I wanted to write about France’s win over Croatia today, from the 1998 World Cup. Two goals from the legendary Lilian Thuram, the hosts through to the final, and a scandalous red card to Laurent Blanc, with Slaven Bilic conning the referee. But I simply cannot write about that match. Why, you ask? Well, because on July 8th, 2014, something remarkable happened. Brazil, five-time world champions and hosts of the 2014 tournament were eliminated in spectacular fashion. Losing a Semi Final to a team of Germany’s magnitude is perfectly acceptable. But Brazil didn’t just lose, they were annihilated, torn to shreds, simply decimated. The score, well, I think we all know the score. 7-1. There are two factors to note about this: firstly, Brazil’s talisman, Neymar, missed the match due to a broken back. Secondly, their captain and rock at the back, Thiago Silva, was suspended. Brazil had played the Germans only once before in the World Cup, in the 2002 final. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. The Germans served their revenge in icy fashion.
The first goal of the day was scored just eleven minutes in, netted by the goal magnet Thomas Muller. Muller has scored ten goals during his World Cup career, but his first against Brazil was easiest of the bunch. The corner was whipped in over the crowded defence and was met by Muller, totally unmarked, to hit the ball low under the goalkeeper. David Luiz looked livid as he turned to see the Bayern Munich forward net the first of the afternoon, astounded at the freedom that he had to score. It was a nightmare start for Brazil, and the nightmare was set to continue.
If the first goal was laughably simple, the second goal was absurdly intricate. Midfield maestro Toni Kroos played a pass at an impossibly tight angle to Thomas Muller. Muller ran with the ball, performing a neat backheel which caused Marcello to fall on his back. The backheel found prolific striker Miroslav Klose, who saw his shot saved by Julio Cesar in the Brazilian net. The rebound was tapped in with ease by Klose. This goal had not just put Germany in pole position to qualify for the World Cup final, it also proved to etch Klose’s name in World Cup history. It put him on 15 World Cup goals, the most in the competition’s history. To make matters worse for the Brazilian fans, it broke Ronaldo’s record of 14 World Cup goals, a record that had stood for eight years.
Things went from bad to worse for Brazil. The second goal went in on minute 23, and by minute 24 it was 3-0! Germany recovered the ball from kick off and Mesut Ozil found Philipp Lahm wide on the right flank. Lahm hit his cross with his first touch, low along the ground. The cross should have been met by Muller, who, at best, dummied the shot, at worst, completely missed the ball. Whatever his intentions, it mattered not. The ball continued through to the edge of the 18-yard box and was struck with venom by Toni Kroos. The shot flew past Cesar and into the net in under a second, and Brazil were in shock. To come back from a goal was doable, to come back from two was just about manageable, but three? And without their star striker. The odds were stacked against them.
Just two minutes later and Germany had scored four. FOUR. A pass from Brazil’s defence found Fernandinho in his own half. Kroos broke forward and stripped Fernandinho of possession. Dante raced across to meet Kroos, who had a clear run at goal. Kroos played a pass left to Sami Khedira, who opened his body up to slot the ball home. Julio Cesar dived to the ground, anticipating the shot, and the defence rushed across to close down the shot. Khedira didn’t shoot, however, but instead played a pass back to Kroos, who tapped it into the empty net. It was an ice cool move between two of the cleverest players in the world.
On minute 29 the ball was contested in the middle of the field by Mats Hummels and David Luiz. Of both players, Hummels evidently wanted it that little bit more, going to ground to win the ball and finding a pass in the process. The ball was met by Sami Khedira in the centre, at the edge of the box. He dragged it to the right, forcing Dante to follow him, then passing back left to Mesut Ozil. Ozil opted to pass rather than shoot, returning the ball to Sami Khedira. Khedira hit it low and hard into the net at the first time of asking. It was a cultured finish from a cultured player. It was 5-0 to Brazil, and four goals in a seven-minute period. It was utterly humiliating for the Brazilian fans.
Into the second half and Brazil actually managed a chance or two. Ramires fizzed a low cross into the box but saw his cross saved by the German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer. Ramires once again was the creator of Brazil’s second chance. He strung a pass through to Oscar, but the Chelsea attacker could only stab his shot into the body of Neuer. A little later into the half and Neuer made an unbelievable double save from Paulinho. Paulinho received a headed pass from Ramires, took a touch wide and fired into Neuer. Neuer spilled the ball straight ahead of him and the rebound was pounced on by Paulinho, who turned his body to fire beyond Neuer. The German ‘keeper made a miraculous save to keep the clean sheet going.
Andre Schurrle is a tremendous footballer who has been criminally underused in his career. He came off the bench with a fire in his belly to claim a starting spot in the final, which was all but guaranteed at this stage. Sami Khedira passed the ball into the box to Lahm. The full-back picked out Schurrle in the centre – Brazil evidently had given up on marking by this stage – and the German pushed the ball into the bottom corner to make it six nil. This was dismal defending.
Surely things couldn’t get any worse for Brazil. Schurrle enough, they did (sorry). Thomas Muller collected a loose ball wide on the left and chipped the ball back into the edge of the box. The ball was picked up by Andre Schurrle, the forward taking a touch to move wide of David Luiz, then rocketing the football beyond Julio Cesar and into the net. It was 7-0. Seven. SEVEN! This was unheard of. Brazil had completely and utterly capitulated.
If this were playground football and somebody had shouted “next goal wins!” then Brazil would have been in dreamland. This wasn’t a playground kickabout though, this was a World Cup Semi Final. Willian played a long ball up to Oscar, who rounded Jerome Boateng to fire into the net. This may have been the most uncelebrated goal of all time. It was embarrassing, by scoring it looked like Brazil had actually tried. Joachim Low was furious at his side for letting the clean sheet go. This may seem harsh at 7-0 up, but it spoke volumes about the German mentality. Mistakes were not to be tolerated.
Finally, the referee blew his whistle, taking pity on the crestfallen Brazilians on the field. The boos ringing around the Estadio Mineirao were deafening. This was the largest ever World Cup Semi Final win. It had been evident that Brazil were a poorer side than that of previous tournaments, it was clear that they had rode their luck in this tournament, but nobody could have foreseen this result. They were a shadow of their former selves. Luis Felipe Scolari had been seen as a hero in Brazil for winning the World Cup in 2002, but his reputation was in tatters after this conquest. It was a result which left the football world speechless. This was the World Cup. This was a historic moment. I said at the beginning that I had wanted to discuss France v Croatia. This was a good game, but it was that, a game. Brazil v Germany, 2014, was more than a game, it was a moment in history. People will talk about this Semi Final for decades to come. And me being me, I missed it. I was half way up a mountain in Oregon. I hope you have fonder memories of watching this football masterclass than I!
Tomorrow’s game: July 9th. Italy v France. 2006.