It's not just the darkest night in the history of Brazilian soccer — it’s one of the darkest nights in Brazilian history. Soccer runs through the bloodstream of the country like it does through no other nation on earth. It defines the country. Soccer is what Brazil excels at. No other nation has won five World Cups.
So to lose one of its most high-profile games in such an utterly humiliating way is a hammer blow to the country, and one from which it will struggle to recover.
Seven goals to one. No one — and I mean no one — could have predicted that score. Brazil conceded four goals in six devastating minutes in the first half. This is a country that hasn’t been beaten at home in a major competition more than three decades; a team that has never conceded seven goals and hasn't been beaten by six goals since 1920.
Brazil might beat El Salvador seven to one. Or Chad. But to be beaten by that scoreline? At home? At your own World Cup? The one you were going to win to avenge the famous defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 Final? No. Not possible.
But in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday night, Germany achieved the impossible. They out-scored, out-thought and out-played a weak, clueless Brazilian team that will go down in history as their country’s worst performers on a big stage.
Some of them may never play for their country again. The crowd in the stadium booed and jeered Fred, a forward who has failed to rise to the occasion of the World Cup and is unlikely ever to get that chance again.
But it could get worse.
Many may question whether the players will be safe in the weeks and long years ahead, as they are forever reminded of this national nightmare. In a World Cup 20 years ago, Colombian player Andres Escobar put the ball in his own goal against the U.S. and was murdered shortly after returning home.
Riots are unlikely. A narrow, contentious defeat to their bitterest rivals, Argentina, might have sparked trouble in Rio, but a thorough thrashing by a superior team will lead to introspection — not revolution. The Brazilian fans in the stadium applauded the German team as they took a 6-0 lead, before many of them left quietly.
But Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff can expect repercussions. She has identified herself with the team and the cup. With their defeat, she can expect a rougher ride as she seeks re-election in October. She had hoped to ride a wave of "feel good" popularity after a Brazilian triumph at this World Cup. There will be no such wave.
When Brazil lost the 1998 World Cup Final 3-0 to France, its top players and officials were called to give evidence before a special parliamentary hearing and asked to explain why they had lost.
A similar inquiry is likely in the next year, as Brazil tries to work out what went wrong and how it can prevent such a thing ever happening again.
The nightmare isn’t over. Brazil’s humiliated players must play one more game on Saturday, to decide who wins third place. It is never an easy game for beaten semi-finalists, and it will be a struggle for Brazil to pick themselves off the ground and play for their pride and honor.
And there’s one more horror that awaits. Argentina play the Netherlands on Wednesday in the second semi-final. If their hated South American rivals get through to the Final on Sunday and win the World Cup in the spiritual home of Brazilian "futbol," the Maracana stadium in Rio, Brazilians will have one more terrible, bitter pill to swallow.
First published July 8 2014, 5:33 PM