“I was at home with friends. It was a strange match to watch.”
Everybody, including Germany’s Julian Brandt, remembers where they were when they saw the 7-1. Perhaps the most infamous game in FIFA World Cup™ history needs no introduction, and you do not even need to mention the teams involved. Football fans across the globe now know the record-breaking 2014 semi-final, the Mineirazo, is being referred to when you say those two numbers together in that order.
That game was the nadir in the recent history of Brazilian futebol and close to the pinnacle for German fussball, with the Nationalmannschaft going on to lift the trophy five days later at the Maracana. A return to that stadium is on the cards for a German side in Brazil, with the Olympic team heading to the fabled arena for a showdown with Brazil: a rematch of the 7-1.
“It's a dream come true to play in such a traditional and well-known stadium,” Brandt said, with a broad grin. “Repeating the scenario of 2014 is also pushing the team forwards. The pressure is not really on us, the pressure is more on the home team.”
If the Germans are to be victorious in a Maracana final once more, Brandt will likely play a key role. The German No11 is the side’s outstanding attacking force, in a team brimming with talent going forward. Of the 21 goals scored so far by Horst Hrubesch’s side, Brandt has been directly involved in nine, assisting seven and seeing two of his shots saved and followed up by team-mates. The Bayer Leverkusen man, who scored in six consecutive matches for his club last season, has yet to get on the scoresheet himself at Rio 2016.
“In general, I think more about the team,” Brandt said. “It's not so important for me to score. I am proud of my assists though but now I'm looking forward to perhaps scoring a goal in the final. It would be the perfect time to get my first in the tournament.”
Making history with a new generationLooking forward is something the German coaching staff are keen to ensure their young, talented team do. Those outside the camp look back, to 2014, and to 1988, when a bronze medal represented the country’s previous best finish at an Olympic Football Tournament – the class of 2016 have already bettered that feat, achieved with Jurgen Klinsmann and Karl-Heinz Reidle among their ranks.
“Now everything that comes in the final is a bonus,” Brandt said. “We cannot compare the situation to 1988, because what is so tremendous, is that our team is newly formed, in a very short period. That makes it so special, for us to make the final. Obviously, it's incredible for us to have achieved something better than those legends of German football, and for us to have made history already.”
The midfield schemer was given his senior debut by Joachim Low earlier this year, in a friendly against Slovakia. Brandt is hungry for more.
“Now that some key players have retired recently like Schweinsteiger and Podolski, a younger generation is pushing up,” Brandt said. “Obviously, I have one eye on what is happening in the national team, and I have aspirations to make the step up.”
That level of confidence in his own ability has got the 20-year-old player this far, and perhaps those two World Cup winners will remember where they watched the Rio 2016 final, particularly if Brandt gets his goal.