BY THE time Germany added their fifth goal, just before the half hour, the ease of their victory had become embarrassing.
Scorers: Brazil – Oscar (90); Germany – Müller (11), Klose (23), Kroos (24, 26), Khedira (29), Schürrle (69, 79)
The Mineirao had become a cauldron of tears as it watched a team that had ridden a wave of emotion run into a German breakwater. It’s collapse was pitiful, a shambolic abnegation of responsibility from a side whose sense of entitlement, in retrospect, always rendered it liable to such capitulation.
At the anthems, in a moment of telenovela mawkishness, David Luiz and Julio Cesar, apparently struggling to quench the tears, held up a number 10 Neymar shirt. There was no minute’s silence to mark the passing of either Alfredo Di Stefano or the two people killed in Belo Horizonte last week by the collapse of an overpass built as part of a World Cup infrastructure project. Nothing, it seems, could be allowed to distract this Brazil from its sentimental solipsism. Nothing, that is, apart from the ruthlessness of a Germany team that couldn’t believe its luck.
Luiz Felipe Scolari had been unusually good-humoured in the pre-match press-conference as though to convince Brazilians they could still prevail without Neymar. The forward’s absence haunted the game, the thousands of Brazil fans wearing Neymar masks only emphasising the fact that he wasn’t on the pitch. His loss felt at least as much psychological as tactical: this was supposed to be his tournament, a notion rooted partly in the fact that he is perceived as by far the best Brazilian creator and partly in a need to have a player to wrestle with Lionel Messi (and Cristiano Ronaldo) for the title of best in the world.
Brazil’s players arrived wearing baseball caps bearing the slogan “Forca Neymar”, as did Scolari, which had the unfortunate effect of making him look like an ageing relative on a stag do.
On the pitch, Neymar was replaced, surprisingly, not by Willian but by Bernard, the diminutive local hero who had helped Atletico Mineiro to the Libertadores title and Brazil to victory over Uruguay in the Confederations Cup semi-final in this stadium last year. It didn’t matter. By far the bigger absentee was Thiago Silva. Without his calming presence, David Luiz looked, as Ronaldo said in his television punditry, “infantile”. Only two teams have previously gone in 5-0 down a half-time in a World Cup match, Zaire and Haiti.
Joachim Löw had described Brazil’s approach in previous rounds as “brutal”. For all Brazil bleated about the supposed “cowardice” of the Juan Camilo Zuniga challenge, they have committed more fouls than anyone else in the tournament – 96 compared to just 57 from Germany – and have fairly clearly been guilty of tactical fouling.
Defeat to Uruguay in the final game in 1950 has left a deep wound, one that has legitimised an approach of ‘by any means necessary’ in this tournament: the desperation of Brazil for success was clear in the astonishing scenes of the Brazil team bus on its way to the stadium crawling between rows of fans, arms outstretched to take photographs, looking like nothing so much as yellow-clad pilgrims desperately reaching out to touch a passing icon. Theirs, it turned out, was a false god – even if that bus did bear the ambiguously prophetic message, “Brace yourself, the sixth is coming.” And seventh.
That yearning for victory is coupled to an uncomfortable hostility towards opponents. The witch hunt of Zuniga for what was a clumsy but hardly outrageous challenge on Neymar has suggested a nation at the edge of its sanity, and that sense of opponents less as necessary adversaries than as villains standing disgracefully in Brazil’s way was reflected in the booing even of footage shown on the big screens of the Germany team arriving at the stadium, and far louder jeers when they actually took the field.
Not that Germany were ever likely to be intimidated. They had played the hosts 11 times in major tournaments before Tuesday, winning on nine occasions. The role of party-pooper is one they relish. There was no sense of Germany quailing as Colombia had in the quarter-final; rather they at last produced the definitive performance they have threatened for eight years.
First, clever blocking of David Luiz left Thomas Muller unmarked at the back post to volley in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s corner after 11 minutes. The Mineirao fell silent. As Chico Buarque said after the 1950 defeat to Uruguay, “You cannot entrust yourself to a football stadium.” Then, in six minutes before the half-hour, they simply fell apart. Klose, at the second attempt, surpassed Ronaldo as the top-scorer in World Cup history after Muller had flicked on Kroos’s pass. Then Kroos volleyed in a Philipp Lahm cross, before adding a second after a casual one-two with Sami Khedira. With Brazil reduced to Catatonia, Ozil laid in Khedira to make it five. Such was the state of shock, it would be another ten minutes before the first boos and crude chants against the president Dilma Rousseff.
Andre Schurrle turned in a Lahm cross then lashed in a seventh to make this Brazil’s heaviest ever defeat, breaking a 94-year old record, something Oscar’s late goal couldn’t change. By then, the locals, having long since given up booing their own team, had taken to applauding Germany. It was a night almost too chastening for anger.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Dante, Luiz, Marcelo, Gustavo, Fernandinho (Paulinho 45), Hulk (Ramires 45), Oscar, Bernard, Fred (Willian 70).
Germany: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Hummels (Mertesacker 45), Howedes, Schweinsteiger, Khedira (Draxler 75), Muller, Kroos, Ozil, Klose (Schürrle 58).