Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Germany show why they are always contenders

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Without Neymar, Brazil were brutally exposed. Photos / AP, Getty Images
Without Neymar, Brazil were brutally exposed. Photos / AP, Getty Images

The writing was on the wall before a stupendous German performance pulverised Brazil in the first 2014 World Cup semifinal because, sadly, the host country's glowing football reputation doesn't match reality any more. Yes, Brazil were bad. But far more importantly, the Germans were sensational.

The Brazilian captain David Luiz, eyes red, twanged the heart strings after the game but it is a long time since the descendants of Garrincha and Pele have dominated with a beautiful game. And yet Germany turn up time and again to major tournaments, often set the benchmark, and struggle to get the full credit they deserve.

What of Brazil? This goes against the folklore grain, the one that says so-called street football is the high road to skill, but Brazil looks in need of a good academy system. Take their best player (Neymar) and top defender (Thiago Silva) out, and they were ripe for the good kicking they received.

How can a huge country with an amazing football reputation and history produce such an ordinary side? Even skills wise, Brazil aren't exceptional. They relied on the attention Neymar attracted from opponents to cover the structural cracks and rode a bit of luck. Without Neymar, they were brutally exposed.

Fears for Brazil's prospects only increased at the sight of their new captain Luiz holding the stricken Neymar's shirt during the semifinal pre-match formalities. Luiz loves to pray to the heavens, but this sort of emotion ranks as a Hail Mary pass. Brazilian minds, you felt, were wandering.

The extent of Brazil's semifinal collapse was a shock, but it was also difficult to find neutral wisdom predicting a Brazilian victory.

German domestic football is, to a degree, at odds with others such as an English Premier League awash with big spending that helps send the national team down the gurgler. There is an old-fashioned charm to the Bundesliga.

Bundesliga clubs operate under tight financial regulations. The rules around governance and finance keep ticket prices down and national identity up, and this spirit probably underpins the success of an always strong German team in wildly professional times. This appears at odds with Germany's position as the dominant European economy, but it epitomises why Europe must bank on Germany.

Whether Germany is actually as efficient as the rest of us are led to believe is a matter of perspective, but the country is definitely up there on the world rankings. And when the trains run on time it also means they interconnect very well, a metaphor for how their national football team likes to play. Organisation is the basis for the creativity.

The Germans were virtually walking the ball into the net during the 7-1 rout, that's when they weren't slamming home brilliant finishes — notably, the final goal from Andre Schuerrle.

They will need to re-focus for the final by getting this rare stampede out of their heads, but they are odds-on to do that well.

There is nothing more consistently impressive in world team sport than German football, and their reputation for precision can overshadow the quality of what they do. While falling short in South Africa, they played some of the best football of the 2010 tournament and their display yesterday will never be forgotten. Brazilian tears won't drown out admiration for the Germans, but maybe the time is right for adulation instead.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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