ZURICH, (Reuters) – This year’s World Cup was supposed to mark the moment Brazilian football emerged from the shadow of the 1950 Maracanazo and stamped its authority on the sport by winning a sixth world title on home soil.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told his team they had an “obligation” to win the tournament and any player who could not handle the pressure should go and work in a bank or “sit in an office and do nothing.”
Scolari, however, failed to prepare his players psychologically for the challenge and the result was that he oversaw the most astonishing collapse the sport has ever witnessed in the final stages of a major competition.
Brazil resembled a team playing a kick about in the park as their defence imploded and conceded four goals in six minutes during the first half of their World Cup semi-final against Germany, leaving them 5-0 behind after half an hour.
It was arguably the most ridiculous display by any team at the tournament since Zaire were thrashed 9-0 by Yugoslavia in a 1974 group match.
Germany went on to beat Brazil 7-1 but it would have been more if their players, who appeared almost embarrassed to celebrate their goals, had not taken their foot off the pedal.
The picture of a young boy crying copiously as the goals rained in summed up an extraordinary afternoon at the Mineirao and will remain etched in the memory for years to come. Critics agreed that no team had ever had to live with similar levels of pressure and expectation since another Brazil side, also playing at home, tried to win the World Cup 64 years ago.
On that occasion, a vastly superior Brazil needed only a draw against Uruguay in the tournament’s decisive match to win the tournament for the first time.
An estimated 200,000 crowd packed into the new Maracana stadium, built as a symbol of “the land of the future”, only to see Brazil lose 2-1 to their tiny neighbours, a result that left an indelible mark on the national psyche.
“Brazilians suffered an inferiority complex and when we lost that match against Uruguay, it reinforced that,” said Brazil’s deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes before the World Cup.