Brazil’s hopes of securing a sixth World Cup ended last night in abject humiliation at the hands of a rampant Germany with the hosts’ manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, accepting full responsibility for the Seleção’s “catastrophic” record defeat.
The Germans scored five times in 19 frantic first–half minutes, with Joachim Löw, their coach, admitting he had sensed the hosts were “cracking up” after they shipped the first goal and in the end the home support reacted furiously at the final whistle. Brazil’s players briefly convened in a huddle near the centre-circle at the end and, after Scolari addressed his crestfallen squad, saluted the crowd only for the boos to ring out. Many in their number went on to leave the pitch in tears.
Scolari refused to address his own future, with Saturday’s third-place play-off to come against Argentina or Holland, though he conceded it would take time to recover from Brazil’s first competitive home defeat since 1975. “We tried to do what we could, we did what we thought was our best and we lost to a great team who ended the match with four goals scored in extraordinary manner,” said Scolari. “I’d ask the people to excuse us for this mistake. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to the final. This is a loss. A catastrophic, terrible loss. The worst loss by a Brazilian national team ever, yes. But we have to learn to deal with that.
“Who is responsible? Who is responsible for picking the team? I am. It’s me. So the catastrophic result can be shared by the whole group, and my players will tell you we will share our responsibilities, but who decided the tactics? I did. So the person responsible is me. I did what I thought was best. This was only our third defeat in 28 matches, even if it was a terrible defeat. Naturally, if I were to think of my life as a player, as a coach, as a teacher, this was the worst day of my life. But life goes on. I’ll be remembered probably because I lost 7-1, the worst defeat Brazil have ever had, but that was a risk I knew I was taking when I accepted this position.”
The manager admitted the absence of Neymar, who fractured a vertebra in his back during the quarter-final success over Colombia, had had little effect on the emphatic nature of this result with the suspension incurred by the centre-half and captain, Thiago Silva, arguably more significant. Brazil were powerless to restrain Germany’s fluid attacks, the home side’s midfield utterly overrun and their defence capitulating, with Miroslav Klose registering a record 16th World Cup goal and Toni Kroos and the substitute André Schürrle each scoring twice. Scolari suggested his players had “panicked”, adding: “Even the Germany players were wondering how this had happened.”
“It’s hard to explain,” said the beleaguered Brazil goalkeeper, Júlio César. “You can’t explain the inexplicable. It was beautiful up to this point. The players are going to apologise to our fans but they [Germany] were strong and we have to acknowledge that. After the first goal we just had a blackout, nobody expected it. We will go home, hug our families. And thank the fans. We got close but we couldn’t take that final step. That’s it.” David Luiz, the stand-in captain, was inconsolable at the end. “I just wanted to give some joy to my people, who deal with lots of suffering every day,” he said. “One day I’ll make them happy somehow.”
Germany, who were competing in their fourth successive semi-final in this tournament, will now seek to secure a fourth World Cup in Sunday’s final at the Maracanã, where Brazil had suffered their most infamous defeat to Uruguay in the final back in 1950. This result will prompt similar national mourning. “I can imagine what it will be like,” said the victorious coach, Joachim Löw. “I remember the 2006 semi-final in Germany, when we lost to Italy in the 119th minute when everyone hoped we would win the tournament on home soil. It was an enormous heartbreak. I believe this defeat for Brazil will be difficult to digest. It will be a difficult and painful defeat for them.
“But, for us, the feelings are great, the emotions are great. We have made it to the final. We were able to face off the deep passion of the Brazilians. We had a clear, persistent game-plan and knew if we were courageous and believed in our own strengths, we would win this match. That the result would be so emphatic was not to be expected. Scoring three in four minutes the hosts were in shock, confused, and never returned to their original organisation. We were extremely cool and realised they were cracking up, and we took advantage of that.”
“Now it’s important we remain calm. The team is perfectly rooted and calm. There is no euphoria. This team is ready to deliver. The final will be difficult but we want to win the final and will retain our concentration. We’re in the final but we will confront a different opponent. We were lucky here that our hosts were shellshocked and unable to deal with the pressure. I know how Scolari feels, how the Brazilian team and people feel.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Kroos. “We have come here to become world champions, and no one becomes world champion in a semi-final,” he said. “The final will be tighter than today. so we’ll have to deliver another top performance.”
The fall-out from this result will take time to digest in Brazil, though the sense of profound shock was summed up in the headline across the front of Folho da Sao Paulo, the biggest selling broadsheet, which read: “An historic shame”. Yet the sense history had been made worked both ways. “That Is a historic day for German football,” said Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Federation. “I don’t know what to say. Sensational, like a fairytale – those are all too weak expressions. That was football from another galaxy. I am so happy for the coach and the team. Now we want to do the next step. We can’t go crazy now, even if I would like to. Now we have to get the fourth star.”