The starting line-ups
In one of the most incredible matches in World Cup history, this ridiculous scoreline was an entirely fair reflection of Germany’s dominance.
Jogi Low named an unchanged side from the XI that had narrowly defeated France in the quarter-final.
Luiz Felipe Scolari was without the suspended Thiago Silva, and the injured Neymar. Dante was the obvious replacement at the back, while tricky winger Bernard was a surprise choice to replace Neymar, with Oscar moving inside to become the number ten. Luiz Gustavo returned after suspension, with Paulinho dropping out.
Incredibly, this game was finished after half an hour – it was 5-0, and Brazil were simply trying to avoid further embarrassment.
Germany attack into Brazil’s left-back zone
In such a stunningly convincing victory, it seems strange to highlight one zone where Germany were superior. Everything went right for them, everything went wrong for Brazil – there wasn’t one single aspect where the hosts even competed, let alone were better.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to pinpoint Germany’s main area of dominance – down their right, in Brazil’s left-back zone. For the first half hour, the number of times Germany broke in behind Marcelo was extraordinary, and equally ridiculous was the fact Marcelo didn’t the hint, remain in his position for a few minutes, and allow Brazil to get a foothold in the game. Instead, he kept motoring forward, and the German attacks kept on coming.
There were so many examples in the first half, that it’s worth going through them one-by-one…
At 3:17, Marcelo moves forward into the opposition half to close down Thomas Muller, but falls asleep when Germany win a throw. The left-back is caught badly out of position, and Sami Khedira sees the space, sprints into it, and Muller throws him the ball for a quick counter-attack.
Khedira plays in Miroslav Klose, and Germany have their first opportunity to break in behind because Muller has sprinted past Marcelo – who has fallen asleep for a second time in the same move – but Klose’s touch is poor, and the pass doesn’t come. Muller screams at Klose, frustrated he’s been denied a golden opportunity to break the deadlock, but he would have further opportunities. This was Brazil’s first warning sign, and this area of the pitch decided the game.
At 6:50, Marcelo is caught obscenely out of position as Brazil lose possession in midfield, and while Luiz Gustavo is attempting to cover, Muller has remained high up the pitch on the right flank, ready to break in behind. Khedira knocks the ball out to Muller, who has space to cross to the far post. He picks out Mesut Ozil, who unselfishly cuts the ball back to Khedira. His goalbound shot hits Toni Kroos.
At 9:35, Marcelo receives a short pass from Hulk inside the final third, tries a stepover and pass, but concedes possession and allows Khedira and Muller to break into space. Gustavo again tries to cover but is outmuscled by Khedira, and Marcelo actually recovers very impressively, sprinting back to tackle first Muller, then Khedira, atoning for his own error. Still, he raises his hand to apologise to his teammates, recognising how mistake.
As it happens, Germany took the lead from the resulting corner – Muller was unmarked after Germany blocked off his marker, David Luiz.
At 13:22, Muller tries to play a one-two with Khedira, but Marcelo blocks him and concedes a free-kick.
At 16:40, Marcelo’s attacking play resulted in one of Brazil’s best moments, where he and Hulk combined. Marcelo races in behind Philipp Lahm – but the German captain produces a superb sliding tackle inside the box.
At 18:35, Marcelo plays a ball forward into attack, which is intercepted by Jerome Boateng. Marcelo had continued his forward run, so Muller is yet again unmarked on the right. Kroos switches the play to that side, but the ball is overhit and Muller has to scramble to keep it in.
At 21:30, Marcelo again darts forward in advance of the ball, but the move breaks down. Yet again, Muller is breaking in behind the half-covering Gustavo, and his near post cross is cut out.
At 21:50, Lahm starts becoming involved in an attacking sense, and Hulk’s defensive deficiencies become clear. From a throw-in, he and Muller combine on the right. Then, Lahm moves the ball inside to Kroos, and Muller runs inside Marcelo and tees up Klose for the second goal.
At 23:45, Ozil sees all the fun his teammates are having on the right, so drifts to that flank, further overloading Brazil. He combines with the overlapping Lahm, whose cut-back finds a Muller mis-hit, and the ball runs through to Kroos at the far post, who makes it 3-0.
By this point, other problems were taking over. The pattern of Germany’s final third passes before the 30min mark, and after that point, are very different – the right-sided bias is less obvious.
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.
Germany’s simple (but perfectly implemented) midfield press meant Brazil’s defenders had nowhere to go when they received possession. Gustavo and Fernandinho were being tracked, while Oscar tried to collect possession in very advanced positions, in behind Bastian Schweinsteiger – it took him surprisingly long to realise he needed to drop deep and work the ball forward more gradually.
Look at the passing in the first half hour – Brazil simply played the ball across the defence, while Germany worked it forward quickly:
By a certain point, of course, Brazil’s players had completely lost confidence, and the midfielders simply stopped looking for the ball.
David Luiz’s performance has received most criticism, which is natural considering he was the captain, and he completely lost his head after half-time. But in the first half he was the only Brazilian making things happen. Passes into the midfield zone simply weren’t an option, so it was entirely natural that he hit accurate long balls, and attempted to dribble forward.
