Brazil v Germany World Cup 2014 comment: Why emotional scars of Tuesday’s shocker will not run as deep as 1950s ‘Maracanazo’

The jokes in the papers and the reaction of fans who laughed and cheered suggest many Brazilians saw this one coming

Rio de Janeiro

The day after the final game of the 1950 World Cup, in which Brazil lost 2-1 to Uruguay, the writer Jose Lins do Rego wrote: “I saw people leave the Maracana with their heads hung low, tears in their eyes, speechless, as if they were returning from the funeral of a loved father. I saw a nation defeated – more than that – one without hope … it stuck in my head that we really were a luckless people … always pursued by bad luck, by the meanness of destiny.” The 1950 World Cup is remembered as national tragedy, possibly the greatest in contemporary Brazilian history.

In sporting terms, Brazil’s 7-1 shocker against Germany is an even greater humiliation, the worst-ever defeat of the national team. I saw the match in a bar in Rio de Janeiro, a block away from a packed Fifa Fan Fest on Copacabana beach. Just after kick-off it started to rain. By the end of the first half, tens of thousands of Brazilians were already walking home, drenched and shell-shocked. They were silent and sad, but no one was crying.

The reason that the 1950 “Maracanazo” traumatised the nation was that it was so unexpected. Brazil had been playing wonderful football, and victory against their small neighbours was taken as a fait accompli. Victory would have given them their first title, and been a vindication of the association between football and national identity that first emerged in the 1930s.

The 2014 “Mineirazo” is different. Brazilians knew they were underdogs before the game, and even though the scoreline exceeded their worst nightmares, the defeat was not a surprise but a death foretold. When I spoke to Brazilians in Copacabana they said they were sad not just because of this single defeat but because for years now Brazil has not played like the Brazil of old. “The magic has gone,” one said. The game revealed with unforeseen clarity what they have known for a while.

 

Because football is so closely bound up with national identity, World Cup defeats are felt more strongly here than in other countries. Football is how the country knows itself. Losing is a huge blow to national self-esteem. “We needed something to believe in,” another fan said. “Something to give us strength.”

But, once the grieving is over, I doubt the 2014 defeat will leave as deep emotional scars as the one 64 years ago. Brazil has changed a lot since 1950, when winning at football was the country’s best chance at international success. Brazil remains the most successful World Cup nation, with five victories. It has also had lots of sporting stars in other disciplines – such as motor racing, tennis and volleyball – and become a geopolitical force, the world’s seventh-largest economy, and a member of the “Bric” group of emerging economies with Russia, India and China.

Read more: Brazil 1 Germany 7 match report
The best memes from the game
Luiz falls from leader to symbol of national humiliation

In the last decade tens of millions have moved out of poverty, changing the social make-up of the country. Many people realise that the improvements to their quality of life are more important victories than the joy that winning the World Cup for a sixth time would have brought.

The last time Brazil reached a World Cup final, in 2002, I wrote that I hoped Brazil would lose because only a traumatic defeat would result in a much-needed change to the way the football is run in Brazil.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) – endlessly mired in corruption scandals – does a disservice to its sporting legacy by not having a co-ordinated national system of youth football.

It must share some of the blame for the decline in Brazilian football over the last decade. Young footballers are not given proper social or technical support, and often are trained by unqualified coaches and scouts whose main interest revolves around selling them abroad.

Now the national team have suffered the most embarrassing defeat in their history, pressure will intensify for change at the CBF. But politicians and the people are ultimately powerless because of the vested interests that run the sport.

One consequence of losing on Tuesday is that President Dilma Rousseff – she faces a general election this year – will not be able to make political capital out of a Brazilian victory (although she will probably win, anyway). During the World Cup, the election campaigns have been in full swing.

Will there be any other political ramifications? A year ago, up to two million Brazilians across the country took to the streets in demonstrations against the government for spending public money on World Cup stadiums instead of schools and hospitals.

The mood here is that new protests on that scale are unlikely – the money has been spent, after all, and Brazilians feel that the organisation has gone well.

But what makes me think that Brazilians will be able to move on from this defeat – at least emotionally – was the humour with which it has been taken.

Yesterday’s papers were full of jokes about the result, listing the funniest lines from social media.

When Germany scored their sixth goal, the crowds in the bar at Copacabana started to laugh, and when Germany scored their seventh they cheered. This would never have happened in 1950.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?