Much of the post-match debate about how exactly Brazil contrived to lose so badly to Germany has centred on the role of one man – former Chelsea favourite David Luiz. It seems that his performance–come–walkabout at the centre of the Brazilian defence (well, theoretically at the centre, if not in practice) was the one single reason why his team crashed out of the World Cup.
But was that really the case? It’s true that he looked lost as the German strikers waltzed through the Brazilian defence for the second goal. It’s true he ambled back carelessly for the fourth, was missing for the fifth, and allowed Andre Schurrle to drift across him for the sixth. It’s true that he was supposed to be marshalling the back four, the senior defender in Thiago Silva’s absence.
Yet was he the only one at fault? His centre-back partner Dante looked like a schoolboy, being sent one way and then the other as the German attackers toyed with him, like cats playing with a mouse. Marcelo was outpaced and outclassed down the left; Maicon was wretched on the right. The whole back four consistently found themselves running around haplessly out of position as Germany’s quick, direct passing game tied them in knots.
Worst of all was the utterly dire Fernandino, allegedly playing defensive midfield. He missed a crucial interception for the second goal, lost possession for the fourth, and let the German attack run right past him for the fifth. He protected the defence like a cheap umbrella in a hurricane, blown apart and left in a bedraggled mess.
None of this has stopped the pundits from piling all the blame on Luiz’s curly-mopped head. And yet, a slightly surprising someone has now sprung to his defence. Jose Mourinho, whose thinly-veiled doubts over Luiz’s defensive capabilities led him to sell the player to Paris St Germain for a cool £50 million, has said publicly that it is not right to single Luiz out for blame.
The Blues boss said: “I don’t think it’s fair to separate a player from the team, because the team was really bad. David made mistakes? Yes, he did. But Dante made mistakes; Marcelo made mistakes, Fernandinho made mistakes. The team as a team made mistakes. So I don’t think it’s fair.”
And he went on: “I think everyone in my situation, everyone that is a player, everyone that is a coach, everyone that is not involved in the World Cup, but could be in that position, I think all of us are feeling really sorry for them.”
Now I wouldn’t go that far. I don’t think there will be any great sympathy for Brazil after the way they kicked their way past Colombia in the quarter-finals. But Mourinho’s analysis of the team’s structural failings is surely spot on.
There’s little reason for Mourinho to defend Luiz. The Brazilian is not his player any more. And he could quite happily rub his hands gleefully and point out how clever he was for offloading the defender for a small fortune before the semi-final debacle. So when he says this defeat was not the fault of one player, it is maybe time for other pundits to shut up and listen.