By Edward Perez
Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as Brazil was routed at home by Germany on July 8 in its worst ever defeat in international football. Coming off a 2-1 win over an impressive Colombian side, Brazil was expected to at least challenge the Germans in what was predicted to be a grueling battle between the two strongest sides in the world.
However, what made it so easy for Germany to brush aside Brazil and advance to the World Cup final with a whopping 7-1 victory over the South American giants? Quite simply, a bit of bad luck that ruled out Brazil’s captain, center back Thiago Silva, while its jewel and creative attacking midfielder Neymar was out with a fractured vertebra, leading to a lack of composure and formation on the part of the Brazilian side.
Prior to its semifinal match, Brazil had come out on top in one of the most physical matches that I have ever seen. The quarterfinal game between Brazil and Colombia was so intense that it more closely resembled a brawl than a game of football. In the end, there were 54 fouls committed throughout the entire game — the bellicose Brazilians committed 31 fouls, while the upstart Colombians committed only 23 fouls. Now that is impressive.
Even more impressive is the fact that Carlos Carballo, the Spanish referee officiating the quarterfinal game, showed only four yellow cards. One of these yellow cards was shown to Thiago Silva for unnecessarily attempting to steal the ball from the hands of Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina, leading to a suspension for the following semifinal match. Later on, a dangerous challenge from behind in the 88th minute resulted in Juan Camilo fracturing Neymar’s vertebra, leaving the Brazilian star unable to continue in the tournament.
With two crucial players unable to set foot on the field for the semifinal game, Felipe Scolari, the head coach of the Brazilian national team, was left in a difficult position. He ultimately chose two players who had not logged a single minute of playing time during the World Cup to fill in, with Dante stepping into Thiago Silva’s role as a center back, and Bernard Anicio stepping in for Neymar to serve as the playmaker for the team.
Scolari believed that Dante would be an excellent replacement for Thiago Silva, given that Dante plays for Bayern Munich, the German club team that boasts seven of the 23 players on the German national team. Dante was expected to provide the team with insight on how Brazil could overcome Germany’s lethal teamwork and precise decision-making. With 29 appearances for Bayern Munich, Dante has experience playing alongside Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos, two German stars who could not stop scoring at this World Cup.
In turn, Bernard has many of the same abilities as Neymar, having made 17 appearances in the Ukrainian Premier League with Shakhtar Donetsk, and nine appearances in the UEFA Champions League. As such, Bernard was potentially an excellent candidate to take the spot of Neymar on the grand stage of the FIFA World Cup.
Turning to the action of that now infamous semifinal match, I have to admit that things were amiss with the Brazilian side from the start. The Brazilians certainly were not as aggressive as they had been in past World Cup games. The Brazilian side looked very passive without Neymar and his uncanny ability to make timely and beautiful passes.
In addition, as the ESPN broadcasters noted on their telecast, there were simply too many gaps in the Brazilian formation. Germany took advantage of this fault by sending balls through the gaps in Brazil’s defense. However, despite the lopsided end result, it was actually a pretty even game with regards to some of the stats. Brazil actually held the ball longer in the contest, with 51 percent of the possession, compared to 49 percent for the Germans. Furthermore, the Brazilians took more shots (18) and had more shots on target (13) than the Germans, who notched 12 shots on target on 14 total shots.
As a result, the only key difference between the two sides was that Germany was able to capitalize on these opportunities by finding a way into the attacking third before proceeding to move the ball around until a German player had a clear shot. As a matter of fact, all seven of Germany’s goals were scored from within the 18-yard box, which shows how static Brazil’s defense was.
German players consistently had the luxury of strolling unmarked within the danger zone, which put them in position to tap home a goal as soon as the opportunity presented itself. The by-product of this was a series of easy goals for the Germans, as they made full use of the sweating technique, an oxymoron that describes an effortless goal. “Sweaty goals” commonly occur on a counter, during which the number of offensive players outnumber the number on defense. The offense simply holds onto the ball until a defender draws near, leaving a fellow teammate unmarked with tons of space in the box to receive an easy pass. From there, it is an easy finish into an open goal.
This was seen on Germany’s fourth goal, when Toni Kroos stole the ball from a struggling Fernandinho to link up with Sami Khedira in a two-on-two situation — Kroos laid it off to Khedira, who then passed it back between Fernandinho and Dante to an unmarked Kroos, who beautifully slotted the ball past an incredibly frustrated Julio Cesar.
Three minutes later, a similar three-on-three situation arose, with Khedira, Ozil and Klose on the ball against Marcelo, Maicon and Dante. Khedira received the ball and laid it off for Ozil on his left, prompting both Maicon and Julio Cesar to move toward Ozil. This allowed Ozil to lay it back to a now unmarked Khedira, who placed the ball in the back of an open net. The simple give-and-go shed light on the state of Brazil’s uncoordinated defense. Without team captain Silva to help the squad remain organized, the Brazilians could only watch as the Germans wreaked havoc on their net.
It is said in the world of football that while offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. This was certainly the case in the now-historic semifinal game between Brazil and Germany. Brazil had many clear chances to score goals, but Germany’s well-disciplined defense, led by Philip Lahm, managed to hold off Brazil’s offense, while the tactical German offense simply overwhelmed a poor Brazilian defense.
Contact Edward Perez at EdwardP.NBTB13 ‘at’ gmail.com.