KEIR RADNEDGE in BELO HORIZONTE: Semi-final: Brazil 1, Germany 7
—- Germany have won football matches before. Brazil have lost them. But neither has ever scaled the heights or plumbed the depths as extraordinarily as here tonight in the Estadio Mineirao.
Brazil’s humiliation will rank with the defeat by Uruguay when they last hosted the World Cup in 1950; at least then they reached the final game before suffering the Maracanazao; at least then they lost only 2-1. Germany have won World Cups and European titles; their legendary Breslau-Elf thrashed Denmark 8-0; but that was a friendly and back in 1937.
This was here and now in the Estadio Mineirao and, as the Germans almost walked in goal after goal in the opening halfhour a hush descended within the vast bowl. As time ran on so grew as sense of horrible fascination as, arguably, the greatest shock in the entire history of the World Cup.
In simple facts this was Brazil’s worst ever defeat, worse than 6-0 to Uruguay in 1920 and Germany achieved the largest-ever victory in the World Cup semi-finals. Veteran striker Miroslav Klose became the competition’s all-time record scorer with his 16th goal, thus surpassing the record 15 set by Ronaldo; to achieve it in such a context, in such a place, against such opposition, was the stuff of fairytales.
Yet Klose’s own achievement will be almost hidden in the greater picture. Germany go on to the World Cup Final after a masterful performance in which everything went right. Hence the greater focus on what was not merely a footballing disaster for Brazil but a cruel punishment for a nation which has welcomed the World Cup so generously.
Brazil, the nation, did not deserve this. But, unfortunately, Brazil the team did.
They had never played well and the manner of their knockout victories over Chile (on penalties) and Colombia (with brute strength) betrayed the hinterland of the ‘beautiful game.’ German manager Joachim Low thought a three-goal margin might have been appropriate but that was a modest estimate of the chasm which opened up between the teams once the emotional power of the pre-match atmosphere had been punctured.
This was only the second time Brazil and Germany had met in the World Cup. The previous meeting was the 2002 World Cup Final when Brazil’s coach was Luiz Felipe Scolari. Here he was again. One was a night to remember; this a night he can never forget.
Scolari had chosen local favourite Bernard to fill the attacking slot left vacant by the absence of injured Neymar; Bayern Munich’s Dante lined up in place of suspended captain Thiago Silva in the heart of defence. No such problems for Germany: they repeated the line-up who saw off France in the quarter-finals
Flood of goals
Brazil, powered by the intensity of the crowd and their national anthem ‘opera’, rushed forward carelessly from the start. Marcelo sent the first shot flying wide and it was several minutes before the Germans claimed possession to calm their own nerves. They achieved that aim in more dramatic style than they could ever have dared hope.
In the 10th minute Germay forced a right-wing corner, Bastian Schweinsteiger clipped it towards the far post and Thomas Muller stepped away from the unthinking David Luiz to tuck the ball past keeper Julio Cesar.
Astoundingly, Germany then struck four more times in the next 20 minutes as Brazil’s defence descended into utter, humbling, humiliating capitulation. Low described them as “shell-shocked.” Scolari described as the “worst day” of his football life.
Miroslav Klose scored to break Ronaldo’s World Cup record, Toni Kroos thundered home from the edge of the penalty box then scored from close range after some casual inter-passing with Sami Khedira who then scored himself with equal simplicity.
Three of the goals had gone in within 180 seconds. Half an hour was on the clock and Brazil were already dead and long gone. They were booed off at the end of the first half and booed back on at the start of the second.
Responsibility lay not only with Brazil’s shortcomings but in a positive, confident and deft German performance. But the tale of the game now was merely how bad it might become for the hosts.
Scolari told his team at half-time that they had to play for their pride so Paulinho and Ramires were brought on for Hulk and Fernandinho to instill some discipline and order.
Initially they did and Brazil might have scored several times in the opening exchanges.
Germany keeper Manuel Neuer was at his best to cut out a dangerous cross from Ramires, block a close-range shot from Oscar then make a defiant double save from Paulinho.
Thus Germany took off Klose and brought on Andre Schurrle with breakaway goals in mind as the clock ticked down. Low got that right as well. Captain Philipp Lahm skipped around the Brazil defence on the right and passed across the penalty box where Schurrle stabbed in from close range.
Fred, jeered at every touch of the ball, gave way to Willian before Schurrle, clear now on the left, thumped in a seventh goal. Oscar scored a ‘consolation’ in the last minute of normal time but not enough to avert the worst defeat in Brazil’s history . . . and in the semi-final of their own World Cup.