Thursday, July 10, 2014

Brazil 1 – Germany 7: Watching history being made in a World Cup semi-final

Previously I’ve blogged about how I wanted Germany to win the World Cup and about my antipathy towards Brazil. So, the semi-final had an edge for me, mainly because this was the test whether Germany were going to have their fragilities exposed in a harsh, partisan arena.

The general reaction to the result and the manner in which it was achieved has been a semi-stunned ‘Wow’. A lot of people thought Brazil were poor (for Brazil), and that Germany were good, but this was the kind of epic walloping nobody ever thought possible.

The sequence of the German second to fifth goals was so fast the TV replays couldn’t keep up. They would cut from the slow motion to real-time and the Germans were passing it into the net again. It reached a point where the Germans seemed to stop celebrating. It felt awkward; embarrassing even.

So, what went so ballistically wrong for Brazil. Here are my thoughts:
  1.  They weren’t very good. This sounds simplistic, but you can achieve quite a bit in football without being particularly skilful as long as you are well-organised and calm (see the USA in this World Cup for an example of that). Brazil weren’t a very good team, but they didn’t know that. So they were poorly organised and hot-headed, particularly David Luiz, who has to be one of the most wayward defenders ever.
  2.  Brazil let the emotion get to them. From the way they held up a shirt as a tribute to the injured Neymar in a way that looked like they were mourning the fallen war dead, through to the bellowing of the national anthem’s second verse once the music had stopped, the team were being governed by their emotions. The game-plan, if they had one, went south early on, people forgot what they were meant to be doing, and they couldn’t compose themselves once the Germans started tapping the goals in.
  3. They couldn’t regain their balance. Losing five goals in the first 30 minutes is terrible. But the reason Brazil let in so many is that after the third goal – a wonder strike from Toni Kroos – they didn’t get their heads together. They looked to be in shock, uncoordinated, almost in denial of what was happening.
  4. Germany were ruthless. Although it has subsequently emerged that the German players decided not to push too hard in the second half, there was no hesitation in the way they took advantage of Brazil’s multiple failings before the break. Some teams might have eased up earlier, but Germany weren’t screwing up in the semi-finals again.

This match was historic. Brazil’s biggest ever defeat. It was the biggest ever victory in a World Cup semi-final. Someone said that it was Brazil’s first home defeat for 25 years. Miroslav Klose’s goal made him the all-time top scorer in World Cups, overtaking the Brazilian legend, Ronaldo – just to add extra despondency to the Brazilian defeat.

There’s a sense when you watch an event like this unfold, that you get the feeling you are watching something a bit special. It’s a moment that will become iconic in the history of the World Cup and maybe football itself. I can’t remember the last game that felt this way – maybe the England semi-final against West Germany in 1990, the one with Gazza’s tears. Like that, this game has now been burned into my memory. A historical moment I was lucky enough to see.

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