Soccer-Too much pressure caused Brazil meltdown, say Germans

SANTO ANDRE, Brazil, July 9 Wed Jul 9, 2014 9:03pm BST

SANTO ANDRE, Brazil, July 9 (Reuters) - Germany coach Joachim Loew believes Brazil's players were overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to win the World Cup at home, a sentiment expressed by several current and former players after their 7-1 semi-final mauling.

Germany, who have had a sport psychologist with the team since 2004, have also gone to great lengths to shield their players from the pressures at the World Cup, setting up their base at a fortress-like purpose-built compound on a remote beach in rural north-eastern Brazil.

The relaxed and always-composed deportment of the Germany players stands in sharp contrast with the emotions exhibited and tears shed by Brazil players at the tournament, scenes that have amazed some Germans.

"Perhaps the pressure was just too much," Loew said in an interview on the German football association (DFB) website when asked why Brazil had imploded in the first half when Germany scored five times.

"The expectations on the team in their home country might have crippled them. We know all about that from our own experience in 2006," he said, referring to Germany's heart-breaking semi-final 2-0 loss to Italy.

"That's why I feel for my coaching counter-part Luiz Felipe Scolari, why I feel for the Brazil team and the whole Brazilian nation," he said.

News emerged earlier in the tournament that Brazil started using a sports psychologist to help the team amid worries about their mental state after keeper Julio Cesar and captain Thiago Silva cried in front of millions of TV viewers.

"I talked with Dante the other day he told me the team was riding on only emotion," said Giovane Elber, a former Brazil and Bayern Munich striker who works as a pundit for German TV, referring to the Brazil defender.

"Dante told me they're trying to get through each round with emotions. But we saw the team fell apart after falling behind. You might be able to win a match or maybe two with emotions but you're never going to win a World Cup on emotions alone and no tactics," he added.

RAISED EYEBROWS

Germany's psychologist Hans-Dieter Hermann had been part of the team since 2004, when he was brought on board by then-coach Juergen Klinsmann. There were some eyebrows raised at first but Hermann quickly became part of the furniture and no one in Germany has ever questioned his contributions since.

Mehmet Scholl, a former Germany midfielder, said the Germany players were mentally focused and strong enough to deal with setbacks without falling apart.

"If a team that lives off emotion meets a team like Germany that has its whole act together, that can deal with setbacks and lots of quality, then emotions alone won't be enough to win," he said.

Germany coaches have talked at length in Brazil about their secret weapon - which they call "Nervenstaerke", or "strength of nerves" - that has helped them get to the two of the last four World Cup finals and two other semi-finals.

Former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said he was astonished to see Brazil players crying on the pitch so often.

"I don't know how much weight the boys from Brazil were carrying on their shoulders," Kahn said.

"But they weren't able to come to terms with it. This team didn't have enough experience to come to grips with the pressures of this big tournament in their own country.

"We witnessed a collective implosion of the Brazil team," he added. (Editing by Ed Osmond)