Germany Justify Joachim Low's Decision-Making in Stunning Win Over Brazil

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

Frank Augstein/AP Images

During Joachim Low's eight-year tenure as head coach, Germany have won games in every manner. On Tuesday, Die Nationalmannschaft reached a new level.

The manner in which they blitzed Brazil for five goals within the opening 29 minutes of their World Cup semifinal was unprecedented. The Germans went on to win 7-1.

Much can be said for how poor and utterly flat-footed Brazil were. Much can be said about how the hosts sorely missed Neymar and Thiago Silva. And much more can be said about how well individuals like Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira played.

But the decisive factor in Tuesday's match was the masterful Low.

Given the way Germany played, it can so easily be forgotten just how many obstacles the trainer has had to negotiate. The absence of players like Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, Marcel Schmelzer and Sven and Lars Bender would have crippled most national teams. The lack of fitness of Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger and recent injuries to Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm left the trainer with precious few in-form options.

Low had tough decisions to make and, given his inability to win any major international titles in the years prior, was set to take the blame from the international press.

Until Tuesday, Germany had been effective without playing particularly inspired football. Apart from their 4-0 rout of Portugal in the group-stage opener, the Nationalelf labored their way to the semifinal.

Low was first criticized for using Benedikt Howedes at left-back and Lahm in midfield. Then he was slated for his insistence upon starting Ozil. Yet until this point, only in their 2-2 draw with Ghana did Germany ever fall behind.

Facing France in Friday's quarterfinal, Low made a bold decision to start Schweinsteiger and Khedira in midfield, just days after the former was forced off with cramps in extra time. He took Per Mertesacker out of the XI, introducing Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels as his center-back pairing. And he kept Howedes and Ozil in the lineup.

It was just enough to put the Germans through, with Hummels' early header separating the two teams in a match that was still in the balance until the final whistle.

Ahead of Tuesday's semifinal, pundits speculated how Low would choose his team. Would Andre Schurrle replace Klose in the first XI? Would Christoph Kramer be brought on for Khedira or Schweinsteiger?

As it turned out, Low had already found his best starting lineup for the semifinal: It was the very same selection he'd made against France. And despite the deafening roar of the capacity crowd at Estadio Mineirao, despite the "X-factor" that some 200 million Brazilians gave their national team in the form of extra motivation and pure adrenaline, Low's perfectly chosen team utterly obliterated the hosts.

Were Khedira and Schweinsteiger unfit? No. Their pressing in the opening minutes was heroic, and the Real Madrid man scored and assisted in the first half. Was Howedes' lack of pace exposed? Not a chance. Was Ozil a passenger? No. He assisted Khedira and pulled the strings superbly, exposing space in the Brazilian defense with his runs and devastating passes.

Criticism for Low after previous matches was understandable, if perhaps exaggerated and opportunistic. At this point, it's downright insane. He needed time to understand exactly whom he could rely upon. And he needed time for some of those in whom he placed his confidence (Khedira and Howedes especially) to hit peak form.

"It was an impressive performance," Kroos told reporters. "It’s the best team performance for Germany I’ve been involved in. We started believing from the first minute… After we scored the first, the goals kept coming."

But as the tournament has progressed, Germany have gotten better and better. An out-of-form shell of a team just a few weeks ago, Die Nationalmannschaft galloped to the final on Tuesday.

Germany's task is not yet done; there is a final to be played on Sunday. But one could only sense just how hungry Low's men were on Tuesday.

Whether Argentina or the Netherlands, their opponents will be terrified by the damage Low's Germany are capable of inflicting.


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