Physical Germany Will Overpower Brazil
You can't score if you don't shoot, and like England before them, Turkey treated the Brazilian 18-yard line like it was a steel fence. Hakan Sukur, apart from one marvelous moment, was anonymous. The conventional wisdom that Ilhan should have been on all through the game is right; in injury time, he had Turkey's clearest chance. Hasan Sas lived up to his reputation as the indisciplined bad boy of Turkish football, and all the great work done by Basturk, Emre and Alpay came to naught. Germany will have been interested to see that Brazil couldn't put the game away after Ronaldo's goal, and also that Route One down the middle gets snared by the Brazilian defense. (One reason that both Turkey and England resorted to the long ball up the middle is often overlooked. Roberto Carlos and especially Cafu are terrific defenders on the flanks; Cafu is playing as well as he ever has.)
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Before the semi-finals, I picked Germany to win the whole thing, and though I'd be more confident if Ballack was playing, I'm sticking with the choice. I think that the Germans will mix it in the box, where they have height and strength, and that Hamman will continue to marshal the midfield to deny service to Ronaldo. Rivaldo, mark my words, will get clattered by someone in the first five minutes I bet Voeller plays Jeremies, a real hard man, in place of Ballack and then we will discover what stuff he is made of. Rivaldo looked chicken against Turkey, pulling out of tackles whenever he was within ten yards of Alpay. Ronaldinho will be back, of course, and the Brazilians surely missed his runs from midfield today. But hey, why not admit it? I actually like the German side more than Brazil. They have a core of honest players groomed at Bayer Leverkusen, for my money the best team in Europe last year, and Hamman has done what he does so superbly with Liverpool, calmly stay in front of the back four and link defense to attack. Kahn, as we know, is tremendous, though like all keepers prone to the occasional moment of madness.
Purists will hope that Brazil score early, so that the Germans come out of their defensive shell. But I think that Germany will hang on through the first half, and then snatch a goal after the break. So it will be Germany 1 - Brazil 0. And less than a year after Stevie Gerrard took them apart in Munich, who would ever have dared predict that?
Rivaldo, a Magician from Deep
I agree with Mike's summation of the German game plan don't let Ronaldo and Rivaldo turn, and inflict a little pain early on. (That may sound cynical, but hey Rudi Voller even singled out Ballack for special praise on Tuesday for the professional foul that earned him his suspension.) The Germans will note that Brazil looked a little iffy early on against Turkey, struggling to find their rhythm with a new lineup. Germany would have worked hard to extend and deepen such discomfort. In the absence of Ronaldinho, neither his replacement Edilson nor substitute Denilson made any impression, and that forced Rivaldo to drop back in search of the ball. His deeper role, however, allowed him to work many a magic moment, and he was easily Brazil's man of the match. His close control is breathtaking, and his ability to unleash snap shots without first steadying himself has to worry even Oliver Kahn. With Ronaldhino back for the final, the Germans are going to have their hands full, particularly in light of the effectiveness of Cafu and Roberto Carlos on the flanks. Just hope the Real Madrid left back isn't getting tired, because he was beaten for pace at least once by Fatih.
The most worrying thing for the Germans, though, will be the self-confidence the Brazilians displayed once they'd found their stride midway through the first half. From then on, it was only a matter of when the goals would come, and how many there'd be. Once they catch fire like that, even being a goal down won't be enough to stop them. We're in for a final matching two teams who carry on their shoulders the weight of their more illustrious forebears, against whose standards both are deemed mere pretenders. But the great Brazilian teams and the great German teams, both of whom seemed to own the World Cup for decades at a time, never actually met in a game that mattered. What we're going to see on Sunday, in football terms, is nothing less than an epic clash of cultures. And ultimately, the world is a better place when the "beautiful game" is played in the style of the sunshine countries. My heart says Brazil; and with a few reservations, my mind says, why not?
Brazil Gives as Good as it Gets
I think we overestimate the Germans' ability to intimidate Brazil physically. This is not a team of ballerinas Rivaldo is a target of many a La Liga defender and he knows how to protect himself. It's been my experience that when a match gets filthy, the Brazilians get as dirty as anyone else; in fact, they are viciously great at retaliation. Which brings us, again, to the ref. Look for an early card to sort things out then Germans will have to play football. And they're not too shabby at it.
Korean Lessons in Sporstmanship
I'd be interested to hear how the fans reacted in Korea after their team's loss. From what I saw on telly the fans were disappointed but still ready to congratulate Germany. Sky television crossed to a crowd of Koreans in Trafalger Square who were waving a few Korean flags as well as a GERMAN flag. Hard to see the Italians or Spaniards waving the flag of their opponents. In the end old firm teams may have made the final but perhaps the newbies can teach a thing or two about sportsmanship.
German Organization Trumps Korean Stamina
(June 26, 9am)
Why did Germany beat Korea when other European giants like Poland, Italy, Spain and Portugal couldn't? Maybe because, in the sixth game over three weeks, the Koreans were finally unable to run with the zeal that they'd shown in the group stage. But mainly, surely, because this German side is as well-organized as the (somewhat unlovable) teams that got to the final in '82, '86 and '90. They know when to foul and when to draw a foul; they don't panic; they have Kahn in goal; and in Hamman, Schneider and Ballack, they have midfielders who will run all day but also have great technical skills. Hamman was doing delightful stuff deep into injury time. Credit to Rudy Voeller for putting the team together in a year and Spain and Italy, please note for continuing to push forward after the goal. Ballack really deserved it; he was huge for Bayer Leverkusen in their golden season last year, and will add to Bayern Munich's strength in the fall. A real shame he'll miss the final; he would have been a worthy opponent for the Brazilians. Assuming, that is, they win tomorrow; a friend of mine thinks we should all be rooting for Turkey on the grounds that it would be good for an Islamic country to win a "western" event. But as Korea have brilliantly showed us, the World Cup isn't a western preserve any more.
An Unrelenting Attack
You're dead right Michael: the key to Germany's success is that they kept going forward after scoring, even bringing on Asamoah late in the game to keep the Korean defenders busy.