In our penultimate Greatest Game piece, Mark O'Haire brings us back to 2014 and relives Brazil's astonishing World Cup semi-final thrashing at the hands of Germany...
"In a list of great sporting collapses, it is hard to think of an occasion as raw, as painful and as humiliating as this"
Brazil 1-7 Germany
World Cup semi-final
Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 8 July 2014
Setting the scene
Redemption and reparation were the themes running through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The hosts were chasing an unprecedented sixth world title and had the opportunity to exercise the ghosts of the "Maracanazo", a famous defeat that led to a moment of national reckoning when the Selecao contested the 1950 final in their own iconic Maracana Stadium.
Despite all their success on the international stage, Brazil had never fully recovered from their shock loss to Uruguay in that showpiece final. That side were vilified and shamed for the apparent embarrassment with the national side so haunted by the upset that their customary white shirts were ditched in favour of its now iconic canary yellow.
This was a chance to scratch scars and heal the wounds of 64 years previous. Head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari had already guided the 2002 squad to gold and the mood inside the nation was bold, balmy and buoyant. Brazil had reached the semi-final stage - without completely convincing - but were now two games away from exercising the ghosts of 1950.
A night never to be forgotten
However, the night of July 8, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, the city built on hills, a drama unfolded that arguably eclipsed previous pain, heartache and suffering, never be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it.
In hindsight, clues for how the contest might play out can be identified early on. With superstar captain and poster boy Neymar out injured, Scolari led his men off the coach wearing a "Forca Neymar" cap, whilst goalkeeper Julio Cesar and stand-in skipper David Luiz held up his number 10 shirt during a stadium-shaking version of Brazil's national anthem.
By this time the emotion of the occasion appeared to have already taken over. Brazil's psychological frailties were coming to the boil and the Selecao looked out of control before kick-off. The nightmare of 1950 was unravelling once more and Germany sensed blood.
Germany sensed blood
After a flurry of exchanges, the Germans drew first blood. The underdogs did not look like scoring every time they attacked. They actually did score every time they attacked. The second was followed by a third, fourth and fifth. Four goals in six brutal, breathtaking minutes as Brazilian dithering was professionally punished.
Extraordinarily, Brazil were 5-0 down after only 29 minutes. Half-time arrived, allowing us to breathe, to pinch ourselves, to take a look around and see whether it had actually happened. The scoreboard confirmed it: Brazil 0-5 Germany. The hosts hadn't even landed a single shot on-target as their hopes, pride and immediate footballing future eviscerated.
The misery and embarrassment extended after the interval as Germany booked their place in the final with the most surreal and astonishing World Cup semi-final scorelines we're ever likely to endure. With it, an outpouring of raw emotion from the stands as Brazil, with football as one of its shining symbols, came to terms with such a surreal ordeal.
Home fans applauded German players and booed their own, tears streamed down adoring supporters faces, whilst others were too shell-shocked to even react. The 1950 exorcism had turned into a very public humiliation, a national embarrassment to eclipse the Maracanazo with honourable and age-old records tumbling in the disaster.
It was Brazil's first competitive home defeat in 39 years, the highest winning margin in a World Cup semi-final, as well as Brazil's heaviest-ever loss. During the defeat, Miroslav Klose added insult to injury by breaking Ronaldo's record for most World Cup goals of all-time.
The front page of one of Brazil's leading dailies, bluntly read, "Shame, Grief, Humiliation" on the morning after. Scolari described the experience as, "the worst moment of my football career and the worst day of my football life" and resigned six days later.
Brazil paid $11bn to stage the 2014 World Cup finals and it turned into the most expensive ritualistic moment of humiliation of which a nation state could possibly ever conceive. In a list of great sporting collapses, it is hard to think of an occasion as raw, as painful and as humiliating as this.
It was extraordinary and excruciating - one of the most memorable World Cup match-ups in a lifetime, and therefore deserving of its place in our list of Greatest Games.