Germany’s mauling of Brazil was surreal, epic and unmissable

The tectonic plates of world sport were shifting beneath our feet


To the football ignoramus, such as myself, the Brazil-Germany match was a revelation, not because of the dismay of the World Cup’s host nation but because we didn’t know football could be like that. Of course, ignoramus is Latin for “We do not know,” but this was a completely different level of un-knowing.

We thought football games at this level were conducted between matching teams of tightly wound, hyper-trained, dancing-footed superstars, equally impregnable in defence, equally relentless in attack, their skills mostly cancelling each other out, whose games could be won by a fluke goal – a caprice of fate – or a bizarre, momentary, unforced error by two defenders and a goalkeeper.

At least, that’s what we thought until Tuesday night. We didn’t imagine that, as Klose and Khedira closed in on goal, the Brazil defenders would just stand around like spear-carrying actors playing non-speaking parts in a production of Julius Caesar on the South Coast, undecided as to what they should be doing apart from just milling about.

Or that they would run down the pitch alongside the German attack, half forwards, half backwards, like Labradors enjoying a good scamper in the outdoors but offering no actual threat of any kind to their masters.

Or that they would leave vast tracts of Brazilian pampas-land wide open to opportunistic runs by the amazing Kroos. Or that, when Germany took an early corner, they’d huddle together like a rugby scrum and completely fail to notice Müller nipping round behind them like a fly-half before volleying in the first goal.

We didn’t believe that a team whose players could bear such resonant literary-historico-superheroic names (Oscar, Dante, Julio Cesar, Hulk) could turn out to be such feeble, amateurish, woolly-haired, woolly-brained ninnies (yes, I am thinking of you, Marcelo and David Luiz) with as much solidity in defence as Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

We really, really, didn’t know what to make of the profusion of goals. I’ve watched one or two high-scoring games in the past, like England’s 5-1 crushing of Germany in 2001, but the goals in that game were more… spread out (we were 2-1 up at half-time.) On Tuesday the goals came in a succession of lashes on the exposed Brazilian back. After 23 minutes, 24 minutes, 26, 29… They weren’t identical goals, but the differential between attack and defence was the same: Germany utterly assured, Brazil utterly panicked, Germany focused and motoring, Brazil dithering and rudderless. As Germany did it again and again and again, it seemed as if, not only was Brazil’s much-vaunted footballing style dead in the water, but the whole game of football had changed.

Something radical had happened: a team had found the magic formula, the sacred alchemy, that meant they couldn’t be stopped, and that an opponent could only stand by, impotently, and watch them score and score.

Four goals in six minutes! That should be impossible. But if it was possible, and the losing team’s defence had genuinely collapsed, what was to stop Germany winning 10-0 by half-time, and coming back to finish 20-0, with Brazil ever more pointless, dismayed, hysterical, enervated and blubbing? Just thinking about it, you could feel the tectonic plates of world sport shift beneath your feet. It was like seeing Alexander the Great casually, almost off-handedly, defeating the Persian empire and looking for new worlds to conquer.

The Brazilians must have felt the terraces of Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao tremble as if they were about to be swallowed up by a giant sinkhole. And the sinking feeling that their team was experiencing must have been sprinkled with some brand of fairy dust or mustard gas that had made them (temporarily?) forget how to play football.

It was a surreal, epic and unmissable six minutes that evinced a strange dual response: a slightly horrified respect for Germany’s efficiency, and their evident glee at having Brazil’s collective testicles in a mangle; and a feeling of profound respect for the Brazil fans in the stadium who applauded Germany’s final goals with cries of Olé! They at least knew that the game of futebol itself would survive this extraordinary display of machine against minnow, of robot vs rabbit.

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