Manuel Neuer: The 'Butcher of Brazil'

If German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer continues to play the role of 'sweeper-keeper' for the German team by charging at the opposing team's attack, a repeat of one of football's most horrific moments could be on the cards.

In Germany's 2-1 win over Algeria in the last-16 stage of the World Cup, Neuer thwarted countless Algerian forward forays, advancing out of his area to close down every through ball and incisive pass played into the space in front of him.

Here it is, the most talked about heat map in history. Manuel Neuer. #GER pic.twitter.com/6cHthWZU2E

Rewind 32 years to Spain's 1982 World Cup.

It's the early stages of the second half in the semi-final between West Germany and France in Seville.

French wizard Michel Platini plays a lofted pass over the West German back line, and defender Patrick Battiston has charged up from the back and is set to receive the pass one on one with the German keeper Harald Schumacher.

Sensing the danger, Schumacher races from his line in an attempt to close down the angle of the shot. Platini's pass bounces once, holding up slightly on the patchy surface. Battiston sees Schumacher charging out, and opts to try and toe poke the ball past the advancing keeper.

Schumacher, fully committed to the challenge, ignores the shot and leaps straight into Battiston instead. The Frenchman was knocked out cold, later slipping into a coma, and awaking to discover two absent teeth, three broken ribs and a damaged vertebra.

In addition to earning himself the nickname the 'Butcher of Seville', Schumacher also sparked a bitter rivalry between two of European football's powerhouses.

France and Germany will renew that rivalry on the football pitch when they clash in the first quarterfinal at this year's tournament, and Neuer will once again play a crucial role in Germany's game plan.

The Bayern Munich number one acts as a 'fifth defender', charging off his line to help sweep up any threats the German defence may have missed, with statistics revealing that an astounding 36% of Neuer's touches against Algeria came outside of his 18-yard box.

Despite the stats showing that Neuer's sweeper role has worked well for the Germans, it's still a very risky and dangerous tactic.

He's always chasing a 50/50 ball which he's obviously not guaranteed to win, and as the 1982 incident showed it could also turn ugly.

Neuer will have to be at his ultimate best against a French side packed with pacey wingers and attackers, and with Germany playing a high defensive line, the likes of the Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud could easily get in behind the German defence.

German defender Per Mertersacker turns like a cruise ship, and will get caught out time and time again by the French if he plays high up the pitch, as has been the case so far.

It's all going to come down to the role Manuel Neuer plays and how well he executes it, like he did against Algeria. If he's as ruthless as what Harald 'Butcher of Seville' Schumacher was more than three decades ago he could also take them to the final as Schumacher did in '82.

If he is as ruthless and keeps the French at bay and sees the Germans to the title, Neuer could well become the 'Butcher of Brazil'.

Rafiq Wagiet is an EWN sports reporter based in Cape Town.

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