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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s World Cup nightmare did not come in the form of a mass street protest, nor a stadium disaster. It came where it was least expected, on the soccer field in Belo Horizonte, as Germany destroyed the host nation, 7-1, to reach the tournament final.
Desolation, disappointment and disbelief swept the country as the national team crashed out of the tournament and Brazil’s dreams of winning a sixth World Cup died.
“Historic shame,” read the headline on the Web site of the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. “German massacre. Brazil’s biggest shame in Cup history, in the history of Brazilian football,” Bob Fernandes, a columnist and radio and TV commentator, wrote on the Terra Web site.
“People will get angry. Brazilians don’t like to lose. It’s a cultural thing,” said Nina Maia, 17, who watched a broadcast of the game on a big screen on Copacabana beach in rainy Rio de Janeiro. “We get very nervous and anxious. It is a lot of things. It is tradition,” she added.
The cries of desperation and roars of anger among the vast crowd on Copacabana were audible from streets away. “Brazil is dead!” cried Christian Pineiro, a 34-year-old Argentine who lives in San Francisco, as Germany scored its fifth goal less than 30 minutes into the game. “I feel really bad. This is an embarrassment.”
When Germany began its scoring barrage, scuffles broke out on the beach. From across the street, the crack of firecrackers and a hiss of a tear gas grenade could be heard. On the beach, beverage vendor Luiz Paulo, 60, began packing up his stall. “There was a fight. The police went in hitting,” he said. “Fighting and tumult.”
But huge numbers of police and municipal and national guardsmen lining Copacabana’s Atlântica Avenue — not to mention the quick and devastating nature of the defeat — dissipated the tension. Police infiltrated the crowd on the beach and anger turned to disappointment. With the score at 5-0 Germany at halftime, fans stood around in a state of shock.
“Lamentable,” said Roseane Londres, 22. “I did not expect this,” said her friend Livia Brito, 26. Their friend Jamson Lemos, 30, said simply that the Germans had a better team.
A group of Zimbabwean fans stood in plastic raincoats in the light rain. “This is disastrous. It is a disaster in capital letters,” said one of them, who identified himself as Mademdo DC, 49. “I’m now changing my flight to go home on the 13th. I am really sorry for the Brazilians.”
On social networks, as the German goals flew in, gallows humor set in. “End of love. This is hell,” read one Facebook comment. “Is it basketball?” read another. “Not even a Volkswagen scores five goals in 25 minutes,” read another.
Politics entered the fray: One comment suggested that a check written by President Dilma Rousseff must have bounced. Another showed a photo of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue lifting off like a rocket, along with a joke that Rousseff was hidden inside, escaping the country.
Hopes for a Brazilian victory in this World Cup had been high, even after the team’s star attacker Neymar was injured in the game against Colombia and had to withdraw from the tournament. The noise was deafening as thousands of fans filed out of Copacabana’s Cardeal Acroverde metro station before the game and jeered two passing Argentine fans.
Nobody expected such a dramatic and overwhelming defeat. Globo’s G1 Web site ran photos of tearful fans under the headline: “The faces of disappointment – country breaks down in tears with the rout.” Rousseff tweeted: “Like all Brazilians, I’m very, very sad with the defeat.” At the Mineirão stadium in Belo Horizonte, security was reinforced around German cheering sections as a precautionary measure.
But there were few initial signs of violence.
At Copacabana beach, there were bitter cheers for Brazil’s only goal in the second half. Aside from that, the only noise was the buzz of chatter, the occasional air horn and the cries of vendors selling caipirinha cocktails and beer for fans to drown their sorrows.
As the game ended, the rain began to pour down on Rio. Giulia Carvalho, 22, bitterly noted the cost of hosting the event: $11.6 billion on stadiums, infrastructure, telecommunications and security, according to the Brazilian government. Eight people died in stadium construction accidents, and two more were killed last week in the collapse of a bridge being built as part of World Cup transportation project in Belo Horizonte.
“I believed in a Brazilian Cup. Now it has gone. I think people will be revolted because of everything that was invested in this Cup. We didn’t have money to invest.”
Carvalho smiled wanly. “It was worth it to meet other people [from other countries]. But now I will root for Holland. It will not be Argentina! No way.”
Steven Goff, in Belo Horizonte, contributed to this report.
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