World Cup 2014: 5 Biggest Talking Points from the Semi-Final Games
After an extraordinary set of semi-final fixtures, the line-up for the 2014 World Cup final is complete, with Germany set to face Argentina in Rio de Janeiro this weekend.
In an astonishing clash on Tuesday, Brazil suffered the heaviest loss by a host nation in the tournament’s history, losing 7-1 to Germany in a game that stunned the football world and left a country in mourning.
And 24 hours later, Argentina booked their place in the biggest match of all, beating the Netherlands in a penalty shootout in Sao Paulo after a goalless draw.
The result is a mouth-watering final at the Maracana, and ahead of Sunday’s showdown, Bleacher Report studies the five biggest talking points to emerge from the midweek action.
Brazil’s Dramatic Collapse in Belo Horizonte
In the absence of captain Thiago Silva and chief playmaker Neymar, many anticipated a testing evening for Brazil on Tuesday, but what unfolded was beyond anyone’s wildest prediction.
Even after Thomas Mueller’s early opener for Germany, there was little hint of the horror that was about to unfold for the hosts. But before the half-hour mark, their worst nightmares had materialised.
Four goals in the space of six manic minutes put Joachim Low’s Europeans 5-0 up, leaving a nation stunned. Luiz Felipe Scolari could only stare in disbelief as his defence crumbled under the watchful eyes of millions.
Footage of distressed fans—some of whom were in tears—began to fill homes and bars across the globe, while the Brazilian press sharpened their knives.
As reported by The Mirror’s Jack Lang, “The Disgrace of all Disgraces” was the headline in Globo Esporte, while Lance! followed a similar path, calling it “The Biggest Shame in History.”
For the wider football community, it was a shock of historic proportions, but for the Selecao and their supporters, it brought a sense of humiliation that will be hard to shake off.
Germany’s Ruthless Streak
Neglected in the furore of Brazil’s bewildering breakdown at the back, Germany’s performance in Belo Horizonte was as calculated as it was ruthless.
From the moment they took the lead in the 11th minute, Low’s men smelled blood and went for the jugular in spectacular fashion.
As the host’s capitulated, the likes of Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klose, who rubbed salt into Brazilian wounds by beating Ronaldo’s World Cup scoring record on the night, ran riot.
Lost beneath the wreckage was a dominant German performance bristling with precision and intensity, and only the brave would bet against them lifting the ultimate prize on Sunday.
Brazil’s Woe Sparks a Twitter Meltdown
To gauge the level of interest, not to mention shock, in Brazil’s astounding surrender to Germany, you only had to take a quick glance at Twitter before, during and after the game.
According to the Twitter Data account, which crunches the latest data analysis, the clash became the most discussed sports match ever on the social networking platform, generating 35.6 million tweets.
The figure outstrips the previous high of 24.9 million, when the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl in February.
Khedira’s goal in the 29th minute—Germany’s fifth—also set a tweets-per-minute record, with 580,166 being posted.
— Twitter Data (@TwitterData) July 9, 2014
Having been commended earlier in the tournament for their fast-flowing brand of attacking football, the Netherlands failed to fire in Sao Paulo and didn’t register a single shot on target in the initial 90 minutes.
Despite being able to name Robin van Persie in their starting XI, amid fears of stomach problems, Louis van Gaal’s men were unable to break down a stubborn Argentina defence.
The Dutch did grow in stature, and Arjen Robben was denied a close-range shot at goal by a magnificent Javier Mascherano block as the tie entered stoppage time.
Fluid, despite being completely dominant, the Netherlands worked the ball into some good areas as time wore on, but their reluctance to test Sergio Romero until the eighth minute of extra time ultimately cost them.
— Arsène's Son (@hughwizzy) July 9, 2014
A Lack of Liveliness from Lionel Messi
After the goalfest on Tuesday, Netherlands vs. Argentina was hardly likely to produce the same kind of jaw-dropping drama, but even with Lionel Messi on the pitch, the clash was a damp squib in an attacking sense.
None of Alejandro Sabella’s forwards shone brightly on Wednesday, with Gonzalo Higuain—the match-winner in the previous round against Belgium—replaced by an equally below-par Sergio Aguero.
But it was the disappointing nature of Messi’s display that promoted the biggest questions of the night, with the Barcelona forward uninvolved in the action for long spells.
Sabella was never going to replace his star man as the minutes ticked by and credit must go to Holland for towering displays from the likes of Ron Vlaar at the back, but a better performance was expected of the No. 10.