Tim Vickery Column: A look at Brazil’s capitulation against Germany and what now for Luiz Felipe Scolari
The surprise introduction of Bernard oozed confidence; most judges, myself included, imagined that coach Luiz Felipe Scolari would play Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho and Paulinho in midfield, to give his team some protection against dangerous opponents.
Bernard in for Paulinho was a declaration of attacking intent. We are going to impose ourselves on the game and get behind your high defensive line, Scolari seemed to be saying to the Germans.
For a few brief minutes it seemed as if the team meant business. Buoyed up on the emotion of the national anthem, Brazil were quickly out of the blocks in Belo Horizonte.
But there is always a simple test of the merits of a football team; how does it react when it goes behind? Brazil conceded a silly goal from a piece of slack marking at a corner, and the house fell down.
At this point it became clear that Brazil had not the slightest confidence in their capacity to get back into the game. Eighty minutes remained, plenty of time for the hosts to ease their way back into contention. Instead the team committed suicide.
As I have commented repeatedly in recent times, Brazil no longer beat opponents on flow, they beat them on moments. Renouncing a game based on controlled, intelligent, imaginative possession in midfield presupposes an ability to defend.
The absence of Thiago Silva, Brazil’s magnificent defensive organiser, was clearly going to be a factor in the game. No one imagined that it would prove such a huge factor.
The match would obviously be a massive test of new captain David Luiz. Talented but reckless, could he come up with the necessary defensive discipline? The answer was an emphatic no.
He raced around as if his backside was on fire. In front of him, Fernandinho fell apart. Before the half hour mark, Scolari was already condemned to consider how he would handle what had turned into a crushing defeat.
There were things to applaud in his reaction; taking Fred off to spare him the boos that a centre forward hardly deserved on a day when the defence collapsed; in the way he rallied his men at the end, refusing to let them sneak off the field in shame, keeping them out on the pitch to acknowledge the crowd.
But the pragmatism that he represents has surely had its day. Pragmatism without results is the most hollow of strategies.
Even while Brazil were winning games they were losing friends, disappointing their global army of fans with their constant fouling and lack of creativity.
It should be abundantly clear that Brazilian football is capable of much better than this, win, lose or draw.