World Cup Semi-Final
Brazil 1 Germany 7
The dream is over for Brazil.
In fact, the dream has turned into a waking nightmare from which this team and this country will struggle to escape.
And this time they didn’t even wait to get to the Maracana to have their ‘Maracanazo’. Sixty-four years on from Rio de Janiero, Belo Horizonte has taken its place alongside that World Cup final defeat in Brazilian football’s hall of infamy.
The nation was simply ripped from its enchanting month-long reverie here in the Stadio Mineiro yesterday, suddenly and brutally and with absolutely no chance of redemption, as a rampant Germany inflicted a defeat of humiliating proportions on the Selaceo.
It was the devastating and embarrassing manner of Brazil’s dismissal here which shocked not only the natives but the rest of the world looking in from afar.
Germany were like the men from the IMF who’d come to town spoil the party — and they did it with almost contemptuous ease, indeed by having a party of their own.
Four goals in an astonishing six-minute spell, adding to Thomas Muller’s opener, meant that Brazil were down and out and Germany en route to Rio before even 30 minutes were on the clock.
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari confounded many predictions with his attempted solution to the Neymar problem, choosing Shakhtar Donetsk’s Bernard rather than Chelsea’s Willian, a decision in which the fact that the former is a local lad, born and raised in Belo Horizonte, must surely have played a part. Certainly, his selection did nothing to dampen the ardour of the crowd in the Estadio Mineirao where, despite a cool breeze and extensive cloud cover, the emotional temperature was already almost off the scale when Brazil’s keepers emerged for their warm up a full 50 minutes before kick off.
With that emotional wind behind them, Brazil began at their usual rate of knots, obliging Germany to match them hurried stride for stride, the frantic opening exchanges as riddled with error and make or break 50/50 challenges as all the hosts’ games at this World Cup.
But this time they were to pay an unimaginably severe penalty as, in the absence of the glue provided by Thiago Silva, all their defensive failings were exposed in an unprecedented collapse. It began as early as the 11th minute when David Luiz, hero turned villain, was punished for appalling slackness at the back, with Thomas Muller left unmarked in the box to turn home a Tony Kroos corner for his fifth goal of the championship.
But that was just the prelude to an astonishing six-minute spell in which Germany ran four more goals past a Brazil side which fell to pieces. Muller set up the first by creating space for the veteran Miroslav Klose to claim the all-time World Cup goalscoring record for himself — even the great Ronaldo had to give way on the grim day that was in it for Brazilian football history.
And the goals just kept on coming, even as you rubbed your eyes in disbelief: two from Tony Kroos and one from Sami Khedira to make it a scarcely believable 5-0 with 30 minutes not yet on the clock.
Brazilians were rubbing their eyes for a different reason. There were people in tears all around the ground, and many of those who weren’t were simply getting up and leaving well before half-time. Then the mood began to turn to one of anger, with chants mocking the country’s president Dilma Rouseff.
To their credit, the men in yellow and blue tried their best to give their loyal fans something to cheer about in the second-half but, as you might expect, Manuel Neuer was in no mood to be charitable.
Then, just to add salt to the wound, substitute Andre Schuerrle added two more goals — the second a beauty — but by then, frankly, it was almost difficult to keep count, so preposterous, almost, had this once eagerly awaited World Cup semi-final become.
Oscar did pull one back near the end but, by then, the game had practically degenerated into a kickabout, any pretence at an authentic contest long since abandoned.
One upshot of a surreal evening in Belo Horizonte is that Jurgen Loew now has another chance to shake off the nearly man tag which has dogged him since his sides were beaten by Spain in the 2008 European Championship final, by Spain again in the 2010 World Cup semi-final and by Italy in the last four of Euro 2012. Germany’s victory here also means there will be at least one old world nation represented on Sunday at the Maracana.
As for Brazil, the team and the country, the agonised post-mortem has only just begun.
Subs for Brazil: Paulinho for Fernandinho 45, Ramires for Hulk 45, Willian for Fred 69.
Subs for Germany: Mertesacker for Hummels 45, Schurrle for Klose 58, Draxler for Khedira 76.
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