It was almost a mantra; “I can’t really explain” was the phrase that seemed to drip from every Germany player’s lips after their 7-1 semi-final mauling of FIFA World Cup hosts Brazil.
Joachim Löw’s team picked Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side apart with five goals in a devastating first half in Belo Horizonte, with the coach saying cool heads were key. “It was important to counter Brazil’s emotions and passion with poise and calm,” explained Löw. “We knew their defence is not secure when you break quickly after winning the ball. That was evident in all their other games.”
While that naivety was ruthlessly exploited, it was a standard set piece that sent Germany on their way; Toni Kroos delivering a fine corner which the unmarked Thomas Müller was able to pass into the net. “Toni puts the ball where it needs to go every time,” said Miroslav Klose approvingly. It was a neatly worked move which vindicated Löw’s recent focus on set plays; at past tournaments, he had said his team had “too little time” to practise such moves, but they have served Germany well in Brazil and are a measure of the current side’s mindset.
For while Germany lack some of the verve and bravado of their 2010 and 2012 predecessors, this is a supremely accomplished outfit, one which proved brilliantly adept at preying on their opponents’ anxieties during an extraordinary six-minute spell which began with Klose’s record-breaking 16th World Cup finals goal and ended with Brazil 5-0 down. Pass, pass, pass, side-footed finish; it was the same story over and over again.
“Then we somehow overran them,” said Kroos, again a little mystified by the details. “It was incredible to beat Brazil 7-1 in their country in a World Cup semi-final.” Philipp Lahm added: “Having reached the semis twice, we wanted to make it to the decider. We did that in impressive fashion.” That could be the understatement of this World Cup.
“Once we had won the ball, there was more space than against defensively minded teams,” continued Müller, remembering how his side had been criticised after needing extra time to suppress Algeria in the round of 16. “It just goes to show how football games develop differently. Just remember the match against Algeria. Back then, everything was bad; now we are probably going to be praised to the skies.”
Brazil knew fine well that the exact opposite reaction awaited them after buckling in such inauspicious circumstances. “I wanted to make my people happy,” said tearful defender David Luiz. “Unfortunately we did not manage that today.” Scolari was shell-shocked. “It is a terrible, catastrophic defeat. The worst of all time. Today the Germans played like Brazilians. It was the worst day of my life.”
By contrast, German Football Association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach was overjoyed, calling it: “A historic day for German and indeed world football. Sensational is not a big enough word.” However, Löw knows there is little time for his team to marvel at their achievements with the final now in sight. “We need to show some humility now,” he remarked. “The players are very down to earth. They will not lose their heads and want to take that final step.”
They might not be able to explain quite how they got there, but Germany know exactly what they will be in Rio de Janeiro to do on Sunday. “There is one more game ahead of us,” said Kroos. “We are here to become world champions.”