YOKOHAMA, Japan – What a time and place for the first World Cup meeting between Brazil and Germany — in the final, for the trophy, with all the world watching.
“We have been looking for this game for so many years in Brazil,” said Carlos Alberto Parreira, who coached his nation to the 1994 title. “I would say that the hierarchy has been restored by this Germany-Brazil final.”
Brazil has won four World Cup titles and Germany three. Of the 12 World Cup finals since World War II, 11 have included one of those two nations, with Argentina’s 1978 victory over the Netherlands the only exception.
But, strangely, they’ve avoided each other in soccer’s showcase. No Pele vs. Sepp Maier. No Franz Beckenbauer vs. Gylmar.
“Both teams have a great tradition,” Brazilian forward Rivaldo said. “If Brazil wants to be champions, we have to respect Germany. Not fear them, respect them.”
Germany won its semifinal, 1-0 over co-host South Korea on Tuesday in Seoul. Brazil did its part a night later, defeating Turkey 1-0 in Saitama to match the Germans of 1982, 1986 and 1990 as the only nation to make the final three straight times.
“Brazil is the best you can get,” said Oliver Kahn, Germany’s brilliant goalkeeper. “Individually, they have world-class players at every position. But the sum of best individuals doesn’t necessarily make the best team and I think we can beat them. My gut feeling tells me that we are going to be the world champions, but I can’t explain why.”
It’s an unlikely time for the teams’ first World Cup meeting. Both nations struggled in qualifying and were considered by some long shots even to reach the quarterfinals.
Brazil was just 9-6-3 in qualifying — unheard of mediocrity in the land of samba soccer — getting in only with a victory over lowly Venezuela in its final game. Germany needed to beat Ukraine in a playoff to make it.
“Nobody really expected us to even go to the round of 16,” Germany coach Rudi Voeller said.
Brazil won the title in 1958, 1962, 1970 and 1994, earning praise much of the time for its stylish attacks. West Germany captured the championship in 1954, 1974 and 1990, sometimes criticized for its lack of imagination — and ability to flop in front of officials to gain unwarranted penalty kicks.
There’s little doubt which style most fans prefer. At its best, Brazilian soccer is a painter’s palette. At its worst, German soccer is a wrecking ball, shattering opponents with brute strength and bland-but-effective relentlessness.
“Despite the criticisms that were leveled at us because of the lack of style, lack of flair, in actual fact we implemented the coach’s instructions,” Germany’s Michael Ballack said after the semifinal win.
Ballack, who scored the only goals in the quarterfinal against the United States and in the semifinal, will miss Sunday’s game while serving a suspension for getting two yellow cards. Brazil seems supremely confident going in.
“It will be a match between the most attacking team and the most defensive team, who has only given away one goal,” Brazil’s Roberto Carlos said. “The game will focus on the defensive tactics.”
In the past decade, the nations have met five times, with Brazil going 3-1-1. Brazil won 2-1 in a 1998 game in Germany, then routed an under-strength German team 4-0 in Mexico at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.