Germany bemused at Brazil romp

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.

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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.”

Brazil’s Luiz Felipe Scolari accepts blame after hammering by Germany

Luiz Felipe Scolari

Brazil’s hopes of securing a sixth World Cup ended last night in abject humiliation at the hands of a rampant Germany with the hosts’ manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, accepting full responsibility for the Seleção’s “catastrophic” record defeat.

The Germans scored five times in 19 frantic first–half minutes, with Joachim Löw, their coach, admitting he had sensed the hosts were “cracking up” after they shipped the first goal and in the end the home support reacted furiously at the final whistle. Brazil’s players briefly convened in a huddle near the centre-circle at the end and, after Scolari addressed his crestfallen squad, saluted the crowd only for the boos to ring out. Many in their number went on to leave the pitch in tears.

Scolari refused to address his own future, with Saturday’s third-place play-off to come against Argentina or Holland, though he conceded it would take time to recover from Brazil’s first competitive home defeat since 1975. “We tried to do what we could, we did what we thought was our best and we lost to a great team who ended the match with four goals scored in extraordinary manner,” said Scolari. “I’d ask the people to excuse us for this mistake. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to the final. This is a loss. A catastrophic, terrible loss. The worst loss by a Brazilian national team ever, yes. But we have to learn to deal with that.

“Who is responsible? Who is responsible for picking the team? I am. It’s me. So the catastrophic result can be shared by the whole group, and my players will tell you we will share our responsibilities, but who decided the tactics? I did. So the person responsible is me. I did what I thought was best. This was only our third defeat in 28 matches, even if it was a terrible defeat. Naturally, if I were to think of my life as a player, as a coach, as a teacher, this was the worst day of my life. But life goes on. I’ll be remembered probably because I lost 7-1, the worst defeat Brazil have ever had, but that was a risk I knew I was taking when I accepted this position.”

The manager admitted the absence of Neymar, who fractured a vertebra in his back during the quarter-final success over Colombia, had had little effect on the emphatic nature of this result with the suspension incurred by the centre-half and captain, Thiago Silva, arguably more significant. Brazil were powerless to restrain Germany’s fluid attacks, the home side’s midfield utterly overrun and their defence capitulating, with Miroslav Klose registering a record 16th World Cup goal and Toni Kroos and the substitute André Schürrle each scoring twice. Scolari suggested his players had “panicked”, adding: “Even the Germany players were wondering how this had happened.”

“It’s hard to explain,” said the beleaguered Brazil goalkeeper, Júlio César. “You can’t explain the inexplicable. It was beautiful up to this point. The players are going to apologise to our fans but they [Germany] were strong and we have to acknowledge that. After the first goal we just had a blackout, nobody expected it. We will go home, hug our families. And thank the fans. We got close but we couldn’t take that final step. That’s it.” David Luiz, the stand-in captain, was inconsolable at the end. “I just wanted to give some joy to my people, who deal with lots of suffering every day,” he said. “One day I’ll make them happy somehow.”

Germany, who were competing in their fourth successive semi-final in this tournament, will now seek to secure a fourth World Cup in Sunday’s final at the Maracanã, where Brazil had suffered their most infamous defeat to Uruguay in the final back in 1950. This result will prompt similar national mourning. “I can imagine what it will be like,” said the victorious coach, Joachim Löw. “I remember the 2006 semi-final in Germany, when we lost to Italy in the 119th minute when everyone hoped we would win the tournament on home soil. It was an enormous heartbreak. I believe this defeat for Brazil will be difficult to digest. It will be a difficult and painful defeat for them.

“But, for us, the feelings are great, the emotions are great. We have made it to the final. We were able to face off the deep passion of the Brazilians. We had a clear, persistent game-plan and knew if we were courageous and believed in our own strengths, we would win this match. That the result would be so emphatic was not to be expected. Scoring three in four minutes the hosts were in shock, confused, and never returned to their original organisation. We were extremely cool and realised they were cracking up, and we took advantage of that.”

“Now it’s important we remain calm. The team is perfectly rooted and calm. There is no euphoria. This team is ready to deliver. The final will be difficult but we want to win the final and will retain our concentration. We’re in the final but we will confront a different opponent. We were lucky here that our hosts were shellshocked and unable to deal with the pressure. I know how Scolari feels, how the Brazilian team and people feel.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Kroos. “We have come here to become world champions, and no one becomes world champion in a semi-final,” he said. “The final will be tighter than today. so we’ll have to deliver another top performance.”

The fall-out from this result will take time to digest in Brazil, though the sense of profound shock was summed up in the headline across the front of Folho da Sao Paulo, the biggest selling broadsheet, which read: “An historic shame”. Yet the sense history had been made worked both ways. “That Is a historic day for German football,” said Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Federation. “I don’t know what to say. Sensational, like a fairytale – those are all too weak expressions. That was football from another galaxy. I am so happy for the coach and the team. Now we want to do the next step. We can’t go crazy now, even if I would like to. Now we have to get the fourth star.”

Netherlands Beat Mexico 2-1 in Dramatic Comeback

Huntelaar kept his cool in furnace-like conditions to fire Holland into the last eight after Wesley Sneijder had scored an 88th-minute equaliser to cancel out Giovani Dos Santos’s goal for Mexico.

