World Cup

For Brazilians, reality sets in after World Cup collapse

Front pages of major newspapers in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, 09 July 2014. Brazilian media had nothing but harsh words for the national football team on 09 July, one day after Germany beat the hosts 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final and ended their hopes of a sixth title. (Brasil, Alemania, Mundial de Fútbol)
Front pages of major newspapers in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, 09 July 2014. Brazilian media had nothing but harsh words for the national football team on 09 July, one day after Germany beat the hosts 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final and ended their hopes of a sixth title. (Brasil, Alemania, Mundial de Fútbol)

The sun came up over this hilly, dejected city Wednesday morning, and 200 million Brazilians across the nation awoke to the realization that, no, what happened at Estadio Mineirao on Tuesday night was not just a horrible nightmare.

It really happened.

Germany humiliated Brazil 7-1 in a shocking and implausible World Cup semifinal that already has been called the most disgraceful day in Brazilian sports history, eclipsing the 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final, the last time Brazil hosted the tournament. It was Brazil’s most lopsided loss in a major tournament since 1920, and its first loss on home soil in an international match since 1975.

For the second time in 64 years, the golden World Cup trophy will be lifted by a team other than the host Brazilians at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium, Brazil’s soccer temple.

That loss to Uruguay led to coining of the phrase “Maracanazo,” meaning a disaster. By Wednesday morning, there was another word in the Brazilian vernacular — “Mineirazo,” a disaster worse than a Maracanazo.

Every Brazilian player and coach at the stadium Tuesday will forever be stained by the crushing defeat. Every fan who witnessed it will remember it as the night Germany rewrote World Cup history while making a mockery of Brazil’s beloved, but flawed, Seleção — as its team is known.

The front-page headlines on the nation’s newspapers Wednesday expressed the sentiments of the grieving nation. Among them (translated in English): “Biggest shame in history,” “Historical humiliation,” “A humiliation for all eternity,” and, perhaps harshest of all, “Go to hell, Felipe,” with a giant photo of Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Despite the somber mood that fell over the country, there was no widespread rioting or violence, as had been feared. The World Cup went on Wednesday with a thrilling semifinal between Argentina and the Netherlands in São Paulo, and Brazilians did their best to remain gracious hosts.

The ubiquitous green, blue and yellow flags and banners still waved from balconies, storefronts and car windows. Beach soccer and foot-volley games went on along the beaches. Many Brazilians even swallowed their pride and rooted for rival Argentina, their South American neighbor.

And, yes, plenty of locals were still patriotic enough to wear their yellow shirts Wednesday.

Other than a kiosk robbery at Copacabana beach in Rio and a few small skirmishes elsewhere, Brazilians coped by commiserating — and even joking — with friends and strangers on the streets, at cafes, at bars and in taxi cabs.

Everyone had an opinion about what went wrong. The team was too reliant on Neymar and couldn’t score without him. Brazilian players are too emotional and need to be more focused like the Germans. The absence of steady captain Thiago Silva hurt the defense more than anticipated. Scolari didn’t employ the right tactics. Brazilian soccer is resting on its laurels and needs to catch back up with other world powers.

“We are all very sad and embarrassed in front of the world about this result,” said a cab driver named Anderson (even the taxi drivers go by one name here). “We wanted World Cup trophy No. 6, and the only six we got was 7 minus 1 — the number of goals we lost by. It could have been 10. The Germans took their foot off the pedal.”

An airport baggage handler asked whether Brazilians are distraught over the loss, smiled and replied: “Music and Caipirinhas will help us get over it.”

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, the target of much criticism for the World Cup’s $11.5 billion price tag, tried to console the nation on Twitter.

“Like many Brazilians, I’m very, very sad because of this defeat,” she tweeted. “I feel bad for all of us — for fans and for our players. But let’s not be broken. Brazil, ‘Get up, shake off the dust and come out on top.’ 

German coach Joachim Loew said after the game that he empathized with what the Brazilians were feeling, comparing it to 2006 World Cup host Germany losing in the semifinals.

“We had great hopes in 2006, too, and you can feel the pressure that the hosts have in a match like this,” Loew said. “All 200 million people here want you to get to the final. That can cause your players to tighten up. I feel sorry for him (Scolari). I think I know how he feels.”

Scolari and his team traveled back to their training camp in Teresopolis, where they began preparing for Saturday’s third-place game against the Netherlands, which lost to Argentina in penalty kicks. Scolari faced the media and got philosophical:

“If I could explain what happened in those six minutes, I would answer but I don’t know,” he said. “I cannot explain. I will not justify. An error occurred, and this error was fatal.

“We can lose by one or two, but we lost in a way that we had never done before in the history of Brazilian football. We still have Saturday’s game, and that is now our dream as we have stopped dreaming about winning the title.

“I know what it is to feel shame. I have a feeling this will never leave me, but my life goes on. The players will get on with their lives, they are still winners. Our life is not made from defeats. This was the worst of all, but life is good — nobody will die because of this.”

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