Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 match preview: It’s all falling into place for ruthless Germans
Brazil will need luck and resilience against Joachim Loew’s impressive band of survivors
Rio de Janeiro
Saturday 05 July 2014
As the anxiety in Brazil ratchets up to higher levels ahead of Tuesday’s semi-final, Germany have at least heard it all before.
André Schürrle was one of many squad members made aware of what it means by Brazilian club-mates, having played with three at Chelsea.
“You heard it from them two months before the World Cup,” the forward said on Friday. “Everybody was talking about this.”
Now, Germany have the chance to end all the talk, to coldly kill all the chatter. It is possibly the perfect chance. As Brazil prepare for a hugely pressurised match without the injured Neymar and suspended Thiago Silva, the Germans have rarely looked so complete in this World Cup.
The violently frantic nature of the host’s 2-1 win over Colombia starkly contrasted with the serene ease of Germany’s 1-0 victory over France. It felt like a significant step-up in terms of composure from Jogi Loew’s team. That is also timely, because this semi-final represents a significant and symbolic milestone for the Germans too.
Hoping to finally win a first trophy in 18 years, they face the most-successful country in World Cup history, and in their own stadium. It would be quite a scalp for a German side so often accused of losing their own heads when it gets to games like this..
A few months before the World Cup, German under-21 manager Horst Hrubesch was asked by The Independent about the apparent inability of this generation to go and actually win a trophy. The coach had brought so many of the players through, but was also a member of the Euro 80-winning West Germany that set the stereotype for dispassionate winners. He was relaxed about the supposed problem.
“When we won the under-21 European Championships in 2009, we had a lot of players with great mentality like Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng,” Hrubesch said. “The boys must gain the experience at youth level so they get hungry for success.”
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It is possible that “experience” was the only thing missing before; the only element that needed to be added. A number of the defeated French squad mentioned it on Friday, not least Hugo Lloris and Morgan Schneiderlin, that they had been struck by the superior savvy of the Germans. The deep difference in tournament appearances between the two squads was mentioned before the game, and showed during it.
In certain ways, that 1-0 win over France was more impressive than the knock-out games that took this team to semi-finals in 2010 and Euro 2012. All of those goal gluts had a similar pattern. Four years ago, Germany beat England 4-1 and then Argentina 4-0. Two years ago, they beat Greece 4-2. Although those victories fully displayed their attacking dynamism, the open nature of the matches exposed the defensive issues that would eventually cost them in the more-exacting stage of the semi-final, particularly in the 2-1 defeat to Italy in Euro 2012.
Here, innocent freewheeling was replaced with intelligent control. Although Germany still looked susceptible to balls over the top, the formation switch helped them gradually counter that, and there was a responsibility to the way they conserved energy in the Rio heat.
Mats Hummels heads past Hugo Lloris for the only goal of the game That canniness has been more evident throughout this World Cup as a whole. Previously, this German team has been accused of being a bit too naive. Against Pepe and Portugal in their opening game, however, Thomas Muller showed a gamesmanship and hard edge to get the defender sent off that was so much more reminiscent of the ruthlessness of Hrubesch’s generation.
“We were all very experienced players from great clubs in Germany,” Hrubesch said of his team. “The main thing was that we all knew that we can only win together – as a team.”
Schürrle referenced a similar atmosphere in the present side: “We have this feeling. We are really close. You feel everybody wants this. We have a big opportunity now to win this title.”
Many aspects are falling in their favour. It is not just that Neymar and Silva are out as important personalities in the Brazilian team. Spain are out too, the side that beat Germany in Euro 2008 and 2010 and represented the benchmark they couldn’t quite reach. Loew’s team have always been primed to replaced them. Secondly, there are the players who step in for Felipe Scolari. The hosts won’t now have the pace to really expose that German defensive weakness.
Brazil look like they are going to resilience and luck, probably a combination of both, to prevent their house party from ending prematurely. Germany have revelled in that role in the past, as Hrubesch knows.
This was the country that beat Hungary in 1954, Holland in 1974 and France in 1982.
Schürrle struck a familiar theme: “We don’t care who we play. “It’s about us.”
How they match up
Germany and Brazil have met 21 times, with the South Americans winning 12 and five games drawn.
This is the 11th time Brazil have reached the last four of the World Cup, and the eighth time they have made the actual semi-final stage – the tournaments of 1950, 1974 and 1978 used a later group stage. They have played in seven finals, although one of those matches was merely the decider in a group stage.
This is the 13th time Germany – or West Germany – have reached the last four, and their 11th appearance in the actual semi-final stage. They have played in seven finals.
However, Brazil and Germany have only met once in the World Cup. That was the 2002 final, when Brazil won 2-0.
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