• Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Third Eye

Death of the aura

Atique Anam

It's a predicament that football writers over the world, with their allegiances well-documented, find themselves in after what happened in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. The ones who worship the Selecao will not want to hear a word about that game, much less write anything about it. Others, who were Germany fans or were wearing the German cloak for whatever allegiance, will not want their euphoria to be broken. So the difficult work of trying, with some semblance of sanity, to put into words the most insane of results falls upon those who are less ruffled by the result, albeit similarly shocked.
The enormity of the result is such that no eulogy for the Germans will be enough, given the limited space available to this article. Hence, let us not waste space on Die Mannschaft or the record-breaking Miroslav Klosa (he hardly ever gets the amount of credit he deserves), but rather get straight to Brazil's performance, or the lack of it.
A few statistics may help put the scoreline into perspective. The 7-1 defeat was the heaviest Brazil have ever conceded in a football match since 1920. This defeat exceeds, by three goals, the biggest margin of defeat any host nation -- and there has been hosts like South Africa, Japan/Korea, Chile, Switzerland and USA in the past -- has ever suffered in a World Cup match. This is the first time that Brazil have lost a competitive match at home in 39 years.
Yet no statistic seems enough to put such a scoreline into perspective, especially when the team at the receiving end is Brazil -- the five-time world champions, the most represented nation in the World Cup and arguably the most popular football team around the world.
So what went wrong for the Selecao on Tuesday? Probably everything. When your chief centre-back spends almost the 90 minutes at the opposite end of the pitch, a debacle is inevitable. But one should not really blame David Luiz for that crisis of identity; after all he has scored more goals in the tournament than his two centre-forwards (Fred and Joe) combined. That speaks volumes about the dearth of goalscoring and, in general, attacking options available to Brazil. The midfielders (Gustavo, Paulinho and Fernandinho) were as pedestrian as ever and if it was not for the brilliant performances from Neymar and Thiago Silva up to the quarterfinal, the cracks in Brazil's armoury would have been exposed much earlier. It would be fair to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that right from the beginning of the tournament this Brazil side never looked like a champion side. They limped to the semifinals and the few bright spots were bright enough to temporarily obscure the much more glaring mediocrity.  
Luiz Felipe Scolari has been here before, but the last time – in 2002 – the outcome was vastly different. When Brazil won in Japan and South Korea they had magical players like Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho along with workmen like Cafu, Gilberto Silva and Lucio to strike fear in the opponents' hearts. Scolari prefers the nastier streak, and in 2002 he had artisans as well as artists in his dugout; this time he did not have much of either. His first innings had enhanced Brazil's aura; in his second he oversaw its painful death.
64 years ago, Maracanazo had dealt a crushing blow on the footballing psyche of Brazil. The whole nation went through a period of soul-searching and flux -- ostracising goalkeeper Maocyr Barbosa from the footballing community, the change of kits from white to yellow and blue and a shift towards the entertaining style of football from a more physical one. 64 years later, Brazil have been dealt yet another crushing blow, only this time it is a far more humiliating one, with all the world watching. Will Brazil ever be the same again?

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2014

Last modified: 10:40 pm Wednesday, July 09, 2014

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