Goal after goal. After goal. After goal. The Germans bellowed until their throats cracked. The Brazilians carried an empty vacant look. A look of complete astonishment – and also near complete pain. The rain hammered down around us. Brazil’s dreams had been obliterated in one astonishing half of football.
Our setting for the ritual sacrifice which was to become Brazil’s final stand was Ilha Grande – a large island 94 miles South-West of Rio. We had left the mainland hours earlier, our speed boating thundering through the water and arriving in under thirty minutes. I’ve always thought it is something special to arrive somewhere by boat – and Ilha Grand is no different. It is a bulky, hulking island – mountains, thick with rain forest rise quickly from the shore – plunging haphazardly this way then that, before coming back down to earth – I liked it immediately.
The man who had got onto the boat wearing a cowboy hat, a dirty Brazil themed tie over his bare chest and hastily guzzling a beer had just told me that he owned a lodge in the jungle. His teeth were rotting, his hair was wild and matted. I didn’t feel confident about following such a man into the jungle.
Instead I found a guest house just minutes from the ferry. The girl behind the front desk deemed me a personal insult as she was forced stand up to show me the room, barely mustering a smile – still I wasn’t going to be eaten in the jungle.
Vila do Abraao is a small compact village, stretching along the seafront, then a little way inland. There are no cars on the island, the pathways are small and tight – a traffic jam is when two bicycles and a dog attempt to manoeuvre around each other. The area near to the beach is very touristy but still remains relaxed and friendly. People smile to each other – a knowing smile, that says, ‘yes, we are both on a tropical island – life is good’
After dumping my bags I went for a short walk. The rains came – then really came, lashing down viciously. People dived into shelter, shook the water from the eyes and stared out to ocean. Nobody really cared. Then the rain stopped, and the sun reappeared – with it came a low lying rainbow – grazing the top of the buildings. I gave a smug, knowing smile to myself – life was good.
We settled in at bar on the beach, all eyes on the screen. The rains came again, with an even more ferocious power – the umbrellas above us bending in protest. As kick off approached the skies again cleared. A large German contingent settled in nearby. Two of them stood for their national anthem and bellowed it out with a passion not expected of the Germans – and a complete tone deafness you would expect of the Germans. They rightly received a round of applause from all corners of the bar
Brazil started positively – but it went downhill quickly in unbelievable fashion. Six astonishing first half minutes – four German goals. Brazil joined the elite group of teams to be 5-0 down at half time in a world cup – a club that also includes Haiti and Zaire.
As if on the cue the rains started again. Some Brazilians left – others huddled sadly under the quickly depleting dry spots. The scenes were mirrored on the television – a young boy sobbing hysterically – an elderly man clutching a mock World Cup to his chest, a look of betrayed heartbreak. A picture would later emerge of him ceremonially presenting it to a German woman.
The Germans were kind enough to only score twice in the second half. As the men in yellow trudged sadly off the pitch their humiliation was complete. They were a team that never looked like they would win the world cup. An average group being dragged along by one superstar, a well organized captain – and a tidal wave of emotion. In the end it wasn’t remotely enough when they were deprived of the first two. In many ways they had betrayed what the World had come to accept from Brazilian football. The home fans applauding the seventh German goal says it all – Brazil are no longer the Worlds great football entertainers.
Several Brazilians were honest enough to applaud the celebrating Germans after the final whistle. Hands shakes and back slaps were generously handed out. It had been a masterclass of brutality. The Germans danced and sang well into the night. One Englishman (who I will not name) was twice asked to video the celebrating Germans, as they went through various chants and songs. Everybody roared with laughter. An Englishman having to video the celebrating Germans. Oh the humiliation – but all in good humour.