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839 games, two years, four months of preliminaries and eliminations, Seventeenth World Cup final, seventh appearance in the final for for Brazil, seventh for Germany. Just one goal allowed in six games by the Great [Oliver] Kahn in Germany’s goal. Germany had an easy way to the final: beating Saudi Arabia 8-0, tying Ireland 1-1, beating Cameroon 2-0, then eliminating Paraguay, the U.S. and South Korea, all in dullard, lucky 1-0 matches.… Brazil’s display was more liberal and hearty, defeating Turkey 2-1, China, 4-0 and Costa Rica, 5-2 at the group stage, then eliminating Belgium, 2-1, England, 2-0 and Turkey, in a surprisingly tight match, 1-0. Brazil leads the series with Germany, 10-3-4. Yokohama stadium, 90,000 spectators. Here we go. The famous Pieriuigi Colina is the Italian ref.

Ten minutes in, two vague Brazilian attacks, nothing from Germany until the sixth minute when Germany takes over, putting together a series of attacks that inch the game toward mild excitement. Two yellow cards already. But the quality isn’t sustained, the Brazilians have yet to show more than capability. It’s a game of midfield miffs, missed passes, out balls. The Brazilian defense is characteristically loose, error-prone, but leave it to Roberto Carlos to clear a dangerous ball with a bit of bouncy showmanship: the ball doesn’t stay out of the Brazilian half long. Germany are being more physical, more persistent, more—surprise surprise—methodical. The Nrazilian offense thinks it’s in dribble practice somewhere in Korea. It’s missing the boat: 17 minutes in, Germany have controlled the ball 60 percent of the time. But finally, the three Rs—Rivaldo, Ronaldhino, Ronaldo—put together a superb passing attack that end with a Ronaldo pass to no one right in front of the German goal. It should have been 1-0.

Nice bit of acting from Germany’s Kolose, who pretends to have been atrociously clipped by Edmilson, Brazil’s hardest working player on the pitch so far in this game. Neither tempo nor texture are satisfactory so far. A typical German game. A semblance of an attack inside the Brazilian box at 24 minutes, but nothing more consequential than a corner kick, a samba of headers, then clearance back to the midfield before Edmilson starts hobbling.

26 th minute, yet another Brazilian attack that leads to Manchurian nothingness. This isn’t quite the Brazil-Germany match-up promised us. It’s more like Yemen-American Samoa. When 90,000 polite Japanese spectators start whistling, you know something is wrong. What, a German breakaway? Cafu safes it inside the box, drawing a foul. Then another on Ronaldo, then… finally, a terrific attack by Ronaldinho that tests Khan for the first time on his six-yard line. It’s a save. It’s a wake-up call for the Germans: the caffeine is beginning to kick into Brazilian veins. Still not quite the tempo we’re looking for, but you sense German nervousness at the rising Brazilian hegemon. 33 rd minute, Rivaldo is taunting Germany with his quadruple bounces outside the German box. But at 35 minutes, we’re back to the dullard passing game, the German take-downs, the out-balls.

How many times has the ball been played back to the German keeper? The Germans are cynically, pathetically dull. Four touch-backs to the keeper in two minutes, a concerted attempt to fray Brazilian rhythms.Total shots so far, at 41 minutes: Brazil 4, Germany 1.

Edging toward the end of the first half, An unlikely, wonderful out-of-nowhere attack by Brazil’s Kleberson, driving up the middle and firing from the edge of the box—right on the crossbar. Then another terrific attack, Cafu from 35 yards out to Ronaldo, ten yards in front of the Great Kahn, he turns, he fires—right at Kahn. The half-time whistle blows on that little belated bit of drama. Brazilian bloods are boiling, Germany’s creepy defenses are falling. Still, a poor quality half only barely salvaged by late-term flashes. At least the Brazilians are going into the locker room knowing they should be making buffalo burgers of the German side.


 



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