Brazil’s national motto is Ordem e progresso, “Order and progress,” but what the Seleção exhibited during its semifinal match against Germany on Tuesday was more like disorder and retreat.
I’d love to say I predicted it.
Sure, I already wrote about how disappointing Brazil’s performance had been throughout this year’s World Cup. I mean, not once were fans treated to the jogo bonito style that is a major reason Brazil has won the cup more times than any other side: five. Not once did Neymar show us why he should be considered “the next Pelé” — even before the 22-year-old phenom took a knee to the back from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga during last Friday’s quarterfinals match that saw Neymar carried off the pitch with a fractured vertebra.
I thought Brazil would have trouble against an impeccable Germany side, but I never predicted they would lose 1-7. (By the way, thanks, Oscar, for that last-minute effort. That one goal made writing this bearable.)
At one point around the 25th minute Germany was scoring goals faster than I could tweet them out on my phone. The whole thing seemed bizarre and grotesque, like a freak show inside a house of mirrors.
The most common reaction to Tuesday’s match is speechlessness. Few people who tuned in found themselves capable of fully comprehending what they were seeing. Never in my life have I seen the look of utter heartbreak on so many green-and-yellow faces.
Immediately, and inevitably, there were the memes.
Usually, when a perennial favorite goes down in defeat, people shrug off the loss by saying they had a bad day or the other team was on a roll. But when the team gets blown out 1-7 on the biggest stage in the sport — and on their home turf, no less — you must ultimately conclude something was very wrong with them.
Brazil was sans two key players, of course: Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, who was suspended for one match after receiving a second yellow card on Friday. Neymar’s striking ability is so celebrated and feared that, even if he hadn’t scored, he probably would’ve pulled a few German defenders, creating space for the other Brazilian forwards.
Thiago Silva, on the other hand, as Brazil’s captain and the keystone of its back line, would’ve ensured that Germany’s forwards didn’t have carte blanche like they appeared to have during yesterday’s match. In fact, it was Silva’s absence, more than anything else, that seemed to make all the difference for the host nation. Had Silva been on the pitch yesterday afternoon, we might still be mourning a Brazilian loss today, but I doubt we’d be stinging from such a devastating blowout.
Brazilians and their fans have missed their chance to win a World Cup on home soil, and they’ll have to wait another four years to see if the team can hoist the cup a sixth time.
For the rest of Latin America, the best they can hope for is that Leo Messi and Argentina can beat the Netherlands on Wednesday and go on to beat Germany in the final on Sunday, though the way Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have been playing has me thinking this is the Flying Dutchmen’s year. The Netherlands have been favorite to win it all since the group stage, and they still are — even after the chancleada Germany handed out on Tuesday. But considering how well Latin American teams have done in this year’s World Cup, an all-Nordic final with Germany and the Netherlands would be anti-climactic.
The way I see it, if Brazil’s not walking with the cup, it might as well be Messi, who needs a World Cup championship to prove he’s on his way to being the greatest of all time.
In any case, now that Brazil’s out of the World Cup, maybe Brazilian Pres. Dilma Rousseff can get back to completing those infrastructure projects like she promised.
[Photo: Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons]