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Brazil’s Coach Shows How to Lose

brazil-germany

Brazil’s soccer team, the foremost symbol of its nation’s pride, was humiliated at home in a 7-1 drubbing against Germany that actually wasn’t that close. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari took responsibility. Not in the sense that we’re accustomed to, either. He actually took responsibility:

After Brazil suffered their “worst loss” in their most important home game in 64 years, all coach Luiz Felipe Scolari could do was take the blame for his team’s 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany.

“The catastrophic result can be shared with the whole group, but the choice and who decided the tactical lineup — I did. The person who is responsible is me,” Scolari said.

Brazil were undone when Germany scored five goals within 30 minutes in the first half, including four goals in a seven-minute span.

“My message is for the Brazilian people that we tried to do what we could do,” Scolari said. “We did what we think was our best and we lost to a great team who in six or seven minutes, ended the game in an extraordinary manner.

“I’m sorry that we were not able to get to the final and we will continue to honour what our team is and fight for third place.”

Brazil appeared helpless during Germany’s onslaught, with Scolari saying “I think everyone blanked out.”

“We tried to organise, but there was nothing we could do at that moment,” the coach said.

That’s pretty normal stuff. Coaches and star players typically “take responsibility” after a loss. But Scolari went much further:

Brazil were lacking injured star forward Neymar, but Scolari said his presence would not have made a difference.

“There’s no regret, but it didn’t work out in 10 minutes of the match today. The German team was fantastic,” he said. “They probably could have done it with Neymar on the field as well.

“Let’s not try to find an excuse. What happened is that Germany had a fantastic rhythm and defined the match. Germany made use of those moments and Neymar has nothing to do with that. He would not have made a difference to defend all of the goals. Germany would have done this regardless.”

Brazil were also missing centre-back Thiago Silva, who was suspended after earning his second yellow card, leaving David Luiz to manage the back with Dante, who was making his debut at the tournament.

Luiz was left in tears after the match as he walked off the pitch.

“I am sorry we couldn’t give the fans happiness,” he said. “We didn’t get it and I ask all of Brazil to forgive me. I only wanted to see all of Brazil smile. This was the most important match of my life.”

I’m by no means enough of a soccer aficionado to have any clue what happened here. Germany historically fields great teams and, given my German heritage and the fact that I lived there for nine of my first twenty-six years, I was rooting for them. But Brazil, obviously, is also a traditional power and were playing at home. Given the nature of the sport, there’s simply no way they should have been defeated this badly.

I just had the game on in the background while I was doing some reading. I looked up to see Germany had gone up 1-0 in just minutes. Shortly thereafter, they scored a second goal. The doorbell rang. I saw the UPS man running back to his truck, fetched my package, and opened it. I walked back in to the living room and the score was 4-0. At first, I was wondering why they were showing highlights of some previous match. It took me a few moments to realize that, no, Germany had scored two more goals in less than 3 minutes. It was that kind of game. It’s unusual enough in gridiron football or baseball. But soccer? In the semifinal of the World Cup? Against the home team? It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen.

Yet Scolari didn’t blame the refs or use the perfectly reasonable defense that one of the world’s greatest players was out with a broken back and his teammates devastated by that injury. He went further and said that they’d have lost even if Neymar had been healthy. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a losing coach, let alone one so soon after such an utter and shocking loss, give that much credit to his opponent. I wouldn’t mind seeing this become a trend.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    Germany played a near-perfect game and Brazil came out flat and directionless. Yes, Scolari is rightly taking responsibility as the head coach, but his players’ apparent lack of motivation belongs to them as well. Perhaps Mueller’s early goal shocked the Brazilians and the Germans sensed it and were able to capitalize in quick succession.

    My wife–German born and raised–was at the pool with our son, assuming this game would be the hard-fought, low-scoring affair everyone anticipated and figuring she could catch the second half. I called her when Germany was only up 5-0 and said, “You’re at the pool? Do you have any idea what’s going on in the game?” She said, “No, is it bad?” I replied, “Yeah…if you’re Brazil…” It didn’t take her long to get home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. DrDaveT says:

    This was a historic game. People will be talking about this game for 50 years or more. People will remember where they were when this game happened, like the Kennedy assassination. There are no words for how unbelieveably stunning this result was.

