In a stadium packed with Brazilians in a World Cup hosted by a Brazil eager to show itself off to the world, the country's national team delivers a shocking defeat, leaving fans stunned and searing a tragic scar on the nation's history.
Somehow, history has repeated itself.
After the 1950 Maracanazo, when Brazil lost to Uruguay during its first time hosting the tournament, it didn't seem like another soccer defeat of that magnitude could be possible. But today, it became a reality as Brazil lost 7-1 to Germany in its worst loss in 94 years. A new national tragedy was born, the Mineirazo, in a defeat made worse by the magnitude of goals and the team's poor performance. It was a culmination of a run that first began with a Brazilian player scoring on his own goal and a nail-biting Round of 16 game during which Brazil only eked out a win in penalties.
Throughout the tournament, Brazilians complained about the quality of some players, particularly striker Fred, who was often compared to a cone. Neymar's injury and losing one of the top players for today's game due to a yellow card hurt, but the team did so poorly that analysts called them amateurs and fans called them an embarrassment. The seleção has to play again on Saturday for third place, but it will not play a single game in Maracanã during this World Cup.
After the game, Brazilian fans were devastated, in shock by the sheer magnitude of the defeat, which some say is worse than in 1950. Even statisticians were surprised; Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver called it "the most shocking result in World Cup history." It's hard to explain the impact of this kind of loss in Brazil. Europeans can relate, perhaps, but there's really no equivalent in the United States. It goes beyond soccer. Some fans take the loss personally, or feel some sense of responsibility.
When Brazil lost in 1950, it left a mark on the Brazilian consciousness and inspired the idea of the "mutt complex," in which Brazilians express self-doubt in the country and a type of inferiority complex in comparison to the rest of the world. After the game, Mauricio Santoro, a Brazilian human rights advocate and an overall Brazil expert, said that the mutt complex is officially reinstated.
A Brazilian on Twitter remarked that attempting any analysis of the game is akin to trying an autopsy on someone who fell from a 30-story building, so I thought I'd look at what the game won't mean.
6. It doesn't mean massive protests will start up again. There were some small protests today and ones throughout the past month against the World Cup, but nothing on the scale of the June 2013 demonstrations. Those massive, popular protests were linked to a complex host of social issues and not Brazil's soccer performance.
5. It doesn't mean Brazilians will lose complete interest in the World Cup. Besides having to play what promises to be a painful match for third place on Saturday, the tournament hosts are, after all, lovers of the beautiful game. Plus, they will be avidly rooting against Argentina. The only thing that could make this loss worse is if Argentina wins in Brazil.
4. It doesn't mean Brazilians will be unable to shift their focus to other issues after the Cup. Some of the comments I saw were for Brazilians to instead put their energy into moving the country ahead and to think about the issues raised during last year's protests, like health and education. "We should have built hospitals instead," fans joked on Twitter after the game. The faster this shift in focus happens, the better, to show how the country is changing its priorities.
3. It shouldn't overshadow Brazil's success as the host. The tournament has largely gone smoothly, in spire of predictions to the contrary. With the exception with some outbursts of violence in a few cities following the loss, overall the games have been a success.
2. This has nothing to do with the economy. There may be some analyses in the near future about how Brazil's World Cup disappointment echoes its economic disappointments. Productivity has definitely gone down during the tournament, and the games can have a short-term impact on the markets, but the team's performance won't have a long-term economic impact. (The cost of the hosting games, on the other hand, might.)
1. It's unlikely it will have an impact on the presidential election. Despite a lot of chatter and rumors that the World Cup could make or break Dilma's chances at reelection, past elections have shown that there's no definitive correlation between Brazil's World Cup performance and presidential votes. A recent UBS study confirmed there's no relationship between the two, and could only have a real impact if the games took place up to two weeks before the election.
Image: The site of the country's new big sporting tragedy, the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. Photo: Evaraldo Vilela.
Updated July 9 with short doc from Folha de SP.