Brazil’s 18 Minutes of Infamy Becomes World Cup Legacy

Brazil’s second turn as World Cup host will be forever defined by 18 minutes.

Germany stunned the host nation with five first-half goals in a record-setting 7-1 semifinal win two days ago to advance to the July 13 final in Rio de Janeiro against Argentina. A World Cup host had never previously lost a game by more than three goals, and Brazil, a five-time champion, hadn’t allowed more than five in an entire World Cup since 1998.

“There were 10 minutes when I don’t know what happened,” Brazil defender Marcelo said after the game. “Today was the worst day of our lives.”

Germany led 5-0 after 29 minutes -- no team in World Cup history has scored five goals faster -- and sent Brazil to its most lopsided defeat since a 6-0 loss to Uruguay in the 1920 Copa America. The World Cup started with outrage over the event’s $11 billion cost that last year fueled Brazil’s biggest protests in two decades. Brazil’s run ended with a result that left players and fans in tears and is seen being the host nation’s enduring legacy from the tournament, which has had 167 goals scored, second only to the 171 in 1998.

“In Brazil, where they love the national team and the sport is their patrimony, you’re not going to be able to erase this,” said journalist George Vecsey, whose book “Eight World Cups -- My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer” was released this year. “It’s epic the way it happened.”

Five Goals

Germany was the first team to score five goals in the first half of a World Cup game since 1974 and the first to do it in the knockout round since Austria against Switzerland in 1954. Germany’s seven goals were the most in a semifinal, and the six-goal margin of victory also was a record.

“It’s difficult to explain what happened,” German defender Mats Hummels said after the game. “After 4-0, I found it difficult to believe, just like the crowd couldn’t believe it.”

Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 yesterday in a penalty shootout after a scoreless tie in the other semifinal.

The sudden turn two days ago at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte left sports fans and historians searching for comparisons.

At the National Football League’s 1988 Super Bowl, the Washington Redskins scored a record 35 second-quarter points -- rolling up 356 yards of offense and five touchdowns on five possessions -- to break open the championship game by halftime. The Redskins won 42-10. In the 1940 NFL title game, the Chicago Bears routed the Redskins 73-0, a result that stands as the most lopsided score in NFL history.

Norman’s Collapse

In the final round of golf’s 1996 Masters Tournament, Greg Norman blew a six-shot advantage, including a four-hole stretch from No. 9 to No. 12 in which he was 5-over par, lost the lead and ultimately finished five shots behind winner Nick Faldo. At the 2012 British Open, Adam Scott bogeyed the final four holes to blow a four-shot lead and lost to Ernie Els by one stroke.

In the decisive seventh game of the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, Yankees catcher Yogi Berra hit two home runs in the first three innings off Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, who had won the National League’s Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards that season. The Yankees won the game 9-0.

Soccer has also had its high-profile swings of momentum.

In the 2005 Champions League final, Liverpool trailed 3-0 against Italy’s AC Milan before scoring three goals in a six-minute span of the second half to tie and eventually win on penalty kicks. Six years earlier in the Champions League final, Manchester United trailed Bayern Munich 1-0 before scoring twice in injury time to win.

Defining Moment

Jaime Schultz of the North American Society of Sports History said Brazil’s loss will be its defining moment at the 2014 World Cup and one not likely to fade from cultural memory.

“I can’t think of a sports failure that has the same type of resonance,” Schultz, a kinesiology assistant professor at Penn State University who specializes in sports history, said by e-mail. “There are ‘tragedies,’ but not the type of competitive implosion we saw with Brazil. Those images of the sobbing, heartbroken Brazilian fans are pretty powerful.”

Thomas Muller opened the scoring for Germany in the 11th minute, and Miroslav Klose’s goal in the 23rd minute -- the record 16th of his World Cup career -- started Brazil’s downfall. Toni Kroos scored about a minute later and then again in the 26th minute, leaving Brazilian fans slack-jawed in amazement.

“Scoring three in four minutes, the hosts were in shock, confused, and never returned to their original organization,” German coach Joachim Loew said. “We were extremely cool, realized they were cracking up, and we took advantage.”

When Sami Khedira pushed Germany’s lead to 5-0 in the 29th minute, there were groups of Brazil fans wearing the national team’s yellow and green jerseys exiting the stadium.

No Timeout

Unlike in many other sports, coaches in soccer can’t call a timeout to regroup.

“It was one after the other, everyone blanked out,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told reporters. “We were trying to talk to them, to get reorganized and breathe for a second. But there was nothing we could do.”

Brazil, which trailed 7-0 before scoring in the 90th minute, had never been behind by four goals in any of its previous 102 World Cup matches.

Brazil entered the semifinal undefeated in 62 consecutive competitive home games, with a 43-0-19 record over that span dating back to 1975, according to ESPN. The World Cup is the first to be held in Brazil since 1950, when the host lost in the final game to Uruguay.

“For this to happen on a national level, we don’t have any sport that’s as deep in our psyche as Brazilians do,” Vecsey said in a phone interview. “They had five stars on their jerseys and hopes for a sixth. Their dream was lost.”

(A previous version of this story corrected the year for the 1988 Super Bowl from 1992.)

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