Almost three years after the fact, that score line still amazes me. And if you ask most people, their defining memory of the 2014 FIFA World Cup was not the final, but the semifinal.
You couldn’t have asked for a better matchup. You had Brazil, a perpetual soccer powerhouse, chasing their sixth World Cup at home, and Germany looking for the elusive vierte stern (fourth star) that had eluded them since 1990.
Both teams had different routes to the last four. While Brazil had some dominant moments during their opening matches, I was still somewhat wary of the hype. Two matches stuck out in particular. In the group stages, Mexico hung toe-to-toe with them in a 0-0 draw.
Then in the Round of 16 they escaped via a penalty shootout against Chile. Watching the Chile match in a bar in Rio, I remembered how visibly emotional both the fans and players were throughout the shootout, to the point where Brazil’s captain, Thiago Silva, said he was not fit to take a penalty. Amidst the crazy post-match celebrations, I got the feeling that the Brazilian team was riding a wave of emotion from their home fans and truly benefitting from playing the World Cup in their own backyard.
But would the raw emotion of a nation be enough to take on their technically masterful opponents?
On the other side of the bracket, Germany had convincingly won the Group of Death and after progressing through a nervy extra time win against Algeria, they causally saw off France in the quarterfinals, making their third consecutive appearance in the last four of the World Cup. Both the German team and fans were very measured as the tournament progressed, cautiously optimistic, treating each opponent with respect and not looking past the match in front of them.
Living in Germany at the time, and having just returned from Brazil, gave me an interesting perspective on this match. While I was excited for my second home and wanted Germany to win, I knew how much Brazil had rallied around their national team and what a win would mean to everyone in the country. Germany would face a cauldron of noise and yellow shirts for 90 minutes, a true battle of the titans for a spot to play in the World Cup final. This sure felt like the main event.
Watching from my local pub in Stuttgart, the first thing that caught my eye during the national anthem, was Brazil’s stand-in captain David Luiz and goalie Julio Cesar hoisting the injured Neymar’s jersey during the Brazilian national anthem as if he were a martyr. As they had done throughout the tournament, the team and fans sang the second verse of the anthem a cappella, which sounds akin to a war chant. I sat back with friends and got ready for what seemed to be a great game.
I never thought the match would be over like a Domino’s pizza order—in 30 minutes or less.
In an 18-minute stretch, Germany coolly put the Brazilians to the sword. Thomas Müller scored after slack defending from a corner kick, Miroslav Klose from a rebound, and a quick fire double from Toni Kroös had the Germans up 4-0 after just 22 minutes.
I distinctly remember still celebrating the third with my friends, looking at the TV, seeing the fourth go in and continuing to celebrate, but this time in shock. The cameras first went to the players, who looked completely shell-shocked and stunned. They knew what was happening but it seemed there was nothing they could do to stop it.
The cameras then shifted to the fans, showing both the teary-eyed and saddened faces of Brazilians.
Sami Khedira made it 5-0 after 29 minutes, and the match was effectively over. Germany added two more in the second half, via an Andre Schürrle brace, which the Brazilians in the stadium applauded. Brazil tallied one lousy consolation goal, but clearly the damage was done.
While I celebrated in the streets of Stuttgart, I did spare a thought for everyone in the country where I had just spent a month. They suffered an equally heartbreaking defeat in the 1950 FIFA World Cup final in Rio to Uruguay. That loss, the Maracanazo, still hurts for an older generation of Brazilians. Now the current generation of Brazilians will never forget the Minieriãzo.
The post-match aftermath was not kind for Brazil. Twitter buzzed with relentless memes. Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari called this day “the worst of his life.” Captain David Luiz, who marshaled the Brazilian defense gave a heartbreaking interview post-match where he said “he just wanted to give some happiness to his people.”
The media was not so kind, most notably Brazilian paper O Globo gave every player a 0 out of 10 score for their performance. Looking back, what was so shocking about this match was that a breakdown like this was not supposed to happen in the semifinal of a World Cup. Brazil’s collapse was bad, but the way Germany capitalized on it was equally as impressive. Germany’s coach, Joachim Löw, put it best: “We were extremely cool and realized they were cracking up, and we took advantage of that.”
The way this match unfolded was so unprecedented that I couldn’t even think of a comparable collapse in sports, much less soccer.
Germany went on to win the World Cup, and Brazil’s humiliation was compounded with another defeat in the third place game, this time to the Netherlands 3-0. But by then, nothing really seemed to matter.
Brazil and Germany took different paths after the tournament too. While the Germans fell to France in the semifinals of Euro 2016, they have ushered in their next generation of talent. A younger German side recently won the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, defeating the South American champions Chile in the final. The Brazilians continued their bad stretch immediately after the World Cup, losing on penalties to Paraguay in the 2015 Copa America and suffering a humiliating group stage exit in the Copa America Centenario the following year.
After a change in manager, Brazil has finally started to turn it around. They’ve qualified for the World Cup with four matches to spare, in perhaps the toughest region to qualify.
These two countries will be favorites in Russia next June and it’s quite possible we might see them in another matchup in the knockout rounds. Either way, the only way the Brazilians will be able to wipe away the memory of the Minierazo is to raise the World Cup in 2018.