Memories of 1950 loss officially erased
When this World Cup began, Luiz Felipe Scolari's objective was to give the Brazilian supporters a performance that would make them forget forever what happened in 1950 in the Maracana. Well ... mission accomplished. The Maracanazo, the shocking 2-1 defeat to Uruguay that cost Brazil the World Cup they assumed they'd already won, is now only the second-worst night in their history.
That 1950 result was so stunningly awful that poets compared it to Hiroshima. Pele's father burst into tears in front of the television at full-time. His son, just 10 years old at the time, according to legend, comforted him and promised he would grow up and win the World Cup himself. Many of the players responsible for that failure were pariahs for decades afterward.
What will become of these players?
They are millionaires, most of them several times over. They will continue to earn fortunes, regardless of what happened in Belo Horizonte. Their ignominy will not diminish their bank balance. Yet the embarrassment will be so much more public. Sixty-four years ago, media coverage was limited. Now, the faces of these players are known across the world. Their shame is universal, and there is nowhere to hide.
There was no hint of what was to come when the national anthems were played. Brazil sang loudly, in customary style, while David Luiz and Julio Cesar held up Neymar's No. 10 shirt. In retrospect, they might have been better hanging it on a stick and planting it in the German penalty area. It would have made as much of an impact as Fred did.
Perhaps it would have been easier to take if this were simply a case of a wonderful team playing the football of the future and changing the world like the Hungarians did in 1953 with their epochal 6-3 victory over England. But Germany are not Hungary. They are a very good football team, and they played well, but Brazil had both hands in their own destruction -- and at least one foot as well.
The first goal came from calamitous marking, the second from lethargic defending and all else from disorder and chaos. Toward the end of the first half, the Brazilian players were dead-eyed, shuffling after the Germans like zombies, lacking the cognitive functions to draw up any kind of strategy, content merely to trudge lifelessly in the direction of anything that moved.
Their defending was horrific. Even if Neymar had been fit, he couldn't have done anything about the back line's inability to track runners. Even without Thiago Silva, Brazil fielded two Champions League-winning centre-backs in David Luiz and Dante. There is a bare minimum of competence and diligence expected from professional footballers. Too many men in yellow shirts fell well below those levels.
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A brief rally after halftime was a fig leaf of dignity, then the Germans tore even that away and stamped it into the ground. The Brazilian supporters -- those who weren't crying their eyes out or hurriedly leaving the stadium -- could only applaud their passing, with some of them shouting "ole" to lighten the mood. Andre Schurrle's second-half strike, a spectacular volley, was the sort of goal that should have decided a game. Instead, it was just a heavy kick at a twitching body on the roadside. It seemed inappropriate to even celebrate.
Scolari, in typical style, urged everyone to blame him. And they will. He surely won't survive this. But where do Brazil turn from here? How many of the players will ever be able to pull on a Brazil shirt again? With the Copa America next summer in Chile, a reboot is required if further humiliation is to be avoided.
Perhaps the only real hope for the Brazilian people is that somewhere out there, a young boy is now comforting his crying father and telling him he will avenge what happened this awful night. The difference is that this time, it would help far more if he were a defender.
Let's spare a thought for Miroslav Klose, though. Just think how many times he has imagined scoring his record-breaking 16th World Cup goal. Just try to visualise what Klose must have seen in his mind's eye. The moment of glorious triumph. The love of the supporters. The respect of his teammates. He likely pictured himself being carried aloft on the shoulders of the men he plays with as tens of thousands of people chanted his name, a name that would be etched in the history books for all eternity.
In reality, Klose's historic strike wasn't even the most memorable thing that happened in the game. In fact, with the scoreline and the floods of tears from Luiz, Klose's historic strike is barely in the top three most memorable things.
Poor Miroslav. Immortality has never been so anticlimatic.