Germany faced hosts Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Belo Horzionte. The crowd were expectant and the atmosphere was deafening. Well, at least until Germany decided otherwise. The match would go down as one of the greatest footballing debacles in the history of World Cup football. Germany put in a high class performance and dispatched of Brazil with almost arrogant ease as Brazil suffered the biggest defeat in the history of World Cup semi-finals. Here we look into the tactical breakdown of the game.
Brazil were without their star men in both defence and attack- Neymar and Thiago Silva. Luiz Felipe Scolari chose Bernard and Dante as their replacements in a like to like switch. Germany played the saemteam in a 4-3-3 formation. Ozil functioned as an interior left while Muller was far wide on the right. Klose spearheaded the attack with Kroos, Schweinsteiger and Khedira making up their solid midfield. The absence of Thiago Silva was strikingly obvious in this historic match that will not be forgotten by any of those who witnessed it while it would go down in the history books as one of the greatest matches in footballing history, let alone the world cup.
Made using TacticalPad
Frenzied tempo at the start of the game:
Brazil looked to start the game with a very lively tempo by moving the ball quickly and vertically. They looked to make use of aggressive pass combinations and quick switches of play to the ball far side. In this particular aspect the passing range and vision of Marcelo and Luiz came in handy as they both looked to instigate play from within deep. Marcelo especially was crucial in Brazil’s build up as he was very attacking in his runs. The presence of Luiz Gustavo was to help negate the space offered by Marcelo when he made these forward runs (at least on principle this was the case, sadly from a Brazilian standpoint it was not to be). With both the central defenders being comfortable on the ball, Brazil looked to build play from the back with long passes over the top. This was mainly due to the good structure in place from Germany for pressing.
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Havoc, chaos and whatnot:
The four goals in seven minutes from Germany were extremely chaotic and mostly due to Brazilian defense in shambles. This however should not diminish the raw efficiency in Germany’s set up and their play in the final third as they took the chances that came their way. The first half hour of the game pretty much ended the game effectively as a result with five unanswered goals from Germany. To understand how they were able to play almost flawless football for the first half hour, we take a look at their pressing / counterpressing structure and how they built their attacks (not to mention the shambolic defending spearheaded by a certain David Luiz):
One key aspect to Germany’s pressing scheme was their nominal positioning for any form of turnover in possession. Germany maintained their basic tactics throughout the tournament and made slight tweaks to their structures according to the opposition. In this match, Muller stayed quite close to Marcelo in the initial phases so that he was effectively shut out of the build-up and could not make much of an influence.
The use of pressing traps was brilliant from Germany as they displayed collective intelligence in many situations when the Brazilian centre backs had the ball. The fourth goal was the perfect example of this with Kroos stealing the ball off Fernandinho. The pass to the Brazilian central midfielder was a well set up trap for pressing with Dante having all of his other passing options cut off.
Germany’s attacks through the right wing and the half space were precise and quick. This was aptly helped by some very poor defending from Brazil. There was a mixture of under preparedness and individualistic mistakes from Brazil in these situations. Firstly, they failed to stay compact in midfield. The coverage of the wide areas from their wingers-Bernard and Hulk was very poor. Hulk especially was at fault for the third goal from Germany when he failed to stick with Philipp Lahm. Ozil released Lahm who crossed for Kroos to fire home the goal. Secondly, the compact structure was nowhere in place in midfield as there was no central occupancy to cover the German midfielders. Both Kroos and Schweinsteiger often found themselves devoid of any sort of pressure until it was too late. The individual qualities of both these players offer little respite for opposition to make any sort of mistakes in covering them. This was the case here as both of them were afforded enough time to pick apart their opposition.
One major point worth discussing was the absence of Thiago Silva. The Brazilian captain’s value was easily felt in his absence as he was the perfect foil for the aggressive nature of David Luiz. Maybe overcome by the nature of the occasion, Luiz was more immature in his pressing movements as he was caught out of his position multiple times. Added to this the lack of a proper organiser at the back and the German juggernaut, the 5-0 was surely beckoning. With Luiz charging down to nip an attack each time, he left his fellow defenders horribly exposed. Dante could not manage the same level of covering that Silva offers while Maicon could not offer any sort of solace as most of the attacks were on the other side. Marcelo himself was caught out of position a lot of times and was not helped by the ill-disciplined Hulk. The expert use of ball carriers and the press resistant nature of Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Lahm and even Khedira meant that the Brazilian counter press could not work. The proper spacing between Schweinsteiger, Kroos and especially the off the ball runs by Ozil and Muller meant that Germany could easily bypass any sort of press. Also the use of blind side runs against a heavily disoriented and disorganised team meant that Germany dominated the ball in each phase of build-up.
Another major flaw in Brazil’s play was that there was no slowing down of tempo whatsoever when they were faced with the crisis. As each goal kept going in, there was almost brainless increase in tempo each time almost to the extent that Brazil looked like they were trying to claw back a goal every time they let one in. There was no calm leader or a dictator of tempo in the team to ensure that they resumed back to their structure after they were down. The 20-30 minute period was a prime example of this as each goal was shipped in with absolutely no shape in structure.
German diligence keeps Brazil at bay, while scoring two more goals in the process:
The second half was all about how Germany marshalled Brazil and killed the game off. While the score might have already been enough to stave off an improbable comeback, Germany did not relax too much with the excellent Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels doing enough to see Brazil off. There was no room for error afforded by the Germans to be exploited by the Brazilians and only after 90 minutes could they score. The fact that Manuel Neuer was disgusted with his defenders for being lax even after being seven goals up by then speaks volumes about how the Germans went about with their business.
Schurrle’s second, and Germany’s sixth, goal was once again the culmination of German brilliance and Brazilian mistakes. Lahm, on par with Toni Kroos with his performance in that match, once again exploited the right hand side and the substitute slotted in the sixth German goal on the night.
Video breakdown of the goals- collective and individual errors from Brazil and Germany’s adaptations:
These best exemplify the above mentioned points. The fact that Germany almost translated each of the Brazilian mistakes into a goal speaks of their technical and tactical proficiency. There was surely some luck involved with the way they scored with every attack during those ten minutes. But nothing is to be taken away from their excellence at which they dismantled Brazil.
Though the result was not particularly a shock, the score line definitely was. No one expected such a thrashing, let alone the Germans themselves. The defensive organisation and performance from the Brazilians that day deserved a hiding but it was their misfortune that they went up against the best team in the world at that time, who were on song that particular match. Belo Horizonte mourned the result while Germany marched onto the finals in spectacular fashion. The manner of their win proved to be a victory for the collective effort. The tactical and technical proficiency was of the highest order from the Germans while the Brazilians disappointed as a collective group, especially the defense. All in all, it was a historic result and a bloody good one at it.