Chile had Brazil on the ropes and that was what Germany saw as they knew that the two sides would cross paths at one point in this World Cup. It was a foreshadowing of things to come, although many thought things were on the up and up when they defeated a Colombia side that was suffering from stage fright brought about by the reverence they had for Brazil. By the time the Colombians overcame that, they were behind 2-0 and the climb just got too steep by then.
Colombia were hit by a barrage of tactical fouls, but they never saw a way out of their predicament until the latter stages of the match. That, more than the poor decisions by the ref, sealed Los Cafeteros’ fate against the host nation. For Brazil it was a short-term solution, and that was going to be exposed for the world to see just days later.
At the Mineirão fate, home field advantage, refs or any other types of conspiracy theory was not going to be enough as Germany showed they were in a class all by themselves. Maybe the final score was not indicative of how much of a chasm there was between the individual players. The result was more telling of how broken and dependent one team was compared to the collective solidity of the other. Right there you saw the difference between a group of standout players facing a quality team that was a contender since the first day of competition – and didn’t disappoint.
Despite all the energy that Brazil showed in the first few minutes, there was a perception that if Germany were to score, they’d put the home side in quite an adverse situation. Little did we know how adverse that situation would truly become after just ten minutes. The first corner of the match for Germany was a blow that the Brazilians were never able to recover from. It was then when the second came and then the historic third by Miroslav Klose and so on.
This time around the magic of singing the anthem a capella to the top of their lungs and hearing fans sing in unison would not prevent Brazil fans from seeing a total deluge of goals like they have never seen in their lives – or the lives or their grandparents. No one in Belo Horizonte’s Mineirão, not even the most optimistic German, expect what was about to occur.
When the final whistle, the fans were numb. No longer was the talk about the quality of Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez or any other ancillary talking points that were on the table in the days leading up to the game in Belo Horizonte.
The environment wasn’t a funeral; there was no eulogy being given. There was no closure whatsoever to this situation. Instead Felipão talked about how the team suffered a big blow against a team that “played better” than them. What Scolari said made lots of sense. It was all the right things being said by a coach that was just beaten by their rival.
His justifications in the post-match press conference became juxtapositioning if you start to look at the World Cup victory guarantees that he put out there back in November when his team was in Miami. He said his team failed in obtaining the objective that was in place – getting to the final. No longer was it to win it all. It hadn’t been for the past couple of weeks as he began to say that not winning the World Cup “was not the end of the world”.
What didn’t fit in this whole puzzle was that what he was saying would be accepted by a coach that lost by a goal or two; not by a difference that was greater than the amount of World Cups they possessed and will possess for at least another four years.
It was something where you felt a dose of shame but also a dose of embarrassment. You saw a meltdown in progress and it was a moment where you truly felt for the person that was with a major problem. It was a problem that was denied for a while, but all it takes is one moment to realize that something must be done.
The comparisons with death for something like that were just not appropriate. The most fitting comparison would have been to compare it to when your best man got drunk at your wedding and just absolutely were ridiculed by what he did. It was one of those moments where you had to reflect and see what the actual problem was with a person that you had such high esteem for.
The Maracanazo was a sad moment for Brazilian football. That loss to Uruguay in 1950 was like a boxer getting knocked out in the final round of a title fight. What happened in Belo Horizonte was a contender having his glass jaw shattered with the first punch he took. By Germany’s second goal, they were like a windmill in a storm.
Their tactical deficiencies were exposed as only the back of the Brazilian net repelled wave after wave of German attacks. Scolari’s defense lacked solidity, and one is not just talking about their backline alone. Collectively there was miscommunication and there was more coordination in a sinking ship than in Brazil’s defensive assignments. Germany moved the ball around as if the defender were pegs on the ground. I could describe them as cones, but at least cones move when there is a strong wind.
Their mental frailties were also an item as it just took one blow to virtually end this match. The other six goals were the icing on the cake. This match told you who the most important player on the squad was – Thiago Silva. He was their emotional rock and his absence clearly noted his importance to the team beyond the more tangible statistics that measure and categorize a player.
Thiago Silva was the player that carried the squad emotionally. His emotional meltdown against Chile now seems now more of a weight lifted as he carried a team and offered them the strength that they needed to endure that difficult test. He was also vital against Colombia by scoring the opener and becoming the stalwart in that backline. Having him watch from the stands made it that much worse for Luiz Felipe Scolari and his men.
Don’t get me wrong, Neymar offers just a “wee bit” as well. He is the spark for this side. He offers that flash, if you will. He’s a vital part of this team. To say the opposite would be ludicrous; but to say missing him alone was part of the Canarinha’s debacle would be just reading the cover of the prologue of a book. There is a great deal missing to Brazil.
As the World Cup progressed, one realized that Oscar was not in top form. As he went, so did Brazil’s ability to possess the ball in dangerous areas and be able to create threats that did not consist of Neymar having to pull a rabbit out of his hat. There was not a number ten in this squad that could take that role and provide for the forwards, which were non-existent as well.
That was also part of the stubbornness they had that was reflected in part with Scolari’s loyalty to some of his guys. Scolari’s loyalty became his greatest flaw – his fatal flaw – in this tournament. There were players like Fred that Felipão stuck with that did not respond at all. Maicon showed some solid play against Colombia, but Germany left him looking like his days at Manchester City.
If there is person that could be forgiven in all of this, it would be Julio César. The Toronto FC goalkeeper did not have a chance in five or six of the goals that Germany scored. Yet if you look at what he did, Brazil might not have gotten to this stage without his performances. Ironically he was the player that was resisted the most by Brazilians as they thought that Botafogo’s Jefferson, Atlético-MG Víctor and even Cruzeiro’s Fabio (who wasn’t called up) would have been better options in goal.
In a time in football history where we constant give last rights to styles of play (i.e. Spain’s tiki taka), no one can truly say jogo bonito was dumped into the depth of the Lagoa Santa in Pampulha. The reasoning for this is because Brazil haven’t played jogo bonito for almost 24 years and it surely didn’t show up in this tournament.
Yes, there was World Cup success and titles sprinkled into this time period, but the style was no longer there. Winning and having the quality players that Brazil had during that time helped out a great deal. Despite the collective deficiencies, the individual brilliance helped them achieve during this time period. The problem is that in this World Cup, no one could really figure out what Brazil played. They were virtually unrecognizable. Their tactical fouling against Colombia saw the media satisfied with the result, but disgusted with the means. Some media outlets going as far as saying that Brazilian football reached a “new low” by going into the dregs of pragmatism.
What did see its demise Tuesday was the swagger that was embodied in the adage of “Brasil é Brasil” (Brazil is Brazil). It was a prevalent mentality within Brazilian football where they thought that because of what they were, they could win solely on that.
It was part of their swagger. It was all part of the mentality where Brazil were going to win because they were just better – technically and individually. They were going to win simply because… well, they were Brazil. That came to an end, once and for all, on Tuesday.
Yeah, it was a day where positives will be hard to come by. The lessons will be extremely bitter and hard ones to assimilate. Yet if there is one ounce of solace that comes out of all of this is that spirit of Barbosa might have found its way out of football purgatory and found peace after 64 years of suffering both here and in the afterlife.