When Brazil's national soccer team lost to Germany on Tuesday in a 7-1 rout, it lost something much larger than a game. (Brazil Thrashed by Germany)
The sports newspaper Lance could not hold back its disgust, calling the defeat "the largest shame in history." Juca Kfouri, a top soccer commentator, said, "Brazilian soccer was reduced to dust." Carmelita Maria de Almeida, 53, a maid who watched the tragedy unfold at a bar, said: "I cannot remember a disappointment like today. I won't stop being Brazilian because of this, but it still hurts so much."
The loss stunned Brazil, where pride over five previous World Cup championships is forged into the national identity, as is a humiliating defeat to Uruguay the last time Brazil played host to the World Cup, in 1950. Brazilian fans brimmed with confidence heading into the game; the Globo television network showed frenzied percussionists playing the national anthem while commentators exalted the strengths of the national team.
"There wasn't even time to suffer," said Almir Leite Rodrigues, 55, a retired history professor, describing the sensation of seeing Germany rack up so many goals so quickly. He and his daughter began watching the game on the beach in Copacabana along with thousands of others before withdrawing to a bench on a seaside avenue to contemplate what had happened.
"Maybe I'll feel something tomorrow," he quietly said. "I am numb at the moment." (David Luiz Apologises)
Brazil's political establishment, which was shaken over the past year by street protests expressing rage over spending on stadiums for the World Cup, began searching for ways to interpret the outcome. Political leaders had been celebrating the tournament in recent days after it unfolded without major problems and a string of victories by the Brazilian team, but their tone shifted on Tuesday.
"Like all Brazilians, I am very, very sad with the defeat," President Dilma Rousseff said on Twitter. "Brazil, get up, shake the dust off, get back on your feet."
In the hours after the game, some Brazilians seemed to be doing exactly that.
"I'm disappointed, but life goes on," said Luciana Salles, 36, a teacher who watched the game at a bar in downtown Sao Paulo. She said she remained pleased by a romance that kindled during the festive World Cup atmosphere before Brazil lost.
"Where Brazil won or not, my life will be the same," Salles said, embracing her new boyfriend, Diogo Alves de Oliveira, 22, an administrative assistant.
He said he saw things in a different light. "I'm feeling very bad," Alves de Oliveira said. "It causes anguish, pain in the heart."
Elsewhere, Brazilian news organizations reported rising tension in some cities, including an outbreak of fighting and assaults at a gathering for fans on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, arson attacks on two buses and a looted store in Sao Paulo, and a wave of assaults at what was supposed to be a celebration for fans in Salvador, the largest city in northeast Brazil.
Still, many Brazilians simply seemed more depressed than angry, looking ahead at the remainder of the tournament, which ends on Sunday, with a mixture of irony and despair.
"I'm now going to buy the flag of Argentina," said Riva Santos, 40, a salesman who was watching the game at a bar in Itaquera, not far from the World Cup stadium in Sao Paulo, referring to the neighboring country that is traditionally Brazil's top rival. "I'm speechless; no one could have imagined this."