56. Brazil’s Second Broken Heart…

We all know that Brazil had their hearts broken in the semi-final against Germany.

Well, more like they had their hearts swiftly removed, stomped on, kicked around and fired into the net seven times.

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Brazil’s worst nightmare…

It could even have been worse, with German defender Matt Hummels admitting in an interview that they decided at half-time to take it easy on the hosts after racing to a 5-0 lead.

How bad was the match? It was so shocking to the world that it became the most discussed sports match ever on Twitter, with 35.6 million tweets, and local newspaper Globo gave all of the Brazilian players, and the coach, 0/10 in their match ratings.

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Ouch…

This was the second time Brazilian football had found itself ripped to shreds, the first being the infamous loss to neighbours Uruguay in 1950. As the Guardian said of the Germany semi-final:

The Mineiraço, as it is already being called in an echo of the deep impact of the 1950 Maracanazo when Uruguay defeated Brazil in the final the last time the tournament was held here, was variously described as “the disgrace of all disgraces” and “a historic humiliation”. The sports paper Lance called it “the biggest shame in history”.

What most people don’t know, but I learned from Alex Bellos’s book: ‘Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life,’ is that the match in 1950 wasn’t actually the World Cup Final. The tournament in those days ended in a group phase, and it just so happened that Uruguay and Brazil were the only two teams left with a chance to top the group, and were playing each-other in the last game. That’s why even a draw would have handed the cup to Brazil, as they had won both of their games, (against Sweden and Spain), whereas Uruguay had only drawn with Spain.

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The lasting impression that match left on the Brazilian footballing mentality, (until being supplanted on 8th July 2014), has been beautifully  explained in cartoon format in this incredible New York Times feature.

Enjoy! And don’t forget to sign up for details of ‘Benfica to Brazil – the book’!

http://nyti.ms/1nSbuh8

54. They think it’s all over…

The adventure is (kind of) over; the signs have been ripped down by fans eager for souvenirs; the fake Brazil shirts are on sale ridiculously cheap in the streets of Salvador; and the 2014 World Cup is, officially, done.

As seems to happen so often, it was a game of twenty-two men, ninety minutes (and thirty more this time), and then Germany won.

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If this guy wasn’t actually German, it would have made it all the more amazing…

And Argentina lost.

And Messi didn’t Continue reading

52. And then there were two…

Brazil has almost certainly never had a worse 24-hours of football.

After yesterday’s German spanking, their arch-rivals Argentina won the right to challenge for the title Brazil thought would be theirs, in the theatre of Brazilian dreams, the Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

Suddenly, there are a lot of Brazilian Germany fans.

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Not everyone at the Fanfest was cheering for the Dutch…

After the excitement and sheer jaw-dropping nature of the first semi-final many feared the second may not live up to expectations, and boy were they right. This was ninety-minutes of extraordinarily dull, often average football, with three minutes of play by Holland in injury time, some thrills in extra time, and two fantastic saves from albiceleste keeper Sergio Romero to create a Euro-American Final which could be a fascinating encounter.

Highlights of the game included a couple of accidental injuries to Argentina players, (Pablo Zabaleta appeared to lose a tooth in a head collision and staggered around like a Brazilian playing against Germany before soldiering on, his face stuffed full of cotton wool); Arjen Robben barely diving all match and having a last minute shot blocked heroically by Javier Mascherano; and half of the stadium thinking Gonzalo Higuain had scored when he poked a beautiful cross into the side netting.

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Two Spaniards and a Brit, believe it or not from the jerseys…

Lio Messi, whilst still being industrious and tough to tackle, disappeared for large swathes of the game. In fact, he failed to touch the ball in the Dutch penalty area for the complete two hours of the game. On the other side, The Netherlands didn’t manage a shot on target until shortly before the 100 minute mark!

