The Brazilians made history in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, and for all the wrong reasons. Waking up the morning after, the shock of it is almost strong enough to distract from problems closer to home. Until the air-raid sirens sound, anyway.
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Brazil 1, Germany 7. The seven modern blunders of the World Cup. Seventh heaven for the Germans, seventh circle of hell for the Brazilians. Seven cup. Perhaps shell-shocked Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar put it best: “You can’t explain the inexplicable.”
Yet while the margin of Brazil’s defeat was hard to fathom, in retrospect the performance wasn’t. The team that labored to victory over Croatia, Chile and Colombia simply met its match in the Germans (and had run out of countries beginning with C to beat – if only they’d crossed paths with Costa Rica).
As the Brazilians lined up to bellow out their national anthem (the only thing they did well all night), captain David Luiz held up the injured Neymar’s No.10 shirt. But it was their other missing player, defender Thiago Silva, who would be most missed. Suspended after picking up the dumbest of yellow cards in the quarterfinal against Colombia, Silva’s place at the heart of the Brazilian defense was never filled by Dante. (Dante and Luiz: a hairdresser’s worst nightmare.)
It was a game of records: Biggest ever win in a semifinal. First competitive defeat at home for Brazil since 1975. Miroslav Klose breaking the record for most goals scored at the World Cup finals (moving ahead of Brazil’s Ronaldo, just to rub Rio noses in it just a little more). Most shots of people crying during a match. Indeed, was there a sadder image than the elderly Brazilian gentleman with tears in his eyes at halftime, clutching a replica World Cup trophy? And no, it wasn’t “Big” Phil Scolari.
Actually, there was a sadder sight: Brazilian captain David Luiz sobbing like a baby during the post-match, pitchside interview. With that big mop of Sideshow Bob hair, he suddenly looked like a 9-year-old who’d lost the school cup final and just wanted mom to come and comfort him. His performance during the game beggared belief: the attention span of a kindergarten kid, the clumsiness of Charlie Chaplin at his peak. The moment that summed up Luiz’s evening was when the red mists descended following a tussle with Thomas Muller: Luiz was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take this anymore. He aimed a big kick at the German … and missed completely. Ouch.
The Germans waltzed through the Brazilian defense to score three first-half goals in the space of 179 seconds, making the score a jaw-dropping 5-0 after 29 minutes. A boxing match would have been stopped at this point, but the hapless Brazilians had to endure another hour on the ropes.
Scolari called the result “catastrophic,” making you wonder what he’d call current events in Iraq. “I will be remembered as the coach to lose 7-1,” he lamented, an apt assessment of things. It was all too reminiscent of the man/sheep joke. “Win one World Cup in Japan and nobody says anything. Lose one bloody game 7-1…”
Apparently, the Brazilian players who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory during the 1950 World Cup – the last time they hosted the tournament – were reminded of the moment for the rest of their lives. A similar fate awaits these players, unless they produce a series of 7-1 victories to win the next World Cup in Russia, anyway.
That 1950 defeat, of course, prompted the Brazilians to change their shirt color from white to yellow. Watching their feeble-minded, spineless attempts to play on Tuesday, yellow suddenly seemed the aptest color.
The ongoing Brazilian post-mortem will take some of the attention away from the German performance, which was a master class in soccer efficiency. Ruthless, unwavering, clinical, the Germans were every bit as good as the Brazilians were bad. Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Kroos bossed the midfield, Muller was perpetual motion, and Klose does what he always does – score goals. All this will mean nothing if the side doesn’t finish the job on Sunday, something the Germans will know all-too-well.
With an extra day to recover, they will surely start as favorites to beat the winners of Wednesday’s semifinal. If Argentina vs. Netherlands finishes 7-1, the world will officially have gone mad.
As the German goals rained in Tuesday, we were reminded of Michael Palin’s “Ripping Yarns” TV series. Specifically, the episode where he supports the completely hopeless Barnstoneworth United. Watch this, and then just imagine it being repeated in the homes of Brazil on Tuesday night:
Argentina vs. Netherlands, 11 P.M.