Brazil have suffered their worst humiliation in their entire proud footballing history, after losing 7-1 to Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final on Tuesday night.
Shorn of the leadership and inspirational performances of key centre-back Thiago Silva through suspension, Brazil boss Felipe Scolari entrusted his partner, David Luiz, to take over the captain's armband.
After half an hour, the game was over, Luiz had already been at fault for more than one goal, and his all-round performance over what was left of the game deteriorated to nothing short of an embarrassment to his shirt, the fans who watched on and the manager who made him captain.
Late in the 2012-13 season, Chelsea's interim boss Rafael Benitez utilised David Luiz in a roving but deep midfield role, allowing the Brazilian to express himself on the ball, attack when the opportunity arose and be safe in the knowledge that two, and sometimes three, players sat deeper than him to mop up losses of possession or positional mistakes.
Last season, Jose Mourinho used him in the same role for his club too, where in particular he excelled against Paris Saint-Germain—his new club—in the Champions League.
For Brazil against Germany, Luiz seemed to think he was still playing that role, looking to break forward with menace, pick the ball up in dangerous areas and fashion chances for others moving into the final third.
Except, when he did that, only one centre-back remained in place. And Germany swarmed forward, with great movement, one-touch play and terrible, clinical precision finishing.
Luiz is an offensive-minded defender—that is fine. In fact, more than fine, it's wonderful, exciting and a very real resource that teams can exploit to their benefit. But the defense's first job remains to stop the opposition from winning the game, not winning it itself.
At what point did Luiz, the leader of the team, the captain on the night, insist his team clam up, starve Germany of space in attack and simply prevent the mauling from becoming worse? He didn't, at all. Perhaps, as a team, Brazil were incapable of doing such, but as an individual, the onus was on Luiz to set the example for his team to follow.
Fair to say, in that regard at least, he was successful.
PSG will be hoping that Thiago Silva is the right man to keep David Luiz in constant check. Fell apart without him on the field tonight.— Simon Harrison (@simonhfootball) July 8, 2014
Unforgivable Lack of Commitment
Luiz lost his marker for the first goal, a volleyed finish by Thomas Mueller from a corner kick, but there was an element of good positional play by Mueller's team-mates, which prevented Luiz from following the forward. Not great defending by any means, but perhaps also not entirely his fault.
By the time Brazil were pulled all over the show for 2-0, Luiz and Co. visibly wilted in their desire to match the Germans' running, and thus the collapse began.
For goals four and five—and it's a mark of Luiz, Marcelo and the others' shambolic display that "goals four and five" weren't even the end of the trampling—though, the part that David Luiz played was unforgivable, unforgettable, inexplicable.
David Luiz will drive Brazil to victory tonight. He's been my star of this World Cup. Such passion/commitment/determination. #BRAvGER— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 8, 2014
With the centre-backs split, Luiz was stationed down the right channel when his team-mate lost the ball. Did he charge back, aggressively looking to stop another goal going in? No. A half-hearted jog, a wave of the arm. It didn't seem to matter.
Moments later, Brazil's captain and first-choice central defender opted to back out of a tackle as Sami Khedira ended up making it 5-0.
Forget the tears, the sweat, the goal-line challenges of the Confederations Cup and even the big tackles during this tournament. Luiz's value and input to the team was visible right there in those two moments. He came up horribly, horribly wanting.
A second-half challenge by Mueller on Luiz caused a moment of outrage by the defender; in truth there was nothing much in the tackle, and Mueller won the ball. A moment later, though, Luiz purposely turned in possession toward Mueller, kneeling on the ground, and tried to absolutely hammer the ball at him from about five yards.
It started a bit of a shoving match in the middle of the pitch as the two had to be separated, but Luiz should have been sent off for a clear case of intent to hurt his opponent.
Continuing Luiz's theme of the match, he rather predictably missed the ball entirely. Perhaps that alone saved him from an early exit as the boos and insults rained down on those in yellow from the stands.
His mind was completely gone from the game by that point, but it is a 90 minutes he will hellishly relive time and time again over the remainder of his career. 2014 was supposed to be redemption for Brazil for their 1950 defeat, and Luiz had the opportunity to lead the side through to the final.
What Brazil got from him instead was a diabolical individual performance in a hugely inept team display and a result to haunt everybody involved with the side for every bit as long as the Maracanazo has done.
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