Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My thoughts on Germany’s thunderous win over Brazil

This appears on

My thoughts on Germany’s thunderous win over Brazil
by rick olivares pic by afp

It seems like a lifetime ago. So many things have happened in between. However this World Cup will end, one of the things it will be remembered for the most was Germany’s shocking dismantling of Brazil, 7-1.

I pegged Germany to beat Brazil by at least two goals but not six. It could have been a lot worse but Mesut Ozil and Philip Lahm misplayed two excellent chances that would have been more nails in a column already slammed shut.

Here’s what I thought of the match both before and after:

Both Brazil and Germany are built the same way – attacking squads with a lot of passing flair. In doing so, they have somewhat sacrificed their defense that has been shaky at times.

You must remember Marcelo’s own goal (off a Ivica Olic cross) to open the 2014 World Cup.

They looked problematic against Mexico and Chile and Colombia had their moments too.

Brazil’s defensive make up isn’t at all like Italy’s that is built to defend then hit on the counter or poach around the goal.

So aside from that shaky defense, what other mistakes did Brazil commit?

Here are some…
They didn’t press.
I am surprised they didn’t do this. Against a side that is possession-based, you do not want to give them the space to operate. You want them to operate under duress. What I cannot fathom is they choked the ball out of Spain’s feet during the Confederations Cup finals last year but they didn’t get it done this time against a meticulous German squad.

Granted that it took 44 minutes for Netherlands to figure Spain out, Brazil did not get that luxury against Germany because…

They conceded early.
When you concede early, you don’t press the panic button but you do play with a little more urgency. When you play out of rhythm, you tend to make mistakes because that is not the tempo you are used to.

Conceding early in the knockout stages can be frightening. Imagine if Brazil were playing Italy that would not only park the bus but also the leaning Tower of Pisa if possible.

In the group stages you can afford to make a few mistakes but not in the knockout rounds. One slip can be fatal.

In one of my earlier analysis in the World Cup, I wrote that scores were down in the knockout rounds because for one, they are playing the best teams left with a few of them undefeated. That means they play tough defense.

One goal in this stage can make a lot of difference.

Furthermore, playing at home where there’s a lot of pressure to succeed? That’s a terrible weight and burden to bear.

After Brazil conceded they didn’t adjust.
That’s quite an engine they have in Germany. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, and Mesut Ozil. These guys drive that ball forward, they can find and navigate gaps, and they make good reads.

Conversely, Brazil likes to play open football where they run up the flanks and rain all sorts of crosses and pinpoint passes. Germany largely didn’t give them that in the match. Like I said, you take away what one side is comfortable and see how do they adjust. Brazil wasn't able to (except that Germany sat back and waited to hit them on the counter).

And after conceding early, they still didn’t close out Germany’s playmakers.

Here’s Brazil’s recent World Cup history when going up against superb playmakers and ball-hogging midfielders.

2006 Quarterfinals Brazil 0 vs. France 1
The midfielder corps of Brazil was destroyed by one man with the power to maraud and with magic at his boots – Zinedine Zidane. He was Brazilian on that day while Ze Roberto (one of my fave Brazilian mids), Juninho, Kaka, and Gilberto Silva were made to looked painfully slow and aged.

2010 Quarterfinals Brazil 1 vs. Netherlands 2
Robinho scored early after some shoddy defense by the Dutch that were without top centerback Joris Mathisjen who was freakishly injured before the match. But Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijeder found their groove in the second half and laid waste to Brazil.

How big a loss was Neymar and Thiago Silva for Brazil.
Huge definitely. Neymar is their top goal scorer and Thiago is Silva is one of the best-rated defenders in this World Cup.

However, injuries and suspensions are a part of the game. It is not the exception rather it is a part of the game. Furthermore, championship teams find ways to win.

In 1962, Brazil’s star was 21-year old Pele. But he got injured early in the tournament. Garrincha, Amarildo, and Mario Zagallo picked up the slack as they defeated Czechoslovakia in the finals.

During the 2006 World Cup, Italy lost defender Alessandro Nesta to a groin injury during the group stages. Marco Materazzi was tapped to replace him and well, the rest is history.

Others aren’t able to find way such as West Germany in 1970 where after losing Franz Beckenbauer in the semifinals match against Italy, Helmut Schon’s side wasn’t able to find an adequate mid-game substitute.

Sometimes, they find ways but it isn’t nearly enough.

