• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

A nation weeps as its heroes are brought to their knees

CHRIST The Redeemer lowered his arms in order to cover his eyes.

Fernandinho has nowhere to hide as the full extent of Brazil's humiliation begins to materialise
Fernandinho has nowhere to hide as the full extent of Brazil's humiliation begins to materialise

The great statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, spiritually overlooking all Brazil, had never seen anything like this. Who has? When has football ever witnessed an earthquake like this? Brazil were grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hurled out of their own party in the most stunning, compelling semi-final the World Cup has ever known.

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil were knocked horizontal. Flattened. It was a tale of two countries, the sublime and the ridiculous. It seemed disrespectful to Germany to concentrate mainly on what it meant to Brazil but the beaten and humiliated tournament hosts were the story. The architects of the beautiful game became joke figures. This wasn't a football defeat, it was a deep national trauma.

Their dreams of winning a sixth World Cup, of exorcising the torment of what happened when they last hosted it in 1950 and lost the final to Uruguay at the Maracana, were flushed away in a shameful display the whole planet witnessed. They had been admired by some and mocked by others for all the emotion they've been showing before and after games over the past month, weeping in the tunnel, weeping through their national anthem, weeping at full-time, weeping as they left the pitch.

Now those tears seem like mere spots of rain. Last night they were greeting in floods. The television cameras found few angry faces in the stands of the Estadio Mineirao, only crying supporters. Their face paint was washing away in streaks.

Brazil could have coped with not winning their own World Cup. They had even calculated that the worst case scenario would be to lose to Argentina in the Maracana final. None of them had anticipated this. Their side had looked limited with Neymar and Thiago Silva in the five games before last night. Without them, they fell apart. The absence of their iconic talisman and their great defender were only part of the explanation. In truth they buckled, unable to cope with the pressure and expectation of satisfying their 200 million citizens. They folded grotesquely, conceding goals after 11, 23, 24, 26, and 29 minutes, then more in 69 and 79. This sort of stuff doesn't happen in World Cup semi-finals when two huge superpowers meet. The score was breathtaking.

In Brazil the authorities have been twitchy about how the population would react to their team being knocked out. There has been a simmering mood for protest, against Fifa and against the Brazilian government for spending £8bn on hosting the tournament while more than 11 million people live in favelas.

A winning team had pacified them (to borrow the phrase used for the police campaign to reclaim the favelas from drugs gangs). How Brazil will react to this national disgrace over the next five days is difficult to predict. This Brazil team must show its face again in the third/fourth-place play-off on Saturday night. That unloved fixture has always felt like a gratuitous duel between losers. Nothing could be more fitting for Brazil now.

Brazil's first 45 minutes was apocalyptic. David Luiz and Dante were all over the place in central defence: inattentive, weak and pulled out of position. The left-back Marcelo was hopeless, and was taken to the cleaners. Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo offered no protection. Germany worked their way through them with cool, beautiful efficiency. That's a cliche about Germany but no other description would do justice to their merciless exploitation of Brazil's amateurish defending. Their goals were expertly worked and unselfish. They exchanged passes in and around the box, playing the ball into all the holes where defenders should have been. Thomas Muller's opener, his fifth of the tournament, was a tap-in. Klose was allowed two shots for his historic goal, a peerless 16th at World Cup finals. Toni Kroos, unmarked, volleyed the third then cantered through them four the fourth. Sami Khedira did the same for five. The only surprise about Andre Schurrle converting another effortless finish for 6-0 was not that Brazil allowed him to do so, but that Germany went 41 goalless minutes. Manuel Neuer even had some saves to make as Brazil's pride flickered. Schurrle thrashed home a seventh. To say that Oscar "pulled one back" for Brazil seems laughable.

Germany sent a chill through Argentina and Netherlands, tonight's other semi-finalists, and Scotland, too, given we are their first competitive opponents after the World Cup final. Never has such a professional performance been so eclipsed by what it meant to the crushed opponents. The Germans did not mind. Their reward may come in Rio on Sunday.

As for Brazil, trauma and disgrace. The deepest of psychological scars. When they lost that 1950 final on home soil they gave a name to their ordeal: Maracanazo. It meant, loosely, that unspeakable thing that happened in Maracana. What do they call this?

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

246128