Brazilians mourn nightmare semifinal
Posted Thursday, July 10 2014 at 01:00
Soccer. Anticipation turned into humiliation as millions of Brazilian fans watched the Selecao get humiliated
Insults of varying vulgarity rained from all sections of the Estadio Mineirao. Rarely before in the history of the World Cup has the host nation been abused, booed, taunted at and jeered by its own fans.
What happened when Brazil were taught an historic and incomparable football lesson by Germany on Tuesday was unprecedented.
July 8, 2014 will go down as arguably the darkest day in the sporting history of this proud, beautiful land. It is a night they will want to erase from their memories quick, except that it won’t happen.
A 7-1 result is indelible. It is far worse when your team is on the receiving end of it. Brazil will take a long time to recover from their semi-final obliteration. This was a whitewash in a sport they view as theirs, a game they are renown for globally.
July 16, 1950, when Uruguay stunned Brazil before 200,000 fans at the Maracana to win the World Cup, has always been considered the lowest moment in the country’s sport. The horror of Mineirao puts 64 years of Maracana hurt in the shade.
It was an evening when the Selecao shamed their status as world football’s most successful country, and they were promptly joined by their fans who exceeded the acceptable boundaries of sporting disappointment by disowning their own team at the hour of need.
Germany were impeccable on the night they reached their fourth final in the last eight editions of football’s biggest competition.
The Germans may not play a better World Cup semi-final in the next five generations; that is how terrific they were. So credit is due to them. Their unlimited brilliance should not be overshadowed by the shambles that Brazil were.
But the night’s story was ultimately the amorphous mess of Luis Felipe Scolari’s team. Brazil were hapless. They neither defended nor attacked. Their defence had more holes than a ventilator. Skipper Thiago Silva, ruled out through suspension, was sorely missed. Dante, his replacement, formed a horrendous partnership with stand-in captain David Luiz. They looked strangers on the pitch.
Full backs Marcelo and Maicon were highways for Germany’s rampant midfielders.
In midfield, Luiz Gustavo was an accomplished fiasco. When he wasn’t conceding possession in dangerous situations, he was gifting the ball to technically superior opponents. Gustavo’s display was farcical.
With every German goal, shoulders of Brazilian players sagged. When their side went 5-0 down to goals from Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos (two), Sami Khedira and record-setting Miroslav Klose, the number one enemy of the fans became the team.
The boos of 57,000 strong crowd of mostly Brazilian supporters – the Germans were hardly a tenth of the capacity – were targeted at the entire national team in a very strange occurrence.
Yet the player who was at the receiving end of most insults was Fred. He was roundly vilified by the tens of thousands of yellow shirts in the arena with jeers and abuses, some of which were too vile to be published. Poor Fred. Like the rest of the team, he was abysmal. He couldn’t trap the ball, lacked in movement and barely looked capable of troubling Germany keeper Manuel Neuer.
When his image appeared on the stadium’s giant screens after substitution, there was a round of deafening hecklings. The opponent had long ceased to be Germany. Brazilian players, hitherto the pride of 200m people, were now villains.
By now some fans had seen enough humiliation and were hurrying for the exit. Others were so disturbed by the annihilation they started fighting among themselves. On more than 10 occasions, stadium stewards were called upon to throw out groups of fans who were taking the frustration out on themselves.
“This is the worst night of my life,” a distraught Brazilian coach Scolari would explain later in the post-match press conference after emerging from a dressing room where more than half were in tears with Luiz most notably sobbing uncontrollably.
Brazil had collectively been the epitome of madness. When the fans weren’t taunting Fred, they were hurling insults at President Dilmar Rousseff. It didn’t stop there. They later on embraced the Germany masterclass and cheered them on to a sixth and seventh goal, both from substitute Andre Schurrle.
The anguish at the Mineirao translated into the country. Copacabana – no usual celebratory fireworks - was muted, shamed and broken.
The fan fests in Salvado, Natal, Fortaleza, Curitiba, Manaus, Cuiaba, Porto Alegre, Brasilia and Sao Paulo were parks of dejection and indescribable desolation.
“What a shame of all time?” moaned Freca Dominguez, a fan who travelled from Sao Paulo. “I have never seen a public scandal like this.”
Brazil came into the match knowing they missed arguably their two most valuable players in Silva and Neymar. But what unfolded before them at the greatest stage of all left a country dumbfounded.
This was supposed to be a momentous occasion, a World Cup semi-final showdown where they had to get a result to take them to Sunday’s final on home soil in Maracana. When the national anthems were sung, Luiz and goalkeeper Julio Cesar held Neymar’s shirt.
The team had earlier arrived at the stadium wearing caps written on ‘Forca Neymar’ in tribute to their injured superstar. The Selecao knew victory was their only option and excuses would not be accommodated. That is a certainty that comes with the territory of a demanding, soccer-mad society like theirs.
Brazil-Germany had been feted as a defacto final. A semi-final between teams that share eight World Cups gripped the planet. It was, on paper, a game that had the markings of a masterclass of heavyweight contest between formidable opponents; a duel that was tipped by observers to last the full distance. Shoot outs looked a possibility.
No one foresaw the World Cup’s biggest mismatch. The same Germany team that had drawn with Ghana in the group stages and gone 120 enthralling minutes with Algeria in the second round swept away the hosts with a show of grandeur.
The streets in Belo Horizonte were somber. When there was noise (as I headed to the Rodoviara Bus Station to connect to Sao Paulo for yesterday’s semi-final), it was further abuses directed at Scolari, Fred and Hulk.
The Brazilian inquest will be hard and deep. Heads will roll.
What won’t change is extent of the embarrassment from Tuesday.
It is a result that will reverberate in eternity, with Brazil on the wrong side of history.
As Germany’s second went in a Brazil fan tried to eat his flag. Before that he had been urging his fellow disciples to get behind a team who started full of zest. At 7-0, in the second half, he was a broken man.