The 7-1 hangover: How the Brazilian people reacted to the semi-final humiliation

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“At the end of the day, it’s about much more than football,” writes Mariana Siqueira in Curitiba

It was the most tweeted sporting event ever, the worst defeat the Brazilian team ever faced, the biggest semi-final defeat in the history of World Cups. And it sucked. Massively. Especially if you are a Brazilian and were in Brazil to see it and its devastating aftermath in person.

I didn’t really feel the national grief over Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany until I got to work the next day. The building security guard shook his head and muttered something about being ashamed of Brazil as I said good morning to him. When I got to our office I found one of my co-workers crying at her desk, the rest of the room worked in silence. Nobody said anything about the previous night’s game for at least an hour. Yes, Brazil took that blow very, very badly.

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The public’s reaction – men and women of all ages sobbing in the Mineirão stadium and all over the country – which may have seemed excessive to those who insist “it’s just a football match”, can be attributed to a few factors.

Just days before the World Cup kicked off a general feeling of pessimism and anxiety resonated in the country. A study by the Pew institute showed that 61% of Brazilians believed that hosting the Cup would be bad for Brazil. But as soon as the tournament began, this feeling of disillusionment dissipated with the thrilling matches being played along with the compliments by the foreign press and tourists alike for Brazilian people being such welcoming and friendly hosts. Not even our sloppily finished stadiums or unfinished infrastructure constructions were a problem, somehow we had pulled it off. Many companies had half days when Brazil played or dismissed employees making game days feel like Carnaval with drinking and celebrating that could last all night. We began referring to it as the “Copa das Copas” (World Cup of World Cups), and Brazilians were pumped and now had high hopes for the national team.

As Brazil made it past the group stage the confidence in the Brazilian team grew, albeit blindly seeing as the team struggled to win its first game against Croatia, drew with Mexico and beat an already eliminated Cameroon. After Brazil’s heart-stopping game against Chile, we saw how emotionally shaken the team was with captain Thiago Silva dropping to his knees in prayer before the penalties and both David Luiz and Julio Cesar being brought to tears. Psychologists were brought in to help the boys out and a lot of “real men don’t cry”-type sexist comments were thrown around online. After the game, goalkeeper Julio Cesar acquired a hero-like status in the country. Someone on my Facebook timeline posted something along the lines of “f**k hospitals, f**k stadiums, let’s take the money and build a statue of Julio Cesar.”

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David Luiz gained similar hero status after the match against Colombia. Along with his amazing performance during the game, David’s hilarious appearances on Brazilian TV programmes, widely photographed bromance moments with Colombia’s James Rodriguez, and an emotional Nike ad campaign that featured the player’s father describing his son’s passion for football and his country even as a child, made him Brazil’s new favourite person.

All this inflated the country’s sense of hope that the team would pull through in the semi-final against Germany, even without Neymar and Thiago Silva. It’s cool guys, David Luiz is captain now, and he won’t let us down. The media began comparing the current situation to how during the 1962 World Cup, Brazil went on to win its second title even with an injured Pelé sitting out of the final games.

This is why Brazil’s loss to Germany hit Brazilians especially hard. We conceded the first goal in the first ten minutes of the game. Not ideal, but still plenty of time to respond. Then came the four goals in six minutes. It got to a point where we didn’t know if they were replaying previous goals or if it was a new one. It felt like a series of stabs to the country’s national identity. A painful silence followed each of these goals both in the crowded living room where I was watching and in the Fifa Fan Fests in the other Brazilian host cities. According to Gazeta do Povo newspaper, a majority of the nine thousand fans watching the game at the Fifa Fan Fest in Curitiba left at half time.

Natália Nogueira, who is a huge football fan, had expected Brazil to lose to Germany, but never imagined her team would have been massacred like this. “I didn’t know what to think, it didn’t seem like it was really happening. I cried at the end of the first half, I still couldn’t believe it. I also felt sad for the millions of Brazilians that find so much joy in football,” she told me. She described feeling a numbness by the end of the game, a complete state of shock.

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Lawyer Pedro Cabral, another Brazil fan, described the game as “pathetic” and that he felt ridiculously ashamed, especially of having lost this badly at home. “Maybe it’s time we review the way we play. We should be humble enough to admit that we are no longer the best in the world and try to become an organised, disciplined team like Germany. They never have the best players in the world but they are always competitive, disciplined, organised, dedicated, everything that Brazil lacks in football,” he said.

After the game the streets were much quieter than they had been after Brazil’s previous matches. I found a corner of bars where Brazilians had gone to drown their sorrows or had taken on my philosophy: “rir pra não chorar”, which means to laugh to keep yourself from crying. Now with a few beers in them, people started to crack jokes about how maybe we should’ve in fact built hospitals instead of hosting the World Cup, how there was no way that we could’ve competed with the Euros Angela Merkel had paid the German team. Some blamed Neymar’s absence from the game, many blamed Scolari, a few idiots blamed president Dilma.

The truth is that at the end of the day, it’s about much more than football. Many Brazilians looked to the World Cup and a possible victory as an antidote to the anxiety and frustration they’d been feeling with the country’s political, economic and social problems. Football has always been a crucial part of the country’s national identity, and World Cups a moment for patriotism. Our 7-1 elimination by Germany could very well be an even bigger trauma than losing the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay, but I would suggest that Brazilians do what I’m trying to do: forget about that picture of the moustached Brazil fan holding the trophy or David Luiz in tears apologising to the Brazilian public and focus on other things Brazil is great at instead. Like being fantastic World Cup hosts, putting on an amazing party and making great topical tumblrs and memes in record time. Makes me proud to be a Brazilian every day.

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