The blackest of nights for Brazil
Level of expectations make this catastrophic defeat even worse
A Brazilian fan during the 7-1 semi final defeat to Germany in Belo Horizonte. Photograph: EPA
A Brazil fan looks on in Belo Horizonte. Photograph: Martin Rose/Getty Images
Brazil fans speechless at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. Photogrpah: Michael Steele/Getty Images
In the end, for Brazil, there was only humiliation.
This 7-1 hammering at the hands of Germany on an incredible, surreal evening in Belo Horizonte left the team and its fans with nothing else. Brazilians had always accepted that its side might not win the trophy. Most even accepted the task had before more difficult after Neymar’s injury.
But none of them could have foreseen this. It is one thing to lose but this was a World Cup semi-final night that will stain forever the record of the most illustrious side in international football.
Before the game Germany’s Joachim Löw has warned of Brazil’s overly physical approach in previous rounds and criticised the “brutal challenges” in the Colombia game. But here it was his side that was brutal, cruel, merciless in its total deconstruction of a flawed squad shorn of its two best players.
What makes it worse is that the beating was purely football in nature. The Germans were in reality the only side on show that resembled a Brazil XI with its fleet of skilful midfielders breaking forward to link up with Thomas Müller, a striker who constantly ghosts his way into space.
But for all Germany’s excellence, the sense of a team long together finally maturing into a conquering force, this was a Brazilian implosion and all the stranger for that.
In his long illustrious career Felipão has won and lost many encounters on big stages. But if one feature defines them it was the often epic nature of these ties, close, hard-fought affairs in which defeat had its own worth with the knowledge that everything had been left on the field. Here there was none of that. Instead everything went wrong. The search for the correct word goes on. Humiliation . . . Implosion . . . Calamity.
To put the shock in historical context this was Brazil’s first competitive defeat at home since losing a World Cup qualifier to Peru in 1975 and the worst ever suffered by the side in this its centenary year, in which it is hosting a World Cup.
The focus in the build-up had been on the absence of Neymar reaching a mawkish degree when David Luiz and Júlio César held up his No 10 shirt during Brazil’s national anthem.
But the player who was missed here was captain Thiago Silva. He had shown signs of breaking under the pressure earlier in the tournament so a question remains over what he might have managed in this game had he not been suspended due to a foolish yellow card against Colombia.
But in his absence Brazil’s defence – so solid when he is paired with David Luiz – fell apart. The Bayern Munich defender Dante came in for Thiago Silva and was appalling.
But he is unlikely to be this team’s Moacir Barbosa, the goalkeeper scapegoated for the shock 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in 1950 because there are too many candidates. This team is now collectively marked.
As the game progressed and the initial shock passed, the crowd so passionate again during the anthems took to insulting players, Dante among them but Fred most of all. One of the heroes of the Confederations Cup a year ago, a local Minas lad, it was a cruel return to a stadium where he first electrified Brazilian football as a barnstorming youth.
For Felipão, a proud patriot who has his whole career valued character over technical ability, he must wonder how it all came to an end like this. The pressure? The emotional turmoil surrounding Neymar’s absence? Germany? The inquest will be long and merciless.
Felipão was trying to be only the second coach to win the World Cup twice. His first triumph in 2002 had ensured he had the confidence of the Brazilian people going into the tournament. Now he will always have to answer for this black night in Belo Horizonte.
After a tournament that has been - to the surprise of most - a huge success, the abject nature of this defeat brought an ugly note to proceedings. In Recife the third German goal sparked a riot in the fan fest. In the Mineirão the fourth and fifth had stewards forced to intervene as pockets of unrest broke out.
So after the Maracanazo in 1950 there is now the Nightmare in Belo Horizonte. What is it about the five-time champions and their problems with winning the trophy at home? Of all the other winners only Spain has never won it at home and it has only one it once.
The expectation is undoubtedly terrible and will undoubtedly explain this catastrophe for many Brazilians. But if it is indeed the cause they have only themselves to blame for investing so much in a football tournament.