Almost four years have passed since one of the darkest days in Brazil’s distinguished football history.
Memories of the 7-1 loss suffered at the hands of a rampant Germany team on home soil at World Cup 2014 still rumble on for football’s most-successful nation.
This summer’s tournament in Russia will provide them with the chance to put those memories well and truly behind them, as they aim to win their sixth World Cup – led by the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus.
But on Tuesday night they come face-to-face with Germany for the first time since that mauling in Belo Horizonte four years ago, in what could be the most important friendly in Brazil’s recent history.
“The 7-1 game is the most recent game. It’s a step that’s passed. We are in a building period and emotionally it will be important,” Brazil boss Tite – whose predecessor Luiz Felipe Scolari oversaw the infamous defeat – told ESPN recently ahead of Tuesday’s clash.
He’s right. Friendlies rarely have much importance, but there’s no doubt a clash with the world champions less than three months before the start of the World Cup presents a huge psychological hurdle for Brazil’s new-look team.
Much has changed for both nations since that semi-final clash. Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose are no longer German stalwarts, while Brazil’s attacking threat won’t be reliant on Fred, Hulk and Bernard.
The weight of expectation that rested on Brazil’s shoulders four years ago has been somewhat reduced, but the belief is that under Tite they are now a much stronger side than the one that was knocked for seven by Germany.
They stormed through World Cup qualification, finishing ten points ahead of second-placed Uruguay, and look set to be able to match their unrivalled attacking flair with a defensive solidity that failed them so desperately four years ago.
Tite has already confirmed 15 of the 23 that will head to Russia this summer, dependent on injuries between now and the end of the season, meaning just eight spaces are left to fill. A somewhat surprising move, perhaps, but such is the Brazilian boss’ confidence in those he has named, there is no suggestion it could have a negative effect.
Marcelo (r) is the only one who started against Germany expected to start at this year’s World Cup.
Of the 15 already included, just two players – Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Manchester City’s Fernandinho – started against Germany four years ago.
The likes of Dante, Oscar and Hulk, who all started in Belo Horizonte, are still playing regularly for their clubs. The problem for them is that Brazil have well and truly moved forward – on the pitch at least.
Tite also named his starting XI for the opening World Cup game back in February, with Marcelo the only survivor from the 11 that lined up from the start against Germany. Dani Alves, Fernandinho, Paulinho and Willian are the only others who were in the matchday squad for that forgettable night at Estadio Mineirao.
Neymar was part of the Brazil squad for World Cup 2014, missing the Germany game through injury. He will have little time to prepare for Russia because of another injury setback, but there’s no doubt he has mirrored Brazil’s progression in terms of development.
Neymar missed the semi-final against Germany after getting injured against Colombia
Raw and unpredictable four years ago, the PSG star has developed a ruthless edge, scoring six goals in qualifying to help Brazil comfortably reach Russia. Coupled with genuine star quality around him, Neymar has all the requirements needed to light up Russia and propel himself back into Ballon d’Or contention.
The injured forward will be missing again on Tuesday night, just as he was four years ago, but Brazil have the quality to fall back on this time around. The likes of Chelsea’s Willian and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino have been in stunning form for their clubs and will be ready to snap up any chance they’re presented with.
Douglas Costa and Anderson Talisca will also be hoping to impress and become the 16th name on Tite’s World Cup list. Others such as Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, Manchester City’s Ederson and Real Sociedad’s Willian Jose will hope for their chance to shine, but there’s no doubt Brazil will be taking this friendly seriously.
Reading too much in to Tuesday night’s clash would be unfair, but for Tite and the Selecao it presents the perfect opportunity to begin the process of banishing those Belo Horizonte memories once and for all.