If you’ve watched football long enough, nothing should come as a surprise. Match-winning goals at the death; questionable red cards; colossal upsets; a controversial penalty that decides the outcome – we’ve seen all of these things. Yet the massacre at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, a 7-1 beatdown that Germany put on host Brazil, is beyond shocking. How could the most prolific football nation in existence suffer such an embarrassing defeat on such a big stage? It’s inexplicable. And sincerely sad. Even the most ardent Brazil haters have to feel some sympathy. Seeing men, women and children openly weep not even midway through the match as the goals poured in against their heroes is heartbreaking in itself. It felt like there were enough tears to make the Amazon overflow.
So how did this happen? Was Germany that clinical or the Selecao that unprepared? How much did the absence of Brazil’s star Neymar and the captain Thiago Silva impact the rout? It’s difficult to say. The intriguing part is the psychology of it all. One moment, you are a band of high profile, finely tuned athletes with a vision, competing in the match of your life. A few missed assignments later and the pressure cooker you find yourself in simply explodes. At 1-0, it’s still a match. Same at 2-0. But when the third went in, with little effort from the ruthless Germans, that was it. The Brazilians broke mentally. They were shocked. Overwhelmed. Simply unable to pull it together. And in a span of minutes, your dream, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lift the most prestigious trophy in sport, on your own soil, is over. They succumbed to the unfair pressure placed on them. It was an incredible occurrence to witness, unimaginable to any fan or pundit.
As a nation and its star players mourn, what could conceivably be next for them? This was an historic defeat and the sad part for Brazil is that there is no redemption any time soon. Perhaps ever. A courageous effort in the third-place match will be the first step in a lengthy journey. But even a future World Cup victory, which will likely happen some time for Brazil, isn’t enough to erase the horror of July 8, 2014. It will be an infamous date, even moreso than July 16, 1950, when Brazil first hosted the tournament and surprisingly lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the final. Despite five World Cup victories, that defeat is still a stain in Brazil’s history. Imagine what the legacy of this one will be like? Of course, in an edition of the tournament that has proven to be both wild and unpredictable, maybe it was the ideal stage for the most surprising World Cup result ever.
Chin up, Brazilians. You remain the only nation with five stars on the famous yellow shirt. There are so many more beautiful memories than the few horrors, though understandably, that’s tough to appreciate right now.
The sign of a great team, in any sport, is the ability to adjust. Germany is therefore a great side. In their first knockout match, the Germans struggled against Algeria. Inconsistent and lacking their trademark technical quality, they got by and progressively righted the ship since, culminating in the total domination of the tournament favorite in the most resounding way possible. So as Germany gears up for either the phenom Messi or the hungry, resilient Dutch, manager Joachim Low will surely emphasize that his players not bask too much in the glory of this history-making win. They produced the performance of a lifetime. But the Germans need to forget it for now and finish the business of winning a fourth World Cup, tying them with the Italians for most all time, aside from Brazil.
A few analysts have brought up this point to consider: you don’t see any German players with wild hair or audacious tattoos. They aren’t concerned about their individual looks. They are not reliant on a star figure. They play as a unit and a well-oiled one at that. Basically unchallenged in the Semi, Germany should be fresh and focused for the winner of Argentina v Netherlands.
Move over Ronaldo
Congrats must go out to veteran German striker Miroslav Klose, who inadvertently rubbed more salt into Brazil’s gaping wound by surpassing the Brazilian legend Ronaldo as the World Cup’s all-time leading goal scorer. Sixteen goals is an amazing record. And Klose is well deserving of the honour. He is known as a consummate pro, unfazed if he finds himself on the bench and always ready to perform when called upon. He is a leader, always providing guidance for young players. The Germans have looked refreshed in the past two matches, which he has started.
But Klose may have to make way for a fellow countrymen when it comes to the World Cup record books. Thomas Muller, just 24, scored his 10th World Cup goal when he notched the first of Germany’s seven Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. Muller is whiner but he is a finisher of the highest order, always on the hunt for a goal. Take note of Germany’s sixth goal against Brazil. Andre Schurrle puts away a nicely slotted pass in the area, getting to the correct spot right before his poacher teammate. Muller actually looked mad for a moment. He should surpass Klose in next time around in Russia. And barring injury or a lapse in form, he will probably have another World Cup in him after 2018. Mueller could potentially put that record out of reach for generations.
RIP Di Stefano
The football world paid tribute to a legend when the great Alfredo Di Stefano passed away Monday. He was 88.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Di Stefano was best known for his time at Real Madrid, where the club won five straight European Champions’ Cups in the 1950s during his tenure. Known as the “Blonde Arrow,” he earned the prestigious Ballon d’Or as the best player in Europe in 1957 and 1959.
Di Stefano played briefly for Argentina but most of his international career was spent with Spain. He scored 23 goals in 31 appearances for his adopted homeland. Sadly, he never competed in a World Cup.
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