Where do we begin when all of Brazil is mourning a most horrific end? Should we then start with the rows of broken chairs at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, trampled down by the angry feet of the home fans after the Selecao, their Selecao, were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the World Cup semifinals, their World Cup semifinals?
Or could we begin even earlier at half-time, where women, children and grandparents, all draped in yellow and all leaking face-paint, howled out of the stadium well after Brazil had conceded five goals in the first 29 minutes? Or is an apt starting point the blink-and-miss period between the 23rd and the 26th minute of the game, where the hosts went from 1-0 down to 4-0 in all of 179 seconds?
Maybe we should go much further back and commence this piece with a splash of history. Sixty-four years ago, almost to the day, first-time World Cup hosts Brazil lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the final at the fabled Maracana, where close to 200,000 spectators were in audience. For 64 years, a nation is said to have lay patiently in wait for redemption.
Yes, Brazil went on to become the most successful World Cup side in this period by winning five trophies. But the Maracanazo, or the Maracana Tragedy, had not yet been given a suitable burial, something that could only happen when they hosted the World Cup again. That time was now, in 2014. At least it was till 5pm local time on a most terrible Tuesday.
One way or the other, Selecao’s Batch of ’14 did manage to exorcise the ghosts of 1950 from collective memory. This, unfortunately, they did by giving rise to the Mineiraozo — a tragedy that almost makes the Maracanazo seem comically insignificant. Such was the devastation with which the Germans brought down the sledgehammer on a fractured team and its grieving nation today.
The Mineiraozo has also ensured that Brazil ended its World Cup campaign without once stepping foot in the Maracana.
A golden generation of Germans will be going there, to take on either Holland or Argentina. The Brazilians, or whatever little is left of them, head to Brasilia to a match aptly known as the Loser’s Final on Saturday. However, for the scarred Brasileiro, the man on Brazil’s now deserted streets, the World Cup ended well and truly on Tuesday itself.
Wherever we begin, the end result is just the same. Never had a team conceded seven goals in a World Cup semifinal before. It just happened to be Brazil, and lest we forget, in Brazil. Incidentally, in Brazil the Selecao hadn’t lost a match in 39 years and 62 games — including the five they had played before Tuesday at this World Cup. A loss, their supporters could perhaps have handled. A permanent soil to that glorious yellow jersey of theirs? No chance.
“I am responsible for this catastrophic result. I made the choices, I was responsible. We ask for forgiveness to the people — please excuse us for this negative mistake,” said Scolari at the press conference. Those choices involved backing an inept Hulk and incompetent Fred for the duration of the tournament. Even in a playmaking Neymar’s presence, those two strikers had done precious little — scoring all of one goal between them. In an injured Neymar’s absence, they may as well have not played.
After being posed several questions about them by angry Brazilian journalists, a tongue-tied Scolari sighed and said: “Today is the worst day of my life.” A day before Brazil’s opening game against Croatia, Scolari lost his nephew in a car crash. Yet, he claimed that today was worse. Maybe because an entire country’s hopes ended up as roadkill to the steamrolling Germans.
It all began going horribly wrong as early as the 11th minute when Thomas Mueller, unmarked deep inside Brazil’s box, coolly volleyed in Toni Kroos’s corner past goalie Julio Cesar. A post-mortem report of this match will tell you that the cause of that goal was not just the members from Brazil’s backline; but also those missing from it, such as captain and centreback Thiago Silva.
Silva had picked a needless yellow card, his second of the knock-out stages, during their quarterfinal win against Colombia. Now, in his absence, an inexperienced side left yawning gaps at the back. Gaps that were soon stuffed with a thicket of German legs that took their scoring tally in Brazil ‘14 to 17. To put that in perspective, Spain had scored all of eight goals to win the 2010 World Cup. Tonight alone, Germany nearly scored as many.
Of those seven goals, the most special was the second. When Miroslav Klose received a tight pass from Kroos and found the back of the net off Cesar’s rebound, he had become the top-goalscorer in World Cup history with 16 goals — symbolically wiping away Brazil’s Ronaldo from the record books. Then Kroos, who had created the first two, turned destroyer with two more goals in the next three minutes, all but wiping Brazil away from the tournament and its fans from the soon-to-be tortured stadium.