2014 World Cup: Being Host Nation Could Be A Double-Edged Sword
“We tried to do what we could, we did what we thought was our best and we lost to a great team who ended the match with four goals scored in extraordinary manner. I’d ask the people to excuse us for this mistake. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to the final. This is a loss. A catastrophic, terrible loss. The worst loss by a Brazilian national team ever, yes. But we have to learn to deal with that. Who is responsible? Who is responsible for picking the team? I am. It’s me. So the catastrophic result can be shared by the whole group, and my players will tell you we will share our responsibilities, but who decided the tactics? I did. So the person responsible is me. I did what I thought was best. This was only our third defeat in 28 matches, even if it was a terrible defeat. Naturally, if I were to think of my life as a player, as a coach, as a teacher, this was the worst day of my life. But life goes on.”
-Luiz Felipe Scolari,
coach of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup team
It was to be another proving point for Brazil. They made it to the semifinals. It was a long three weeks. The team known as the Seleciao had moments of glory like their opening 3-1 win over Croatia and 4-1 win over Cameroon. However they have shown their vulnerability with a 0-0 draw against Mexico and a 1-1 draw against Chile where they advanced by winning the penalty kicks. Their previous game, the quarterfinal against Colombia, was another win for them: 2-1.
However despite the win, there was concern as Thiago Silva, their top defender, was given a yellow card penalty which would prevent him from playing in the semifinal. Not to mention the sudden back injury to Neymar Jr. There was talk. Will Brazil win? Can they compensate from their sudden losses? There were many that were doubtful and predicted the win to go to Germany. There were some that were optimistic like Ronaldo and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. They still felt like Brazil had very good chances.
So the stage was set. Brazil was to play their semifinal against Germany at the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. Just ten days earlier, they played Chile in their Round of 16 match in that same stadium. Just five days earlier, an underpass in Belo Horizonte specially created as part of a highway upgrade for the World Cup collapsed killing two and injuring 23.
The game began as expected with the two teams being led onto the field by Brazilian schoolchildren. The national anthems were played with the whole stadium engulfed in singing Hino Nacional Brasileiro. The team also gave a special tribute to Neymar who was still being treated for his fractured vertebrae.
Then the kickoff happened. Play went as it normally did with Brazil having much control of the ball with the occasional steal from Germany. Then in the 11th minute, Germany had a chance to score via a corner kick from Toni Kroos. Thomas Mueller gave a header into the Brazilian net. Germany drew first blood 1-0. The opposing team drawing first was something Brazil was familiar with and has won matches before with that start. Then in the 23rd minute, and attempt at a goal was sent by Germany and Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar tried to stop it, only to have it bounce off him and be in a clear path for Miroslav Klose to score the second goal of the match and a World Cup record 16th goal of his career. Ironically the old record holder Ronaldo was in the stand watching.
It was obvious something was wrong and the crowd was already silent but what would soon come would be like a nightmare to the Brazilian’s eyes. Just as things were about to settle again, the ball was immediately stolen by Germany and Toni Kroos scored another goal one minute after Klose. Then two minutes later, another goal from Kroos! And both from one-touch shots. Everyone from Germans to broken-hearted Brazilians were stunned. Then just as the game looked like it would settle down soon, along came Sami Khedira in the 29th minute and scored goal #5. No doubt it was all over by then. It would take a major miracle for Brazil to win this game. Fifteen minutes would pass with the ball being shifted possession to Brazil and then to Germany. You could tell by the look on their face and the errors the Brazilians were causing that the team was panicking. Then the half-time whistle blew. It was obvious Brazil was going to lose. Heartbroken fans were already leaving the stadium.
The first minute of the second half came with substitutions for both teams. Germany only substituted one player but Brazil substituted two: Hulk and Fernandinho for Paulinho and Ramires. Later on Brazil, obviously desperate to redeem itself, gave many good attacks and attempts on goals but they either missed or were saved by German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. At the 58th minute, Germany substituted Miroslav Klose with Andre Schuerrle. However it was only eleven minutes later when Schuerrle gave a tap-in to the Brazilian net to make the score 6-0. Several more desperate attempts to score from Brazil came but to no avail. Brazil even substituted Fred, who many described as giving the worst performance in World Cup history, for Willian at the 70th minute. Fred was given a hostile reaction from the fans as he walked off. Then right at the 79th minute, it was Schuerrle again and he gave a half-volley to beat Julio Cesar at the near-post to make it goal #7. And just when you think Germany’s given them enough, Mesut Oezil gives an attempt for goal #8 but his effort goes off wide. Then almost immediately after, Brazilian Oscar scores Brazil’s one and only goal at the 90th minute. But there was no celebrating from Oscar and very little cheer from the crowd. Even a television announcer described it as possibly the least celebrated home team goal in World Cup history.
