09 July 2014

Visualized: Brazil 1-7 Germany

As always, match data from Stats Zone, except average position locations from ESPN FC.

Nota Bene: As all six substitutions were fairly involved, all are included in the passing networks. Substitutes are outlined in gold.

Well, that was emphatic.

This will sound presumptuous, and somewhat akin to comparing a delicious meal to the best meal you've eaten in your life, but Liverpool fans will recognize large parts of that match.

It all started with an early set play, taking the lead because you know how to take advantage of dead ball situations. It was almost the exactly same time that Germany scored their lone goal against France, and was Germany's fifth set-play goal of the tournament, if you count Müller's rebound against the US. They've scored on a set play in every game except the Round of 16 match against Algeria. As if Liverpool's previous season didn't emphasize this enough, set plays matter, and matter very much.

And that early lead led to five goals before 30 minutes – surpassing those Liverpool matches against Arsenal, Everton, and Tottenham – and absolutely destroyed any idea of an opposition comeback with two-thirds of the match still to play. I guess France's defense is better than Brazil's. At least Brazil's defense without Thiago Silva.

It's cliche, but Germany did it with ruthless efficiency: taking full advantage of their opportunities, seizing on the opposition's weaknesses and then fully exploiting them.

Until Germany's second goal, Brazil had much more possession, attempting 120 passes to Germany's 89, completing 86% to Germany's 72%. But Germany got that early set play goal, and had also created two open play chances. Brazil created none. And when Germany's counterattack earned a deep throw in Brazil's half, they made it count: Müller's movement, Klose's poaching. But it doesn't end with the ball in the back of the net if Fernandinho doesn't whiff when trying to intercept Müller's pass to Kroos, immediately fed back to Müller to set up the goal, played onside by Marcelo while the other three defenders stepped forward. Even in a 7-1 romp, football is decided by those small margins.

But from there, demolition. Utter, utter demolition. The third goal took 20 seconds: from Neuer's arms to Kroos' shot from just inside the box, sliced and diced through a broken midfield then down the right flank. The fourth goal took five seconds: Kroos pressing Fernandinho into a giveaway, to Khedira, back to Kroos. The fifth goal took 11 seconds: Hummels' run forward after gaining possession thanks to Luiz's hopeful long ball solely designed to relieve pressure, to Khedira to Özil to Khedira. As an aside, that's why progressive managers have stopped thumping the ball out of defense. It frequently doesn't relieve pressure.

"Blitzkrieg" was one of my go-to adjectives when describing Liverpool counterattacks last season. It seemed to perfectly encapsulate how fierce and how fast they blindsided the opposition. Well, it may not be smart to use that word when writing about the German national team, but I guess I'll take my chances. Those were blitzkrieg attacks. Also, Credit Where Due File: Khedira's pass to Kroos and Özil's pass to Khedira on the fourth and fifth goals. Both assist providers had space for the shot, but both were unselfish enough to find a much better placed teammate. Team work makes the dream work.

The second half sixth and seventh were icing on the cake: more deliberate, more patient, but again taking advantage of a poorly marshaled defense. Schürrle, the scorer of both goals, the only player going full out, attempting to play his way into contention for the final. Again, like Liverpool, the foot off the gas, controlling the tempo, but still happy to pillage if you give the chance. The sixth: Marcelo rashly overcommitting, and missing, followed by six Brazilians in the box watching the ball rather than Schürrle or Müller's runs from outside the area. The seventh: Dante dragged well out of position by Müller's tireless running, Luiz unable to keep up with Schürrle.

David Luiz: fun to watch and maybe worth a bunch of money if you have Thiago Silva (or *groans* John Terry, for that matter) to babysit him (*waves at PSG*). Probably worth a fair amount less if he's the stalwart and captain of your defense, seemingly taking all responsibility for Brazil's performance and utterly losing his mind after going five goals down. Which, I guess, is slightly understandable. It is also no coincidence that the second, third, and sixth goals came down Germany's right, Brazil's left. Marcelo, like a fair few others, had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Germany scored seven goals from 14 shots, an unbelievable 50% conversion rate. 10 of those 14 shots were on target. Nine of those 14 shots were in the danger zone (the center of the 18-yard box): six goals, one other on-target shot, one off-target shot, and one blocked shot. Schurrle's second goal was the only non-DZ goal, scored from a tight angle on the left side of the box. That is the definition of attacking efficiency.

It's also a fairly impressive division of responsibility by Germany. The five attackers attacked, and were responsible for all 14 shots and 11 of the 14 chances. The five defenders defended, except for Lahm, who created three chances leading to two assists; again, able to exploit Brazil's vastly weaker left flank. Although, considering the average position diagram, you could probably consider Lahm an attacker. Schweinsteiger and Kroos, attempting and completing more passes than their teammates, were the metronomic links.

Yes, Brazil missed Neymar in attack – his replacement, Bernand, created just one chance and took one shot in 90 minutes – but I find it hard to believe Brazil concedes half that total, if that, with Thiago Silva on the pitch. A defense disheveled on the set play first, disheveled on the second when Müller cut into wide-open space in the box, disheveled on the third, nowhere to be found on the fourth and fifth goals. Those goals don't often happen when Thiago Silva plays.

Germany's attacking third passes clearly exploited the space where Dante and Marcelo were.

Germany looked a shade better than mediocre against both Algeria and France, just good enough to advance. Germany looked the best side ever against Brazil. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. And they got an awful lot of help from the hosts, thanks to injury, suspension, personnel, and tactics.

It goes without saying that Sunday will not be this easy, no matter who Germany's opponent is.

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