Brazil is still understandably reeling from the humiliation of being trounced at their own World Cup. It wasn’t just any old thrashing; a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany at the semi-final stage in 2014 is arguably the most comprehensive scoreline in living history.
More than two years have passed since that fateful night in Belo Horizonte, but Brazil has yet to fully wake up from the nightmare. Early exits at successive Copa America’s have compounded the lack of faith in the national team, who are no longer the iconic and popular superstars of years gone by.
Brazil’s matches since the World Cup are shown in every bar around the country, but fewer people pay more than a passing glance. Indeed, “7-1” has become something of a tragicomedy, summing up the everyday life of this South American giant in economic and political turmoil.
This incarnation has suffered it’s own lack of public support, with fans turning on the team and booing them off the pitch after a 0-0 draw against Iraq left their chances of qualification from the Olympic Group A in peril.
As fate would have it though, the Seleção were given the chance to right a few of those wrongs as the Rio Olympic Games swung by. Another major tournament on Brazilian soil, another major clash against Germany. This time, Maracanã played host, whilst the stage was set for the gold medal-deciding final.
Some may argue that with the age-restrictions imposed on the male football tournament, the meeting was watered down and did not hold the importance of a senior clash. Nobody told Brazil.
In search of securing the only tournament they have never won, coach Micale’s squad was brimming with stars, including Neymar, Gabigol, and Gabriel Jesus. Germany could also count on a host of highly-rated players, including the free-scoring Arsenal man Serge Gnabry.
Perhaps fittingly, it was Neymar, whose absence was so keenly felt in 2014, that struck the decisive penalty that ensured gold would remain in Rio. His first-half effort look to be the difference maker, before Germany hit back in the second half.
When 120 minutes couldn’t separate the two teams, it was the Barcelona star that fired home after Nils Petersen missed for Germany.
For Brazil, winning that ever-elusive first gold medal was only part of the story. Although the “7-1” has not been put to bed just yet, Saturday’s victory was a start.
By showing the mental fortitude to take on their illustrious European opponents and shake off the ghosts of that infamous 2014 night, this crop of young Brazilian starlets proved that the future of Jogo Bonito and the Seleção is not as bleak as once feared.
Brazil still have a long way to go before they can erase the memory of that defeat and retake their place at the top table of world football, but the Olympic victory has gone someway towards getting the monkey off their back.