Then Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez blew the final whistle. The score was official: Brazil 1 – Germany 7. Germany was going to the final for the Cup for a record-setting eighth time. Brazil however was just dazed and confused with what happened. Some were in tears. Some just lay on the field in humiliation and some even prayed. Some Brazilian fans booed the Brazilian team and gave them the thumbs down. Germany celebrated but kept its celebration modest. Then many German players went to the distraught players, consoled them and gave them comfort since they knew it was a moment of heartbreak for the Brazilians. That was probably the best display of sportsmanship at this World Cup and it was great to see since this World Cup had been plagued with a lot of unsportsmanlike behavior.
That game was unbelievable to say the least. Usually for a 7-1 result to happen at a World Cup game, it would be in a Group Stage match and usually between a strong team and lesser team. But 7-1 in a semifinal? And between the two countries with the biggest World Cup legacies? Even when I saw it at the Vancouver Alpen Club, I went from cheering the first goal to doubting what I saw after the second goal to having complete disbelief goal after goal. I’m sure there were lots of other Germany fans that were stunned silent like me.
No doubt this loss hit Brazil hard. This loss was also a big hit to the Brazilian National Team. No question this match resulted in some embarrassing statistics:
- Brazil’s biggest loss ever in a World Cup match.
- Biggest loss of any World Cup host nation.
- Most lopsided semifinal in World Cup history.
- Tied with a 6-0 defeat to Uruguay in 1920 for the biggest defeat of the Brazilian national team.
- Brazilian national team’s first loss on home soil since 1975.
If there’s one thing that this match shows is that host nations face a pressure unique to other countries at the World Cup. Host nations of the World Cup have been big and small nations. Nations with a minor football legacy and nations that have a huge legacy. Some nations do very well and even win the Cup. However some have choked and some failed to live up to expectations. Below is a list of host nations and their results:
As you can see six host nations have won the Cup. However three have hosted a second time and didn’t win: Italy and Germany both finished 3rd in their second hosting and France lost their quarterfinal 60 years before winning as hosts. South Africa had the misfortune not just to simply lose out in the Group Stage but became the first country in World Cup history to do so. Until then, every host nation advanced past the first round.
There have been a lot of cases where even amongst host nations that didn’t win the Cup, they would have their best ever World Cup result such as Sweden being finalists, Chile finishing 3rd, South Korea finishing 4th and Mexico making the quarterfinals on both occasions. Actually until 1994, those were the only two times Mexico advanced past the Group Stage.
However there have been cases before where host nations failed to live up to par like France in 1938 and Switzerland in 1954. Spain is another example. They were hoping being host in 1982 would break their reputation as being football’s greatest underachievers. Instead it saw them being ousted in the second round of group play.
However there were many times when even in defeat, it would mark a turnaround for the country’s football team. France became a better team after their 1938 humiliation, Brazil won five World Cups after the Maracanazo, Mexico has advanced past the Group Stage every year since hosting the second time in 1986, the U.S.A. has gone from being a joke in the football world to a major contender since 1994, Japan has seen football grow since hosting and Spain became World champions in 2010.
There’s no doubt that Brazil had a lot of pressure going into the game. Heck, there was a lot of pressure on the players even before the 23-man team was decided. It got to the point head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari brought in team psychologist Regina Brandao to assess the psychological profile of 50 players for Scolari to decide the cut. However pressure was so tense during the Round of 16 match against Chile which Brazil won after penalty kicks, sever players cried prior to the shoot-out. Scolari called Brandao in immediately after to try and ease the situation before the quarterfinal against Colombia, in which they won 2-1. Nevertheless the absence of Thiago Silva because of his accumulation of yellow cards was going to affect Brazil’s defense and they knew it. Neymar being hospitalized with a fractured vertebrae during the match was another blow. Nevertheless it appeared things might not hurt Brazil so much as they continued to play consistently without them.
