Humiliated. There’s no other word for it. Brazil were completely and utterly embarrassed by a ruthless German team in front of their own supporters in the World Cup semi-final.
For 64 years, the most devastating day in Brazilian football was the Maracanazo—the “Maracana Blow”, where hosts Brazil unexpectedly fell to Uruguay in the final—but the “Humiliation of Belo Horizonte” has surely surpassed that, and is a game that will be etched in the annals of the sport for eternity.
7-1. Embarrassing. As the goals flew in throughout the first 45 minutes of the match, it got to a point were Joachim Low’s players looked almost embarrassed to finish off chances. “Eins, zwei, drei, vier, THUMPED” as BBC commentator Steve Wilson brilliantly exclaimed with the scoreline reading 5-0 at half time. There was even more punishment to come in the second half.
As you would expect, there was much hyperbole surrounding the absence of Neymar ahead of this clash. The Brazilian players donned caps and T-shirts reading “Forza Neymar!”, while David Luiz and Julio Cesar brandished a Neymar shirt during the national anthems. There seemed to be a genuine sense of loss amongst the players and supporters, as if the 22-year-old had suffered a fate much more serious than a back injury; perhaps they got a little carried away.
But while the attack never sparkled against Germany—so much so that the Brazilian supporters in attendance called for the likes of Fred and Oscar to be withdrawn from the game—it was at the back where this team showcased its biggest flaws. There were no caps fashioned for him, no vocal lament from the fans, no shirts held up during the anthems, but Thiago Silva’s absence proved to be just as critical as that of the golden boy.
Without the Paris Saint-Germain man at the heart of the back four, Brazil were utterly hopeless. The stand-in captain David Luiz was not only unfathomably erratic and rash, but completely surreptitious as the floodgates opened. Luiz charged forward with reckless abandon, nonplussed by the endless problems he was causing for his teammates. Nonetheless, the rest of the defence were admittedly, just as deplorable.
Neymar had dragged Brazil over the line with his flashes of majesty throughout the earlier stages of the competition, as had Silva with some marvellous displays of defensive acumen and leadership. They’d played some very capable sides, ones that are effervescent and improving, but none quite to the standard of this Germany team.
Die Mannschaft are no longer a side in transition. Low has been afforded the time to work with this team since 2006 and while they’ve suffered semi-final heartbreak in their last two major tournaments, they look stronger for it here. The core of this squad have sampled success with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and this stunning performance was bristling with that kind of know-how; a winning mentality.
It’s as if all the work done by the German Football Federation since overhauling the system in back in 2002 had been geared towards these 90 minutes. Players like Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil—all major benefactors of this revamp—were flourishing in a World Cup semi-final. Passing, moving, probing, pressing, tackling and defending with distinction, manifesting into a genuinely history-making performance.
They’ll go into the final on Sunday bouncing. It was the most complete performance by any team at this World Cup and you can bet the remaining semi-finalists will have been somewhat intimidated after watching that forensic destruction of the hosts.
Germany are a simply stunning side and they were well worth their begrudged applause from the Belo Horizonte crowd. But Low will be well aware that this result will count for little unless they go on and secure the nation’s fourth World Cup win. Such is the professionalism of this team though, you would be surprised if their focus wavered.
But for now, they can revere in that performance, and they’ll naturally be lauded as an example to every other international team, especially to the Selecao. Let’s not forget, Low lost a vital player in Marco Reus in the build-up to this tournament, but such is the togetherness and cohesiveness of this team—and they are a team in every sense of the word—they were able to cope admirably.
The Brazil side haven’t performed as a collective once in a tournament where so much was expected from them. There was always an underpinning concern that even with Neymar and Silva in the team, when Brazil came up against a well-oiled XI, they’d be found out. But without those two, their deficiencies were exposed beyond anyone’s imagination.
A dark, dark day in Brazilian football, but unfortunately for them, one that will live unshakably long in the memory.
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