Closing out our World Cup series, DAN ROBERTS recalls one of the most shocking results of all time
Superlatives are used at every opportunity when it comes to football reporting. Ordinary players are described as ‘legends’, midseason league matches become ‘must-see clashes’ and any goal that isn’t a tap-in is immediately labelled a ‘goal of the season contender’.
But there was a match that took place on 8 July 2014 that can legitimately be described as one of the most shocking of all time. The fact that the match in question was a World Cup semi-final heightened the occasion but what happened in Belo Horizonte that night will be talked about for years to come.
A year previously Brazil had hosted the Confederations Cup, conceding just one goal on their way to winning the final. Although this tournament isn’t particularly well regarded, it was a good indicator of how the Seleção were preparing for the main event.
It was events off the pitch that had made headlines all over the world, however. Protests, initially against the increased ticket prices on public transport, were brutally put down by Brazilian police. There had been fears that the unrest would be repeated during the 2014 World Cup and although there were more demonstrations – now directed against Brazil’s corrupt ruling class – the country had shown that they were largely still behind the national team.
Brazil had topped their group before beating Chile on penalties and then dispatching a very good Colombian side in the quarter-finals. But victory had come at a cost with captain Thiago Silva suspended for the semi-final after collecting a second yellow card and the talismanic Neymar stretchered off in the 88th minute – a fractured vertebra ending his World Cup.
The Brazilian crowds had intensified their love of the national side as the tournament had gone on with the national anthem becoming a collective adrenaline rush for players and fans alike. The atmosphere before the semi-final seemed even more charged with coaches and players wearing caps emblazoned with the words ‘Força Neymar’ (Be Strong Neymar) and David Luiz and Júlio César holding up the player’s number 10 shirt as the anthem was played.
Maybe Brazil had been too carried away by this tide of emotion but what happened over the next half hour shook the entire country to its core. Thomas Müller opened the scoring in the 11th minute as the Brazilian defence were deftly cut apart. But then – over the next 18 minutes – the South Americans were humiliated to a level never seen in world football before.
By the 29th minute, Germany were leading 5-0 against the host country in the semi-final of a World Cup. Four of those goals had come in a frenetic six-minute period before the half-hour mark. Miroslav Klose had broken the World Cup goal scoring record but as Toni Kroos added two more before Sami Khedira added a fifth, there were anguished faces in the stands as well as on the sidelines. The ease that Germany were moving through the Brazilian ranks was frankly embarrassing. The famed joga bonito had completely deserted the hosts as Germany ran riot.
It had all happened so quickly that the fans had not even really had time to show their frustration but the half-time whistle brought a crescendo of dissent as Scolari ushered his players off to a team talk that must now have been little more than instructions to a damage limitation exercise. It was revealed later that the German coach and players had decided not to embarrass their Brazilian counterparts and to effectively take it easy in the second half. Even so, substitute André Schürrle added two more with Brazil fans now openly cheering the opposition and applauding the goals. Oscar added the most consolatory of consolation goals in the final minute of the match but when the referee blew for time Brazil had been completely outplayed and outclassed.
The shock was not that Germany had beaten Brazil. There was always a chance that the spirit and enthusiasm that had swept the host nation to the semi-finals may come unstuck against such a talented side. But the manner of the defeat – and the swiftness of its execution – made this an unforgettable occasion in the annals of football history.
Brazil put their ghosts to rest somewhat earlier this year when they defeated Germany in a friendly and under Tite’s reign are looking impressive going into this summer’s tournament. But thanks to six incredible minutes in Belo Horizonte four years ago the aura of invincibility that used to surround the Brazilian national side is no longer there – and their players will always live in fear of a repeat of that fateful night.