Germany give the rest of the planet vicarious revenge ...
Yesterday, Germany took all of the anger, all of the frustration, all of the resentment the other 31 teams -- and quite a large percentage of fans -- felt toward host nation Brazil, and bundled that up into a plethora of goals.
Remember when, with the score 1-1 and Croatia determined to see out a point, Fred went down under the barest of touches from Dejan Lovren, thus giving Neymar the opportunity to put Brazil up 2-1? Here comes Thomas Müller, taking advantage of David Luiz's inattentiveness to volley in the opener.
Fred then went and got himself the third goal in Brazil's 4-1 drubbing of Cameroon, which is just plain mean. Plus, it was offside. Miroslav Klose claimed justice for that, while at the same time stripping Ronaldo of his record for most World Cup goals scored.
Luiz Felipe Scolari started Paulinho for the first three matches, thus paining anyone with two functioning eyes. Or just one, come to think of it. He finally benched the Spurs player for the Chile match, but Brazil were rude enough to win, so Toni Kroos drove in a third goal.
Against Colombia, Brazil were hell-bent on attacking James, clipping away at the playmaker with nary a card to show for it. Kroos' shins must've stung in sympathy, prompting him to knock in another, Germany's fourth of the night.
Sami Khedira must've believed Fred's mustache to be hopelessly silly, and thought him a hopeless case at forward as well, so he played his part in eliminating Brazil by scoring Germany's fifth, just nineteen minutes after the first had gone in.
Germany took halftime to contemplate what other wrongs must be righted, and André Schürrle was introduced with his own ideas for vengeance. Brazil appealed Thiago Silva's yellow card against Colombia, despite it being one of the most foolish reasons a player could ever find himself suspended? Well, there's a sixth goal to punish such actions.
The seventh and final goal was a warning. No one cares how you play, Brazil? You don't need to play joga bonito? Think again. We expect beauty and grace and samba, not temper tantrums and spoiled children kicking out at their opponents. You have gone against the laws of football and for that ... for that you must have seven goals wracked up against you. In front of your own fans.
... and save us from St. Neymar
Not even Neymar could have saved Brazil from this one. In his wildest imaginings, in the darkest, most pride-swollen depths of his ego, Neymar could not have hoped to have made any difference in the Seleção's 7-1 semifinal humiliation at the hands of Germany. This was the disgrace of all disgraces, and it's the only thing that could have distracted from the wailing and gnashing of teeth that surrounded Neymar's injury at the hands of Juan Camilo Zúñiga.
In a way, Germany saved the rest of the world from having to deal with the legend of St. Neymar. For three generations.
Brazil's players came into the Mineirão wearing 'Força Neymar' caps. They held his shirt aloft during the anthems. They were playing for him. While this struck most observers as somewhere between ridiculously over the top and obscene -- Neymar's injured, not dead -- to dismiss the depth of feeling over his fractured vertebra with snide comments is to miss a crucial insight into how these players and indeed this country was treating this tournament. This was a semifinal, on Brazilian soil. To miss it due to a freak injury wasn't far away from being dead at all.
Considering that Brazil as a country hasn't gotten over the last time it lost a World Cup game on home soil, which happened in 1950 and was markedly less embarrassing, one hates to imagine how long this defeat will be talked about. Germany were excellent, yes, but they were allowed to be excellent by Brazil, whose shambolic defending and somehow even worse midfield play gave the visitors the run of the field. A six goal margin of victory might not even be a fair reflection of Germany's dominance.
But by blowing Brazil off the park in Belo Horizonte, Brazil ensured that Neymar wasn't the story. A one or two goal loss? That would have been Zúñiga's fault for hurting the Golden Boy, who would undoubtedly have swooped in to save his team (and by extension his country). This? Pelé couldn't have done anything about it. And when one considers just how grating the talk of what could have been if not for Neymar over the next 64 years, it's hard not to be extremely thankful to the Germans for blowing the Brazilian doors off.
Granted, we'll be hearing about this one forever anyway. But at least there'll be no hypothetical in the world that might have saved the Seleção.
Manuel Neuer, perfectionist
Goalkeepers, so the story books tells us, are different. Theirs is another world with other priorities; not the numbers in your column, but the nil in theirs. In a World Cup that's so far been dominated by the efforts of the smaller, springier keepers -- Keylor Navas' and Guillermo Ochoa's ascent to cult-hero status have been neatly paralleled by Iker Casillas's descent into hell -- Manuel Neuer, Germany's vast, goal-dwarfing presence, is emerging as the custodian of the tournament.
After his entertaining turn as an auxiliary sweeper against Algeria, then his clean sheet against France, he might have expected a bit more trouble against Brazil, even in Neymar's absence. Instead he was able to stand and watch for the entire first half as his side tore the Brazilians into bloody chunks, then jumped up and down on the pieces, laughing. Metaphorically. Just about.
But where you or I might have been tempted to re-emerge for the second half with a deckchair, a caipirinha and something diverting to read, Neuer came out in the knowledge that while his team were virtually unbeatable, he could still end up without his nil. And so when Brazil came out for the second 45 and had their obligatory, inevitable flurry of effort, there he was. Making himself big, flinging himself around, bullying the already-beaten hosts back into their shells. No, you cannot have your consolation. No, you cannot have a hug. No, no, no. Not on my watch.
Eventually, of course, the German defence relaxed enough that Oscar was able to slip one past Neuer and into the net. And just for a moment, as he rose to his feet to pick the ball from the net, Neuer looked like a man about to take his understandably-relaxed centre backs, put them over his knee, and thrash them until they promised to remember what was important. It's not about the seven. It's about the nil. There are no such things as meaningless consolation goals. Not to goalkeepers.