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Looking back on the most remarkable result in World Cup history

By Kristian Jack

David Luiz and Dante, The Canadian Press

The coaches shared a warm handshake and then a moment of awkwardness came over Joachim Low as Luiz Felipe Scolari handed him a gift. An empty-handed Low was in no mood to hand out favours and hadn’t done the same. It was to be a sign of what was to come.

Julio Cesar placed his towel next to the goalpost.

Seconds before he had held up a Neymar jersey in a sign of respect for the missing hero, left behind to nurse a broken vertebrae in his back, in a united stance of overriding passion during the country’s national anthem.

The Brazilian goalkeeper left his towel and walked between two posts ready for the first half. He had no idea that what was about to take place inside that goal would stay with him forever.

Forty-five minutes later he would leave them for good. He picked up his still folded towel and walked in silence to the dressing room inside the Belo Horizonte stadium. A man who had a won a Champions League title and numerous domestic honours had just been involved in a half of football that will always be discussed when people talk about his career, his life, and his reputation.

He was certainly not alone. Eleven Brazilian players, ten dressed in iconic yellow, jeered off by their home fans; embarrassed after being demolished at what the nation was supposed to do best.

What happened that afternoon inside the Mineirao Stadium in the southeast of Brazil was not only a defining moment for the sport but for sport in itself.

As 2014 comes to an end there are many sports across the globe that are being discussed when it comes to best moments, best games, and best storylines.

There is no argument when it comes to the global game. Today in any bookstore around the world there are thousands of books written that need updating.

It was a half of football that will be retold for generations to come. It was quite possibly the most incredible half of football ever to be played and without doubt the most remarkable result in World Cup history.

The world collectively spent endless hours playing football during 2014 but the one thing the year will be remembered for didn’t even last a full hour.

We all witness things through our own eyes but, unless you are Brazilian, it is hard not to look back at that semifinal encounter between the hosts and Germany and not think of it as a true sporting blockbuster.

It is crucial to remember that as the teams kicked off most saw the match as a true 50-50 game that either side could win. Brazil had looked weak during the knockout stages – fortunate to get by Chile on penalties and narrowly past Colombia – but Germany had their own troubles against Algeria. The world waited for a team to step up and show us why they deserved to win a World Cup and on that day it was Germany who over delivered on that promise.

Every true defining moment in sport needs a plot. Brazil looking to finally win the pinnacle on their home soil provided a perfect backdrop. It needed a hero, and in the German team the tournament finally found an exceptional side that every World Cup so desperately needs. Five days later the team was crowned World Champions officially after already showing they were the world’s best with this 7-1 thumping of the hosts.

It also needs villains, and Brazil quickly became a side that was difficult to root for, playing the role of deserving victim perfectly. Hours of live television were focused on the recovery of Neymar as his team got ready to play the semifinal. Collectively the country drowned itself in pity and then was stunned with the consequences. Players arriving at the stadium with ‘Forza Neymar’ caps and holding up his jersey as if he was seriously injured or ill were then expected to be mentally ready for such a monumental occasion.

In the end, though, this was a story of more than just mental capitulation. Many of the characters in such a blockbuster were dressed in the unusual red and black of Germany but there were others – like Marcelo, David Luiz and Fernandinho – who were also major players in how the events played out.

We mustn’t also forget the fans. The image of young boy crying when the fourth goal went in will be played for longer than he will be on this earth but they, much like their players, also deserved such a humiliation.

In the second half they took to booing Fred, a striker who, admittedly, had played terribly for most of the tournament but who on this day could do nothing about the events. Afterwards polls across the land felt the captain that day, David Luiz, wasn’t to blame. A staggering claim considering how pathetic he had played. Brazilian football had received a very harsh lesson and instead of looking at itself in the eyes and waking up to the reasons for it the people, the coaching staff and some of the media brushed it aside as a one-off.

Yet, no matter how much they try the players will never be able to brush it off as Fernandinho said recently: “It was probably the lowest point of every single one of the Brazilian players involved and I don’t think I exaggerate when I say we will probably have to answer questions about that game for the rest of our lives. We will need to learn to live with that.”

