SAO PAULO/BERLIN (Reuters) - Divided by a scoreline as wide as the Atlantic, Germans and Brazilians united after the World Cup hosts’ 7-1 humiliation in writing the game into the history of both nations, well beyond the realm of soccer.
For Brazil, to whom global footballing domination has been a way to put its 200 million people on the map, Tuesday’s semi-final trouncing by Germany not only ended hopes of erasing 64 years of pain from a shock defeat the last time it hosted the World Cup - but it might even be more devastatingly traumatic.
“Historic Disgrace,” headlined Folha de S.Paulo, the most influential newspaper in a country that has won the four-yearly contest an unmatched five times since a first victory in 1958.
Referring to defeat by tiny neighbor Uruguay in the 1950 final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium, known to all Brazilians as the “Maracanazo”, O Globo newspaper quoted Spain’s El Pais: “Next to this,” it said, “The Maracanazo was a joke.”
For Germans, to whom soccer provides a release valve for national pride that still sits awkwardly with lingering shame at 20th century horrors, it was a moment to pour out collective joy at a beautiful game and a miracle of teamwork and application.
“The Miracle of Belo Horizonte,” declared several papers on Wednesday. It echoed the “Miracle of Bern”, 60 years ago this week when West Germany beat heavily fancied Hungary in the 1954 World Cup final in Switzerland - a triumph that Germans saw as marking their return to international acceptance after Hitler.
Many also recalled it was 24 years ago to the day when West Germany won their third and last World Cup - an event bathed in the euphoric afterglow of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Victory in Sunday’s final at the Maracana in front of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was herself raised in East Germany, would cap a remarkable quarter-century for the reunified nation.
Mass-selling Bild devoted six of its eight main pages to the match under the banner headline “Speechless!”, summing up the sense of disbelief at the scale of the win.
“Boys, you are immortal!” read the gleeful column in Bild, which thanked all the team by name and coach Joachim Loew:
“Germany will never forget July 8, 2014,” it said. “Thanks for this moment of glory. Thanks that we could experience it!”
“DISGRACE OF DISGRACES”
As Brazilian commentators spoke of the country that gave the world Pele and a legion of past masters of the game being taught a lesson by Germany, Folha de S.Paulo’s main sports columnist Juca Kfouri wrote: “Brazilian football was reduced to dust.”
The globoesporte website, part of the Globo media empire, called the result the “Disgrace of Disgraces”, in an ironic reference to President Dilma Rousseff’s repeated claims – and tweets - that this would be the World Cup of all World Cups.
They gave it a hashtag: #I Can’t Believe It.
In a country where the ageing players who lost in the Maracanazo still complain of being treated as pariahs, there were thoughts for the fate of the men who crumbled on Tuesday at Belo Horizonte. O Globo focused, however, on veteran coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has tried to shield his players from blame.
“I‘m responsible for all this,” was its headline, quoting the man who coached Brazil to a fifth world title in 2002.
In Berlin, despite heavy summer storms, fireworks rang out after each goal on Tuesday night - a veritable barrage when four went in the space of six first-half minutes - and after the final whistle cars raced through the city with honking horns and the red, gold and black national flag draped from the windows.
Commentary filled the airwaves, with former players lining up to speculate on whether the squad is as good as the revered West German world champions of 1954 and of 1974.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote “Off to Rio on a High”. But amid the celebrations, sober voices pointed out that neither two-time world champions Argentina nor three-time runners-up the Netherlands will be any pushover. The Dutch, losers in the 2010 final, play Argentina later on Wednesday.
“If you win 7-1, you have done everything right,” Olaf Thon, who was in the 1990 championship squad, told Deutschlandfunk radio, adding Tuesday would go down as a “game of the century”.
“But in the end, what will count is who wins the final.”
Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Giles Elgood