The over-all standard of play was pretty poor all round, (prompting some at the Fanfest to wish they had just shown a re-run of the other semi-final…although not Brazilians), leading to the first ever 0-0 in a World Cup semi-final.

Germany must have been rubbing their hands with Teutonic glee.

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Germany and Argentina have samba’d into the final…well, limped in, in the latter’s case…

Which probably means they’ll lose, which would be the ultimate humiliation for Brazil: their enemies not only winning the title, on their turf, but doing so against a team which had trousered the hosts so thoroughly in the previous match.

Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that Dutch coach Van Gaal’s mind games in the previous round against Costa Rica may have cost his side in the shoot-out? Not having a spare substitution to make at the end of the 120 minutes, his regular goalie was forced to stop the penalties after having been essentially told last time out that he wasn’t good enough.

And he wasn’t, (despite the fairly despicable practice he shares with Tim Krul of trash wasting time and trash talking penalty takers before each spot kick). At least this proves that Van Gaal was probably right first time round, as Argentina won the lottery of penalties™ 4-2.

Brazilians were praying for the Dutch to win...to no avail...

Brazilians were praying for the Dutch to win the shoot-out…to no avail…

So, with my last evening at the (half empty) Fanfest spent explaining to random Argentines that I wasn’t actually from Argentina, just a fan of Buenos Aires club Racing and hence wearing their jersey, my World Cup time in Salvador has come to an end: tomorrow begins the final leg, a flight to Rio, and 72-hours to fight as many Argentines as I need to in order to get hold of a ticket to Sunday’s final.

Stay tuned for updates from the South!

And don’t forget to sign up for news of the Benfica to Brazil book!

51. Brazil on their way home…

In a World Cup full of unbelievable matches, (Holland vs Spain, Costa Rica vs Italy, Germany vs Portugal), yesterday’s 7-1 thrashing/spanking/sausaging/humiliation of Brazil by Germany has to rank as the most stunning of all.

This was both the best I have ever seen a team play in a World Cup, and the worst, and possibly in any football match.

To call Brazil’s play ‘Sunday League‘ is an insult to hard-working Sunday League teams across the world.

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My allegiances were torn…

Germany were so (I hate to use the stereotype, but it’s true) ruthless that Continue reading

50. World Cup Semi-Final Preview: Brazil vs Germany…

So it’s come to this.

After all of the (c)upsets, near-knockouts and fun and games, there are four teams left, two from Europe, two from South America, three former World Cup winners who are in the top five ranked teams in the world, and one almost-team hoping to be the second successive first-time winner.

Brazil face Germany today, and Argentina take on Holland tomorrow to decide whether or not there is any chance whatsoever of me getting a ticket to Sunday’s final.

These Mexicans haven't forgotten how Holland got to the final...

These Mexicans haven’t forgotten how Holland got to the final…

(If Brazil make it, I give myself a 0.01% chance: if they don’t, but Argentina do, it won’t be much better, except that maybe the suicidal Brazilians would rather sell/give their ticket to me than to Continue reading

48. The Semi-Finals Await…

It’s time for another two-day break, and a chance to catch your breath before the semi-finals.
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After Friday saw the first semi-final decided, with hosts Brazil taking on the ever-consistent Germans, yesterday was the turn of Argentina and Holland to set up the other mouth-watering Euro-American last four.
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A meeting of minds…

It was a day of mixed feelings for me, as I was heading to possibly my last game of the tournament, and definitely the final one here in Salvador.

Continue reading

47. Quarter Finals Reviews and Previews…

So Brazil are one step from actually getting to the final, which is either totally predictable or a complete miracle given how they have played most of the tournament.

This time they deserved the win, brushing aside a desperately disappointing Colombia who never really got going, and (with a little help from the referee, for a change), won their quarter final 2-1 and sparked the biggest party yet in the Salvador Fanfest, where thousands of people spent the entire night either dancing the night away, or staring at me attempting to do the same.

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Fanfest festivities…

Standing in their way will be Continue reading