The Rio Report

How Brazilians watched their team get destroyed

The Rio Report

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Volume up, lights down. A fairly typical family in Rio de Janeiro state settles down to watch the game.

The scene is being repeated all over the country: it is 4pm but when Brazil play 200 million people down tools and head home or to a bar. They even declare a half-day public holiday to make it official.

The game is on almost every channel. Of course it is: this is the biggest game in Brazil since 1950. We opt for Globo, not because its coverage is the best (it's definitely, definitely not) or because, on such occasions, when history is to be made one way or the other, it feels appropriate to do what everyone else is doing. The power of shared experience, or something.

The build-up (so much build-up) eventually segues into Galvão Bueno's love-it-or-hate-it commentary. The great eagle of Brazilian football coverage is always wheeled out for these occasions, like a prized whiskey that's been gathering dust in a cupboard.

The players come out of the tunnel and onto the pitch. I breathe deeply. Other family members - all wearing some item of green or yellow - cry tentative words of encouragement. "Vai, Brasil!"

Expectation levels were dented by the injury to Neymar but a cautious optimism remains. "We can still do it... the support will play a big part," someone had told me earlier in the day. I wasn't so sure, but there was no way I was going to say so.

The game begins. Fireworks go off a few blocks away. Dogs begin to bark, drowning out the sound of waves breaking on the beach. Night has just fallen. A nation aches with anticipation and hope and undeclared fear.

Germany score, eliciting groans around me. A cousin shifts seats, in the hope that the change will bring better luck, but the gesture has no effect: Brazil concede again and again.

By the time the fourth goes in, a deathly silence has come over the house and the neighbourhood. When Brazil play well you can hear people hollering and screaming; now, you can almost hear the absence.

Germany score their fifth. My father-in-law wanders into the room after waking from an afternoon nap. He doesn't much care for football but even his eyes widen when he sees the score. "Maybe I'll go back to bed," he jokes. No one laughs.

"This is a tragedy," laments someone - I cannot keep track amid the goal rush - on television. "This is the worst 25 minutes in Brazilian football history." He's right. It might be the worst 25 minutes in any team's football history.

Half-time brings respite and the first shoots of acceptance. One or two smiles are cracked, shock giving way to the fuzzy glow of a hardship shared.

An advert on TV quotes Ayrton Senna: "Whoever you are, you can achieve your goals with love and faith in God." The sentiment doesn't really chime with what is happening but it feels reassuring nonetheless.

The second half passes in a haze. By this stage, phones are buzzing with internet virals - of Angela Merkel telling Dilma she paid for the World Cup in Euros, of Christ the Redeemer covering its eyes and asking "is it over yet?"

There is, to my surprise, a sizeable cheer when Oscar scores a consolation for the Seleção. Briefly, the tragedy of the first 89 minutes is forgotten. This irrepressible positivity of the Brazilian people is a marvellous, confusing thing.

There are even more fireworks outside. But this time they are melancholy, a weak echo of the shock and awe inflicted by Germany in Belo Horizonte.

The family disperses, some heading to bed, others awaiting the consolatory rabbit hole of the evening's novelas. Both they and I will remember this evening for some time to come as the night everything unravelled.

Jack Lang (on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop)

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