The inquest into the blackest day in Brazil’s football history has begun in earnest after the threadbare quality of the hosts’ team was exposed in the harshest of manners by Germany.
A country which has always viewed success on the pitch as a divine right woke up after a living nightmare of the likes that Brazil has not experienced for 64 years.
The ‘Maracanazo’, when Brazil lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the final of the first World Cup on their soil was viewed as a national disaster, but that was nothing in comparison to the 7-1 humiliation – Brazil’s biggest defeat ever – inflicted by Germany in this World Cup’s semi-final in Belo Horizonte.
Brazil’s newspapers declared an unofficial day of national mourning:
Jogo simply had a black front page with the words: “The Worst Humiliation in History.”
The hugely influential O Globo gave every single Brazilian player and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari zero out of 10 in its ratings.
For many observers, the semi-final simply exposed the shortcomings in the Brazilian squad that many had suspected but which had been covered up by home advantage, automatic qualification for the World Cup, cynical and negative tactics towards opponents, and over-reliance on one single player: Neymar.
In the fall-out from the ‘Mineirazo’, as this football catastrophe has already been named, Scolari has remained adamant that this was little more than a calamitous blip and that the core of this squad will still be there in the 2018 World Cup.
Asked if Brazilian football will have to reinvent itself, Scolari replied almost scornfully, saying: “Why? Because we lost one match? Thirteen or 14 of those players out there will be at the 2018 World Cup.
“They’re working, developing still. I think you’ll see at least that many there in 2018.
“This is a catastrophic, terrible loss The worst loss by a Brazilian national team ever, yes. But we have to learn to deal with that.”
The suspicion is that Scolari was covering up for serious shortcomings in his squad. It may be a country that has players of its nationality spread across the length and breadth of European club football, but the creme de la creme is semi-skimmed.
Neymar’s crushing injury served to lift the lid on the paucity of quality in the Brazil squad: having the faintly-pathetic figure of Fred as your main striker is hardly going to strike fear into the hearts of your rivals, especially when his replacement, Jo, is even less threatening. Both, notably, play club football in the relative backwaters of the Brazilian league.
The man chosen to replace Neymar, Bernard, also plays in the Brazilian league and his only strength appeared to be that he can run fast. Oscar apart, the rest of the Brazilian forwards and midfield may be top club players – such as Fernandinho, Willian, Luiz Gustavo – but they are workhorses rather than wizards.
Few of them could hold a candle to previous Brazil sides – and not just those that won World Cups: think back to the 1982 side of Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Eder.
Brazil were extremely lucky against Colombia in the quarter-finals, and had the rub of the green from the referees in other games: indeed, many regarded Belo Horizonte as a long-overdue come-uppance.
As for Scolari,he has insisted his future will not be decided until after the tournament.
Scolari has to lift his players for the third-place play-off at the weekend.
And while he stressed only after that game would his destiny be decided it appears inconceivable the 65-year-old coach who oversaw his country’s biggest defeat since their 1920 6-0 loss to Uruguay will remain in his post.
“We had a disaster in six minutes but it happened. Let’s work for Saturday’s game,” Scolari, referring to Germany’s four goals in a manic first-half spell, told a press conference.
“If I could explain what happened in those six minutes I would answer but I do not know.
“The crash was also the coaching staff, the fans, it was overall, no one understood, and the team from Germany, which is good, took the opportunity.
“I cannot explain, I will not justify. An error occurred and this error was fatal.
“We can lose by one or two but we lost in a way that we had never done before in the history of Brazilian football.
“But the tournament was not all bad. We had a bad defeat.
“History will have to record that Brazil, for the first time since 2002, reached the semi-finals.”