Germany 7 Brazil 1: A Rewriting of History

Football will never be the same again, as Dominic Neo tries to recover from the shock of Brazil's huge loss in Belo Horizonte.

What happened at Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte rubbished almost everything the world had known about international football. The result was Brazil’s first competitive home defeat in 39 years, their biggest ever World Cup loss and equaled their heaviest margin of defeat, a 6-0 loss at the hands of Uruguay in the 1920 Copa America. The Brazil that we all knew to be the kings of international football – a five-time FIFA World Cup winner – and the fearless, indomitable purveyors of the beautiful game, was absolutely annihilated at the hands of a ruthless German side. Brazil’s morale and legacy are in utter tatters.

Even a look at the statistics in the first 30 minutes of the game, when most of the damage was done, is not quite as damning as the result suggests. Brazil had 56% of possession, completing 129/ 153 passes whilst Germany only completed 83/112; a reversal of the pre-match expectations. That Germany completed 75% (36/48) of their passes in the attacking third compared to Brazil’s 60% (24/40) does not imply such a one-sided affair.

Brazil in yellow; Germany in white

Yet, what happened outside the world of figures was completely different. In a tournament where they have shown a steely resolve and feistiness in the absence of distinct attacking quality, Brazil capitulated spectacularly. The defending was terrible for players of their ilk. Ball-watching, loose marking, missed interceptions, positional indiscipline, meek tackling are not what one would expect from a professional football team, much less the Brazilian national team. David Luiz, stand-in captain and FIFA’s highest rated player of the tournament just a week ago, was guilty of all of these schoolboy errors.

Take nothing away from the Germans, though. They were preposterously clinical. Germany’s fourth goal encapsulated their ruthlessness: from the restart after their third goal, Toni Kroos pressed and robbed Fernandinho of the ball in the attacking third, played a one-two with Sami Khedira and tapped the ball into an empty net. One tackle, two passes and a shot on target: 4-0. They gave the Brazilians no breather, no quarter to move. There was no room for sympathy and none was given.  

Tactically, Germany got it spot on, too. They controlled the game by ceding possession to Brazil – a maverick and surprising move, considering that they have dominated possession throughout the tournament, playing 500 more successful passes than any other team and a 1000 more than Brazil before the game. Brazil’s domination was sterile, as Germany comfortably soaked up the long balls, and took advantage of the positional lapses and gaps on the counter.

Brazil’s goals throughout the tournament, which had stemmed from a high-pressing game and set-piece excellence, naturally dried up, as they lacked guile and inventiveness up front. Fatigued from probing the German defence, they were unable to deal with Germany’s direct approach, as the Germans ran unobstructed through the middle of the pitch, time and time again. No fancy cross-field diagonals, no flicks and tricks; just simple five-yard passes and 1-2s. Pass and move. This was German efficiency at its best, and a shining example of how devastatingly easy football can be when the basics are done correctly and at the highest level. In just six minutes, they relentlessly tore the Brazilian defence asunder. It was a beautifully brutal and clinically cruel sight.

Yet, the result was and remains inexplicable and shocking, even though Brazil were arguably without two most important players: Neymar and Thiago Silva. Their replacements were no slouches. Bernard is an exciting young talent, who has played for Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League. Dante is the first-choice centreback for the imperious Bayern Munich. They are not unproven, raw players. Yet they, along with the rest of their team, were made to look like amateurs.

The Samba boys were left shellshocked at the end, unable to comprehend the magnitude of their defeat

And there will be inevitably an intensive post-mortem to ensure such a comprehensive defeat will never happen again. Fingers will be pointed at Fred, who was booed off the pitch for his appalling anonymity throughout the tournament. Key players such as Paulinho, Dani Alves and Hulk had severely underperformed too. Luiz Felipe Scolari has taken responsibility for their humiliating exit, and perhaps rightly so, given the dubious way in which he managed Neymar’s injury. Surely wearing a ‘#forcaNeymar cap’ and allowing his team to hold up Neymar’s jersey during the national anthem would have undermined his replacement; seemingly nothing but a poor substitute for their special one. It might have been a motivational strategy that backfired horrendously. Then again, a defeat of this magnitude transcends the absence of one player. This was a complete collapse and evisceration of a system.

Eventually, shock is all that is left. It is tough to craft a narrative about a game and a team that have deviated so far away from expectations. What we witnessed last night was the perfect storm: Germany played the perfect game whilst Brazil were utterly hapless. This result will be remembered for a lifetime and as a dark mark that will be indelibly etched into Brazil’s footballing history. This was Brazil’s heaviest defeat, in 96 years, happening in a World Cup semi final, at home. It still bewilders.

Broken and disconsolate, one can only hope that the fallen giants will recover from this crushing loss. Until then, world football has lost its perennial champions, it’s Ozymandias:

And our modern interpretation of the game was wrecked, too. Statistics and figures usually depict an accurate picture of the game. And the statistical summary does not suggest a mauling in any way. Possession was almost equal, Brazil had more shots – and only two less shots on target – and the same number of attacking 3rd passes were made. Quite simply – and this will sound ridiculous – the only telling statistic that matters was the number of goals scored.   

“`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".