They spent the previous four days weeping for Neymar. They will spend the rest of their lives grieving about Tuesday, 8 July, and the day that Brazilian football was demolished in one of its own great cities.
In the list of great sporting collapses it is hard to think of an occasion as raw, as painful and as humiliating as this, when Germany scored five goals in 29 minutes against a Brazil team that had taken leave of any semblance of a game-plan. Extraordinary and excruciating to watch it was a World Cup match like no other. Even the Germans sensed that they should mute their celebrations, as if they were also bystanders at a solemn state funeral.
Something was lost to Brazilian football yesterday that will never be recovered, not in this generation or perhaps many more to come. It was their misfortune that the second World Cup finals in their country coincided with one of the most mediocre Brazil teams in memory but even then no-one expected a defeat that Luiz Felipe Scolari himself described as “catastrophic, terrible”. This was football history being made. It was a realignment of how we think about the world game and where the power lies.
Was this worse than Brazil’s defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup decider at the Maracana? How could it not be? The final say on that will have to be decided in the endless days, weeks, months of debate that will follow in Brazilian society but the irony will not be lost on them. This was the tournament that was supposed to exorcise the ghosts of the “Maracanazo” and instead it has lumbered a whole new generation of Brazilians with a complex they may never shift.
This was a World Cup semi-final lost in an avalanche of Germans goals midway through the first half that turned the rest of the match into an absurdity for the home fans. They went through anger, to disbelief on to irony, cheering Germany’s seventh goal and greeting every successful pass with an “Ole” and a sneer in the direction of their own hapless players.
If there was any consolation after the sixth and seventh goals were slotted away by the substitute Andre Schurrle in the second half, it was that the Brazil players did not lose the plot or disgrace themselves with a sending off. It remains to be seen how this country, with so much social unrest kept repressed by the loyalty to the national team, reacts. They have paid $11bn to stage this World Cup finals and it has turned into the most expensive ritualistic moment of humiliation of which a nation state could conceive.
“Ordem e Progresso” it says on the flag. Disorder and chaos on the pitch. What happens to Luiz Felipe Scolari now is anyone’s guess. He says that he will be in charge for the third-place play-off on Saturday, which cruelly gives this team four more days together at their mountain-top camp in Teresopolis, with a hostile populace at the gates.
Afterwards the Brazil coach presented himself for cross-examination with humility and quiet fortitude. He deluded himself a little that there was “nothing that could be done” about that run of goals in the first half but there was one moment that stood out when he was asked to assess his legacy as a World Cup winner in 2002, and then the man who presided over this disaster.
“I'll be remembered probably because I lost 7-1, the worst defeat Brazil have ever had, but that was a risk I knew I was running when I accepted this position,” he said. “Life goes on. That's what I'll do.”
He will step down after this tournament, remembered best for 2014’s humiliation. His team were dreadful, falling to pieces after the second goal against a Germany team that never looked likely to lose control of the match. They took their chances in that first half run of goals when Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose Toni Kroos (twice) and Sami Khedira all scored. They did what all good teams do and hunted down an opponent that could not handle the pressure.
In goal Manuel Neuer was superb. Tonight, the Netherlands and Argentina face one another for the other finalist’s place on Sunday but it is Germany who have emerged from the pack with the stand-out performance of the knock-out round. It is hard to see past Joachim Low’s team now as the favourites for this trophy, the fruit of so much planning and well-laid plans over the last 14 years.
As for the game, the national anthem went well for Brazil, at the beginning of which Julio Cesar and David Luiz held up a Neymar shirt, and then it was downhill from there.
It was obvious from the very start that against a team with Germany rigour and qualities, it was going to be hard for Brazil’s two defensive midfielders Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo to pass the ball forward in any meaningful way. The Germans allowed the Brazil defence to have the ball and then ran their midfield pair down as soon as they were given it. The first scare came on seven minutes when Klose’s shot hit Kroos and deflected wide. Then the floodgates opened.
When the teams came out Scolari had presented Low with a small gift in a blue bag that took the Germany coach by surprise. He had nothing with which to reciprocate. It was the last time that Low was surprised by anything that Scolari did, apart from perhaps any mild feeling of disbelief the German might have had at how quickly Brazil fell apart. All the nasty surprises were for Scolari.
The first of which was a badly defended corner on 11 minutes. Luiz allowed Muller to creep away from him and when Philipp Lahm’s ball from the right dropped it dropped at the feet of the 24-year-old who beat Cesar from close range. Was that the point at which Brazil fell apart? The feeling was that it was later. After the first goal, Brazil had a single attack, in which Lahm brilliantly tackled Marcelo in the box.
Then No 2 came from Klose, the goal that made him the record World Cup goalscorer with 16, ahead of the Brazilian Ronaldo. It started with Kroos who found Muller who could have shot but teed the ball up for his strike partner. Cesar saved the first effort and then Klose put the second one away. At that moment the realisation flooded Brazil that they may well lose this game and they responded in the worst way possible. They collapsed.
The third came from Kroos, rifled in by his left foot after Lahm’s cross from the right had been missed by Muller. Germany were running all over their opponents. To say that they figuratively smelled blood would be underplaying it. The opponent had already surrendered and they were sacking the city.
Another followed three minutes later. Fernandinho was entirely culpable in losing the ball and then came the breakaway. Muller passed to Kroos for the fourth goal. Brazil were on their knees. It happened again. Khedira breaking forward and switching the ball to Mesut Ozil. Khedira got it back and scored. The Germany bench erupted for the fifth time. Not even half an hour had been played. As they returned to their seats there was disbelief among the German staff.
Booed off at half-time, Scolari tried to change things with the introduction of Ramires and Paulinho. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, the brilliant Manuel Neuer made three great saves from Ramires, Bernard and Paulinho and the fight seeped out of Brazil.
On 69 minutes Schurrle, on for Klose, scored the sixth. The seventh was a marvellous hit by the Chelsea man from the left channel of the box. In his goal, Cesar looked like a man who was wondering how he might best get out the country at the first opportunity. Then with a minute remaining Oscar broke free and finally beat Neuer.
By then the hone fans had already been applauding Schurrle and greeting each German pass with an “Ole”. It was surreal, but then before this day they had never lost a World Cup game by more than three goals. For Brazil, this was a new territory, and the humiliation was like no other.
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Maicon, Luiz, Dante, Marcelo; Gustavo, Fernandinho; Hulk, Oscar, Bernard; Fred.
Subs: Paulinho/Fernandinho ht, Ramires/Hulk ht, Willian/Fred 69
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Hoewedes, Boateng, Hummels, Lahm; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Muller, Kroos, Ozil; Klose.
Subs: Mertesacker/Hummels ht, Schurrle/Klose 60, Draxler/Khedira 75
Referee: M Rodriguez (Mexico)
Man of the match: Muller
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