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.
Towards the end of the first half, the lack of cohesion in Brazil’s side was incredible – six defending, four attacking, and no link between. The six couldn’t get the ball to the four, the four didn’t help the six win the ball. It was the classic broken side, and not something usually witnessed at this level.
At half-time Scolari brought on Paulinho and Ramires for Hulk and Fernandinho, simply hoping to inject some energy into a lifeless performance. Brazil switched to more of a 4-3-3, with Gustavo behind Ramires and Paulinho, and in reality this is probably the shape Scolari should have started with. In fairness, Brazil did rally at the start of the second half, forcing Manuel Neuer into some good saves.
The crucial change was Germany’s, though. Andre Schurrle replaced Klose, and just like against Algeria, played upfront and offered pace in behind – which was perfect as Brazil piled forward and left space at the back. He scored two goals, including another assisted by Lahm from the right.
Scolari’s final change, replacing Fred with Willian and playing without a striker, was another attempt to bring more energy to the side, although in reality Brazil needed so much more. Oscar’s 90th-minute goal wasn’t even a consolation.
This should be regarded as one of the most historic defeats football as seen: the hosts, pre-tournament favourites and the most successful side in the history of the World Cup humbled 1-7 in their own country, in the semi-final. Everyone is wise after the event, and many will suggest Germany were always likely to win, but in reality, with the bookmakers had Germany and Brazil at exactly the same odds to triumph. This was considered 50:50, and expected to be a tight, tense game – that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Instead, it was an absolute thrashing. There were two key reasons Germany won. First, Muller (and Khedira and Lahm) broke in behind Marcelo, who endured a horrendous opening first half hour. Second, the midfield pressing was intense, enabled by the high defensive line, and Germany refused to let Brazil play through midfield.
Everything was carried out brilliantly, but it wasn’t actually a particularly complex approach from Germany, and you sense they had another gear if required. By the second half, they were surely saving themselves for the final, with substitute Schurrle attempting to play his way into the XI.
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.
Holland v Argentina preview
Tags: brazil, full-back, Germany, khedira, klose, kroos, loew, marcelo, muller, pressing, scolari, WC2014, WC2014SF
In the end, it all felt uncomfortable. All so desperately awkward. As an impartial observer and a guest in Brazil at its own carnival, witnessing the humiliation at the Estádio Mineirão was almost too much. The descent to the press conference room as the arena emptied became an exercise in avoiding eye contact with the locals. Those clad in yellow were numbed by the whole experience, trudging out into the night in disbelief at the embarrassment they had endured. The German contingent chorused almost apologetically in celebration, but all the home support wanted to do was escape. This was too much.
Recollections of that semi-final require context. The conviction that Brazil would prevail to fulfil the slogan emblazoned on the team bus – “Brace yourselves: the sixth is coming” – had grown through the World Cup’s group stage, expectations fuelled through the drama of a penalty shootout win over an excellent Chile in the last 16 and the impressive nature of their dismissal of the much fancied Colombia in Fortaleza.
By the time they arrived in Belo Horizonte even their cause seemed just. Neymar, the team’s talismanic forward, had been snapped by Juan Camilo Zúñiga, his back broken. Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players had arrived at the semi-final wearing white baseball caps bearing the message Força Neymar, David Luiz and Júlio César holding aloft the forward’s No10 shirt during the national anthem. Romance dictated the collective would prevail for their broken hero. This was their moment.
The problem was that outpouring of emotion had merely masked the reality. This Seleção were simply not in Germany’s class. Their defence was ramshackle, denied Thiago Silva through suspension but still fundamentally flawed and permanently disorganised. The management’s tactics were naive, with even the selection of Bernard – once an Atlético Mineiro player – a decision made by the heart, not the head. There was no protection, no structure, no resistance. Joachim Löw’s team merely poured through them at will. Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira and Philipp Lahm ran amok.
Brazil had not been beaten in a competitive game on home soil since 1975, but they shipped five goals in 18 minutes before the half-hour mark. César screamed in frustration but those around him merely shrunk as if wishing the turf would swallow them up. The crowd could only gasp at the brutality of it all, summoning a few boos when André Schürrle added a sixth and regularly abusing Fred, who could do no right. They even offered a smattering of applause when the Chelsea forward added a seventh.
By the time Scolari was offering his excuses in the aftermath rumours were already emerging of rioting in São Paulo, vines of the burning of Brazil flags doing the rounds on social media. There were concerns as to how the tournament would conclude, particularly with Argentina still involved and in contention to claim the trophy in their rivals’ back yard, though the truth was the defeat had rather knocked the stuffing out of the home nation.
They had no energy left to revolt, other than to voice frustration at Scolari and, eventually, hound him from his position. All that remained was deflation after one of the most remarkable capitulations this stage had witnessed. The thrashing was staggering but seemed too emphatic for comfort. It was hard not to share Brazil’s grief at the way their dream died.