German manager offers referee Löw-down on Brazilian ‘brutality’
Neymar’s injury is neither forgotten nor forgiven but his team-mates will play for their absent friend
Germany’s head coach Joachim Low attends a team training session at Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
After days of persistent complaining by the locals about that challenge by Juan Camilo Zuniga on Neymar, Joachim Löw turned the tables pretty comprehensively on Brazil last night when he described much of what went on generally in their game against Colombia as “brutal” and insisted his players will need to be protected by the referee in tonight’s first World Cup semi-final.
A matter of hours after Fifa had confirmed that it would not be taking any action against Zuniga, the German coach suggested that the Mexican match official who missed the Luis Suarez bite would need to be strong and attentive this evening.
Löw said that many of the challenges in Friday’s game between the two South American sides went too far. “I hope the referee (Marco) Rodriguez will clamp down, because I have seen in the last few matches that Brazil’s physical energy is going beyond of what we see in Europe.
“There, 22 players would not have finished the (Colombia) game because there were some really brutal challenges.
“The way in which players were physically blocked was completely exaggerated and we will need to see that these things are stopped in this game because if they are allowed then we will have no Neymars, Götzes, Ozils or any other players of that type; we will have only players who go out and try to destroy the play.”
Asked whether he thought the balance of the refereeing had shifted too far in favour of defenders again, Löw, whose side had indulged in their share of rough and tumble against France, said that in the games he had personally experienced so far, the balance was about right. But when passion and the pace were raised, as he suggested they had been on Friday in Fortaleza, then the referees needed to act.
“I don’t think you can make sweeping statements because we have had matches that went well when played at a normal pace but that match was a real fight and played a brutal pace.
“I think the real playing time was 38 or 39 minutes because there were so many breaks and I don’t think the fans are happy if there are so many breaks because the game doesn’t develop properly.
“There were many fouls from behind that were dangerous for the players; slide tackles from behind and from the side and the referee must protect the players in football. It is the major responsibility of the referee to protect the players in such situations but the attackers here were treated in a very bad way and I don’t think that is a good thing for football.”
Beside him, his defender Jerome Boateng agreed that many of the challenges in the game had indeed “gone beyond what is acceptable.”
The call for the referee to be strong is predictable enough from a side facing a home side that has done alright out of them so far but it was entertaining stuff nevertheless coming as it did shortly after the Brazilian press conference. It featured Luiz Felipe Scolari and his suspended skipper Thiago Silva who was still portraying Zuniga as Friday’s only guilty party.
Scolari insisted that he and his players are over Neymar’s injury and looking forward to their semi-final clash with Germany but the defender appeared to be struggling to keep up and returned to the topic as he again attacked Zuniga for his foul on the home side’s striker.
“It was a coward’s tackle,” said the PSG defender who is set to be replaced by Bayern Munich’s Dante this evening. “Some people thing it was normal but it wasn’t. I know how to mark a player and that isn’t done.”
Silva said that the players have talked a great deal amongst themselves and with a psychologist about the loss of their star player and the 29 year-old dutifully stuck to the line that they would be more united now than ever in their determination to win the game, and title, for their injured friend.
Scolari, thankfully, seemed more anxious to move on that, sure the players might draw inspiration from their desire to deliver for the striker but insistent too that they must also want to do it for themselves.
“Neymar leaving left a lot of himself with us and he’s taken a lot of us with him too. That phase, though, of being sad and so on, we’ve all left it behind when we knew he wouldn’t be with us anymore.
“The way he spoke to the players made them understand that he had done his share and now it’s their turn to do theirs. Amongst our group we already are focussing on other things; we have a different mindset and that’s how we must do things.
“We’ll miss Neymar, ” he continued, “because he is special but we’ve a squad of 22 more players who’ve been handpicked and capped because they are all special. Today we’ll play for Neymar but we’ll play too for our own goal which is to get to the final and then play it in our home.”
The coach happily embraced the suggestion from a journalist that the Germans are actually the favourites in this evening’s game. “They’ve a very good team,” he said, “and we cannot forget this German team has for six years been organised for this World Cup.
“That means they’ve a good team, a good balance, good teamwork and all the follow-up of this work has been successful. We must respect them.”