By Mary Cunningham
It is impossible to make sense of Germany’s 7-1 beating of Brazill in yesterday’s World Cup semifinal, so I will let CBSSports.com do it for me:
It was an absolutely astonishing result: Would it have been shocking to see Germany control the match and win 2-0 or something along those lines? Probably not. But like this? Brazil came into the World Cup as the favorite to win the title. They were the host country and had the momentum of last summer’s Confederations Cup to give them some confidence. Heading into Tuesday, Brazil had not lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975. Sixty-two straight matches without a loss. Even with Neymar injured and Thiago Silva out, Brazil had the talent to stand toe-to-toe with Germany. Or so we thought.
Brazil had allowed four goals during the entire World Cup entering Tuesday. They allowed that in a six-minute span in the first half. Brazil hadn’t allowed five goals in an entire World Cup since 1998. They allowed that in an 18-minute span in the first half. It’s been 80 years since Brazil allowed seven or more goals in a match. For Brazil to just roll over like that on their home soil was stunning.
Germany will be the favorite in Sunday’s final — and probably should have been the favorite all along: This was a World Cup without a dominant side. Brazil was one of the favorites at the beginning of the tournament, while Spain was expected to continue its dominance. Argentina had Lionel Messi. But no team has looked consistently impressive throughout the World Cup — including Germany. After Tuesday, though, Germany will certainly be the favorite against either Argentina or Netherlands on Sunday. They have so much class across the squad, and moving Philipp Lahm from holding midfielder to his natural right back position helped shore up some weaknesses that were apparent during the group stage.
Germany can dominate the midfield with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, get pinpoint passing from Toni Kroos, and finishes inside the box from Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller. Not to mention immediate impact from subs like Andre Schurrle. With Lahm at the back and Mats Hummels healthy, the defense has been fine the past couple of matches as well. They have talent, they have experience and they don’t get rattled. It’s a recipe for a World Cup title.
Brazil clearly missed Neymar and Thiago Silva, but it wasn’t just that: Some of Tuesday’s result can be attributed to Brazil missing arguably its two best players, star attacker Neymar and captain Thiago Silva. Even if those two suited up, though, Brazil wasn’t beating Germany on this day. The offense hadn’t been consistent throughout the World Cup, even when Neymar was on the pitch. Silva was probably more of a loss, given the defensive issues that were apparent on Tuesday. David Luiz and Silva have terrific chemistry, allowing Luiz to make his marauding runs forward while Silva’s positional awareness and discipline keep Brazil balanced. Dante does a fine job for Bayern Munich, but he and Luiz simply didn’t have the experience playing with one another.
But that wasn’t the main culprit for the scoreline. Brazil simply gave up after the first few goals from Germany. They were dispossessed lazily in the midfield time and time again, leaving acres of space on the counterattack for Germany. There were sequences in both halves where Brazil had five players in Germany’s third of the field, four players in Brazil’s defensive third, and either one player or no players in the center of the park. Germany was able to transition from defense to offense without much of a threat, and Brazil simply didn’t have the men back. Moreover, there was lazy and desperate marking throughout the match. Would Neymar and Silva have helped? Certainly, but Germany was winning either way.
Brazil has some clear weaknesses that need fixing going forward: Brazil’s home soil advantage masked some of its clear squad issues heading into the tournament. First and most notably, Brazil lacks a world-class striker. Fred was a productive No. 9 in last summer’s Confederations Cup, but he was invisible this World Cup and isn’t the ideal talent for Brazil. Jo wasn’t a reliable alternative, either. Given Brazil’s attacking talent of yesteryear, it was eye-opening to see them trot out Fred match after match. With Hulk misfiring throughout the competition, Brazil simply didn’t have the firepower.
The South American side’s midfield was run over too often, as well. And that started in the opening match against Croatia, when Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic helped Croatia have the edge in the center of the field and get chances off counterattacks. There was no creative playmaking from Brazil’s midfield during most of the tournament. Paulinho was ineffective, Fernandinho was solid, and Luiz Gustavo is defensive-minded. Ramires brings workrate and versatility, but he’s not a playmaker. Oscar had his moments, but he was in an advanced role for the most part. A deep-lying playmaker would have been ideal to help Brazil transition from defense to offense.
There is always going to be talent in Brazil’s squad, but they need more attacking firepower and creativity moving forward.