s just like watching Brazil” in the coming season, it will be less likely due to an outstanding performance from their team, and more likely as they are on the end of a thumping. The host nations dreams of winning the World Cup on their own turf was wobbling after 11 minutes, in real trouble after 23, and all over after half an hour. Absolute humiliation, players being abused, fans in tears and a nation heartbroken. Scores like 7-1 happen in five-a-sides or mismatched preseason friendlies, not World Cup semi finals. It was an astonishing game of football.
I called it quite early on. Even before Brazil fell behind to Thomas Muller’s unmarked finish, and having spent the previous few days going over England’s performances in the tournament (more on that to come shortly), I commented on Germany’s superior passing and movement. Despite some early pressure on their goal, they looked the superior team. By 2-0, my observation was that this could get embarrassing, and it took only another six minutes for the case to be proved. It’s not often I agree with Alan Shearer’s punditry, but he was spot on in saying that ‘Die Mannschaft’ were extremely impressive, however Brazil made it ridiculously easy. Their formation reminded me of a game I played in years back, where our manager decided that our full backs, of which I was one, should push forward as much as possible, and played a deep lying midfielder to enable us to do so. However the deep lying midfielder only really did the job when he felt like it, and we found ourselves 4-0 down after 20 minutes. From the start, Maicon and Marcelo bombed forward, intent on attack, with Luiz Gustavo dropping in to cover. Germany took full advantage, especially on Marcelo’s side, overloading and moving the ball quickly and creating chance after chance.
Teams in the situation Brazil found themselves in, with the opposition having scored, confident and on top would be wise to stay tight, try and keep possession and slow the game down and work their way back into it. With the Germans pressing aggressively in midfield, ball retention was near impossible, and the much criticised Brazilian forward line didn’t have the pace or ability to stretch the high defensive line. However, without their suspended skipper there was no discipline and no leadership on the pitch, and without their best player, there was panic at how they could possibly get back into it. It was so bad that you got the feeling the Germans took it easy after a while to either save their fellow professionals from even further embarrassment, or more likely, save their energies for the tougher challenge that awaited them on Sunday. The only problem for Brazil then would be if Germany had a player of high energy, desperate to win a place in that final – cue Andre Schurrle’s half hour cameo to kill off a brief period of Brazilian attacking at the start of the second half.
Germany’s confidence will be flying going into Sunday’s final, and they will be overwhelming favourites to beat Brazil’s great rivals Argentina. Despite the humiliation, it’s probably the case that the home nation would rather see Germany win again than Lionel Messi lifting the trophy, however the Argentinian back line with Javier Mascherano in imperious form in front, have been a tough nut to crack, and it’s unlikely to be an open game or an easy one to call. As for Brazil, there will be a chance to redeem some pride in the 3rd/4th play off, although Arjen Robben is likely to be excited at the prospect of facing such a demoralised team. It’s difficult to see where Brazil go from here. There were signs that the likes of Thiago Silva and Neymar were papering over some pretty large cracks, and certain players are simply not up to the job. The free flowing teams of the past are very much in history, not just in terms of results, but the type of football being played. There is a lot of work to do if they are to be serious contenders in 2018. But for them and other teams that have failed to match expectations (looking closer to home here), take a look at where Germany were 14 years ago…finishing bottom of their Euro 2000 group with a single point and a proud footballing nation in a mess. The German FA set about building a structure to produce a top performing international side….some lessons to be learned?