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September 24, 2017

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Brazilians, fans united by grief in the agony of defeat

After years of ups and downs, a superpower has finally come to terms with its decline. Even as it was challenged and caught off guard in the past, the world generally never questioned the New World nation's global superiority, putting it in a league of its own. Its people regarded their nation as the best there has ever been. Yet on one recent summer day, the myth came to the most abrupt end imaginable.

To be precise, the reckoning came in only a little over 29 minutes. The hearts of tens of thousands of Brazilians at the Estadio Mineirao in the city of Belo Horizonte (which means "beautiful horizon") sank a little after their national soccer team conceded a goal to Germany's Thomas Mueller 11 minutes into the semifinal match. Twelve minutes later Germany tore down Brazil's defense and scored again, and again and again and again. Before the match reached its first half hour, the score was 5-0.

By that time, the fans at the stadium in Belo Horizonte already knew that something other than beauty was on the horizon. They — and tens of millions of Brazilians and fans of the men in yellow watching TV broadcast worldwide — knew they were walking into a fresh nightmare that will revisit them year after year, World Cup after World Cup.

The eventual 1-7 defeat is the worst ever suffered by any World Cup host or semifinal contender. It was first time Brazil lost a competitive home match since 1975. The Brazilian team's coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted it was the "the worst defeat in Brazil's history."

To put things in perspective, Brazil losing to Germany 1-7 is like the New York Yankees losing to the Boston Red Socks 1-30, the Miami Heat losing to the Dallas Mavericks 20-100 in a must-win at the post-season. It was not a rout, it was a slaughter.

Having won the most World Cup titles in history (5), Brazil has been seen as the king of soccer for generations. For a long time, the Brazilians (and fans of the team) have believed that victory in soccer is not only to be expected, but that their team should win with beauty and flair. Giving up the flamboyantly aggressive style, enthusiastically called "samba soccer," in order to win was once considered a dishonor to the uniqueness of the Selecao (the "selection," a nickname for the national team).

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