FROM tears and anger to warnings of reprisals at the ballot box, Brazil awoke bruised and battered yesterday after one of the most ignominious defeats in footballing history.
As the fallout began from the 7-1 defeat of the host nation of this summer’s World Cup at the hands of Germany, supporters told of their exasperation at being humiliated on a global stage.
Fans of the Seleção, tipped by many to win the sport’s most coveted trophy on home turf, condemned the lax performance of the players and manager.
The Brazilian press, until yesterday the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the national team, also lashed out at the side, with one publication calling for the immediate resignation of head coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Such was the severity of the defeat at the semi-final, however, the repercussions went far beyond the pitch.
Some ordinary Brazilians said the result meant the tournament would forever be regarded as a national tragedy and offered further proof of the folly of staging it in a country wrenched by social division.
Indeed, the resounding loss sparked fears of further unrest in a country where, last June, more than a million people took to the streets to protest the billions spent to host the event.
In the end, however, there were only a handful of flashpoints. In the Zona Sul area of Rio de Janeiro, around 20 buses were set on fire and a shop was looted. Although there were some scuffles at the scene of the game and in the “fanzone” on Copacabana beach, the streets were mostly calm.
In the aftermath of the game, a “very, very sad” president Dilma Rousseff took to Twitter to express regret at the result, but called on the country to recover. “I’m immensely sorry for all of us, our fans and players,” she wrote. “But let’s not let ourselves give up. Brazil, get up, dust yourself off and bounce back.”
However, the pain of the loss could prove immensely damaging for president Rousseff, who will be seeking a second term in October.
Beth Araujo, a 24-year-old biology student, articulated what many Rousseff critics were thinking. “I hate this match. It’s embarrassing to lose like this,” she said. “The only good thing is I think it will affect president Dilma in the election. But all our politicians are even worse than the team.”
For some in Brazil, the 7-1 scoreline was even harder to take than the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the World Cup final of 1950. That match, staged in the Maracana, was described as “the day Brazil cried”. Its place in the darkest recesses of the national psyche is so assured, that a term, Maracanazo, was coined to give voice to it.
If the reaction of fans is anything to go by, a new phrase may be required to fully do justice to the emotional damage caused by the Germany fixture.
Fernando Hazzan, a 28-year-old who watched the game in Sao Paulo, said: “This is worse than 1950. It’s one thing to lose a game where you suffered and fought hard, and it’s another to be completely humiliated. This game is going down in history.”
Michelle Gomes, a business manager who took in the game at a bar in Rio de Janeiro, agreed: “The memory of this World Cup will always be tarnished. It will be remembered as a tragedy.”
Alan Pattullo, The Scotman’s footballer writer covering the tournament, said the atmosphere in Sao Paulo was subdued yesterday. That was, in part, due to the fact it was a public holiday, but the scale of the loss to Germany did not help matters.
“I went for a quick drink in a bar after the game and people were walking around zombie-like, there wasn’t any anger,” he said. “A barman I spoke to suggested the anger may not emerge until a few days time when the World Cup is over.”
The home media, too, bemoaned not just the loss, but the nature of it. One of the most striking front pages was produced by O Globo, a Rio de Janeiro daily, which said Brazil had endured “the shame of all shames” in a “catastrophic” encounter.
Some in Brazil, though, offered an optimistic outlook. Pele, the former striker regarded by many as the best footballer in the sport’s history, tweeted: “I always said that football is a box of surprises. Nobody in this world expected this result.”