World Cup Unfiltered
How do I put this delicately... Brazil was absolutely and utterly demolished by a motivated and deadly German side. Coming into the game without their talisman and number ten, Neymar, with captain and world class center back Thiago Silva also missing in action thanks to his goalkeeper interference in the quarterfinals, Brazil was hobbled. This is Brazil we are discussing however, the five time World Cup champions, playing in their home country. Surely they would have the depth, talent, and motivation to put in a valiant effort in front of their countrymen and women. Germany had other ideas apparently. Brazil looked like they had control over the game early on, holding the ball and passing well, even with the emotions of the day, while Germany looked to chase and gain possession. The crowd was so loud and pro-Brazil that every time Germany got a hold of the ball jeers and boos rained down on their heads. It turned bad very quickly on a German corner kick in the 11th minute with Thomas Muller so open that I don't think he could believe it, and Muller does not miss a tap in opportunity like that. Brazil breaking down defensively on a set piece was a sign of things to come as it just got worse for the home team, with Germany taking a ridiculous 5-0 lead before the halftime whistle blew. Brazil looked ragged, dispirited, and unorganized, like they had never played professional football before. You could argue they missed Thiago Silva more on the defensive end, but they still had Dante, who happens to play for the legendary German side Bayern Munich, and David Luiz, who has been a star so far in the World Cup, playing his worst game so far. There are no excuses for the complete lack of fight in Brazil. Was Germany just that good? They were machine like in their quality, Germany made the passes that needed to be made, and made the runs that were there. Scoring seven goals in a game is a special performance but this is a German team that only mustered a single goal in the game before. Germany is clicking at the right time and has to be looked at as the obvious favorites to raise the trophy at this point. Brazil meanwhile will be looked at as what they were, a pedestrian team that didn't deserve to win, they were a one trick pony on offense, relying on Neymar throughout, even thought they have other offensive stars like Hulk and Oscar. They were the favorites because of their history and tradition, not because of their team play. I think that pretty much sums up Brazil in 2014. Expect major shakeups (like every time they lose) in the next four years, and a reloading for Russia, they are Brazil after all.
The other semi final was not so explosive. More like plodding, with neither Holland nor Argentina really going for it, both content to play the long game and hope for a one to nil victory. The Dutch did a great job of containing Lionel Messi and bundling him up for most of the game. It seems like he never touched the ball in a threatening area from the second half all the way to extra time. Unfortunately the Netherlands also seemed rather devoid of interesting ideas on offense, both teams looked extremely cautious, perhaps not looking to get shellacked like Brazil did the day before. Argentina looked more likely to score in the second half, but quality defense ruled the day in general with Gonzalo Higuain doing his best to make up for the missing Angel Di Maria, who if available, might have been able to sway this game Argentina's way. Player of the game in my opinion was Argentina's pitbull of a central midfielder, Javier Mascherano, who has been the glue guy for Argentina throughout the tournament. He made the play of the game, an incredible block on Arjen Robben late in the game on what could have been the game winner. Mascherano took an incredible beating all day, going down with what looked like a concussion, and then hopping back up to (perhaps ill-advisedly) continue playing the rest of the game. He also quote "tore his a**s" on the Robben block, unselfishly sacrificing his body to prevent the loss. He has quietly been the superstar companion that Messi has required for this deep run to the World Cup championship game. After bringing in Tim Krul to be the hero in the last match, Louis Van Gaal should have thought to do so again, as Argentina keeper Sergio Romero instead played the hero in penalties. Romero was thought to be the weakest link in defense, but he has proven to be more than up to the task, he will be needed desperately against Germany.
Argentina versus Germany is a titanic matchup, we knew coming in that in South America, a South American team must be in the final. It's expected at this point given the history and tradition involved, we were denied a Brazil against Argentina game, but Germany will not disappoint on this stage. There are monumental expectations on both sides, with the Germans not winning a major tournament since 1996, and Argentina on a similar drought. This is looked at as a "golden generation" for German football, as they've reinvented themselves from the boring, stodgy, and defensive minded German teams of the past into a fast, counter attacking, possession based team with offensive super stars. Their starting 11 features six players from Bayern Munich, the most dominant club team of the last two years, and they are expected to show up big. Meanwhile Lionel Messi's legacy is on the line, complaints that he doesn't show up for country as much as club are being erased as we speak, but his play the last two games hasn't sparkled like the group stages. If Argentina wins, Messi will be forever remembered as the conquering hero, if not, those same criticisms will continue being leveled at him. Unfortunately for him, I think this trophy is Germany's to lose, they've been the only true dominant team thus far, barring the hiccups in the group stage, and they know how to win. Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira, Bastian and
Bastian Schweinsteiger have been dominant in the middle of the park, and going forward.