2014 FIFA World Cup, Semifinals

The memorable moments of the 2014 World Cup keep on coming, as an eager world approaches the last weekend of the tournament. For Brazil, the semifinal was a nightmare. Lacking Neymar and Thiago Silva, the Brazilians were expected to face difficult opposition against a superb German side. Many expected Brazil to bow out in the semifinals by a one or two goal margin. However, in a night that will no doubt go down in Brazilian footballing history alongside 1950’s Maracanazo, Germany utterly trounced Brazil to reach the final – by a margin of 7 goals to 1. The first ten minutes of play saw good play from both sides and the match looked to be a very open game. Germany was getting the better of Brazil, but only slightly as Hulk and David Luiz had a few good runs into the German area.

However, the tone of the match completely changed in the 11th minute with Germany’s first goal. A corner from Tony Kroos found Thomas Müller completely unmarked, and Müller casually chipped the ball into the net. The lack of defensive strength on the Brazilian side without Thiago Silva was clearly evident, and would only become more so as the game went on. Germany continued to get balls easily past the Brazilian defence, and ten minutes after the first goal the real slaughter began. Miroslav Klose, had a close range shot, again unmarked, that Julio Cesar dove to block but Klose slid the rebound past the prone keeper. Not only did Klose’s goal double Germany’s lead in only the start of the blowout, as Klose’s 16th World Cup goal it made the German striker the top goalscorer in World Cup history.

After Klose’s record-setting goal in the 23rd minute, the Brazilian team simply collapsed. Tony Kroos, who set up Müller’s goal, put two more past Julio Cesar in the 24th and 26th minutes. Sammy Khedira piled on the humiliation and made it five for Germany before the half hour mark. Down 5-0, the Brazilian team stopped responding for the rest of the first half. The second half was not much better for a dejected Brazil, though it was better. Brazil had a few runs into the German third, but they were never close to threatening. Germany also played more relaxed in the second half, lazily sending the ball forward and not pushing nearly as hard as they had in the first half. Even so, Germany still had several shots on goal. In the 69th minute, Phillip Lahm easily picked out Andre Schürrle in the Brazilian box, and Schürrle tapped the ball in. Schürrle scored again ten minutes later, putting Germany’s final number of goals at 7. In a minor consolation, Oscar scored for Brazil to avoid a shutout in the final minutes of the match.

The stunning defeat of Brazil is sure to go down in World Cup history. Although the scoreline was 7-1 Germany at the end, it could have easily been 10 for the Germans given the way Brazil was playing for much of the match. Without Neymar in front and Thiago Silva in back, there was just no enthusiasm or effort taken by Brazil, and Germany capitalized on every mistake Brazil made. This match, already informally dubbed the Mineirazo after the Estádio Mineirão where it took place, is now tied for the worst defeat Brazil has ever suffered in its illustrious history in the sport. The last time a game went this badly for the Seleçao? Nearly a century ago in 1920, in a 6-0 defeat to Uruguay.

Compared to the Germany-Brazil match, the Netherlands-Argentina match was opposite in nearly every way, resulting in a drab and uninspiring match. Neither the Dutch nor Argentineans played all that well, and the match ended in a goalless draw after extra time. Argentina perhaps played slightly better in the match, but Messi was almost a nonentity and continued its lack of flair and poor performance that has haunted Argentina throughout this tournament. For the Dutch, Robben, Sneijder, and Van Persie had a few decent shots, but nothing too challenging for Argentina keeper Sergio Romero. The statistics show the great contrast between the two semifinals. In Germany-Brazil, there were 25 shots on target. In Netherlands-Argentina, there were a mere 8.

While the regular time of the match was dull, the penalty shootout certainly was not, and once again a keeper emerged the hero. Ron Vlaar took the first penalty for the Netherlands. Sergio Romero guessed right and got his hands on the curling shot toward the upper left corner, but the ball still had some backspin and as it landed on the ground began to roll back toward the goal. While Romero was celebrating, the ball inched toward the goal and only stopped on the line, making it a save. Messi took Argentina’s first penalty, and drilled it past Cillessen, giving Argentina the advantage from the start. Robben and Garay made their penalties, but Romero saved the shot taken by Sneijder, nearly securing Argentina’s place in the finals. Two more clinical penalties from Sergio Agüero and Maxi Rodriguez put Argentina through to the final. Jasper Cillessen, who was subbed out for the quarterfinal against Costa Rica, continues an unenviable streak of having never saved a penalty in a shootout.

With that, the final and third place playoff matches are set for the last weekend of the 2014 World Cup. The final should be entertaining, but will be very tough for Argentina. Germany is playing some of their best football in recent years, while Argentina is still not at the level they have been at previously. It is uncertain whether Angel di Maria will be fit to play in the final against Germany, and if Germany can properly mark Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín, Argentina will have trouble finding any opportunities to score. Add to that the way Germany has played on the offensive, and Sergio Romero will definitely be seeing a lot more of the ball than he did against the Dutch. The third place playoff will also be an interesting match, as the morale of both teams is unsure. Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal decried the existence of a third place playoff after the Dutch loss in the semifinal. For Brazil, the players will have to get over the shock of the rout by Germany. With both games up, the World Cup should have an exciting finish.

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