History toasts deadly German vintage
IT TAKES years for a fine wine to mature and the Germany team that ripped Brazil apart 7-1 in an astonishing World Cup semi-final has become a rare vintage, with coach Joachim Loew finally getting the blend right.
On a day that rocked world football, Loew, in charge since 2006, has found the right mix of players in what no doubt is the finest German team in decades.
He had reached at least the semi-finals in his four tournaments in charge but always seemed to be missing some ingredient to end Germany's 18-year wait for a major trophy.
On Tuesday, Germany retained all the attributes that were so attractive in their youthful and exuberant 2010 World Cup squad that fell at the last four but infused it with the right dash of battle-hardened maturity.
"It's something special what we've accomplished and what we can do," said central defender Mats Hummels. "Obviously, we're going to do everything we can to fulfil that big dream we still have."
They swept past the hosts in an awe-inspiring first half, which included four goals in six minutes, leaving tens of thousands of Brazilians at the Mineirao stadium speechless.
Germany's starting line-up on Tuesday included seven of the players who had featured in their 1-0 semi-final loss to Spain four years ago, and another two were on the bench.
In 2010, it was their youngest World Cup team in 76 years that grabbed the headlines. On Tuesday, it was one of their finest.
The holding midfield partnership that shone so brightly in South Africa of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira was fully restored, with four more years of playing top football.
If Schweinsteiger, who turns 30 next month, ever dreamt of a game to prove he was back at his very best, especially after criticism for his performances at Euro 2012, this was it.
Khedira, who had torn a cruciate ligament in November, was doubtful for the tournament but Loew had insisted he was the only player in his team who was valuable even if not fully fit.
The 27-year-old proved him right, helping to set up the fourth goal with an unselfish pass to Toni Kroos.
Captain Philipp Lahm, who had been tried in midfield, again played in his familiar right-back role to eliminate any threat from winger Hulk.
Left back Benedikt Hoewedes crowned his best performance by shutting out the injured Neymar's replacement, Bernard.
Defenders Hummels and Jerome Boateng hit top form at the right time, after several efforts to find the right mix in central defence over the past four years.
The 54-year-old Loew also timed his use of a sole striker perfectly as Miroslav Klose, who had been on the bench for much of the tournament, netted his record 16th World Cup goal.
Right behind him, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos wreaked havoc in the Brazil defence, which was badly missing suspended captain Thiago Silva.
Kroos delivered the first goal for Mueller and then added two himself in a sensational first-half display.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer stood up to be counted early in the second half when Brazil looked for an early goal to cut the deficit, making three superb saves in a row to kill off any unlikely comeback hopes.
Even Loew's substitutions were worth their weight in gold, with Andre Schuerrle slamming in two quick goals to turn the scoreline into a stunning spectacle and Per Mertesacker looking solid at the back after coming off the bench at half-time.
The result was the toast of the World Cup for advocates of attacking football and a damning indictment of the negative tactics adopted by Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.