When Willian curled in a cross from the right at the Olympiastadion in March, little did he know the next touch of the ball would have a long-lasting effect on the world of football.
That’s through no fault of the Chelsea man, of course. He could hardly have predicted his teammate Gabriel Jesus setting in motion a startling chain of events when he headed the cross into the German net, but that’s what happened.
Gabriel Jesus broke the well-oiled machine that is the German national team, and there’s no going back.
First, let’s take a look at the goal itself: a simple-enough header, straight at the goalkeeper, which would probably not have ended up in the back of the net if Manuel Neuer had been fit.
However, rather than Neuer, it was Kevin Trapp between the sticks.
The then-Paris Saint-Germain keeper was not a club regular, and it may have been this rustiness which contributed to him failing to keep out the header.
That would end up being the only goal of the game, and it helped Brazil vanquish the demons of the 7-1 defeat at the 2014 World Cup.
It did another thing, though: it planted the seed in German heads that they were now no longer invincible.
That German side simply did not lose. Indeed, from their Euro 2016 exit to France, right up until the Brazil game, they had not tasted defeat even once.
The run included 10 wins from 10 games in qualification for the World Cup, and, while that group may not have been the strongest, the victories were surrounded by unbeaten runouts against England, France and Spain in friendlies and a near-flawless run to Confederations Cup glory.
Throughout that time – 22 games spread across more than 18 months, just four teams had even taken the lead against Jogi Löw’s team.
They were becoming the classic supervillain, beginning to believe they simply needed to show up to emerge victorious, and as they got more efficient they only began to grow in confidence.
They were safe in the knowledge that it would take something uniquely special to pierce their armour, so when they found themselves undone by the ordinary it sent them into a tailspin, a crisis of confidence which simply grew and grew.
Germany lost their next game, falling to Austria for the first time in more than 30 years, and needed an own goal to beat a Saudi Arabia side which clearly bore few mental scars from seeing their compatriots ship eight to Die Mannschaft in their previous meeting.
Some might put the World Cup collapse which followed down to the curse of the former winners – after all, Spain in 2014 and Italy in 2010 had similarly crumbled – but it’s important to pay attention to the context: Spain had a tough group to contend with and Italy were without many of their starters from 2006. But this German team was close enough to the one which had lifted the trophy four years prior.
Something had dented their resolve, though, and we know what it was.
Want further proof? They have already finished bottom of their Nations League group with a round of games to spare, picking up just one point and failing to score a single goal from open play.
If you thought those in the national squad were the only ones affected, you’re wrong there too – this goes much deeper.
Gabriel Jesus’ club teammate Leroy Sané was flying at the time of the Brazil game, with 12 goals to his name for Manchester City in the 2017/18 season and a place in his country’s squad more or less assured. However, after being on the pitch when everything broke, he scored just two more goals all season and was left out of the World Cup 23.
As for Sven Ulreich, the man who many German fans said should be called up after Trapp’s error? He sent Bayern Munich out of the Champions League after temporarily forgetting how to walk and gifting a goal to Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. If that doesn’t scream ‘machine malfunction’ then I don’t know what does.
We think Germany have identified the problem, though, and the upcoming run of games should prove once and for all whether or not their solution has worked.
The initial 22-game unbeaten run began after conceding twice to Antoine Griezmann to lose a tight game in France.
What happened in Germany’s last game, I hear you ask? Why don’t you take a look for yourself: