With just a half an hour gone last night came an image that perhaps more than any other summed up just what had happened.
Out the back of the stand, two local volunteers that have helped the media so much during the tournament — personifying the warmth and joy of a competition many feared might descend into farce and violence — stood side by side but ever so distant. Earlier, they’d walked away from their duties, unable to handle the sound and fury and the entire experience unfolding before their eyes.
One stared out at the open expanses around the stadium, unable to comprehend it all. The other sobbed uncontrollably. This was the worst night in Brazilian footballing history, the most remarkable thing that almost everyone in the stadium had or will ever witness and perhaps the most seismic moment in the history of football. There’s no precedent for what occurred in Belo Horizonte, no way to contextualise it, for this was something so astonishing that it never happened before and may never happen again. In a six-minute spell, Germany scored four and you started to witness the first ripples released. Some fights pockmarked the ground as the hostility that has been oddly absent from the tournament up to now suddenly crept back in. Chants broke out, telling the national president Dilma Rousseff exactly what she could kiss and by the time Germany made it seven they applauded the opposition and cheered their passes. The masses had abandoned the players that helped them believe in their country again in recent weeks. In truth, the players abandoned them as well.
But they won’t be the last ripples for this is a result that will go way beyond football within the country. In fact the prevailing feeling from foreigners within the stadium was perhaps this was a night to head straight for the hotel and catch up on some sleep. Anything else was considered unwise and potentially dangerous and this game will now cast a black, bleak and angry shadow over the remaining days of what has until now been a wonderful tournament.
In the run-up to the World Cup, much of the talk had been about 1950. Yet this was so much worse. And if tales of the Maracanazo have meandered through history and lapped up against this Brazilian hosting of what they all worship, then this story will never leave the consciousness of a nation. It was a meltdown of simply unimaginable proportions. For sure this isn’t a good Brazil side. That was well known beforehand but even that cannot explain one of the greatest mental collapses in sport. The squad, for all their issues, had used a strong emotional bond to hold themselves together as they scraped win after fortunate win to get this far, but here that same emotion tore them apart in the most violent way.
Marcelo was shredded. Dante was out of his depth. David Luiz who has led both minds and bodies of teammates gave up through shock. Fernandinho was appalling. Luiz Gustavo was irrelevant. Oscar was absent. Bernard overwhelmed. Fred useless. Hulk pitiful. Meanwhile behind them all, Julio Cesar hauled the ball from his net time and again.
By the finish, the two volunteers held onto the same emotions from an hour earlier and they may never be able to shed them. Meanwhile a picture on the giant screens showed Phil Scolari look anything but big and the image was met with the sharpest, most poisonous hiss. A sound that will reverberate forever as this was a night that a nation may never be able to come to terms with.
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