Brazil go to Germany but talk of revenge must be saved for World Cup
The word revanche comes up often in sporting articles in Brazil, but its meaning could not be more different than the original French term -- a policy or movement aimed at achieving the return of a nation's lost territory.
In Portuguese, it became an overused byword for revenge. And it makes an inevitable appearance with every mention of Brazil's meeting with Germany this Tuesday in Berlin. Even ESPN Brasil wrote on March 16 that Joachim Low had named the Germany squad for the "Selecao's revanche."
But unless the German Football Association (DFB) and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) have made a deal that the World Cup will change hands if the Nationalmannschafft lose to Tite's boys, there will be no revanche at all.
Even if Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Willian thrash the opposition 7-1 -- as Germany did to Brazil in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup -- there will be no revenge for the Selecao. That defeat, which is impossible to void, will remain.
And so it should. Four years ago, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos or Philipp Lahm didn't emerge from the Mineirao dressing rooms saying they had avenged the generation defeated 2-0 by Ronaldo, Rivaldo & Co. in Yokohama in the 2002 World Cup final. In fact, failure against Brazil by the generation of Oliver Kahn, Dietmar Hamann and Jens Jeremies was a blessing in disguise for German football, as it spurred the restructuring that resulted in the team's coronation in Rio de Janeiro 12 years later, and has them on track to be the team to beat in Russia.
Brazil should have thought the same way and seen failure as more than a score, but as a signal for change.
Instead, the Mineirazo, as it is known, became more and more described as some kind of blip in the narrative of the Brazilian media and in the discourse of some players. It is understandable, of course, especially for players who will carry Brazil's heaviest-ever defeat in their CVs for the rest of their lives.
In Tite's squad for the current international week, Dani Alves, Marcelo, Fernandinho, Willian and Paulinho are the only "survivors" of the Mineirazo. Former captain Thiago Silva was part of the 23, but watched the infamous defeat from the bench due to a yellow card suspension. But in an interview last week, Silva was happy to suggest victory in an international friendly could indeed act as some kind of revenge.
"We don't think it will erase what happened in 2014, but football gives as a chance to revert the situation a bit," he told Globoesporte.com. Sadly, nobody seemed to have followed that up with a "how so?"
Ultimately, Tuesday's game has nothing to do with the past and will only be useful to give Brazil a rare chance to play a top team ahead of the World Cup and maybe, as Tite stated in a news conference a couple of days ago, test the emotional status of his players.
Thankfully, the manager's reply to a revanche question was brushed away with classy move that would have made Franz Beckenbauer proud.
"[The 7-1] is a reality and we have to get used to it. But we are at another stage, another moment. What I want from the team is a high level of commitment," Tite said.
In any case, a match between Brazil and Germany should always be a feted occasion because of its rarity. The teams have only met three times in World Cups, and then you would have to count the Selecao's tight 1-0 triumph over East Germany in 1974. Apart from that, there have been 20 friendlies, with 11 Brazilian victories against four German ones.
Yes, there have been jokes galore, including a recent Facebook post by the DFB in which they used a picture of the Mineirao scoreboard to "announce" there were 17 days to go before the Berlin game. But these are just part of football banter, just like the so-called neutral Brazilian supporters who attended the 2014 World Cup final and seemed more vocal than the German fans in the match against Argentina.
Hopefully, the Brazil players will rise above it and use the opportunity to make crucial observations about their team against opponents they could actually meet in Russia very early in the competition, if one or the other finishes their respective group in second place. That reality could be particularly likely for Brazil given the absence of Neymar. Even the most optimistic forecasts suggest their injured No. 10 will only be available a couple of weeks before Brazil's first game in Russia against Switzerland on June 17 and could miss the group stage altogether.
As for history, in 2011 roughly the same Germany team that lined up at the Mineirao three years later toyed with the Selecao in Stuttgart in a 3-2 friendly victory whose score flattered a team with Neymar on the pitch. And while it would be nice for Brazil to set a marker against direct rivals months ahead of the World Cup this Tuesday, the prematch hype is really just noise, no matter how exciting it would be to see the Selecao boss the game.
As for revanche, the best way to achieve that would not involve a 7-1 scoreline on Tuesday, or even a win, but instead a sixth World Cup title for Brazil in Russia.
Fernando Duarte is a U.K.-based Brazilian football expert who has reported on the Selecao for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @Fernando_Duarte.