Sparkling German blend is toast of the World Cup

By Karolos Grohmann

By Karolos Grohmann

BELO HORIZONTE Brazil (Reuters) - 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, managed to find the right mix of players, distilling what no doubt is the finest Germany 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 that could help Germany take the last step towards ending their 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 speechless at the Mineirao stadium.

Millions across the host nation were also in complete shock on a day that will live in their collective memory for all the wrong reasons.

Germany's starting lineup 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 on Tuesday.

In 2010 it was their youngest World Cup team in 76 years that grabbed the headlines, on Tuesday it was one of their finest ever.

The holding midfield partnership that shone so brightly in South Africa of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira was fully restored, operating flawlessly and having the added experience of four 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 them fourth goal with an unselfish pass to Toni Kroos when others would have taken the shot and then scoring himself.

It was that attacking impetus from his midfield that Loew had yearned for in Brazil and he got the full 90-minute show.

Captain Philipp Lahm, who had been tried in midfield, again played in his familiar right back role, just like against France in the last eight, to eliminate any threat from winger Hulk.

Left back Benedikt Hoewedes crowned his best performance by shutting out the injured Neymar's replacement Bernard.

Loew showed he has learned from his mistakes and Lahm's short-lived midfield adventure looks to have been shelved, especially after the 30-year-old's mediocre performances in that position earlier in the tournament.

Defenders Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng hit top form at the right time after several efforts to find the right mix in central defense 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 defense, which was badly missing suspended captain Thiago Silva.

The trio's lightning-quick passing game and scoring prowess made Brazil's defense look frozen under the waves of attacks.

Kroos delivered the first goal for Mueller and then added two himself in a sensational first-half display that will no doubt seal his expected move away from Bayern Munich.

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 Brazil had harbored.

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 halftime.

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.

Sometimes results comes through playing the beautiful game the way it was meant to be played and never was that adage more fitting than on an unforgettable night in balmy Belo Horizonte.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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