World Cup semi-finals: Five things we learned

Germany thumped Brazil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte, and the Netherlands fell to Argentina 4-2 on penalties in Sao Paolo. Now that the dust has settled on the World Cup semi-finals, Shaun Moran takes us through the Top Five things we learned.

1. Thiago Silva’s absence was pivotal

A markedly disproportionate emphasis was placed on Neymar’s inability to take to the park in comparison to their solid and highly dependable captain.

That very focus in the lead up denoted vulnerability and a lack of faith in a Selecao side that has not been seen in previous editions and generations.

Nothing more could collapse confidence than a country which is resigned to defeat before a ball has even been kicked.

Ultimately, not even Neymar himself could have prevented the slaughter that ensued. One man that may have could only watch on grimacing at the capitulation.

The disciplined Thiago Silva would have brought about a sense of calm and composure when his backline needed it most. Instead, they wilted under pressure, self-imploded and hurriedly chased the game at a stage when a more pragmatic and collected approach would have been more beneficial and potentially decisive.

Their first loss on home soil since 1975 will not be forgotten in a hurry.

2. The architect that is Jogi Low

Joachim Low masterminded Brazil’s downfall supremely. Despite being armed with a plethora of riches, the long-standing boss has had to manage them astutely and manoeuvre them at every hurdle.

Brazil was undoubtedly the largest to date, and the manner in which they negotiated it, the reason why Low should be singled out for praise.

He remained true to his preferred 4-2-3-1 system and opted to squeeze Brazil’s defence via Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose.

Under pressure from back home before the tournament, the former assistant has gone a long way to finally silencing his detractors

3. Majestic Miroslav

Polish born or not, Klose will go down as one of the most revered sons in his country of choice after eclipsing Ronaldo’s previously held record as World Cup all-time leading goal scorer.

Die Mannschaft’s second of the match, and his 16th in total, came 23 minutes in, putting his side in the box seat before going on to dismantle their hosts.

The 2006 Golden Boot winner has proved that age is not as instrumental as it’s made out to be after having now performed exceptionally in four World Cups.

Although not being renowned for the spectacular or the ego to match it, the most prolific striker to have ever played for Germany has defied those who questioned his inclusion ahead of the likes of Mario Gomez, and has played a pivotal role in aiding his country’s bid for a fourth World Cup.

4. Netherlands and Argentina were terrified of defeat

Neither team elicited any signs that they came to win their semi-final bout. Instead, a highly cautious and cagey affair ensued - to the frustration of fans worldwide.

Twenty-two players who were capable of setting the match alight were restrained by the dread that would accompany conceding a goal.

The score line, however, was not totally unexpected after the two teams only managed one goal between them in their quarter final hit outs.

Moreover, Louis van Gaal’s pre-match comments alluding to the importance of not conceding first signalled it all.

Goalkeepers, Sergio Romero and Jasper Cillessen, were spectators over the course of the 120 minutes as the match faded out to end up being the first scoreless encounter in a semi-final in the tournament’s history.

5. Messi flops and Mascherano shines

Two performances on the winning team were worth noting for contrasting reasons.

The Albiceleste’s rock in Javier Mascherano stood up and battled on in spite of a head knock he sustained in a horrible collision.

His energy and commitment to every challenge thwarted the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.

At the same time his distribution was pinpoint, and his vocal nature had people scratching their heads as to why he was not leading the team formally.

The man who is, however, had a night to forget. Having been given no space to turn or move into when receiving the ball, the stifled skipper will be hoping for a lot more joy against the Germans at the Maracana.