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Jul 9, 2014

Brazil defeat nothing to celebrate

BUENOS AIRES -- I'm sorry, but I just can't share the same enthusiasm as the Argentine public television announcer who kept shouting "Long live soccer!" after each crushing German goal.

For me, the joy of soccer is in the dramatic tension, the evenness of the teams, and not just great displays of skill or revolutionary tactics.

A World Cup semifinal match that loses its grace after 15 minutes isn't captivating. It's just the opposite. It's boring.

An amazing soccer match is one in which no one really knows who's going to win, a back and forth between opposing teams in which there's no clear favorite. Germany's 7-1 victory against Brazil was a massacre. And I don't enjoy massacres, no matter how sporting they may be.

I can't argue with Germany's class. They have a great team, the whole package. They're compact. They have great ball control. They're fast. They work together. They play with depth. ... Describe them how you like, and I will agree with you. But even so, this thrashing is unreal. It's storybook. For the victors, it's wonderful, but for the poor hosts, it's a nightmare come to life.

Brazil's 7-1 defeat to Germany was a source of amusement for some Argentina fans ahead of the Albiceleste's semifinal versus the Netherlands.
Brazil's 7-1 defeat to Germany was a source of amusement for some Argentina fans ahead of the Albiceleste's semifinal versus the Netherlands.

Despite all their potential and their new soccer philosophy, Germany isn't that superior to Brazil. The speed with which the goals were scored, almost all because of lazy defense on the part of Luiz Felipe Scolari's men -- the way Toni Kroos easily received passes on the edge of Brazil's penalty box was baffling, among other serious mistakes -- turned the match upside down, bordering on absurdity. One team, reveling in its glory, exultant, delightfully intoxicated yet hungry for greater feats, its opponent, decimated, dazed and confused, a deer staring into the headlights of shame.

Such polarization, such disparity capable of diminishing the joy of any sporting event happens once in a lifetime. And its only place among us is as an aberration, an abnormality.

Yet, even though matches like these don't reflect the real truth about the play of the opposing teams, they tend to give life to myth: A tainted legacy. Fears. Prejudices. Brazil will probably develop some kind of complex after these torturous 90 minutes.

While it was inevitable to sympathize with Brazil and their fans (losing is one thing, being humiliated is quite another) as the train wreck came to a tragic halt, I saw a possible silver lining in it all.

When the embers of this scandal finally die out, maybe the next coach to lead the Canarinha will decide to bring back some of the principles that this team abandoned.

And maybe Neymar won't be a lone gunner, but instead a man who infects his teammates with his spirit: class, speed, dedication, skill, joy and scoring talent.

If something like this happens, perhaps this disgrace won't have been in vain.

Alejandro Caravario

Alejandro Caravario is a Buenos Aires-based journalist and covers local first division and national team football for ESPN.com Argentina. He was a reporter for Argentina's leading newspaper Clarín, wrote for sports magazine El Gráfico and was one of the founding editors of sports daily Olé. A prolific writer, he is also a literary critic and has published three novels.