In the end, it all felt uncomfortable. All so desperately awkward. As an impartial observer and a guest in Brazil at its own carnival, witnessing the humiliation at the Estádio Mineirão was almost too much. The descent to the press conference room as the arena emptied became an exercise in avoiding eye contact with the locals. Those clad in yellow were numbed by the whole experience, trudging out into the night in disbelief at the embarrassment they had endured. The German contingent chorused almost apologetically in celebration, but all the home support wanted to do was escape. This was too much.
Recollections of that semi-final require context. The conviction that Brazil would prevail to fulfil the slogan emblazoned on the team bus – “Brace yourselves: the sixth is coming” – had grown through the World Cup’s group stage, expectations fuelled through the drama of a penalty shootout win over an excellent Chile in the last 16 and the impressive nature of their dismissal of the much fancied Colombiain Fortaleza.
By the time they arrived in Belo Horizonte even their cause seemed just. Neymar, the team’s talismanic forward, had been snapped by Juan Camilo Zúñiga, his back broken. Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players had arrived at the semi-final wearing white baseball caps bearing the message Força Neymar, David Luiz and Júlio César holding aloft the forward’s No10 shirt during the national anthem. Romance dictated the collective would prevail for their broken hero. This was their moment.
The problem was that outpouring of emotion had merely masked the reality. ThisSeleção were simply not in Germany’s class. Their defence was ramshackle, denied Thiago Silva through suspension but still fundamentally flawed and permanently disorganised. The management’s tactics were naive, with even the selection of Bernard – once an Atlético Mineiro player – a decision made by the heart, not the head. There was no protection, no structure, no resistance. Joachim Löw’s team merely poured through them at will. Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira and Philipp Lahm ran amok.
Brazil had not been beaten in a competitive game on home soil since 1975, but they shipped five goals in 18 minutes before the half-hour mark. César screamed in frustration but those around him merely shrunk as if wishing the turf would swallow them up. The crowd could only gasp at the brutality of it all, summoning a few boos when André Schürrle added a sixth and regularly abusing Fred, who could do no right. They even offered a smattering of applause when the Chelsea forward added a seventh.
By the time Scolari was offering his excuses in the aftermath rumours were already emerging of rioting in São Paulo, vines of the burning of Brazil flags doing the rounds on social media. There were concerns as to how the tournament would conclude, particularly with Argentina still involved and in contention to claim the trophy in their rivals’ back yard, though the truth was the defeat had rather knocked the stuffing out of the home nation.
They had no energy left to revolt, other than to voice frustration at Scolari and, eventually, hound him from his position. All that remained was deflation after one of the most remarkable capitulations this stage had witnessed. The thrashing was staggering but seemed too emphatic for comfort. It was hard not to share Brazil’s grief at the way their dream died.