- Germany possess the better players, but Brazil has more personality
- Miroslav Klose could have a huge, psychological impact if he scores
- Home advantage will benefit Brazil in a tight game
It didn’t take a seer to accurately predict a month or so ago that Germany would confront Brazil in the first World Cup semi-final at the Estadio Mineirao. And so, inevitably, it has come to pass. Despite being the two most consistently-successful World Cup nations of all time (yes, yes, Italy has won four titles – but they don’t come close to the Germans in top four finishes), this is only their second meeting at the World Cup. It promises bedlam in Belo Horizonte.
The Brazilian nation seems on the verge of a collective, hysteria-induced psychological meltdown. The loss of captain and babysitter Thiago Silva seems almost an after-thought amid the wailing and ululating that has accompanied the departure of Neymar from the tournament. TV presenters have been reduced to tears, Big Phil has got the psychologist in (hope it’s not Dr. Steve Peters), and David Luiz will be expected to be good for stand-in home-help Dante until Silva returns.
Meanwhile, German assistant-coach Hansi Flick has been telling the world that Joachim Loew has been studying a vast tranche of statistical data on the Brazilian squad compiled by an army of boffins at the University of Cologne. As mind-games go, this was a particularly impressive gambit. Had he said “Ve vill be prepared”, he couldn’t have conveyed the message more terrifyingly. So, who’s going to win?
Germany have the better players overall, but Brazil have more personality. Even the three stooges at the back, David Luiz, Marcelo, and Dani Alves impose themselves on proceedings (granted, in the same way that drunks back from the pub impose themselves, but they are an imposition nonetheless). Then I look at the gifted Mesut Oezil and wonder if he’s really got the stomach for it, if the fight offends his sense of the aesthetic.
Paul Breitner is among some high-profile critics of Oezil’s continuing presence on the team, and it’s undoubtedly a huge game for the Arsenal man. Despite some respectable passing stats, he hasn’t been particularly penetrative – a problem also afflicting Toni Kroos. With Oezil, Kroos, and Mario Goetze in the team, there are too many beautiful wallflowers to beat Curly, Larry, and Moe’s brand of chaotic, self-righteous ignorance. These guys can’t freeze because they’re not remotely self-aware. Hence their hair.
Kroos is a fine player, but he lacks personality, the ability to dominate a game. This Brazil is there for the taking, but I’m not sure that this German generation is a winning one. They’re not bloody-minded enough. They are the type of German team that would lose a penalty shoot-out (Cologne boffins notwithstanding). Brazil, meanwhile, will sell their I Belong to Jesus t-shirts to win. Germany need to make it about ability, but without Marco Reus I’m not sure they are so much better than the Brazilians to compensate adequately for the deficit of desire.
That said, Brazil could suffer a complete mental collapse if the Germans go ahead – especially if Miroslav Klose breaks the World Cup record, held jointly by Brazil’s Ronaldo, in the process. For that reason alone, he’s worth his starting place. As always with Loew, if he reverts to the madness of Lahm in midfield, all bets are off.
At this stage in World Cups, champion teams find a way to win. Fred and Hulk need to play above their recent form if the hosts are to make it through. Home advantage – and it’s an advantage to Brazil if the Mexican referee allows a free-for-all like the Spanish whistler did in the Colombia game – might be the deciding factor.
This German team will have to crush Brazil if they want to win. Any tight, margin of error match is likely to see the Brazilians find a way to the final. They’ll get the benefit of most doubts, so unless Germany can get two or three goals and make it clear-cut, crush Brazilian spirits, and play on the heightened levels of hysteria sweeping the country, then I suspect a few boffins in Cologne might be rechecking their methodologies in the morning and wondering how they missed Referinho’s significant variables.