BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – Germany dealt Brazil a crushing 7-1 defeat in the World Cup semifinals on Tuesday – then felt bad about it.
After the game, countless German players made their way to Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to offer their condolences for a host nation's dream that they had just killed. Bastian Schweinsteiger put an arm on Scolari's shoulder and shook his head. It looked like he was saying sorry although there were no words that could make any Brazilian feel better.
At least four Germans headed to Brazil defender Dante, who plays his club soccer with Bayern Munich in Germany, to offer hugs and kind gestures. Estadio Mineirao had the atmosphere of a funeral and the victors knew better than to gloat.
"Of course," said Germany midfielder Toni Kroos, the Man of the Match, when asked if he felt pity for the Brazilians.
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"Normally the difference is not that big as it was today. They have great players and they had the higher pressure on their shoulders. We didn't allow them to become dangerous. We took all the balls from them."
They took more than that. Joachim Loew's Germany grabbed Brazil's pride and its spirit and its ultimate goal of lifting the World Cup trophy for the sixth time.
The words uttered between combatants in the moments following a contest on the biggest stage of all usually remain private, but this time there was no need for secrecy. The theme of the conversations was obvious. The Germans had smashed Brazil out of sight, and the Brazilians were borderline embarrassed by how completely one-sided the game had become.
"I think we lost a match to a great team and I think not even they believed it," said Scolari, who took the blame and apologized to the home fans. "The chats we had, they said they don't know how this happened. They have five [early] chances and scored five goals. They have great skills and we respect that."
How could they not? Germany was given a large helping hand by the defensive ineptitude of Scolari's team, summed up by captain David Luiz's missed assignment in the 11th minute when he should have been clinging to goal-scorer Thomas Mueller like Lycra.
But even then the Germans' performance was clinical enough to already look like champions and to make you wonder how anyone – Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben or even Clark Kent – can find a way to outwork and outthink them over 90 or 120 minutes.
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In the moment of his greatest performance as a coach, Joachim Loew took time to understand just what had gone wrong for his opponent and offered some words of sympathy.
"Brazil is normally an outstanding team, but if you are under so much pressure it is very difficult," Loew said. "We know how Scolari feels and the Brazilian team, and the people in Brazil feel.
"We in our own country missed the chance to make the final and it is an enormous deception to any country," added Loew, who lost to Italy in the semifinals of Germany 2006 as the top assistant to then-head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "This defeat for Brazil will be difficult to digest and, in spite of all that until today, they played a magnificent World Cup."
Going out on home soil is never easy. Going out in the last four is pretty tough, too. But also losing 7-1 when your fans think you're going to win? Pretty darn awful.
It's enough to make anyone, even your opponent, feel your pain.