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[By Prof. William Birdthistle:] The Massacre at Malo Horizonte

Andre Schuerrle of Germany scores his team’s seventh goal past Julio Cesar of Brazil during the World Cup semifinal match between Brazil and Germany at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on July 8. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

If you were lucky enough to see today’s German vivisection of Brazil, you will have witnessed perhaps the most famous game of soccer ever played.  Even had Brazil gone on to win this World Cup, those victories and new trophy would soon have faded amidst their cluttered trophy cabinet.  But a loss this massive, this calamitous — at home in front of their bawling compatriots — will scorch football’s record books like a funeral pyre for decades to come.

The slaughter was so devastating, so historic, it may take a poet to capture it.  Perhaps Wordsworth:

Dire was it in that dusk to be alive, But to be Brazilian was truly hell.

Or Shakespeare:

And footballers in Brazil now a-field
Shall think themselves accursed that they were here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles Germans speak
That fought ’gainst them upon Saint Jögi’s day.

Even the historical superlatives can’t convey just how Titanic this disaster is for Brazilian soccer.  The Seleção hadn’t lost a competitive game at home in 39 years.  This defeat was their worst in 94 years.

The loss was a combination of remarkable German finishing and cataclysmic Brazilian defending.

Let’s start with the hosts.  Everyone knew that Brazil was going to miss their two stars, Neymar (out with an injury) and Thiago Silva (suspended for a second yellow card), but most of us assumed the coach would send on two replacements.  Perhaps Silva, whose second yellow card was suspiciously preposterous, had a foreboding that inspired him to intentionally absent himself from this debacle.  Surely all who played in it will be vilified in Brazil for the rest of their careers.

Those who did predict difficulties for a weak Brazilian team assumed that the loss of two of their central players would cause the team to wilt and buckle around the edges.  Instead, we saw an athletic illustration of what happens when a keystone is removed — not erosion but total, spectacular collapse.  The game itself started on a peculiar note, during the national anthems, when not only the Brazilian players and supporters belted out their Hino Nacional, but so too did the miniature array of mascots accompanying the players.  What in adults looks like patriotic fervor, in children looks like totalitarian indoctrination.  And with passions so fevered, one can only imagine the desolation and inquisition that will immediately follow.

The Germans, on the other hand, may have been equally dumbfounded by the result and wishing they could have kept a few of those goals in the cupboard for the final.  After absorbing 10 minutes of opening aggression from Brazil, Germany swashbuckled forward and carved hunks out of the Brazilian carcass.  Their first five goals erupted in an eighteen-minute explosion, with three of those separated by just 179 seconds, all marked by characteristic precision and uncharacteristic unselfishness.  Even in the second half, when the Germans had essentially switched off their Bavarian Motor Werks, they still scored two more goals.  It got so bad the Germans had the good grace not to celebrate later goals with much vigor.

And by the time Brazil did moot a few shots on goal, they learned to their further misery that the Germans also have one of the best goalkeepers in the world.  After a first half of total redundancy, Manuel Neuer produced a flurry of great saves to open the second half.  He then proved his Teutonic bona fides with a stream of invective upon conceding one final, 90th-minute boon to the hosts.

After a grim set of quarterfinals, this tournament has redeemed itself with another brilliant display.  Let’s hope the Dutch and Argentinians can provide something even half as gripping tomorrow.  And let’s proudly recall how the United States lost just one-nil to this German team.



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Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz · July 8, 2014

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