Get past the “Group of Death”. Overcome one of the many “lesser” teams that have punched above their weight. Check. Knuckle down and put a threatening European rival out of commission. Check. It has not been an easy ride, but Germany are once again in the last four of the World Cup. Having seen off both the French and the flu, a semi-final in the city of Belo Horizonte awaits – against hosts Brazil.
When mapping out the campaign on one of those online campaign-plotters before the tournament began, I would come pretty close. I’d mess up slightly in thinking that Russia would edge ahead of Algeria for the second phase challenge, but after that I’d be spot on. A quarter-final against France, and then a semi-final against A Seleção.
This is where things would get difficult. My heart would naturally make me pick Germany as the winners, but my head would keep shouting the word “Endstation”, and with it yet another 3rd/4th place playoff – the oft-forgotten “small final”. However, with just over twenty-four hours before the Nationalmannschaft’s next challenge gets under way my head has started to come ’round. With the fates appearing to conspire against the hosts, it has dawned on me that we can actually win this.
The horrible injury to the tournament’s poster boy Neymar has clearly upset the equilibrium in the Brazilian camp, and the suspension of their skipper Thiago Silva has added to coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s woes. While it is true that these body blows could actually galvanise the Brazilians, the fact remains that they will always be a better team with these two players than without.
Meanwhile after a scare on the back straight, Jogi’s Jungs have taken the last bend smoothly and cleanly, and as they approach the home straight appear to be gathering momentum. After struggling to find a consistent style and approach, the game against France would suggest that some of the spirit of Italia ’90 has been imbibed.
Germany might have the slightly better form coming into this match, but like old rivals Italy Brazil could very well present something of a psychological stumbling block. The historical trauma is nowhere near as bad, but when added to the clear sense of entitlement Brazil will have playing in front of their own home crowd it makes for an interesting battle of wills. The Mannschaft’s psychological state will be be key to their success.
Another factor is of course the referee, with Brazil having got the better of some iffy decisions thus far. Apart from their second phase game against Chile that was excellent marshalled by England’s Howard Webb, the men in yellow have been allowed a fairly easy ride by the man with the whistle. Hopefully this will not be the case in the semi-final, with Mexican disciplinarian Marco Antonio Rodríguez taking charge. Rodríguez wouldn’t see the infamous Luis Suárez bite against Italy, but will hopefully be keeping his eyes peeled for any errant elbows.
The stage is now set, and I can think of no better moment to beat Brazil on their home patch.
Head to Head Record and History
The Nationalmannschaft’s record against Brazil is not good, with only four wins in the twenty-one matches between the two nations alongside five draws and twelve defeats. Most of these games have been friendlies, with the only top-level meeting being the World Cup final in 2002.
However, the two teams have met in a number of other less high-profile competitive games, with the Brazilians unbeaten in four matches. Having taken the lead Jupp Derwall’s West Germany would suffer a 4-1 defeat at the hands of A Seleção in the little-known Copa de Oro mini-tournament in 1981, Erich Ribbeck’s team would suffer a humiliating second-half meltdown en route to a 4-0 group stage defeat at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico in 1999, while a second Confed Cup meeting in 2005 would see Jürgen Klinsmann’s side put up a far better fight before falling 3-2 in Nürnberg.
The other game – and the sole exception to this sorry catalogue of defeats – would be in the US Cup mini-tournament in 1993, where Berti Vogts’ side would come back from three goals down at half-time to secure a 3-3 draw, with Klinsmann scoring the equaliser a minute into stoppage time.
In short, it doesn’t look good in terms of past statistics – and when takes into account the fact that Brazil haven’t lost a competitive international for thirty-nine years it looks even less encouraging. That defeat would come in a 3-1 defeat to Peru in the semi-final of the Copa America in 1975, before any of the players on either of the two current squads were born.
But here’s the twist in the tale: that defeat would come in the Estádio Minerão in Belo Horizonte.
Jogi Löw’s men can also look back to the last meeting between the two countries, which would result in an emphatic 3-2 win for the Nationalelf in Stuttgart’s Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion in the autumn of 2011 – a result that would flatter their opponents. The game would see a gala show from youngster Mario Götze, who would score a spectacular first international goal.
The home side have not looked massively impressive in making their way into the last four, but under the weight of immense pressure they are there. Their path has not been without controversy and more than a little bit of fortune: a shocking series of refereeing decisions would see them overcome a shock early deficit to beat a gutsy Croatia 3-1, and a hard-fought goalless draw against Mexico would be followed by a more functional 4-1 thrashing of a poor Cameroon side.
Second phase opponents Chile would run the hosts close in taking the game to a dramatic penalty shootout after a 1-1 stalemate, but just two minutes from the end of extra time would come within inches of ending Brazil’s dream as a shot crashed off the crossbar. More slack refereeing would see Brazil’s strong-arm tactics come to the fore in subduing a bright Colombian team 2-1, but fate would take a vicious turn when Neymar was stretchered off two minutes from the end.
Last eight matches (latest first): WW*WDWWWW
Until last week, one name would have come to mind: Neymar. The rest of the Brazilian attack has been ordinary at best, with the likes of Hulk, Fred and Jô flattering to deceive. Might one of them find their form? Elsewhere, Chelsea’s David Luiz is a dead-ball specialist in the Brazilian tradition and would strike a stunning effort – albeit from a free-kick that should never have been awarded – to deliver the telling blow against Colombia.
Having relied on Neymar up to this point, the time has surely come for Brazil to play like a team and find a new hero.
Germany and Brazil have played the most matches at World Cup tournaments and have between them dominated the tournament, but the two teams have only met once in the competition – the final in Yokohama in 2002, which A Seleção would win 2-0 with a brace from the tournament’s all-time joint top goalscorer Ronaldo.
Every time I see the name Belo Horizonte, I read “Blue Horizon”, and think of the song by Lou Christie… Here’s hoping Jogi’s Jungs can go beyond the Belo Horizonte, with a beautiful day in Rio awaiting us on the other side!