BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- To misquote a certain Charles Dickens, it was the worst of times ... it was the worst of times. As Germany chewed their way through Brazil on Tuesday, the scenes at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte must have made harrowing viewing for the neutral -- fans of all ages, male and female, crying and staring hollow-eyed and distraught out at the pitch, where their team was being destroyed by a marvellously efficient and creative German side, their World Cup dreams left in tatters.
Yet a few hours after the game, in the city's lively bar and restaurant district of Savassi, the mood was remarkably festive. Perhaps, however, the chirpiness was more a result of the copious amounts of alcohol that had flowed throughout the day rather than any encouragement gleaned from Brazil's miserable performance.
"I still can't believe what's happened," said Cesar Castro, a student drowning his sorrows at Bar da Dalva.
"It's inexplicable," agreed his godfather, Marcio Andrade, an agricultural engineer. "I had total confidence in the Selecao today. As a Brazilian, we believe that we're going to win every game."
"I really thought we would win the World Cup," added Cesar, who was baptised on the same day that Brazil won their fourth World Cup title, against Italy in 1994.
"We'll still follow the cup," Marcio said, though there was a despondent tone to his voice. "There's still the third-place playoff to come, after all."
"If it's against Argentina it will be like the final!" chipped in Cesar, hopefully.
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At another table in the same bar sat Gabriel Nacour, Lucas Fantinati, Renata Duarte, Mariana Garcia and Camila Fontes. All had been there since long before the game and were clearly a little worse for wear.
"I was excited before the match," said Lucas, a systems analyst. "I thought we might lose, but that it would be close, maybe 2-1."
"I was confident too," said Gabriel, an environmental engineer. "I certainly didn't think we would get thrashed."
It wasn't long, however, before an afternoon of celebration had turned into one of aching disappointment.
"Lots of people left at half-time," Lucas said.
Mariana, a friendly journalism student, lost hope long before the half-time break. "I turned my chair away from the TV when it was 3-0," she said. "I gave up."
Opinions were mixed as to who exactly was responsible for the defeat. Gabriel accused coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. "He picked the wrong squad," he said. "He should have called up Lucas Moura and Philippe Coutinho."
Lucas, however, disagreed. "We just didn't have a good enough team," he argued, reserving particular criticism for Fred, Hulk and Oscar.
With Brazil's World Cup hopes crushed in such humiliating style, thoughts returned to the wisdom of hosting the tournament in the first place, and the tense political climate in the country.
"The protests will come back," Lucas predicted, "though I'm not in favour."
"If they do, it will be a good thing," Gabriel said.
Both agreed, however, that Tuesday's defeat was not another "Maracanazo," the nickname given to Brazil's psychologically devastating loss to Uruguay in the final game of the 1950 World Cup at the Maracana.
"There's one big difference," Gabriel said. "In 1950 we had a good team. But this team sucks."
The mood was similar at the Espanto Crise Bar in Floresta, a suburban bairro to the north of Belo Horizonte's city centre.
"I'm a huge nationalist," Ricardo Silveira, a lawyer, said. "So when I bet that Germany would win 3-2, all my friends called me a traitor. But I knew that Brazil would lose. We have good players, but we don't have a team. We have a side of boys, not men.
"At the same time, I didn't think it would be like this. How can the pais do futebol [country of football] explain a defeat like this? We can't."
The World Cup is not over for Ricardo, however. "Like a good Brazilian, I'll keep on cheering ... for Argentina to lose."
With post-World Cup reality beginning to kick in, Brazilians have returned to wondering what exactly they are getting for all the money spent on the tournament. "The average person in Belo Horizonte won't receive a single cent from the World Cup," Ricardo said, growing angry.
A hard day's football-related partying may have suspended the World Cup hangover for the drinkers at Dalva's and the Espanto Crise, but the mood was unsurprisingly rather more critical among the country's media.
One of the most creative front pages was that of the Extra newspaper from Rio de Janeiro. "Congratulations to the 1950 World Cup runners-up," it read. "You were always accused of being responsible for the greatest humiliation in Brazilian football history. But now we know what humiliation really means."
Globo followed the same theme -- "It's the humiliation to end all humiliations!" the broadcaster's website screamed, echoing Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's claim, now looking rather hollow, that this is the "World Cup to end all World Cups!"
The Rio tabloid Meia Hora took a different approach, however. Remembering the slogan of Brazil's anti-World Cup protests, the cover of the paper was entirely black, except for the words "Nao vai ter capa" ("There won't be a cover"), replacing the protesters' claim that "Nao vai ter Copa" ("There won't be a World Cup"). Underneath were the following words: "While you were reading this Germany scored another goal."
Brazil's biggest football daily, Lance!, adopted a similar radical theme, running a blank white page as its cover and inviting readers to write down their own feelings about the disastrous defeat. Below the blank space were the words "Indignation, revolt, pain, frustration, irritation, shame, pity, disillusion ... now write what you are feeling and make your own cover!"
O Dia, meanwhile, went for the jugular of Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. "You can go to hell, Felipao" blared the cover, echoing the coach's declaration during the week that anyone who didn't agree with his methods could, well, go to hell.
"He earns around 265,000 a month ... doesn't train the team, chooses the wrong players, and makes bad substitutions. He is responsible for the greatest humiliation in 100 years of history of the Selecao," the paper said.
Brazil's leading journalists were equally critical of the team. "I watched a game of boys against men," Juca Kfouri said on ESPN, before calling for radical change in Brazilian football, similar to that which has taken place in Germany in recent years. "The president [Dilma Rousseff] has to keep her promise to Bom Senso FC [Common Sense FC, a protest group of Brazilian footballers, who are demanding major reforms to the domestic game]."
He later wrote in the Folha de Sao Paulo: "Brazilian football was reduced to dust today."
During the match, Brazil's most famous commentator, Galvao Bueno, called it "an embarrassment, a humiliation." His colleague, former Brazil international Walter Casagrande, added on Globo: "We have a bunch of players running around the pitch. We don't have a team."
This is one footballing disaster that will not be forgotten for a long time. For now, the navel-gazing and self-analysis will continue, as Brazil tries to make sense of this agonizing end to its World Cup dream.