It was supposed to be a close game. Even without the captain Thiago Silva and the talismanic Neymar, the game was expected to be tight. On paper, Brazil still had most of their experienced players, with the likes of Fernandinho, Dante, Marcelo regulars at the top European Clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Yet, the floodgates just opened the minute from kickoff. In what was an incredible first-half six minutes, several dangerous breakthroughs down the right flank for the Germans had exposed Marcelo the Brazilian left back terribly, culminating in a gult of goals. Thomas Muller had opened the scoring with his 10th World Cup strike after Germany cleverly blocked David Luiz in the box to allow the forward space for a simple finish. This was immediately followed by Miroslav Klose’s goal, becoming the first player to score 16 goals at the World Cup in front of the watching Ronaldo.
On any other night that would have been headline news, but it barely registered amid the chaos. Toni Kroos followed Klose’s lead with two in two minutes as Brazil were left chasing shadows. Sami Khedira scored the fifth. And Brazil lost their plot altogether, legs seemingly stuck to the grass surface as the world metaphorically crashed upon them.
Losses, for that reason, are not merely unacceptable. They are unthinkable. Much like the broken fans around the stadium, the Brazilian players were left in a hypnotic daze. The clean sheet of the Germans was only smudged near the conclusion of hostilities with a late strike from Oscar, a smudge that still left the goalkeeper Manuel Neuer furious. And obviously, that was far from any consolation; but rather a rude awakening.
In this report, we will have to look at the tactical nous of German Manager Joachim Low, whose ambitious tactics won them the quarterfinals against France despite lacking wingers that their French opponents had. Of course, the greater questions remain about Scolari’s methods, and the need to rethink the Brazilian approach to football; which in the build up to the semi finals have been extremely rugged and physical – a stark contrast to their famed samba style of football.
Germany’s exceptional high pressing style
As impressive as Germany’s ruthless, selfless counter-attacking was the manner they prevented Brazil playing their midfield passing game. The high line that was so perilous (if ultimately successful) in the 2-1 victory over Algeria was perfect against Fred, a slow striker who doesn’t offer any running in behind the opposition. He always wanted to come short, and Germany were happy pushing up and using a very high line.
In turn, this gave the midfield license to press, with Kroos marking Fernandinho and Khedira pushing up on Gustavo. The fourth goal summed up this simple strategy perfectly – Kroos caught Fernandinho in possession, swapped passes with Khedira, who was also pushing forward, and scored the fourth. Khedira netted the fifth after David Luiz had charged out and left Dante isolated.
It was simply becoming too easy. Kroos summed up Germany – brilliant technically but combative and powerful too.
Given Germany’s audacious high pressing style, passes into the midfield zone simply weren’t an option, so it was entirely natural that the Captain Daviz Luiz was forced to either hit accurate long balls, or attempt to dribble forward.
To Luiz’s credit, he hit some excellent long diagonals to the left, usually to Hulk, and went on a couple of mazy runs, which worked nicely as Germany were effectively man-marking in midfield, so this forced someone to leave their man and stop David Luiz. Klose, in fairness, worked very hard too, often battling back – and at one stage receiving David Luiz’s elbow in his face when trying to make a tackle.
Germany’s astonishing demolition of Brazil was the brutal culmination of a long, slow decline for the five-time world champions whose production line of world-class players seems to have ground to a halt.
Brazil have not had a player in the top three of the world player of the year award since Kaka won the prize in 2007 and their highest-placed player for 2013 was Neymar, who came fifth.
Whereas their 2002 World Cup-winning team included a plethora of world-class performers, including Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, the current side is hugely dependent on Neymar who has only one year’s experience of the demands of European club football.
After reaching three successive World Cup finals between 1994 and 2002, Brazil fell at the quarterfinal stage in 2006 and 2010 before crashing to their unprecedented 7-1 defeat by Germany in Tuesday’s semifinal.
But Brazilian football’s problems go deeper than results.
Many feel that Brazil is now paying a heavy price for switching its emphasis from a game based on skill and technique to one based more on brute force and speed back in the 1980s and 1990s.
Zico, regarded as one of best players the country has ever produced, once said that he would not have made the grade nowadays.
“I’m sure that if I went for a trial at a football club today, I would be rejected for being thin and small,” he said during the Soccerex conference two years ago.
“You don’t see Romario-type forwards in the youth divisions, [the center forward] is always a big guy,” he said referring to the stocky striker who led their 1994 World Cup attack.
“That’s where the deterioration of Brazilian football begins.”
“If we had won that game, football would have been different,” said Zico (pictured). “Instead, we started to create football based on getting the result at whatever cost, football based on breaking up the opposition’s move, of fouling. “That defeat for Brazil was not beneficial for world football.” Image credit: http://futebolistasroxas.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/zico.jpg
Literally everything went wrong for Brazil. Perhaps the selection of Bernard sums it up best – it was a hugely surprising decision, and was it partly because Bernard is a Belo Horizonte boy, and received a tremendous reception from this crowd when he played in this stadium at the Confederations Cup last year? Maybe Scolari was trying to replace Neymar’s popularity, rather than his attacking impact. The effect on the pitch, of course, was that Brazil were horrendously broken into two sections – not that Bernard was, individually, at fault.
This was a colossal failure on every level, however. Scolari has taken the blame, and some of his selection decisions must be questioned. But the long-term question is more serious, and must concentrate on why Brazil has stopped producing world-class attacking players – which meant a dependence upon Neymar, underperformers like Hulk and Fred guaranteed of their place, and a cynical, aggressive and sometimes dirty approach which turned many neutrals against Brazil, once the home of beautiful football.
As for Singaporean World Cup fans, the National Council of Problem Gambling (NPG’s) advertisement has since been subject to much ridicule and laughter. A story which Jimmy Fallon has since picked up in “The Tonight Show”. A serious PR disaster indeed.
Image Credit: http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201407092030-0023915