However that was one match and the semifinal was another. The Brazilian team appeared confident at the start but it soon became evident that something was amiss. However it was evident after Germany’s four-goal streak in six minutes that something was direly wrong. Brazil just didn’t look like Brazil anymore. You could tell the sense of panic in the faces of the players and even in some of the blunders. The goal saving by Manuel Neuer made things even more frustrating especially since Brazil delivered some great chances. Overall Brazil was better than Germany in many other statistics: 52% ball possession, 18 shots taken compared to Germany’s 14, two more corner kicks and three less fouls committed. The shots on target statistic may not look like a big deal–ten for Germany and eight for Brazil– but the final score showed that Brazil definitely had their weaknesses exposed in front of the world and on home turf. Even thinking back to their past games and the glitches they had there, I sometimes think that the loss was a collapse waiting to happen.
You may remember from my blog on 1950 how heartbroken Brazil was to the point some committed suicide. I haven’t heard of any news of suicides yet. Nevertheless reactions have been mixed. There were definitely a lot of people crying. There were also a lot of angry people: some even going as far as calling Brazil ‘losers.’ A lot of negative tweets on Twitter. There was even flag-burning in Sao Paulo and a robbery at a party in Rio de Janeiro. Some even chanted obscenities at President Rousseff during the game. The media is also questioning whether she will be re-elected in the upcoming election this year. As for the media, Brazilian newspapers gave front page titles like The Disgrace Of All Disgraces, The Biggest Shame In History and Historical Humiliation. Just like the 1950 loss has since been called the Maracanazo, this game is starting to be called the Mineirazo. Oh yeah, it’s interesting to note that the German team had to be escorted out of the stadium by police. Also it was worth noting that former Brazilian player Cafu was denied access to the Brazilian dressing room, even though he went there to give words of comfort to the team.
There were however still supporters, both in Brazil and outside. The Brazilian team gave a simple post on their Twitter: “It is the union that is strength. Saturday we have another battle and we have to go on. Pain is all of us. Thank you!” There’s even a hashtag: #EuAindaAcredito Pele gave a well-wish: “We’ll get the sixth title in Russia.” Cafu sent an encouraging tweet: “Viva Brasil! I am very proud to be a Brazilian is not a defeat that will bring us down. Come together!!” Even Germany gave words of support:
“”My nightmares never got so bad… As a supporter, of course, I am deeply sorry because I share the same sorrow of all supporters. But I also know that we are a country that has one very peculiar feature. We rise to the challenge of adversity. Being able to overcome defeat I think is the feature and hallmark of a major national team and of a great country.”
As for Brazil, this will remain a big question of how things go. No doubt the team is hurt and no doubt the nation is broken-hearted. Coach Scolari has accepted the blame for what happened. The players have their own feelings. However it’s not over for Brazil yet. There is still the third-place match against the Netherlands in Brasilia the day before the World Cup match will be played. Brazil could go out there and lose again. Or they could go out there and play for pride. Also I think if the fans truly love the Selecao, they’d gladly cheer them on during the third-place match. Heck, I saw fan passion from fans of Spain during their game against Australia even though they knew Spain was out of it.
As for the status of football in Brazil, I don’t think this match will hurt it. Brazil has a proud legacy of producing some of the finest talents and frequently creating winning teams. I’m sure that boys and girls across Brazil will still dream of playing for the national team and winning the World Cup. A defeat like that should not crush their dreams. As for reactions as devastating as what happened in 1950, we’ll have to wait and see. I just received word from my uncle that 250 people in Brazil were killed in football-related riots. Hopefully nothing tragic happens in the aftermath of this match. Also I look back at how the white uniforms in 1950 were considered bad luck. After this, will holding the World Cup in Brazil be seen as bad luck?
Isn’t it something how Spain’s early ouster inspired me to look at being defending champion more closely. Now it’s Brazil’s big loss to Germany that has me looking at the pressures of being the host team. Two unique pressures, both having its own weight and both being make-or-break. No wonder winning the World Cup is such a marathon full of drama.
WIKIPEDIA: Brazil vs. Germany (2014 FIFA World Cup). Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_vs_Germany_%282014_FIFA_World_Cup%29>