In the words of Luiz Felipe Scolari, his team simply “blanked out” in the six minutes it took Germany to score four first-half goals in the World Cup semi-final here last night. Sadly for Brazil, they were 5-0 down and heading for the most catastrophic defeat of their history when they came to their senses.
In Brazil, they woke up this morning to a World Cup finals which had cost them £6.5billion to stage and a semi-final defeat which had exacted a toll they are yet to comprehend. This has been a tournament played out amid an acute sense of resentment from many sectors of the population over the public money lavished on the event. As of last night in Brazil, the only major civic disturbances were buses set on fire in Sao Paulo.
The full scope of the 7-1 defeat by Germany, who will play the winners of tonight’s semi-final between Netherlands and Argentina, is still to yet to unfold in Brazil. At least Scolari did not attempt to shift the blame away from himself or his own players, or invoke the absence of the injured Neymar. But when the manager of the national team of the greatest football nation on earth is asked by his country’s press whether Brazilian football needs to reinvent itself, he knows he is in trouble.
Video: Brazilians react to humiliating loss
In the aftermath of defeat, Scolari began by asking for forgiveness from the Brazilian people. He continued by presenting the experience as something which unfolded beyond the control of him, his players and his staff. “Look, let me explain,” Scolari said. “The first goal was what, 23 minutes? Then one on 25, 26, 28 minutes. No one could change anything. It was one after the other.
“Everyone blanked out. We were trying to talk to the players, to get reorganised and breathe for a second. But there was nothing we could do. Change one or two of them? We couldn’t do that when enduring the problem.”
Blanked out. It was a familiar theme as Brazil’s players emerged from their dressing room for the confessional of the post-match mixed zone. It might have seemed like an out-of-body experience as Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos (twice) and Sami Khedira scored five goals before half-time — but the effect will be felt for years in Brazilian football.
“Brazil is used to winning so losing like that is very sad for the Brazilian people,” said Hulk, who was so ineffective that he was one of two half-time substitutions. “It’s a day to forget. But we have to raise our heads. In those 10 minutes [in the first half] we had a blackout.”
Brazil 1 Germany 7 player ratings
Brazil 1 Germany 7 player ratings
1/22 Brazil: Julio Cesar
Having performed so well before, especially in the last 16 against Chile, must have been distraught at the disaster in front of him. Powerless. 4/10
A 32-year-old with that much experience should be taking responsibility, but Maicon never did, simply making the runs he wanted to make. 3
3/22 David Luiz
Instead of showing discipline and leadership, rising to the role of captain, he was abysmal, playing only his own game and abdicating all responsibility. 2
Always unlikely to replace Thiago Silva adequately, and he provided none of the skill, awareness, leadership or discipline his captain does. 3
Conceded the corner for the first goal and never looked especially keen on stopping Germany from adding to their tally. 2
6/22 Luis Gustavo
Asked to provide balance in midfield, he was swamped by Khedira and Kroos, as the spine of this Brazil side melted away in the first half. 3
Utterly outclassed by the German midfield, he could barely get on the ball until scoring his sharp consolation goal. 4
Just as anonymous as he had been for the rest of the tournament and once the damage had been done he was booed and jeered by the fans. 2
Meant to provide energy and presence in midfield but he was dismal, swamped by German numbers and gifting the ball for the fourth. Off at half-time. 2
Did have an opening or two in Brazil’s bright opening but, not for the first time, lacked the skill to take advantage. Did not make the second half. 2
Trusted to fill Neymar’s role, by the time he saw the ball Brazil had already lost. At least he wanted to try things in the second half. 4
12/22 Germany: Manuel Neuer
Did in fact have a few saves to make, early in the second half, and he was impeccable again until Oscar’s late consolation goal. 7/10
Made one excellent tackle on Marcelo when the game was still 0-0. After that it was all attack, crossing well from the right for the third and sixth goals. 8
Called upon once or twice to defend, which he did very well, and spent the rest of the evening admiring the quality of his team’s forward play. 7
His only disappointment, having come off at half-time for Per Mertesacker, is that he could not add to his goal tally for the tournament. 7
Not quite as incisive as Lahm on the opposite side, but was still impressive, never once beaten defensively and providing a useful option out wide. 7
Operating in the oceans of space in front of Brazil’s centre-backs, he played the through pass for the second goal and scored the third and fourth. 10
Can barely have expected such a comfortable evening, winning the ball and moving it forward for his team-mates to do the damage. 8
Showed he is one of the best big-game players in the world, with that brilliant nose for goal to score the first. Wonderful movement from then on. 10
The man whose expert shuttling and well-timed runs destroyed Brazil’s collapsing system. Made the fourth, scored the fifth and could have had more. 10
Had more than enough space in wide areas to enjoy himself, always moving intelligently and involved in creating two of the first-half goals. 8
On the night Germany humiliated Brazil, Klose broke Ronaldo’s World Cup scoring record, beating Julio Cesar for the second goal. 8
Chelsea midfielder Willian, who was a second-half substitute, described it as “an inexplicable day to all of us”.
He said: “It’s one of those inexplicable stories of football. Everything went right for Germany and wrong for us.
“Our goal was to make it to the final and go for the title. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it. Every player here has quality, all 11 that Felipao [Scolari] put out there have quality. Nothing went our way but now we have to raise our heads and life goes on.”
There was a sense from among the players that they were yet to grasp the enormity of what has happened to them. It does not appear to be a defeat that will be made good with an apology and a promise to do better. Scolari suggested that up to 15 members of the squad will be among those who contest the 2018 World Cup finals but if that is the case, the likelihood is that Brazil will send a squad to Russia that is also not good enough to win a World Cup.
Video: Brazil fans react to World Cup defeat
Dani Alves, the right-back dropped by Scolari in favour of Maicon, said that the team had “failed our people”. “I don’t believe it is a stain on our careers,” he said. “It won’t be stained by a single match, or by the elimination. Our fight, and how far we got, nothing can stain this.
“Football isn’t just about one match. Competitions are made to compete, to try to go as far as you can. We were eliminated but, in this group, there are only champions.”
On reflection, the people of Brazil may well decide that this is a stain on the careers of these players. It turned out to be the ideal game for Neymar to miss, given that for as long as he plays for Brazil he can at least always drop into the conversation that he was not on the pitch for the catastrophe at the Mineirao. Thiago Silva, too, did not have his name on the team-sheet which will forever remain toxic in the history of the national team.
The curious aspect of this sporting catastrophe is that Brazil have no choice but to hole-up in their training camp an hour north of Rio and prepare for Saturday’s third place play-off in Brasilia against tonight’s defeated side.
This would ordinarily be a bittersweet farewell for the beaten semi-finalists but Brazil need to win — especially if it is Argentina who face them in Scolari’s last game.