The final whistle had long since sounded on Brazil’s historic 7-1 defeat by Germany in Tuesday’s semi-final in Belo Horizonte, and still hundreds of Mannschaft fans remained in the stands at the Estadio Mineirao, singing noisily away. Every so often, groups of Germany players emerged from the dressing room and walked across the pitch towards them, intent on orchestrating the mass sing-along.
Inside, the freshly showered Thomas Muller, the scorer of the opening goal of the night, munched contentedly on a plate of pasta in tomato sauce, patiently waiting to give his fourth interview of the night.
Meanwhile, all was quiet over in the Brazilian dressing room, from which not a single player had yet emerged. Though Luiz Felipe Scolari had returned from giving his post-match press conference, it seemed that no one else was yet prepared to come out and give their thoughts on what had been a truly chastening evening.
Having battled their way into the semi-finals, Brazil arguably went into the match under less pressure from the fans than they had been since the start of the tournament. With the side missing their suspended captain Thiago Silva and their injured star Neymar, there was little question of the nation demanding victory – as had been the case against Chile and Colombia – against a side with as much pedigree and power as Germany.
What pressure there was came from within the team itself, and it surfaced at an early stage as the tournament hosts self-combusted in spectacular fashion.
I was powerless to do anything, when the crash happened. When we let those goals in like that, I knew it was all over.
There are various ways of looking at A Seleção’s elimination, for this was the heaviest defeat they have ever suffered, not to mention the most one-sided FIFA World Cup™ semi-final of all time, and the end of their hopes of becoming world champions for a sixth time, for another four years at least.
It was all these things and more, and it all essentially boiled down to a six-minute period that began in the 23rd minute of the match and ended in the 29th, an ill-fated sequence of events that will very likely go down as the most tragic 360 seconds in the history of the Brazilian national team.
In the time that elapsed between Miroslav Klose scoring Germany’s second of the evening and Sami Khedira their fifth, Joachim Low’s side showcased the poise and skill that made them one of the favourites for the title right from the start of the competition. Yet they were unquestionably aided in their task by a desperate Brazil side that simply collapsed from within.
Faced with the seemingly impossible task of explaining the disaster, the Brazilians struggled to find the words to describe that fateful passage of play. “I was powerless to do anything, when the crash happened,” admitted Scolari, in reference to those six minutes, which he also described as an "upset". “When we let those goals in like that, I knew it was all over.”
Time for truth
When his players tried to offer up their explanations, there was an understandably wide range of views, with some praising Germany for the quality of play, others describing the match as a complete one-off, and others attempting to express their feelings during that catastrophic six-minute spell.
Notable by their almost complete absence were tears, though there were plenty of glazed eyes around, as if to suggest the players had been numbed rather than hurt by the whole experience.
“It’s hard to come up with an explanation,” Willian told FIFA, his every utterance being followed by a deep sigh. “Nobody expected that to happen in such a short space of time, for us to concede four goals. Everything came off for them and everything went wrong for us. We’re still trying to come to terms with it, though sometimes there are things that happen in football that have no explanation.”
Given how hard it was for Scolari’s men to enunciate their thoughts fully two hours after the game, one can only imagine what must have been going through their heads when the debacle was unfolding. It is one thing to hear defeat confirmed by the sound of the final whistle, and quite another to know that defeat is a cast-iron certainty with an hour of play still remaining.
“A loss is always a loss, but to lose like this hurts a lot more,” said David Luiz, his eyes still spinning, in conversation with FIFA. Reflecting not so much on the scoreline as the manner in which it came about, the centre-half was clearly suffering: “That all that should happen in six minutes is very hard to take, especially when you have to keep on fighting to the end, knowing that it’s a virtually impossible task. I was thinking to myself: ‘If this is a bad dream, then I want it to end now’.”
The bad dream was all very real for Luiz and Brazil, however, and though it lasted only a matter of moments, it was real enough to crush the ambitions the hosts had been entertaining of finally becoming world champions on home soil, 64 years after their first attempt.
And as of yet, no one has been able to come up with an explanation as to how or why those hopes should have evaporated in six short minutes.