Just finished watching Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the first semifinal of the 2014 World Cup. It was tough to watch for several reasons. Firstly, there is the fact that as a good Sudanese man, my World Cup support defaults to all African nations (except Egypt), and Brazil. True enough, this has not been the strongest of Brazilian squads, but their performance at the Confederations Cup last summer was somewhat heartening. Also, there’s Neymar, who has been able to put the team on his shoulders time and time again.
So when Neymar got hurt in the quarterfinal, a lot of questions were asked. Those questions were mostly answered today (though to be fair, the absence of Thiago Silva in the center of defense was probably as big if not bigger of a problem). I don’t want to use such an obvious cliche, but they don’t call it “ruthless German efficiency” for nothing. In the space of several minutes, the German national team (die Mannschaft!) put on a clinic, giving the semifinal the air of a rec league game at best or a training exercise at worst. The Brazilian defense was stretched and disorganized, being exposed again and again by the Germans who seemed to do as they liked. Meanwhile their offense was toothless and aimless for most of the game.
The loss, while devastating, may have other consequences, which are much more real. Brazil has been a nation split over the costs of hosting this tournament. The demonstrations and even riots in the lead up to the World Cup increased the stakes for the national team beyond what a football powerhouse typically experience. Brazil is expected to win the World Cup every time, but this time, the host team would have to justify all the expense as well. And all of this in the shadow of the Maracanazo of 1950. That loss overshadowed the team’s efforts from the moment Brazil won the right to host. Perhaps dropping out in the semifinal, before a potentially disastrous loss in the final to the Netherlands – or worse, to Argentina – is preferable. The infamy that would result from a loss like that would dog every member of the squad for the rest of their lives. But such a loss may not be distinguishable from what we saw today.
I felt bad watching it with my baby daughter. Even though she’s only a month old, it just seemed unseemly for her to see the once mighty laid low in that manner. She won’t remember this, but I’ll tell her she was there to see what looks like the end of an era. The question is whether this will seem like just a blip before they return to their all-conquering form or the beginning of the end that will see the Brazil of the past fade completely into legend and myth?