World Cup Daily Digest: Without Neymar, Brazil's Mediocrity Unmasked by Germany

Alex Dimond@alexdimondUK Lead WriterJuly 8, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JULY 08:  David Luiz and Maicon of Brazil look dejected after allowing Germany's fifth goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany at Estadio Mineirao on July 8, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Suddenly a "digest" does not quite seem sufficient. We could be here for three days analysing Tuesday's game, and we would still only cover the tip of the iceberg.

Turns out that without Neymar, Brazil could barely stitch a half-decent attack together. Turns out with Thiago Silva, their defence could hardly touch their opponents, let alone stop them.

That horrific combination ended in the worst way possible for Brazil: A 7-1 defeat to Germany that few football fans will ever forget. 

“I am sorry for the Brazilian people,” a tearful David Luiz, captain in the absence of Silva, said (per NBCSports) afterwards. “The team, we wanted to make them happy. We wanted to do this for the people who have suffered so much in Brazil. We wanted to make you happy in the World Cup but we couldn’t do it.”

The manner of the result—and the performance—was more than just a simple consequence of the absence of the Selecao's two star players. It was a consequence of pressure, of poor team selection, of poor organisation and of poor individual effort. It was a consequence of an impressive German side, and a ruthless one at that.

It all added up to perhaps the most dramatic result in World Cup history.

This was clearly not a vintage Brazil side, even before the events in Belo Horizonte. It was a mediocre one at best, but one that, with Neymar offering a spark of genius and Thiago Silva, a rock at the back, had managed to find a way to overcome the initial obstacles in front of them.

They even managed to see off Colombia, arguably the most entertaining sight of the tournament, although in hindsight, that was a scrappy win that could have gone a different way on another night (Los Cafeteros must be kicking themselves right about now).

In the end, on the verge of the final, this team was finally found out. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari got his team selection wrong (Bernard and Fernandinho, among others, were abject), but those who were always going to be picked also performed awfully. Marcelo, Luiz and Luiz Gustavo, among almost all the others, will never be able to dredge any kernel of credit from this fiasco.

The performance was nothing short of embarrassing. Clearly, Germany were good, but perhaps only in the final will we discover exactly how good—the pathetic nature of the Brazilian resistance making it impossible to make sound judgements about the test they were facing.

Making snap longer-term judgements is dangerous, especially so soon after such disappointment, but perhaps, perhaps this will lead to a re-evaluation of the way Brazil approaches its team.

Faced with a poor squad and the must-win demands of their population, this time around, the team opted for the pragmatism of Scolari over its long history of "joga bonito". This did not deliver the intended result, although perhaps it did offer their best possible chance of glory. Returning to the country's roots may be something to focus on going forward.

The sixth World Cup win remains elusive. With four years to plan, it will be interesting if the country can uncover more reliable stars like Neymar and Thiago Silva, and fewer liabilities, like the ones that took to the field on Tuesday.

July 8, 2014; Belo Horizonte, BRAZIL; Germany player Per Mertesacker celebrates after the semifinal match against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup at Mineirao Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports
Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports


Results in brief—Day 27

Brazil 1-7 Germany
(Oscar; Mueller, Klose, Kroos (2), Khedira, Schurrle (2))

Brazil will play in the third-place play-off in Brasilia on Saturday.
Germany now progress to the final in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

1. Notes from Day 27

Stat attack...Brazil's last competitive defeat on home soil was in 1975—in the same stadium, against Peru in the Copa America. The last time they conceded four goals (let alone more) was in the 1954 World Cup against Hungary. To say no one could have seen this coming is surely...absolutely accurate. 

Keeper trouble...Something of an insignificant point at this stage, but could Julio Cesar have done far better for at least four of Brazil's goals, including three of the first four? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it is tempting to suggest Keylor Navas (or Guillermo Ochoa) in goal for the Selecao might have at least kept the scoreline down.

Pressure shifts to Germany...After such a dominant result, many will now expect Germany to go on and win the final, whoever they may face. That means much of the pressure that was on Brazil will now shift onto their shoulders. It will be interesting to see how they handle it. 

Opportunity for Argentina...A European side has famously never won a World Cup on South American soil. Argentina are the only side now capable of preventing that from changing. Pressure on Lionel Messi and co., but also cause for encouragement and motivation.

2. Quote of the Day

I am responsible for this catastrophic result. I made the choices. I was responsible. We ask for forgiveness. To the people, please excuse us for this negative mistake.

- Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (per Sky Sports) 

3. Tweet of the Day

Honorable mentions...

4. Goal of the Day

Awful defending, but brilliant execution from Toni Kroos.

5. A good day for...

Toni Kroos. Picking a star performer out of the German lineup is almost impossible, but Kroos might just get the nod, and not simply for his two-goal performance. The Bayern Munich midfielder was a dominant presence all game, dictating the tempo and picking Brazil apart as his side romped to glory. His two goals, however, ensured his share of media coverage—perhaps dragging him into Golden Ball contention in the process. If Argentina and Lionel Messi do not reach the final, then the field for the tournament's best player award might just get a little wider. Kroos, who has been great all tournament, may have made himself a factor.

(Additionally, Neymar and Thiago Silva may consider themselves a tad fortunate to have been absent for this horrific evening).

6. A bad day for...

Errrmmm...take your pick of any Brazilian player, coach or fan. This is not a day they will soon forget.

7. Tomorrow's schedule

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 08:  Lionel Messi of Argentina warms up during a training session at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Netherlands vs. Argentina (9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET)

Can this tournament's second semi-final have any hope of living up to the first? Considering games at this stage of big competitions are usually cagey, tight affairs, perhaps this is what we might have to contend with in this game.

Argentina, although they may resent the comparison, have often looked like Brazil in this tournament—a workmanlike, unspectacular side elevated by the otherworldly play of their talismanic attacker. Fortunately for them, however, Lionel Messi is available and ready to go in this game.

The Dutch, meanwhile, have been the tournament's biggest achievers, defying pre-tournament expectations of a group stage exit, as Louis van Gaal has masterminded a series of commendable tactical victories. Can he find the way to beat Argentina, where Belgium and Switzerland narrowly failed?

It is highly likely he will have something up his sleeve, and he has the players capable of executing his plan. But Messi is Messi. It should be another compelling clash.


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