The dramatic Dutch fightback left Mexico’s players in tears as their last 16 jinx struck again.

Mexico have now lost in the second round in six consecutive World Cup appearances, and had been just minutes away from a first quarter-final since 1986.

The Netherlands had looked to be heading for defeat at the Castelao Stadium after a game played in ferocious heat.

The match saw three-minute cooling breaks used for the first time in World Cup history as pitch-side temperatures hit 39 degrees (102.2 Fahrenheit)

Dos Santos’s long-range strike on 48 minutes looked like it would settle the encounter.

But with time ticking down, Holland launched wave after wave of attacks.

They were rewarded when Sneijder lashed in the equaliser with two minutes to go.

Then in the dying minutes, Arjen Robben jinked into the penalty area, and when veteran defender Rafa Marquez stuck out a leg, the Bayern Munich star went over.

Referee Pedro Proenca pointed to the spot and Huntelaar stepped up to bury a nerveless penalty past Guillermo Ochoa.

The win puts the Netherlands into a last eight meeting with either Costa Rica or Greece in Salvador next Saturday.

The Costa Ricans face Greece in their last 16 meeting later Sunday where the winner will reach the last eight for the first time.

Costa Rica sensationally beat Italy and Uruguay and drew with England as they topped Group D. Georgios Samaras scored a penalty in the third minute of injury time to give Greece the points they needed in their last Group C game to get the second qualifying place at the expense of the Ivory Coast.

Costa Rica midfielder Michael Barrantes said everyone must now be wary of the world number 28th ranked team.

“We came here to write football history for our country. We came in as the underdogs, now everybody knows who Costa Rica is,” he said.

“We don’t know how far we can go, but we are focused on going as far as possible. The team is calm, but we’re not too relaxed.”

This will be Costa Rica’s second appearance in the round of 16 in four participations at World Cup finals. The last time, in 1990, they were beaten by Czechoslovakia.

Greece scored only two goals in their three group games and reinforced their ultra-defensive reputation. That annoys coach Fernando Santos, who insists the team are expert counter-attackers as well.

That may not worry the Greek nation as it enjoys the World Cup progress while battling their way out of economic crisis. “I am delighted first of all that we bring joy to the Greek people,” said Santos.

If Greece win, its federation may face an immediate problem as Santos’s contract runs out on Monday.

He has said he will not make a new deal but is expected to stay on until the team’s last game.

SABB names winners of FIFA World Cup campaign

As part of the SABB credit cards promotional campaign to reward their customers for card usage, the bank recently announced seven winners of the 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign.

The winners will be flying to Brazil along with their companion to attend the World Cup. This is a fully paid trip, which includes flight tickets from the city of origin in Saudi Arabia to the match destination in Brazil, hotel transportation and match tickets.

Two of the winners will attend group stage matches, three others the quarter-final matches and the two other winners will attend the semifinal match.

As a pioneering in the financial services industry, SABB is focused on providing an optimal customer experience in a variety of ways. Part of such efforts includes the recognition of customer’s choice in choosing SABB’s credit cards by rewarding them with innovative and attractive prizes.

World Cup 2014 countries: Fifa world rankings

Spain are justifiably most people’s favourites to lift the World Cup in Rio as Vicente del Bosque’s reigning champions continue to occupy top spot in the Fifa world rankings ahead of Germany, Portugal and hosts Brazil.

Argentina, who are many people’s dark horses to go all the way with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in their squad, are currently ranked a surprisingly low seventh, behind South American rivals Colombia (fifth) and Uruguay (sixth).

Belgium, who have entered what some are calling a golden era of rich young talent, are also tipped to do well, although the Fifa rankings have them 12th in the world, a place behind Roy Hodgson’s England. However, any team possessing the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Moussa Dembele will not remain outside the top 10 for long.

The highest ranked team in the world rankings who won’t be present in Brazil are Ukraine.

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Final two lucky flag-bearers for FIFA World Cup decided

After Delhi and Mumbai, the FIFA Fairplay Flag-bearers Program made its last stop in the garden city, kicking off the hunt for the final two ultimate football fans in the country, who will be travelling all the way to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

The city’s winners for the adidas FIFA Fairplay Flag-bearers Program Last Stop in the hunt for India’s ultimate football fans include Shankara Narayanan from Sishugriha School, and Faazil Ahmed from Presidency East.

With Bangalore the hunt for the six flag-bearers comes to an end.

The leading sportswear brand and official partners of the FIFA World Cup kicked off the program at the Kanteerava Stadium yesterday. Out of 350 kids from the city, two were selected today to become the official FIFA Fairplay Flagbearers and will now head to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a pre quarter match on the 1st of July.

Kids from the city were tested on the basis of their skill, football knowledge and passion for the game. Adding more excitement to the samba fever was world class cricketer and a football fan himself, Virat Kohli.

Talking about the program, Kohli said, “Brazil is the ultimate stage for football — with incredible energy and passion for the game. I am really excited about the 2014 FIFA World Cup and this is a great opportunity for all the young, football crazy fans to represent India and be a part of what is going to be a historic football event.”

Mihir Batra and Jasen Moses, both from Delhi, and Drishti Punjabi and Pranjal Agarwal from Mumbai, are the other lucky four who will be going to Brazil.