Germany’s Time to Samba, Brazil’s Time to Talk

What Happens After 7-1?

Brazilian football was still in a critical condition last night following a brutal and totally unprovoked attack by a group of Germans. Police are said to be looking for a black, yellow and red coach last seen leaving the car park outside the Estadio Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte at approximately 7.30 pm local time on Tuesday night. Doctors says that the Selecao’s injuries could be life-threatening with only a very slim chance of a complete recovery.

Felipe Scolari will remember Tuesday 8th July 2014 as “the worst day” of his life. The world will look back on this as the day that Brazilian football slipped into a deep coma following a devastatingly traumatic collision with an unstoppable juggernaut; Die Mannschaft – Germany. Call Joachim Low’s charges what you will, their savagery remains the same. As 200 million Brazilian’s pleaded on bended knee for mercy they swatted their protestations aside (at least in the first half) and seared goal-wards, hungry to inflict further pain upon a flailing opponent. If you could even call Brazil that, such was the lack of opposition that they offered. A 7-1 defeat shouts for itself.

The hardest part of the entire debacle that unfolded in the first semi-final of this truly stunning world cup is that this was all of Brazil’s own making, the ludicrously dramatic reaction to Neymar’s untimely injury planting the seeds of doubt within their minds before a ball had been kicked. Unlike Van Gaal, or Mourinho on a domestic level, Scolari is clearly not for mind games or psychological advantages. His decision to wear a “Forca Neymar” baseball cap along with his team, not to mention allowing David Luiz and Julio Cesar to clutch Neymar’s shirt like a safety blanket during the national anthem backfired spectacularly. Instead of spurring them on to fulfil the slightly bullish claim that they would “win it for Neymar”, Luiz and company were constantly reminded of the fact that they were to play Germany without their most creative source, their goal-scorer, their everything by the looks of it. A crisis of confidence is never ideal in a World Cup – in a semi-final against a rampant Germany it proved fatal.

However, in no way is this intended to detract from an almost perfect German display of ruthless efficiency, Oscar’s pointless stoppage time goal the only blemish. They kept everything simple with crisp passing and intelligent movement throughout the whole side. Bewildered at the amount of space afforded them the visitors wasted little time in capitalising on the hosts woeful tracking and feeble attempts at recovery to score 4, yes 4, goals in 6 first half minutes with 4 different goal-scorers, testament to their interplay. 5-0 at the interval, surely it couldn’t get any worse? Surely Brazil would just shut the back door and wait for the end?

But this is no ordinary Brazilian side. No, this is a staggeringly inept, laughably insipid Selecao that finally proved what many feared – without Thiago Silva and Neymar they have nothing. With their rudder in defence missing Marcelo, Maicon, Dante and Luiz contrived to hack and rush for 90 minutes, missing nearly every effort to intercept Germany’s pinpoint passing, abandoning cavernous amounts of space in front of Julio Cesar and generally failing to perform any of their individual or collective jobs.

Mourinho’s sale of Luiz for £40 million to PSG must now surely rank as the greatest piece of transfer business of recent times. The captain in Silva’s absence, Luiz looked like a fish in the Sahara, never mind out of water, completely unable to unite a toothless Brazil that offered little up front with Hulk and Fred, a duo that quite frankly are not fit to wear the hallowed yellow shirts they somehow occupied for all 6 of Brazil’s matches.

One can only imagine what would have unfolded had the German’s not gracefully decided during the interval to abstain from twisting the knife, a gesture revealed by Mats Hummels. “We just made it clear that we had to stay focused and not try to humiliate them. You have to show the opponent respect and it was very important that we did this.” It seems that only a bout of unusual sympathy sweeping throughout the away dressing room prevented Brazil from losing by a cricket score. Even so, Andre Schurrle still added a brace of his own to proceedings with a simple tap in followed by a sumptuous volley from a lofted reverse pass, the final German goal of the night a moment of magic that encapsulates this team perfectly.

Throughout this tournament they have played with a confidence and guile befitting a nation that has worked tirelessly for a decade to halt a gradual decline in 2004 and transform into a fearsome team blessed with the perfect blend of youth and experience, not to mention genuine world class talent nurtured by the professional clubs in the Bundesliga and below. Argentina pose a difficult task for the Germans in the final, but a defeat for the Europeans would be an incredible shock. The momentum is definitely with them, the wind behind their backs. What a prospect this Sunday’s final is now as two polar opposite footballing philosophies collide. Unexpectedly the absence of Brazil is not the anticipated tragedy we all dreaded. Had they somehow scratched and moaned their way through to the end a clash with Argentina would have certainly been a dirty, foul-ridden affair, as Messi found himself kicked off the pitch. For that is all the hosts offered – thuggery.

Despite Scolari vehemently denying that he is due to stand down, a sheet of statistics his only form of defence, Brazil must now take a long hard look at themselves. Upon winning the 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea they appear to have rested comfortably on their laurels, content that the wily tricksters and lethal goal-scorers would continue to roll off the conveyor built. They didn’t and subsequently Brazil were eliminated at the quarter-final stage in 2006 and 2010. A Colombia victory at the same stage this time around would have been a blessed relief in many ways. Yet, ironically, it is only by being hammered by Germany that Brazil can now hope to start the long process of regenerating their floundering youth system and, perhaps one day, emulating the success enjoyed by their conquerors.

Brazil’s Sports Minister, Aldo Rebelo, took the first tentative steps toward this painful learning process by calling for an overhaul of the youth system in Brazil as the nation looks to heal the “deep scar” it now bears. Removing Scolari from the equation, along with a few of his former lacklustre players (Dante, Maicon, Marcelo, Gustavo, Bernard, Fred – let’s stop there) would certainly help to lift a little of the fog. Brazil can no longer dwell in the past, its ambition sated by glories gained when the world of football was a very different place. They must now reignite the old Samba ways, encourage the flicks and tricks of old, unearth the next Ronaldo (the Brazilian one that is now the second all time World Cup goalscorer) and rediscover the identity that made the Selecao such a force to be reckoned with. Attempting to mimic the more pragmatic Europeans is a sad indictment of this once South American powerhouse.

As for the here and now one can only applaud Low and his men and bid them well in the final. Victory in the final would be richly deserved following that semi-final demolition job. In the words of Wolfgang Niersbach, the current President of the DF-B, Germany’s FA, “That was football from another galaxy. Now we want to do the next step. We cant go crazy now – even if I would like. Now we have to get the fourth star.” Low will undoubtedly share this sentiment. Perhaps, though, he will borrow the best phrase of this World Cup from his Dutch counterpart Louis Van Gaal. “That was beautiful. I’m a little bit proud of that”.

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