The world’s best sports scribes have spent the past few days struggling to put into words what, in layman’s terms at least, can be described only as the mother of all balls-ups.
How Brazil… at home… in the semi-final… with a feverish nation on its side, contrived to play like a Corona League team and ship seven to Germany will forever be debated.
They were all terrible. I mean, we knew Fred was no footballer. But if David Luiz’s agent rang up Dandy Town today and offered them SideShow Bob on a free, the Hornets would be within their rights to reply “Mmmm, well… we’ll call you, okay?”
Luiz had been good throughout the tournament alongside defensive partner Thiago Silva but his skipper’s absence through suspension left Luiz seemingly devoid of any spatial awareness in and around his own penalty box.
He was not the only man AWOL — but it was hapless. A haplessness that PSG have just splashed out £40m for, by the way.
Luiz’s tearful bewilderment at the end of the game will be the enduring image of this fine tournament, whatever happens in Saturday’s final, and that’s unfortunate.
Not for him the macho — if hardly condonable — chest headbutt of Zinedine Zidane, or the disgraceful, yet impressively brazen, handball of Maradona. No, Luiz’s anguish invites the worst kind of emotional response — pity.
But here’s the point: watching Brazil get hammered was a joy, a much-needed reboot. It was the football Gods’ way of reminding everyone that the beautiful game owes no one anything. A Brazil team that was masquerading as a great A Seleção in waiting were exposed. They are, ultimately, rather average.
Shorn of their two best players, Silva and Neymar, the rest possessed neither the nerve or ability to counter a well-drilled and talented Germany side.
In truth, there were clues all along that this crop of samba boys knew in their heart of hearts that they were not quite up to the task. The reliance on the referee in the opening game, the over-the-top tears at beating Chile, the constant high-fiving and hugging that suggested they preferred the communal comfort of each other’s six-packs than actually dealing with the expectation levels on the pitch.
Then there was manager Luis Felipe Scolari, who’s decision to wear a Forza Neymar cap simply reminded everyone of the absence through injury of his one genuinely potential world-class player. If it was a psychological ploy, it bombed. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s the only way to make sense of a day that will go down as the worst in Brazil football’s history. It’s a lesson from the scriptures of all things 4-4-2, tiki-taka, penalty shootouts etc: that even being a Brazilian multi-millionaire with a flash haircut is no guarantee over what happens when you cross the fabled white line. You actually have to perform when it matters and have the strength of character to earn your place in history.
The way Brazil subsided so embarrassingly laid them bare as a team who knew they were out of their depth — and did not have a clue what to do about it.
It seems winning a World Cup is not that easy, after all.