Brazil’s World Cup collapse was as monumental as it was unforeseen.
At the final whistle in Belo Horizonte, even the Germany players were astonished as to the magnitude of the 7-1 scoreline.
“Of course, you couldn’t expect that,” remarked Thomas Mueller to ZDF, via Goal. “That shows how different games can be. Brazil played differently than defensive teams and we took advantage of this in an extraordinary way. It was just crazy.”
As it happened, it was Brazil who burst out of the gate.
Led by a clearly inspired David Luiz—captain for a day in place of the suspended Thiago Silva—the host nation attacked the opposition goal from the outset, although its dominance in possession and territory failed to create a single meaningful opportunity.
Crosses from Maicon were misplaced; through balls from Marcelo were easily intercepted. Brazil may be the mythical home of technical football, but on this day the Selecao’s physical abilities let them down time and again.
Even Bernard, for whom Belo Horizonte is an old stomping ground, disappointed with the scarcity and futility of his touches, and on the rare occasion that lone striker Fred had a sniff of the ball, he tended to fumble awkwardly and lose it immediately.
Tactically, Brazil were as naive as they were technically inferior.
Instead of absorbing Thomas Mueller’s 11th-minute goal from a poorly defended corner, they continued to burst forward in numbers, with David Luiz rushing downfield far too recklessly and far too often. Germany’s pressing game, which to that point had retracted to deal with Brazil’s bright start, suddenly moved high up the pitch and, in the space of three minutes, created the turnovers that would end the match as a contest.
Fernandinho was the primary culprit, as it was his pair of giveaways that allowed Miroslav Klose and Toni Kroos to score. Brazil’s primary tactic seemed to be based on emotion, and when that let them down, it was always going to get messy.
This, don’t forget, was a team that expended tears after a successful penalty shootout against Chile, that held up Neymar as a cause celebre following the quarter-finals, that seemed to put as much passion into its anthem-singing as effort on the pitch.
It was never sustainable, and on Tuesday the well of emotion simply dried up.
Brazil, as much as anything else, were caught out for being mentally weak after Mueller’s goal, and without the intangibles that had taken them into the semi-final round of their home World Cup, they looked a very average bunch of players, many of whom seemed to have forgotten how to play football at all.
“After the first (Germany) goal we just had a blackout, nobody expected it,” admitted goalkeeper Julio Cesar, as per the BBC. “Honestly, it’s hard to explain. You can’t explain the inexplicable.”
Actually, you can in this instance, because what Brazil had been counting on was the inspiration and bravado that had seen them win the Confederations Cup and contend for World Cup honours this month.
The thing is, emotion—like money—is a disposable quantity, and when it’s gone, all you’ve got is the very ordinary self you were in the first place.