Some of those questions will surround the full game, the narrative and developments of 7-1 but the most incredible part of this blockbuster came in the opening 30 minutes. The clock hadn’t reached the half hour mark and the score was 5-0.

For a semifinal the game was wildly open from the start. Much of this came from Marcelo’s positioning. The Brazilian left back played so high up the pitch and never reacted to Germany targeting his flank.

The intelligent Germans first went after this in the fourth minute, from a quick throw in their own half, when Thomas Muller easily got away from Marcelo and sprinted into space.

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Miroslav Klose made a poor decision and didn’t pass the ball. Muller was fuming and put his head on his hands. He thought his chance had gone but Marcelo would give him many more.

The Real Madrid defender continued to spend much of the game in the opposition’s half and even when his centre-backs had the ball in possession he was nowhere to be seen…

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Seconds later Germany won the ball back and they attacked that area again with Marcelo absent.

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Three minutes later the hosts finally got burned. Marcelo gave the ball away high up the field and Germany countered down his flank to win a corner. Marcelo sprinted back and as the ball went out of play he put his arms up to apologize. Seconds later a Toni Kroos corner found Muller unmarked and it was 1-0. David Luiz had lost his man in the box.

Ten minutes later, as the clock approached 22:00, Muller had gotten in behind the wandering Marcelo again. It helped Germany win a throw and from that came Muller’s ball inside to Kroos that Fernandinho mis-timed…

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A quick 1-2 between the two Germans helped Klose break the Brazilian Ronaldo’s World Cup record when he slotted the ball into Julio Cesar’s net on the second attempt.

Two minutes later it was 3-0. Mesut Ozil joined the party happening on Germany’s right side and he played a ball to Philipp Lahm who became the latest player to have time on that flank to do what he wanted.

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The skipper looked up, played a ball across the box and Kroos smashed home on his left foot.

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It was the type of finish people would be talking about for years if it had been the only goal to win a game of this magnitude. In the end it was one of four goals inside seven minutes but it shouldn’t be so easily forgotten because it was marvelous technique from Kroos.

The camera was still focusing only on him seconds after Brazil restarted when he sensed another opportunity.

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Fernandinho got the ball and was immediately pressed, cowardly caving in and handing possession over again to the Germans who brutally inflicted more damage as Kroos and Sami Khedira passed the ball between each other in the penalty box like kids in a playground before Kroos side footed home. 4-0.

Fernandinho had played a massive part in the goal but once again the positioning of Marcelo was laughable, forcing Luiz Gustavo to again cover for him and, therefore, not be an outlet for the Man City midfielder in possession as you can see by the shape of the back four…

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By now a nation wept. Brazilian players couldn’t believe what they were a part of. There was no screaming at each other. Fernandinho hung his head inside the goal and Dante ran and threw the ball out of the net. Oscar and Fred couldn’t look at each other. No one said a word. Their dream of winning the World Cup on home soil had turned into a nightmare but they weren’t allowed to wake up yet. There remained no escape.

Four minutes later space opened up for Mats Hummels to run into and David Luiz comically left the backline and charged into midfield to attempt to win a ball he had no business wanting. Khedira occupied the space he vacated and after some more fun with passing in the box he slotted home the fifth. Four goals in six minutes and forty seconds. Five goals in the opening 30 minutes of the match. The World Cup had seen five goals in total be scored in the  first 30 minutes of all 12 of the knockout stages prior to the semi-final.

What happened next was easily forgotten. Germany rested players for the final, moved down a few gears, added a couple more before Brazil scored the most meaningless goal in World Cup history seconds before the end.

As the world watched in awe of the developments that unfolded that day it was not easy to put it all into perspective. That’s what the present can do. Yet time can be the greatest guide in these assessments. It was a sporting tale that the future will ensure is forever being retold. When fans of the sport in years to come think of 2014 their minds will always lead them back to the day Brazil were humiliated by the eventual World Champions.

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