    I missed the first goal, but I saw the next 7. Germany played like the Platonic ideal of a perfect soccer team. Brazil played badly, but normally that would translate to a goal or two. This was a perfect storm of perfect soccer. Today, Germany could have beaten any team ever.

    The announcers for the ESPN broadcast ran out of words after the third goal. Finger-pointing is nonsensical in a case like this; it was practically a miracle. I’m delighted beyond words to have witnessed it live.

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  3. Andre Kenji says:

    Scolari was the coach when Brazil won the World Cup in 2002, but he was widely criticized when he trained Palmeiras, a large soccer team of São Paulo that was went to the second division of the National Championship.

    There were journalists complaining that he did not a good job with the psychology of the team, that faced enormous pressure. That probably explained the apathy of the team, specially against Mexico and Chile. There was also lots of criticism of his choices in the midfield.

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  4. Andre Kenji says:

    Brazil played badly during the whole tournament. I confess that I stopped watching after the fifth goal.

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  5. argon says:

    The US team lost to Germany 0-1. In other words, a pretty great showing, considering.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: Oh, I don’t think Scolari is actually to blame here. Sometimes these things happen to good coaches and great players; Denver’s meltdown against Seattle in the most recent Super Bowl comes to mind. It’s just refreshing to see all the credit given to the opponent and no excuses at all offered.

    @argon: Maybe. But Germany scored as many goals in this match as they did in the entire Group of Death round robin.

    Portugal W 4 – 0
    Ghana T 2 – 2
    United States W 1 – 0

    Leaving out a similar result against Portugal, they scored more goals yesterday than they did in the other four games in the tournament:

    Algeria W 2 – 1
    France W 1 – 0

    It’s as @DrDaveT described it, I think, something of a miraculous performance.

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  7. SKI says:

    While I do think Germany played incredibly well, the truth is Brazil was horrific. And a significant portion of that blame does lie with Scolari.

    All tournament long, Brazil has looked off and I trace that to a failure to have a solid defensive mid. I don’t think they beat Germany but they look a lot more solid if Scolari has Sandro on the pitch as that wall in front of the center backs – and he was left off the squad.

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  8. bill says:

    boy, he sure did show us how to lose- and lose big. i imagine if soccer matches had this kind of scoring going on all the time then they might just become semi popular here? nah.
    ann did an encore to her previous “anti-soccer” rant;

    http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2014-07-02.html#read_more

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  9. Mikey says:

    @bill: Everything Coulter writes about soccer proves she doesn’t know jack-shit about soccer.

    Although sometimes I think she actually does, and she’s just faking ignorance to pander to an ignorant audience.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. Franklin says:

    @argon: Agreed, that 1-0 loss is looking better and better.

    Like James, I was struck by this coach’s words when I first read them yesterday. I don’t know anything about soccer but he said all the right things. He is a very gracious loser.

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  11. george says:

    Sometimes athletes and/or teams just have bad days. World Cup semi-finals is horrible timing, but its part of sports.

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  12. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    You could replace soccer with most any noun and your comment would be equally true.

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  13. bill says:

    @Mikey: what, how boring it is?! it is boring, all these 0-0 games won on penalty kicks after an ungodly amount of time…..seriously? and they wonder why Americans don’t care about it? i’d buy you a sense of humor, but all my money’s tied up…..

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  14. Mikey says:

    @bill:

    all these 0-0 games won on penalty kicks after an ungodly amount of time

    So far in the tournament there have been 62 games played. Of those, seven went 0-0 to penalty kicks. Not exactly an overwhelming percentage.

    i’d buy you a sense of humor

    I’ve already got a very fine one of my own, thank you very much.

    I don’t doubt I’m in the minority among left-leaning people, but I actually think a lot of what Coulter says and writes is pretty funny. It’s caricature, but she’s clearly a very smart woman and knows what buttons to push. And she’s a reminder we on the other side of the political aisle shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

    But caricature requires at its base an accurate representation of the subject, and when it comes to soccer, she doesn’t have it. That’s why it isn’t funny. I can’t read it and see some odd quirk of soccer blown up to humorous proportions–I just see someone who doesn’t know the sport trying to straw-man it.

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