Brazil sinks into depression after historic World Cup defeat

The country feels humiliated after its 7-1 rout by the Germans in the semifinals

The front pages of the Brazilian newspapers after the national team’s loss to Germany.
The front pages of the Brazilian newspapers after the national team’s loss to Germany.EVARISTO SA (AFP)

A downcast police officer is sitting at the bar in a trendy São Paulo corner café near the Pinheiros metro station. He is talking to a retired gentleman who is even more dejected than him, while a silent and crestfallen waiter watches over the scene. Making a big fuss and muttering so that the police officer can hear him, the retired man says:

– I wish Chile had eliminated us on penalties. I wish.

Brazil has woken up and found itself incredulous, sad, shattered, and facing the disastrous consequences of its nightmarish 7-1 loss in the World Cup. An early morning CBN radio host talked about coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s lack of strategy. Half an hour later, another commentator said Brazil’s crushing loss may reawaken feelings of inferiority in the nation and bring it back to reality to face the problems it had avoided during the very long month that the national team was playing.

The night Brazil lost, incidents erupted in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities. The violent outbreaks were not organized demonstrations but mostly the result of rampant vandalism: fights, burning buses, and looting in stores. At dawn, a quiet, sad and remorseful atmosphere – like the scene at that café – settled over people. The yellow shirts suddenly disappeared. All the fans who had worn them proudly the previous day put them away.

Most newspapers speculated about the possible impact the loss may have on October’s presidential elections

Most newspapers – with their front pages covered with words like “humiliation” and “shame” – speculated about the impact this incredible loss might have on October’s presidential elections. All the experts say the country’s World Cup performance has never affected the outcome at the polls, even though the tournament has coincided with Brazil’s general elections since 1994. But those same experts say that Brazil has never suffered as crushing and devastating a defeat as it has this time – a loss that may have more symbolic weight than the famous “Maracanazo” failure of 1950 when it lost to Uruguay in a World Cup game in Rio’s Maracaná Stadium. “We’ve overcome the 1950 trauma by topping it with another,” one fan said on Facebook. Here, “trauma” is not a stock phrase. Psychiatrists and psychologists are offering advice to help children cope with the disappointment.

It’s also hard to say whether this loss will reignite the protests. They lost steam the minute the tournament began, despite the demands for less spending on stadiums and more funding for public transport, schools and hospitals having shaken up the entire country a year ago. According to the Brazilian press, President Dilma Rousseff‘s advisors and cabinet members are stumped. They do not know how voters will react to this avalanche of goals and subsequent disappointment, whether the situation will cost them votes in certain areas where the race is already tight. The president, therefore, sent out a message of encouragement via Twitter: “I am very sad over this loss. But we cannot get discouraged. Brazil, get up, shake off the dust, and get back on your feet.”

I wish Chile had eliminated us on penalties. I wish”

“There is no doubt. This will have an impact and Dilma Rousseff will drop in the polls,” says Flavio de Campos, a sociologist who specializes in sports. “People are mad at coach Scolari but soon they will dump that frustration on Rousseff.” During the match, the public suddenly went from insulting the much-criticized forward Fred to the president, De Campos says. And he highlights a Brazilian characteristic that is showing itself to the full: the country’s identification with soccer. “We always hope to see the national team manifest the strength, virtue and creativity that we do not find in other areas of our society.”

According to some, the historic licking Germany gave Brazil may serve as a vaccine or cure. An editorial in A Folha de S. Paulo reads: “Perhaps this match will bring an end to the idea that the country, stadiums, fans, citizens, nation and national team are all one and the same … Maybe now we can say that Brazil is something more than its soccer.”

In an emphatic letter to the newspaper, São Paulo resident Albino Marcones writes: “The euphoria is over. Let’s take care of the economy and make this country walk forward again. Enough emotion. Let’s fix that inflation rate. Brazil, wake up to reality.”

Translation: Dyane Jean François

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS