2014 World Cup: Germany overwhelms shorthanded Brazil in semifinal, 7-1

It’s been said Brazil has never fully recovered from its greatest sporting tragedy, the 1950 home loss to Uruguay in the World Cup final. Despite proceeding to win a record five global crowns and injecting beauty into the beautiful game, for blessing the sport with legendary players such as Pele, Romario and Ronaldo, Brazil remains haunted by the ghosts of “Maracanazo” — a term capturing the heartbreak of that day before 173,000 spectators at Rio’s Maracana stadium.

After what unfolded Tuesday, a 7-1 loss to Germany in the Cup semifinals, Brazil will have to coin a new idiom to pass through the generations, an expression to capture what it looked and felt like at Estadio Mineirao, what it meant to concede four goals in six minutes of the first half, to suffer one of the most humbling setbacks in World Cup annals, to lose at home for the first time in 12 years and to equal the largest margin of defeat in its eminent history.

While 1950 was pure heartbreak, this was a calamity. Fans were not just sad — some were in tears after the third goal — but confused and angry. Derisive whistles and chants pierced the cool evening.

“We apologize to all Brazilians,” defender David Luiz said.

Before this result, Brazil’s heaviest defeat in a World Cup game was 3-0 to France in the 1998 final. The only other time its national soccer team lost by six goals in any competition was in 1920. It had not conceded seven goals since 1934.

“It is a catastrophic, terrible loss,” said Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided Brazil to its most recent World Cup championship, in 2002.

It was not just Brazil's shortcomings. The Germans were terrific, bolstering their hopes of raising the most prestigious trophy in international sports for the fourth time Sunday at Maracana — regardless of whether Argentina or the Netherlands opposes them. Those teams will face one another in the other semifinal, Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Toni Kroos and substitute Andre Schuerrle scored two goals apiece, and adding to Brazil’s misery, Miroslav Klose passed Brazilian legend Ronaldo for the World Cup career scoring record with his 16th. (Ronaldo, like many Brazilian soccer stars, goes by one name.)

Germany, seeking its first title since 1990, recorded its largest World Cup victory since an 8-0 rout of Saudi Arabia 12 years ago. But this was no first-round pushover; this was soccer royalty, the program that refined the sport through artistry and panache.

As the goals piled up, “we had a hard time believing it,” Kroos said. “We realized the Brazilians were having trouble and we took advantage and scored one goal after another.”

This was supposed to be a galvanizing moment for Brazil, which began the tournament as the favorite before losing superstar attacker Neymar to a fractured vertebra and captain Thiago Silva to a one-game suspension. Despite the setbacks, Brazil was confident it could overcome the Germans.

As such, this city of 2.3 million about 270 miles north of Rio de Janeiro was crackling with excitement leading to the late-day kickoff. Many businesses did not bother opening. Under a bright winter sky, fans walked about a mile along Avenida Antonio Abrahao Caran, forming a river of yellow and green.

A TV helicopter tracked Brazil’s bus leaving the team hotel, beaming live images of a motorcade fit for a presidential visit. Fans chased alongside, as if the bus were the Tour de France leader.

Scolari sported a baseball cap with a “#ForcaNeymar” message of support for his fallen star.

The oval stadium shook with anticipation. Capacity is about 58,000. During the national anthem, “Hino Nacional Brasileiro,” it sounded like 200 million — the population of the country.

Brazil rode the emotion of the moment, but Germany returned fire. The match sizzled with energy and pace, both sides flying end to end.

The Germans went ahead 11 minutes into the match when Thomas Müller slipped behind David Luiz and volleyed an eight-yard shot past goalkeeper Julio Cesar for his fifth goal of the tournament and 10th in two World Cups.

Between the 23rd and 29th minutes, Brazil imploded. Without Thiago Silva, their defensive sentry, the Brazilians looked like a team of schoolboys new to the sport.

Kroos passed to Müller, who crisscrossed with Klose inside the penalty area. Cesar blocked Klose’s initial shot but had no chance to stop the second.

“It was a great shock to them,” German Coach Joachim Loew said, “and you realized they were confused. They did not know what to do.”

Barely a minute had passed when Philipp Lahm crossed from the right side. Müller scuffed on his attempt, but the ball rolled into Kroos’s path for a wicked effort from 17 yards.

A dreadful giveaway by Fernandinho in his own end led to Kroos’s second strike, a 10-yarder. Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil exchanged the ball before Khedira finished without breaking a sweat for a 5-0 lead.

When the halftime whistle sounded, several Brazilian fans rushed toward the edge of the tunnel to curse the players and coaches.

Later, as the margin grew on Schuerrle’s goals, fans mockingly applauded. Oscar’s 90th-minute goal was hardly consolation on an infamous day in Brazilian history.

After the final whistle, Brazil’s players gathered at midfield and applauded the spectators. It was almost a plea for forgiveness. None was offered.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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