RIO DE JANEIRO — Catastrophic. Suffering. A Historic Humiliation.
Those were just some of the apocalyptic headlines Brazilian newspapers used online to describe the national soccer team’s stunning 7-1 drubbing by Germany in a World Cup semifinal match Tuesday.
Tears smudged the faces of children painted in Brazil canary and green colors. Brazil coach Felipe Scolari buried his face in his hands. Fans at watch parties across the country wailed in anguish.
In the hours after the shellacking seen by hundreds of millions of TV viewers around the globe, Brazilians struggled to come to grips with the unthinkable: Brazil suffered its worst World Cup loss ever – and it happened on their home turf, with the nation hosting the tournament for the first time in 64 years. Dreams of a sixth championship were shattered.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was like the game was on replay,” said Valeria Mazure, a 67-year-old retired teacher drinking beer in Rio, and sporting Brazil’s colors in a green tunic and yellow scarf. “I’m feeling disappointed, sad, but more than anything I’m feeling embarrassed. It was embarrassing to watch.”
Some fans in the Belo Horizonte stadium for the game exited at halftime, with Germany already leading by a numbing 5-0. Some tore up their tickets and gave the thumbs down to TV cameras.
“Five to zero is so embarrassing, we’re not going to stay any longer,” Ribeiro Franca said. “One to nothing is fine, one-one, two-one, two-two, but five to nothing is shameful for a country that has a tradition of soccer.”
President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing an October election that many think could be made tougher by the soccer team’s poor showing, took to Twitter to try to rally the nation.
“Like many Brazilians, I’m very, very sad because of this defeat,” she tweeted. “I feel bad for all of us – for fans and for our players. But let’s not be broken. Brazil, ‘get up, shake off the dust and come out on top.”’
A widely shared “photo” on Twitter portrayed German President Angela Merkel, arms raised in victory, standing atop the mountain overlooking Rio, replacing the iconic Christ statue.
“Watching the Brazil team play in earlier matches, I thought there was a possibility that Brazil could lose – but I never imagined it could lose so terribly,” said Ricardo Azevedo, a fan in Rio. “I feel an immense sadness, but not only that, I feel annoyed at the blackout that happened on the pitch. We just blacked out.”
In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, thousands gathered to watch the match in the Bohemian neighborhood of Vila Madalena, the streets carpeted with yellow, green and blue – the colors of the Brazilian flag.
Afterward, Samir Kelvin clung to a street pole and loudly cried: “I have nothing left! I am Brazilian and humiliated I want to kill myself!” A woman shouted “What shame, what shame!” as a man nearby banged his head against a bar table.
With Brazil tossed out of its own World Cup in such rough fashion, “you are going to have the most depressed country ever,” fan Pablo Ramoz said.
Brazil spent billions of dollars preparing for the tournament, and the high cost ignited intense anger and protests against the World Cup over the past year. Demonstrators complained so much was being spent when the nation is saddled with woeful public services.
Few thought Brazil’s humiliating loss would spark renewed mass protests, but it is sure to put a severely sour taste back into the mouths of the nation’s fans. Many were already strongly questioning whether it was worth it to hold the event, a bad omen for Rousseff as she looks ahead to the election.
“I hope this can make people wake up and start thinking with their heads and not their emotions and that people translate the anger they are feeling at the ballot boxes,” said Antonio Hipolito, who works at a bookstore in a wealthy part of Rio but lives in a distant, hardscrabble neighborhood.
“Soccer is just an illusion and we need to wake up to reality,” he said.