In 2010, the Netherlands lost Joris Mathisjen prior to the quarterfinals match with Brazil. Mathisjen, who at that time had over 50 caps to his name, was their best defender. How important was he for the Oranje? Let’s put it this way – from the qualifiers to the World Cup, Mathisjen played the most minutes of any Dutch player.

But the Dutch made it to the finals where they ultimately lost to Spain (Mathisjen was back in the lineup).

As for Neymar’s impact, were you pining your hopes on a 22-year old player?

Pele’s time in the Selecao was a special time as they won three World Cup in 16 years. He was 17 years old when Brazil won the 1958 World Cup. But he had a lot of help from Vava, Mario Zagallo, Garrincha, Zito, and Didi to name a few. While Pele scored six goals, Vava had five of his own. Jose Altafini added two goals while Didi, Nilton Santos, and Mario Zagallo blasted in one each.

In this 2014 World Cup, Neymar has four goals to his credit. David Luiz, two. Oscar, two (he had one prior to the Germany game) while Fred, Fernandinho, and Thiago Silva found the back of the net once.

In contrast, the 2014 German team has had eight players find the back of the net. That means scoring is distributed and they have a lot of attacking threats.

A friend of mine argued that a star can carry a team to the World Cup and if one were to take him away from that team they would not win. No doubt they could but I find something wrong with that argument.

My friend’s argument that if one were to take away Diego Maradona from the 1986 Argentina team then they wouldn’t have won the World Cup. Yes, but in football, team play is more pronounced than say, basketball. But there is no argument in the world that can prove that Michael Jordan won the NBA title on his own. He never won without Scottie Pippen. By the same token, if Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward in NBA history, he wouldn’t have won the last four titles without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

A World Cup team is composed of 23 players. Those are supposedly the 23 best players in the national pool or the country. Surely one must always prepare for the worst by lining up several forwards, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers.

There are exceptional stars who can carry their teams but as I pointed out in the 1962 World Cup, great teams find ways to win.

Back to Maradona, in 1986, he had Jorge Valdano and Jorge Burruchaga as teammates. If you know your football then you know who they are.

Maradona made a lot of noise that year (the way Paolo Rossi did four years earlier due to his lengthy suspension in the Serie A) because of his flashy play and his Hand of God moment.

Backtracking four years to 1982, a 21-year old Maradona couldn’t even help Argentina to a World Cup title. And that team had the great Osvaldo Ardilles and Mario Kempes who were in the prime of their careers. And Valdano was on that squad again. Sadly though, he got injured in that World Cup and Argentina, missing his presence, got eliminated.

Makes you kind of wonder even for a bit who was more effective and who meant more to the team.

So was Maradona too young in 1982?

Yes, he was. And so is Neymar in this World Cup and I ask that question again, is Neymar, at 22 years of age, ready to lead Brazil to the World Cup?

Maybe. But it isn’t his time much like it wasn’t Maradona’s in 1982 and it certainly wasn’t  Lionel Messi’s in 2006 (he was 18 at that time).

One last word on injuries that end a player’s World Cup… Brazil now knows how it feels.

In 1994, the Selecao were playing the USA in the Round of 16 and while clearly a better side, they could not score against the determined and resolute Americans.

Right before the half, defender Leonardo deliberately elbowed American midfielder Tab Ramos whose skull got fractured. Ramos was a major player for the US and he was missed on the pitch afterwards. Tab went to the hospital and Leonardo was shown the red card. However, Brazil won, 1-nil, in spite of playing with 10 men, when Bebeto scored in the 72nd minute. Twenty-years later, Colombia's Juan Zuniga sent Neymar crashing to earth with a cracked vertebrae. 

Terrible and cruel it is as karma came back to bite Brazil. 

Were there flaws in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s World Cup lineup?
Not really. Robinho, Alexandre Pato, and Lucas Moura weren’t great in the past season. Would they have helped? Maybe. Maybe not.

Perhaps the one player who should have been on the Selecao is Philippe Coutinho. The Liverpool midfielder was outstanding this past season for the Merseyside squad. He would have helped find the forwards and his pace would have given opposing defenses some problems.

As for the others – Robinho and company? They didn’t have a good season. In fact, Fred was the best of the lot.

Considering Fred didn’t play well in the World Cup, one can be tempted to say, "If Robinho and company didn’t play well in the past season and we're stuck with Fred, “We’re in trouble. Big big trouble.”

For sure.

And now they are out of the World Cup.

No comments:

Post a Comment