More than a day later and the overpowering sense is still one of disbelief.
Marcelo and Maicon looked lost on the flanks, David Luiz’s inability to concentrate was so bad it was almost laughable, Dante was a boy against men, and midfielder Fernandinho, the worst of the lot, put in one of the most inept displays I’ve ever seen from a Brazil player (and I saw Rafael Scheidt).
But I am not a coach and as a long-time resident of Brazil I see the psychological and social reasons for this catastrophic defeat more clearly than I see the football ones.
One of the explanations for this loss is that Brazil is a country where emotion always trumps reason and the already disastrous defeat seems worse than it is because Brazil’s manager, and as a consequence many of the fans, failed to show, or even to understand, that humility is a key factor not just in sport but in life.
Brazil were already under huge pressure to win this game but they turned up with their minds elsewhere, worrying about Neymar.
That is understandable for fans, who felt the loss of their best player. But it’s unacceptable for a team of multi-millionaire footballers who have all excelled in their own right.
All of the players and even the 60-something manager, entered the stadium wearing baseball caps with the hashtag #ForçaNeymar, or #StrengthNeymar.
Captain for the day David Luiz held up Neymar’s No. 10 shirt as the teams lined up for the national anthem. It was an admirable gesture but an infantile one just moments before the biggest game of his life.
While the Germans were concentrated on the task at hand, the Brazilians were fretting over their friend and of what might have been. Their minds were elsewhere. They lacked focus. (As Dante admits in this piece.)
Any hammering at home is disastrous but this one was especially bad because it was so completely and utterly unexpected. Brazil had never lost seven goals in 84 years of the World Cup.
And yet defeat happens. Only clowns espouse that truculent line so beloved of American coaches (and Felipão) that second place is the first loser. We all lose every day, at work, in love, in traffic, in the race to get to the front of the supermarket queue. We lose, therefore we are.
Many of Brazil’s fans, egged on by Felipão, who has for more than a year been repeating that “We will win the World Cup, there is no other option” never wanted to consider the idea of failure.
(See this astute story on the national trait of promising too much and failing to deliver.)
Brazilians are eternal optimists and they believe. More worryingly, they believe that if you believe then everything will work out. But that’s not true and faith is often misplaced or blind.
And yet there were good reasons to consider Brazil favourites. They are only team to win the World Cup five times, playing at home, in a continent where no European nation has ever won the trophy.
What Brazil lacked was humility and they paid a price for it. It is harder to humiliate the humble.
A little less arrogance from Felipão and the fans and pundits who still think that Brazil is the world’s dominant football power, who have refused to understand that this is not 1970 or even 1982, who don’t know that the game has moved on and Brazil still produces craques in spite of not because of their clubs and coaches, would have saved a lot of heartache. “We want to win, but there are other good teams in this competition,” would have been a more honest and more humble message than “We win this and we go to heaven or we lose it and we go to hell,” as CBF president Jose Maria Marin said.
Life is rarely about all or nothing, whatever Nike tells us.
(Unfortunately, the delusions continue, with Felipão saying Brazil will bounce back, rather than acknowledging root and branch changes need to be made. Predictably, the people who run the CBF have yet to appear in public.)
The dust will settle and Brazil will examine the reasons for this defeat. I sincerely hope a good look at emotion vs. reason and humility vs. arrogance will be part of the debate.
Confidence is necessary at the highest levels of sport and emotion is a fundamental quality and one of which Brazilians can be proud. But it had no place on the football pitch on Tuesday, and if it did, it should have been tempered with a large dose of modesty.
Brazil may still have lost to an excellent German side. But the loss need not have hurt quite so much.