The Second "Maracanazo" on Brazil
The Second "Maracanazo" on Brazil
The tears were already flowing in the stands even as Sami Khedira wheeled away to celebrate the Germans’ fourth goal in seven minutes. Júlio César, helpless amid the chaos, screamed at the ragged ranks of wheezing team-mates as they sank to their knees around the penalty area, clutter around which their opponents danced, but they wore the haunted looks of those who were not taking anything in. Luiz Felipe Scolari propped himself up on the edge of the dugout, his shoulders hunched and all conviction drained. This was an utter humiliation, a rout that defied belief. The present day Seleção has endured their own Maracanazo.
That term had been coined after the nation’s loss to Uruguay in the 1950 final in Rio de Janeiro, an implausible 2-1 defeat that sent shockwaves through the game, though this seemed as ludicrous a script. This team had arrived at the stadium in a coach bearing the slogan “Brace yourselves: the sixth is coming”, and Scolari had suggested after their progress to this stage, maybe mischievously, that they had one hand on the trophy. That tenuous grip was ripped away by ruthless opponents.
The home team, without a competitive defeat on home soil since 1975, had departed at the interval numbed by the brutality of it all. The home support hinted at a chorus of boos, but even they appeared bereft of energy to summon disgust. That may come in the days ahead.
The stuffing has been knocked out of this nation. To have been embarrassed like this, German players gliding through and away from yellow shirts with such staggering ease, may prompt Brazilians to turn their back on this tournament, and all those pre-tournament social tensions are likely to be revisited in the few days that remain.
The wave of protests had been simmering around the fanfests while Scolari’s side progressed. Now every reminder of the World Cup will reopen the wounds inflicted in Belo Horizonte. Should Argentina’s Albiceleste progress into Sunday’s final at the Maracanã then the mood might turn properly mutinous. The hosts are not supposed to be disgraced and dispatched from their own carnival.
Perhaps the buildup had proved too much of a distraction. Brazil had become obsessed by the loss of Neymar, their talismanic striker and most potent attacking threat left broken by Juan Camilo Zúñiga’s challenge up in Fortaleza last Friday. Everything in the lead-up to this occasion had revolved around how this team would cope without the 22-year-old, a team and nation emotionally distraught to the point of mourning.
David Luiz and César had held aloft Neymar’s No10 shirt prior to kick-off as the locals bellowed out the national anthem, the words hollered into the early evening sky with such passion that it felt as if this arena shook with the ferocity of it all. By then the Brazil players had discarded the white baseball caps, each bearing the message ‘Forca Neymar’, that they had sported at jaunty angles upon arrival at the ground.
Yet, as was exposed so mercilessly throughout, it was not the loss of Neymar that was truly damaging. Rather, it was the second yellow card of the finals and subsequent suspension accrued by the captain, Thiago Silva, for needlessly attempting to block David Ospina’s attempt to clear last Friday. The Paris St-Germain defender had virtually conducted the pre-match warm-up out on the turf here before taking his seat in the stands to witness his team unravelling from the sidelines, shock etched across his face as Germany’s rewards rained in. This mess of a defensive display will have done wonders for his reputation as an organiser and reader of the game, so hapless were the rusty Dante and a panicked David Luiz at the heart of the hosts’ rearguard. Neither full-back offered any sense of surety. Yet that will be of no consolation for Thiago. Deep down, he should surely feel culpable for his absence.
The manager, too, might concede plenty of this shambles was self-inflicted. Perhaps Scolari had sensed the nation needed him to be bold to shrug the locals out of their pre-match gloom, hence his decision to pick Bernard – a former Atlético Mineiro player and adored in these parts – from the start rather than mirror the Germans’ midfield trio to offer his back-line more protection. Paulinho, Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho might have choked some of those flowing, rat-a-tat exchanges mustered by Joachim Löw’s side at source. Instead, outnumbered, Gustavo looked lost and Fernandinho wilted, his game disintegrating as he laboured to cut out Toni Kroos’s passes or Khedira’s movement. Or, indeed, that of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil or Thomas Muller. The theory that Oscar might influence the contest more readily from a conventional No10’s role mattered little when the ball was smuggled so easily from befuddled team-mates who stood little chance of stealing it back.