Very few people have asked me who I favour in the World Cup final, Argentina or Germany? Instead, everybody wants to know how is it possible to defeat Brazil by 7-1 in their own country? This has cast a dark shadow, and it can take a while before the Brazilians overcome the shock.
Before the semifinal, I had warned that the loss of Neymar and Thiago Silva would be hard to compensate, even if the Brazilian team closed ranks.
I was certain that the Brazilians would have problems because in their five matches before Germany they had never been convincing. It appears that this side of brilliant individuals was overburdened by being cast as the favourites.
Already, you could see fear in the Brazilian players’ faces during the national anthem. They were singing with such fervour as if to buck up their courage. They put themselves under too much pressure, something visible in the way keeper Julio Cesar and interim captain David Luiz held up Neymar’s jersey during the national anthem.
Brazil played fearfully, their self-confidence seemed to have vanished, and it looked like they had huge respect for the opponents. They conceded goals even when they had more players in defence than the Germans in attack. Above all, it was in the first half, up to the point when the score was 5-0 that you could see that they were standing miles away from their opponents. This made it possible for the Germans to calmly choose where they could go with the ball.
The Germans played a strong running game and were well organised on the pitch. Germany don’t have a Neymar or Lionel Messi but Jogi Loew’s lads harmonise as a team. A team that has six Bayern Munich players, including a flawless goalkeeper backing them up.
There is of course no guarantee that Germany can show this form in the final against Argentina. But in any event, this team has grown in the wake of the 7-1 result.
On Sunday, Germany can expect to have a home-field atmosphere at the Maracana Stadium. It’s because Argentina are not exactly loved by their Brazilian neighbours, but also because of the gestures made by the German players after the semifinal. How the players went to the downcast Brazilian players and tried to console them. That was a show of fairness, sportsmanship, gestures that were more important.
Still, Argentina can be dangerous. Look at the Dutch, how during the tournament they were a convincing side with their strikers Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. But in the semifinal, Argentina succeeded in virtually suffocating their opponents. To overcome this defence will be a huge challenge for the Germans. Of course, there is the superstar Lionel Messi, who, if you don’t keep under control, could decide the final with one stroke of genius.
It was in the penalty shootout against the Dutch, with keeper Sergio Romero playing the hero, that Argentina showed they have strong nerves. We can’t expect many goals in the final unless the Germans manage to take their game to another level. In any event, they are already world champions in peoples’ hearts.
The writer is a World Cup winning German captain and coach