Devastation . . .
Destruction . . .
Carnage . . .
Not words to describe a horror film, rather to portray the events of 8 July. You can add “humiliation” and “embarrassment,” too, when describing the night Germany demolished tournament host and favourite Brazil to reach the World Cup final they eventually won from Brazil’s rival. While the 1-0 victory over Argentina secured the big prize, it was the annihilation of the hosts that sent shock waves through the footballing world in one of the most shocking sporting moments of 2014.
Entering the game, both sides’ chances were considered relatively even. Brazil were without Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, but were also riding on a wave of passion while playing at home with a feeling that this was their tournament to win. The passion and emotion were clear in the moments before kick-off, particularly during the Brazilian national anthem. Spine-tingling in acapella form, ‘Hino Nacional Brasileiro’ was more stirring than it had been at any point during the tournament. Meanwhile, mourning the absence of their star player, Julio Cesar and David Luiz symbolically held Neymar’s jersey while singing.
It was immediately obvious from this point that Brazil were riled up, perhaps too riled up. They were overcome by emotion . . . emotion that would eventually lead to an incredibly ill-disciplined performance and capitulation. To say Germany merely took advantage, though, would be a mis-statement. Jogi Löw had drilled his players well and knew exactly which areas to target in the Brazilian setup, most notably the side containing Marcelo and David Luiz, two unquestionably talented players, but also two individuals capable of losing their discipline and leaving gaps in the defence.
While certain Brazilian players did perform poorly on the night, particularly in defending, Germany were sensational all over the pitch, with defenders getting forward to support the attacking midfield setup. In the centre of the pitch, the Germans were simply fantastic, with Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira turning in what must rate as the greatest performances of their careers to date. The central midfield duo’s movement and slick passing left their opponents completely overwhelmed, and was fundamental to the collapse of the Brazilian side. They were also aided by the ever-impressive Thomas Müller, who continued his phenomenal World Cup form with yet another excellent and selfless showing.
The numbers and key moments really do speak for themselves. Within half an hour of the game kicking off, Germany were already 5-0 up, a scoreline that included four goals netted in six minutes. For a large portion of the first half in particular, it appeared that Germany may find the net with every single attack. What was so impressive was that despite already finding themselves in a more than comfortable position, Low’s side never once took their foot off the gas in the first half. They would have been all too aware of the crescendo of boos raining down on the Brazilian players. They would also have noticed that some in the crowd had been reduced to tears. Nevertheless, they continued at full throttle, not trying to humiliate their opponents, but rather display just how good they were as a side. Just how seriously Germany took the game, even up seven goals, was evidenced by the furious reaction that greeted Oscar’s consolation strike. Rather than accept that it was still a phenomenal result, Manuel Neuer laid into his defence, castigating them for their failure to secure a clean sheet. Despite Brazil’s injury-time goal, this was Brazil’s worst-ever defeat at a World Cup and was also their first competitive home defeat in 39 years. The game also saw Miroslav Klose become the all-time top scorer in World Cup history. There is more than a touch of irony about the fact that Klose passed Ronaldo’s record against Brazil.
Luiz Felipe Scolari declared it the “worst day of my life,” and if he is to ever have a worse one, he will be a very unfortunate man. The thoughts of Germany’s stars on the match make for interesting reading. Mats Hummels has revealed how the players reminded each other at halftime of their duty to respect their opponents. This perhaps explains why they continued to press for more goals rather than to try moments of skill and magic. Thomas Müller’s meanwhile provides a very honest insight, speaking of his “shock” at the unorganised nature of Brazil and how it allowed the Germans to break time and time again.
It is common, especially in England (the country from which I am writing), to hear the Germans described in stereotypical fashion as ruthless and efficient. Never has this been more apparent than it was on that night. Germany simply swept aside their hosts in one of the most destructive football performances you are ever likely to see. In the end, Brazil were defeated so comprehensively for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the passion, emotion, and channeling of the ‘do it for Neymar’ cause ended up becoming a distraction. The national anthem and holding of the forward’s shirt made a semi-final in football’s showpiece tournament seem something of a side-show.
Secondly, Brazil were simply very poor. Players constantly strayed out of position and followed the ball far too often rather than their men. The performance was completely lacking discipline and was worryingly reminiscent of the sort of football you can see in a school playground.
Thirdly, Germany were excellent. Yes, Brazil’s performance played into their hands, but they capitalised in a situation where many opponents would be overly awed by the occasion. Instead the ‘away side’ were irrepressible, completely dominating proceedings and overwhelming their opponents.
This was a moment unlikely to ever be seen again on such a grand stage. In what was the biggest ever scoreline in a World Cup semi-final, Germany dispatched Brazil in startling fashion. It was the performance of the year, which led to a World Cup triumph for the ‘Golden Generation’ of German football. It was not just the moment of 2014, but one of the greatest moments in football history.
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