He missed, Brazil charged down the other end to score, but it mattered little. The camera lingered on the scoreboard as the hosts’ zero flickered to a one, a lonely figure dwarfed by the Germans’ total. 7-1. The Europeans had shamed the hosts in their own backyard.
Twelve years ago, Germany recorded their biggest ever win on football’s greatest stage with an 8-0 mauling of Saudi Arabia at Japan/Korea in 2002. It was a contest that saw the Saudis fail to make a single tackle in the opening 45 minutes and one that had startling similarities with Brazil’s capitulation in 2014.
In both instances, Germany’s opponents were all too keen to implode – midfielders standing and admiring the quick, intricate play and defenders refusing to make a meaningful challenge. David Luiz put in the most inept display of the tournament, persistently racing into the middle of the pitch at the wrong moment, and one that even Saudi defender Ahmed Al Dossari would have been ashamed of.
Incredibly, the full-back duo of Marcelo and Maicon were more prominent on the German byline than their own as they exposed Luiz and Dante in what remained of the Brazilian defence. It afforded the floating midfield trio of Ozil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller all the space they could desire and, unsurprisingly, they fully capitalised.
Ozil and Kroos, derided by some for their start to the tournament, were back to their probing selves, cleverly churning through the phases as Germany bypassed the Brazilian midfield with ease. To their right, everything Mueller touched resulted in chaos.
And it was one moment of panic created by the Bayern man’s twinkling feet that yielded Mirsolav Klose’s record-breaking goal – an incredible side note to a baffling match and a historic haul of 16 that began with a predatory treble against the Saudis in Sapporo.
But it was the standout performance of Sami Khedira that will rightly draw the plaudits. His surging runs and sharp passes were the foundations for Germany’s first-half annihilation. He showed more discipline in each individual passage of play than the entire Brazilian midfield showed in 90 minutes.
It is no disservice to compare the woeful Brazilian display to that of Saudi Arabia. Kroos, Mueller and Khedira eclipsed their midfield rivals with the same ruthlessness that Bernd Schneider, Carsten Ramelow, Michael Ballack and Dietmar Hamann exhibited in 2002.
That team would go onto lose the final against Brazil as Ronaldo helped make amends for the France 98 disappointment. In the teams’ second World Cup encounter in Brazil – a remarkable statistic given Germany and Brazil’s respective records – there would be no repeat.
Belo Horizonte was the setting for surely the most astonishing six minutes in World Cup history, when the scoreboard transformed from 1-0 to an implausible 5-0. It was the latest triumph in Germany’s hugely impressive campaign as they atoned for the 2002 final and proved they are ready to lift the trophy for the first time since Italia 90.
This was largely the same Germany side that humiliated England and Argentina in the South Africa knockout stages four years ago, but with the added resilience to avoid semi-final heartbreak.
The German despair that greeted Oscar’s last minute consolation was the mark of a team wholly focused on finishing the job on Sunday. Their reaction suggested Brazil had snatched a late winner; in reality it was the smallest of blips.
No one can dispute that Germany deserve to win the World Cup. They emerged unscathed from a so-called Group of Death containing Africa and CONCACAF’s strongest representatives in the shape of Ghana and the USA and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal - deposing the latter with consummate ease.
Joachim Loew muddled his team selection against Algeria, inexplicably deploying Per Mertesacker in a high line, but the return of Philipp Lahm to right-back against the French aided a commanding victory. And yet it was in the Estadio Mineirao that they delivered their greatest performance – reducing the Brazilians to trying to con penalties and stealing the home fans so that every German pass was greeted with a muted olé.
The opposition have proved challenging (at least on paper), and while Germany have benefited from favourable conditions and comparatively short travel, they have survived a treacherous route to the final.
Now they have the chance to dispel the belief that European teams can’t triumph in South America and end their 24-year hunt for World Cup glory.
Ben Snowball - on Twitter: @BenSnowball
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- Toni Kroos
- Mesut Ozil