They spent the previous four days weeping for Neymar. They will spend the rest of their lives grieving about Tuesday, 8 July, and the day that Brazilian football was demolished in one of its own great metropolises.
In the list of great sporting collapses it is hard to think of an occasion as raw, as painful and as humiliating as this, when Germany scored five goals in 29 minutes against a Brazil team that had taken leave of all sense, all courage and all semblance of a game-plan. Extraordinary and excruciating to watch it was a World Cup match like no other with even the Germans sensing that they should mute their celebrations as if they were also bystanders at a solemn state funeral.
Was this worse than the defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup decider at the Maracana? How could it not be? The final say on that will have to be decided in the endless days, weeks, months of debate that will follow in Brazilian society but the irony will not be lost on them. This was the tournament that was supposed to exorcise the ghosts of the “Maracanazo” and instead it has lumbered a whole new generation of Brazilians with a complex they may never shift.
If there was any consolation after the sixth and seventh goals were slotted away by the substitute Andre Schurrle in the second half, it was that the Brazil players did not lose the plot. It remains to be seen how this country, with so much social unrest kept repressed by the loyalty to the Selecao, reacts. They have paid $11bn to stage this World Cup finals and it has turned into the most expensive ritualistic moment of humiliation of which a nation state could conceive.
“Ordem e Progresso” it says on the flag. Disorder and chaos on the pitch. What happens to Luiz Felipe Scolari now is anyone’s guess but he will be fortunate to be in charge for the third-place play-off on Saturday, which cruelly gives this team four more days together at their mountain-top camp in Teresopolis with a hostile populace at the gates.
Brazil were awful. A team carried this far on the tidal wave of national emotion came up badly short. And Germany? Brilliant, of course, ruthless in taking their chances in that avalanche in the first half when Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose Toni Kroos (twice) and Sami Khedira all scored. They did what all good teams do and hunted down an opponent that could not handle the pressure.
The national anthem went well for Brazil, at the beginning of which Julio Cesar and David Luiz held up a Neymar shirt, and then it was downhill from there.
It was obvious from the very start that against a team with Germany rigour and qualities, it was going to be hard for Brazil’s two non-passing midfielders Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo to pass the ball forward in any meaningful way. The Germans allowed the Brazil defence to have the ball and then ran their midfield pair down as soon as they were given it. The first scare came on seven minutes when Klose’s shot hit Kroos and deflected wide. Then the floodgates opened.
When the teams came out Scolari had presented Joachim Loew with a small gift in a blue bag that took the Germany coach by surprise. He had nothing with which to reciprocate. It was the last time that Loew was surprised by anything that Scolari did, apart from perhaps any mild feeling of disbelief the German might have had at how quickly Brazil fell apart. All the nasty surprises were for Scolari.
The first of which was a badly defended corner on 11 minutes. Luiz allowed Muller to creep away from him and when Philipp Lahm’s ball from the right dropped it dropped at the feet of the 24-year-old who beat Cesar from close range. Was that the point at which Brazil fell apart? The feeling was that it was later. After the first goal, Brazil had a single attack, in which Lahm brilliantly tackled Marcelo in the box.
Then No 2 came from Klose, the goal that made him the record World Cup goalscorer with 15, ahead of the Brazilian Ronaldo. It started with Kroos who found Muller who could have shot but teed the ball up for his strike partner. Cesar saved the first effort and then Klose put the second one away. At that moment the realisation flooded Brazil that they may well lose this game and they responded in the worst way possible. They collapsed.
The third came from Kroos, rifled in by his left foot after Lahm’s cross from the right had been missed by Muller. Germany were running all over their opponents. To say that they figuratively smelled blood would be underplaying it. The opponent was already dead and they were sacking the city.
Another followed three minutes later. Fernandinho was entirely culpable in losing the ball and then came the breakaway. Muller passed to Kroos for the fourth goal. Brazil were on their knees. It happened again. Khedira breaking forward and switching the ball to Mesut Ozil. Khedira got it back and scored. The Germany bench erupted for the fifth time. Not even half an hour had been played. As they returned to their seats there was disbelief among the German staff.
Booed off at half-time, Scolari tried to change things with the introduction of Ramires and Paulinho. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, the brilliant Manuel Neuer made three great saves from Ramires, Bernard and Paulinho and the fight seeped out of Brazil.
On 69 minutes Schurrle, on for Muller, scored the sixth. The seventh was a marvellous hit by the Chelsea man from the left channel of the box. In his goal, Cesar looked like a man who was wondering how he might best get out the country. Then with a minute remaining Oscar broke free and finally beat Neuer.
By then the hone fans had already been applauding Schurrle and greeting each German pass with an “Ole”. It was surreal, but then before this day they had never lost a World Cup game by more than two goals. For Brazil, this was a new territory, and the humiliation was like no other.
Juninho: Germany taught us how to play football
Former Brazil international Juninho admitted he was shocked by his country's 7-1 thrashing by Germany in their World Cup semi-final.
The Europeans ran up an unassailable 5-0 half-time lead as the hosts. missing their best two players in injured forward Neymar and suspended captain and defender Thiago Silva, lost discipline and focus during a hapless 20-minute spell.
"I'm in shock. It is unbelievable," the former Middlesbrough playmaker, who won 50 caps for Brazil, told BBC One.
"The back four was not closing down, they (Germany) were moving and passing it so easily and it is difficult to understand the attitude (of Brazil's players).
"Everyone was talking about Neymar but (if Brazil had) Silva in this game I'm pretty sure we wouldn't concede the space we did.
"It will be difficult to recover and some of them I don't think will be back to wear the Brazilian shirt.
"Germany taught us how to play football and we have to learn from that.
"Germany played like we like to play. We need to sit back and see what's happened with Brazilian football - is something wrong?"
And in a veiled criticism of Brazil's performances and tactics in this World Cup Juninho added: "But I am happy because football won."