Ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it’s hard not to back Brazil as the obvious favourites. Despite an indifferent six years under coach Tite, the Seleção qualified for Qatar unbeaten, dispatching everyone in their path on South American shores and looking to secure a coveted sixth star above their crest.
Brazil have always set the standard for international excellence. Regardless of your own affiliation, it’s hard not to marvel at the magnificence of Ronaldinho, the deceptively quick feet of Ronaldo — O Fenômeno — incorporating their Joga Bonito style to win five World Cups. However, they could have added a sixth had it not been for one of the strangest capitulations in the history of football. In their first competitive home defeat for 39 years, Brazil were swept aside 7-1 by a German outfit that would go on to be crowned champions in Rio de Janeiro.
Looking back to 2014 it seemed as if everything had fallen into Brazil’s lap. Having captured the Confederations Cup, expectations were high for Luiz Felipe Scolari in his second stint managing the Seleção — Brazil coming in as favourites to win in their own backyard for those that bet on World Cup outcomes. The tournament itself serves as a time capsule for a simpler time. Before Covid, before talks of FIFA’s corruption. A sheer festival of football with a samba baritone functioning ahead of a symposium of entertainment.
Streets were painted from the footsteps of the favelas to the beaches of the Copacabana. Murals were erected, with colours of yellow and green entwining. Player’s faces added vibrancy to salvaged materials, carefully etched onto decaying brickwork — the majority depicting Neymar, the country’s golden boy. All hopes of Brazil’s first World Cup success since 2002 were reliant on the young boy from Mogi das Cruzes with the magical feet.
Barcelona’s prodigy, many thought Neymar would crumble under the weight of his own expectations, but after leading the country to a semi-final, he sustained a back injury that would rule him out of the match against Germany. It was unclear at the time how consequential Juan Zúñiga’s encroachment would be, but the Colombia defender’s knee in Neymar’s back essentially ended all hopes of Brazil hoisting the trophy aloft.
Another casualty was Thiago Silva. Suspended, the Seleção’s commander in chief would also be absent against the Germans. The Paris Saint-Germain captain was a stalwart in the backline, and ensured Brazil were an organised enough outfit. But on that sticky night in Belo Horizonte, Scolari’s side simply couldn’t handle the heat.
It was a rollercoaster of a journey for Brazil to make the final four, whilst their opponents were characteristically efficient. Joachim Löw had assembled a side with the perfect cocktail of experience and proficiency. A line-up littered with Champions League winners and spearheaded by the veteran Miroslav Klose, not many expected them to wilt under the laureate of noise inside a remarkable Estadio Mineirao.
The key theme of the game was certainly emotion — how Brazil were underdone by expressing too much of it, while Germany were ruthlessly brilliant in composing theirs. Within half an hour of Hino Nacional playing, the game was dead and buried. Germany sprung into the lead through Thomas Müller but few inside the ground would have foreseen the onslaught coming.
A combination of Brazil’s non-existent defence and seamless German transitions made the brutality of the goalscoring a sight to behold. Around the world, people were tuning in to witness. Klose broke the record for goals in a World Cup to double his side’s lead before Toni Kroos scored a brace and Sami Khedira combined with a relentless counter-press to create three consecutive turnovers and make it 5-0 in the 29th minute.
Kroos was a cerebral playmaker and having the space of Minas Gerais in front of him, the Bayern Munich man barely broke stride. It was the spontaneity of the German attack that meant almost everyone turned their attention to the game, with the devastation personified by the iconic image of the late Clóvis Fernandes, the Brazil fan clutching onto his replica trophy with a tearful expression on his face. It was over.
“Today was the worst day of my life,” Scolari would say afterwards. “I am responsible for this catastrophic result. I made the choices. I was responsible. We ask for forgiveness. To the people, please excuse us for this negative mistake.”
As the crestfallen Seleção limped out of the tunnel for the second half, it was clear the aim was simply damage limitation. Despite André Schürrle adding a brace of his own, the Chelsea winger was as humble as possible with his celebrations, rocketing the last of the assault into the near post with a sumptuous strike. Oscar did pull back a consolation goal but it was hardly the crescendo to the tournament Brazil fans had anticipated.
The full-time whistle blew and tears flooded the cut-up surface of the Mineirao as Brazil’s guilty culprits, namely David Luiz, Maicon and Dante, who looked extremely out of their depth despite so much previous domestic success, buried their heads in jerseys. Germany would go on to beat fellow South Americans Argentina, denying the legendary Lionel Messi his best chance of World Cup glory, as Scolari was left to ponder how exactly things went so wrong.