Before the World Cup started I feared the Germans. As a diehard Brazilian fan since 1982 ( first World cup I was aware of) I felt the Germans would be the greatest threat to the Selecao’s sixth World cup title. Losing 7-1 to the Germans in Belo Horizonte certainly wasn’t in the script but this World Cup has been hard to predict and no established ‘big side’ has stood out over another. We have seen good performances from all the top nations intermingled with some stuttering.
In 1982 I fell in love with Brazil and the ‘champagne football’ on display. Socrates,Zico, Eder, Falcao and Junior were majestic and flicks,feints, dummies were like second nature and so natural to these maestros. The most beautiful side in the world was brought down to earth by a more defensively sound and canny Italy in the decisive second round group stage game where Paolo Rossi scored a wonderful hattrick. Since then then the Brazilians have meshed their natural flair and skill with the European organisation and structure, paying extra attention to protecting their goal. The Brazilian production line of talented attacking players like Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka have meshed nicely with world class defenders and defensive midfielders like Julio Cesar, Mauro Silva, Dunga,Gilberto Silva,Aldair,Lucio and Thiago Silva bringing World cup titles in 1994 and 2002 along with a final appearance in 1998. In 2014 I dislike what Brazil has become under Scolari, an attritional style which is hard on the eye but alas my support for the Selecao remains.
The Germany or indeed West Germany of old were always organised,efficient, workmanlike, not attractive to watch but successful all the same.However things changed after two quarter final placings in WC 94 and 98 and failure in Euro 2000 to come out of their group. A proud football nation humbled themselves and the German football authorities (DFB) traveled the globe searching for best practice and did case studies of successful nations so that they could learn and apply accordingly to their own country. The DFB and the Bundesliga decided that an overhaul of the youth structure was required and priority was placed on developing technically proficient homegrown players. Academies were created by all clubs in the top two divisions. Well, the fruits are clear to see. Many of the German stars now like Reus, Ozil and Mueller have been produced out of that revamp. Germany has made it the semis in 2006,2010 and now the final in 2014. Technique has now been married to the old German traits of organisation and efficiency and the players produced now are a testimony to this.
THE SLAUGHTER AT BELO HORIZONTE
Brazil never showed up and despite the absence of injured superstar Neymar and the defensive lynchpin Thiago Silva a lot more organisation and fight would have been expected. Scolari did not seem to respect the strengths of the Germans in midfield and instead of going 4-3-3 with three defensive minded players in the midfield like Fernandinho, Luiz Gustavo and Ramires/Paulinho he merely replaced Neymar with Bernard and stationed Oscar back into the centre in the No.10 role behind the woeful striker Fred. The Germans exploited the space behind Marcelo repeatedly as the leftback is fond of getting forward and the covering runs of Hulk and the two defensive pivots were non-existent while Muller stationed himself high up on the right. The Germans stifled the Brazilians high up the pitch not allowing them to come out of the back and Fernandinho and Gustavo were unable to collect the ball off the back four. Marcelo’s awful positioning along with lazy performances from Luiz and Fernandinho contributed largely to the humiliating scoreline.
The Germans executed and Toni Kroos was magnificent in midfield dictating the tempo, spraying accurate passes to his front three and scoring a couple goals himself Lahm assisted Muller with overloading the right where the Germans had a field day and despite Scolari’s attempts at halftime to tighten up the midfield and add some energy to the effort it was ultimately futile.
What a catastrophe for Brazil! As renowned South American football guru TimVickery said, Brazilian football has been resting on its laurels for too long and its development programmes need a serious revamp. The Germans are back in full force and good luck to their opponents in the final.
Let us let this sink in though. Germany’s best player at the moment, Marco Reus did not set foot on the field for the World Cup due to injury before the tournament. My goodness!