It’s the morning after the night before, and analysts all over the world are trying to get to grips with last night’s shock. For the host nation – for Brazil – to have been beaten so convincingly seems to have come as a surprise to most, but should it have done? All those analysts will be pointing at virtues like organisation and discipline, talking about the German renaissance and footballing education, trying desperately to avoid any mention of the word Blitzkrieg in their reports of the first half. And they’ll all be looking in completely the wrong direction.
You want to know how Germany did it? Take a look at the words of Rio Ferdinand, the thinking man’s Alan Turing, on Miroslav Klose’s goal. “When the ball comes into the box,” said Ferdinand, brow furrowed as the gigantic brain beneath attempted to come to terms with what it had witnessed, “he comes alive.”
He comes alive.
Now, to you, to me, to most people watching, this was just a throwaway comment, an analogy, a metaphor cunningly disguised by the omission of the word “literally”. But Ferdinand isn’t like the rest of us. Ferdinand knows.
Precisely what it is that Ferdinand knows was a mystery to me until I replayed a moment of the second half. Brazil were breaking, or at least attempting to, but everywhere they went, their way was blocked by another one of those curious stripy shirts. “Germany,” said Martin Keown, with the air of a man who knew what he was about to say would have repercussions for generations to come, “have bodies all over the pitch.”
I took a closer look. He was right. They did. I looked up Klose on Wikipedia, because I’ve been hearing about him since I was born (and I’m 40). The entry’s been changed since, but it confirmed what I suspected.
Are you ready for this?
Miroslav Klose died fifteen years ago.
A reanimated corpse scoring his sixteenth World Cup Finals goal? Bodies all over the pitch? It only pointed one way.
I watched the match again, freezing the image and running it frame-by-frame whenever the action got close to Manuel Neuer in the German goal. Surely one man alone couldn’t have pulled off those remarkable second-half saves?
He couldn’t. You can’t see it in real time, of course, and by now the evidence has probably been wiped from the internet, but every time a hapless Brazilian striker attempted a shot, an army of the undead would rise from the pitch and, quite simply, get in the way. The ball would slowly bounce its way among them into Neuer’s grateful grasp. The same would happen further up the pitch when Brazil attempted to break and catch their opponents in a swift counter-attack. The Germans could afford to amble over to the bench for a couple of drags on a Cohiba while the undead did all their work for them. Did you not wonder why David Luiz was never in the right place when the German attacked? Zombies. Zombies getting in his way, tripping him up, surrounding him so he couldn’t even tell which direction to run in. It’s the only explanation.
Of course there will be inquests everywhere (“literally”!), attempts to work out not only how it happened but how the German performance could be replicated by Brazil, by England, by everyone else. They’ll point to academies, to different coaching techniques, to a focus on skills at the expense of victory. But they’ll all miss the one thing that made it happen, the trick every German footballer is taught the moment he turns professional, the true difference between them and everyone else.
Ferdinand knows. Keown knows. And now you do, too.
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