Before the World Cup began, hopes were incredibly high in Brazil. They were hosting the tournament, they had one of the brightest young stars in the world with Neymar and they had a decent chance to make a huge impact in the tournament. On top of that, Neymar even dyed his hair like a 90s Backstreet Boy. Things were looking up.
Fast forward to just before their semi-final with Germany. The stadium was loud. The players belted out their national anthem with pride and conviction. We thought we were in for the game of a lifetime.
Now fast forward exactly 29 minutes. It’s 5-0 Germany and every time the camera cuts to the crowd we see a crying child or a crying woman or a crying grown man with face paint. A truly depressing sight. The game ended up finishing 7-1, with a sad goal from Oscar in the 90th minute being the only positive moment for the Brazilians. How did this happen? How could the team with the most World Cups in history get such an incredible beating? Well, here are the reasons why it happened.
7. Scolari’s Tactical Choices
It’s hard for me to sit here and question Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil’s coach, as he’s already led them to a World Cup victory in the past. Hell, he even dragged Portugal to the semifinals in 2006. The man is an expert and a legend. However, he didn’t cover himself in glory on this night. After losing his captain Thiago Silva to suspension, he should’ve known that they would be weaker at the back. With that in mind, he should’ve had his team sit back and counter. A tactic used brilliantly by the Italians at Euro 2012 (and every other time they play Germany). Instead, Brazil attacked and pushed forward from the get go. Sure, the first 5 minutes were positive and a lot of fun for the fans, but that’s not the way to win a match against a team like Germany. Sit back, let them come at you and then play the ball out to your speedy wingers who can beat the slower Germany backline one on one.
6. Lack of Leadership
As soon as Thiago Silva was suspended for this game, you knew there would be issues in the back for Brazil. The surprise is that there seemed to be huge leaderships issues for the team. On a young squad like this, Thiago Silva was often seen barking instructions or giving advice to teammates. With Silva in the crowd, this fell to David Luiz. It appears his leadership is as good as his defensive abilities. Perhaps Scolari would’ve benefited from bringing a seasonsed vet like Kaka to the World Cup, rather than a relative unknown like Bernard who was non-existent through the match anyway. With Neymar out and Silva’s leadership out, Kaka could’ve started this game with the captain’s armband and maybe settled the ship after the first goal. This might be a little bit of a stretch, but perhaps he could’ve offered a little more in the leadership department.
5. Germany’s Familiarity
When you look at Brazil’s line-up, very few of these players actually play with each other on a regular basis. They have players who play their professional ball in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Turkey or at home in Brazil. That leaves very little familiarity within the team and means the only time they spent together is a few weeks spread out throughout the year. On the other hand, most of the German team plays in Germany and a good chunk of them play together at Bayern Munich. That includes most of their starting lineup with Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm , Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze (he hasn’t started since their Round of 16 game). That familiarity is why Germany looks so comfortable together and why they so easily dismantled the Brazilian team. Only 7 of their 23 play outside of Germany and it’s a huge reason for their success.
4. Germany’s Big Game Experience
When looking at the two rosters, apart from a variety of other advantages the Germans had, they also had a huge advantage in the experience department. Starting from the top of their lineup with Miroslav Klose to their backend with Philipp Lahm, the Germans boasted a variety of players who have already played in a World Cup semifinal. They lost to Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010, which means they knew exactly what to expect.
On top of that, players like Klose and Lahm have played in a semifinal in their own country in 2006, so they surely must have understood the tremendous pressure that was facing their opponents. These kinds of advantages are not easily seen by a casual viewer, but when we look in depth at the two rosters, it’s obvious that the German players seemed much more prepared mentally than the Brazilians.
Before the tournament, many were picking Fred to lead the tournaments in goals because of his power and clever movement around the wrong box. It hasn’t been the case at all. He’s been terrible and his only real contribution was a dive in the first game versus Croatia that resulted in a penalty.
Now, it’s always easy to attack the defenders when a team is given such a beating, but that’s not always fair. Sure, they were horrific in this game, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Anyone who watched the entire game would be hard pressed to tell you if they even saw Fred. Hulk didn’t have a great game, but at least he was running down balls and giving a true effort. Fred? Well, I don’t know what he was doing. A good striker offers support and an outlet to the defenders. When the Brazilian defenders had the ball and tried to get it to Fred, he didn’t win a single ball. A pitiful effort from the Brazilian.
2. Neymar’s Injury
This one seems like an obvious reason, but it’s not included here for the reason you’d expect. Yes, he’s an incredible offensive talent and they could’ve use his pace, skill and imagination. However, it’s the emotional loss that is the bigger one. After he was stretchered off against Columbia, there have been numerous tweets, Facebook posts and videos of Brazilian players giving words of support to the young Brazilian attacker. It appears as though his absence and the inclusion of the diminutive Bernard, created a bit of a vacuum for the Brazilian team. When they went down by a goal, they would have typically looked to Neymar for inspiration. Instead, they played out a ball to Bernard that went over his head and out of bounds.
It’s no doubt that they needed Neymar’s ability, but more than that, they needed his inspiration. A simple crossover from Neymar would lift the crowd’s voices and lift his team in turn. Without that, they looked like a shell of themselves.
1. The Suspension of Thiago Silva
It was the dumbest move of his fantastic career. The Colombian goalkeeper was trying to kick the ball up to his strikers and Thiago Silva cut in front and blocked his way. He received a needless yellow card and was suspended for the semi-final. Now, most of the attention before the game went to the loss of Neymar, but the more important one was to Thiago Silva. The best player on their team, Thiago Silva was their captain and their defense’s anchor. Having to play with a wild card in David Luiz, Silva settled the ship time after time throughout this World Cup. When he was suspended, Dante had to step into the lineup and he looked horrendous. It looked as though he and Luiz had never met each other before. When the Germans pushed forward, the pair look confused and out of their comfort zone. Luiz is known for being a fantastic offensive talent, but a poor defender and he lived up to that billing today.
Perhaps if they had Thiago Silva, things might have gone differently.