Brazil collapse to ruthless Germany leaves Scolari tarnished
Who knew that a manager as experienced as Luiz Felipe Scolari, somebody that had won a World Cup before, would build a Brazil team in his second spell in charge that could crumble so comprehensively?
It turns out that injured Samba Boys star Neymar and suspended skipper Thiago Silva were holding up a house of cards. For them, and everyone else in the ranks of the hosts, the World Cup is over. A third place play-off against the losers of Argentina against the Netherlands will be the emptiest of encounters.
Neither Neymar nor Silva could do anything except watch on in horror from a hospital bed and the stands respectively, as their Brazil teammates completely capitulated during a scintillating six minutes of play midway through the first half from Germany.
Die Mannschaft may only have three stars on their national badge, but this performance was the stuff of twice as many. As a British broadcaster so aptly put it during the coverage: eins, zwei, drei, vier, thumped. And the Samba Boys were soundly thumped, as Joachim Low’s lads found seventh heaven, while in the thick of this utter annihilation, a World Cup record was broken.
Miroslav Klose needed two bites of the cherry, but he poached an unequalled 16th international goal at global finals and avenged the 2002 final defeat in one fell swoop. Eclipsing the mark of 15 set by Brazil legend Ronaldo rubbed salt into Samba wounds among expectant supporters, who gathered in the Rio de Janeiro fan-park on Copacabana beach.
It was in Belo Horizonte, which means beautiful horizon in English, that the drama unfolded. Brazil lost their last competitive match on home soil in that city, but you have to go almost a century back to 1920 to see a humbling of this magnitude.
Speaking of horizons, the outlook is anything but beautiful for almost everybody connected with the Samba Boys. It is a sad ending for Scolari, whose blind faith in a core of players he has seldom deviated from since returning as Brazil boss at the end of 2012 was his undoing.
If nothing else, this demolition should have forced his eyes open to grave errors. Now, every decision Big Phil has made in his second spell will come under intense scrutiny. Losing Diego Costa to Spain, when the Chelsea new boy thought the grass would be greener if he rejected the country of his birth, will be chief among them.
Ultimately, that subplot we all thought might be so interesting at this World Cup bore no fruit. Persisting with immobile target man Fred, who did so little to suggest he has recovered from a lengthy spell out injured over last autumn and winter, however, looks like folly.
Scolari got the best out of the Fluminense frontman at the Confederations Cup a year ago, but refused to recognise his powers have diminished at this level since then. Hulk’s horrendous international form, a shadow by comparison of the athletic attacker two years ago under predecessor Mano Menezes, was another glaring fact ignored by the Brazil boss.
All the so-called ‘one man’ teams, Argentina and Lionel Messi apart, have fallen at these finals. In management you have to have a ‘Plan B’, but it seems Big Phil didn’t bank on Neymar being nobbled by a knee in the back from Juan Camilo Zuniga in the quarter-final clash with Colombia.
David Luiz and Dante, a Bayern Munich player turning out against his club teammates here, failed utterly as a centre back pairing. Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo, operating in front of the defence, afforded about as much protection to them as training dummies.
Another age old Brazilian weakness, the full backs, was always brutally laid bare here. Dani Alves’ poor form earlier in the tournament saw him dropped, but replacement Maicon did just as badly. Marcelo on the other side, meanwhile, set the tone in the World Cup opener against Croatia by scoring an own goal. His performances hardly picked up.
Question marks will be placed over box-to-box player Paulinho, whose form dipped dramatically in a Samba Boys shirt in 2014. All that consternation when old guard Kaka, Robinho and Ronaldinho were omitted by Big Phil will turn into a clamour that asks why he did not choose an experienced option to support the striker.
Why did Scolari leave out La Liga title-winning defenders Filipe Luis and Joao Miranda from Atletico Madrid? Their workmanlike qualities, ironically instilled into them by an Argentine coach at club level, Diego Simeone, would have been welcome here. Managers live and die by decisions like this, and Big Phil did the latter.
Oscar can come out of what will be perceived as failure on home soil with his reputation intact, however. His late consolation may be a mere footnote to the drubbing, but he supplemented Neymar’s strikes as best he could. Expect some pretty deep Samba Boys soul-searching to follow.
As abjectly bad as Brazil were here, Germany can take full credit for an outstanding display. Manuel Neuer may be annoyed his clean sheet was ruined so late on, but that hardly matters. To go alongside record-breaking Klose, two of the midfielders behind him really excelled here.
Sami Khedira was substituted less than an hour into the Champions League final won by Real Madrid over their city rivals Atletico just six weeks ago. The transformation in his match fitness over this relatively short period of time, following a lengthy layoff because of a serious knee injury, is incredible.
Khedira, the most defensive-minded midfielder selected by Low, proved he is back to his best here with a goal and an assist. Not to be outdone, Bayern’s Toni Kroos also gave another timely reminder of his virtues, netting twice and effectively making as many.
Die Mannschaft skipper Philipp Lahm put in a virtuoso display at right back, with swashbuckling raids reminiscent of his youth. He still has a lot to offer in his traditionally favoured position rather than as a holding player. Two assists here were compelling evidence of that.
Versatile attacker Thomas Muller, chasing another Golden Boot with odds of 15/8 to be tournament top scorer, and impact substitute Andre Schurrle were also on target, the latter joining Kroos in bagging a brace. This really was a complete German performance.
So complete in fact, that Low’s lads now have the luxury of being called odds-on 8/11 favourites to be World Cup winners for the fourth time. Follow that Argentina and the Netherlands!