How Do Football Teams Recover From Humiliating Defeats? Part 1


62 official unbeaten matches at home, in an extended run since the 1975 Copa America, and a single defeat overall in the last 15 competitive matches, in addition to the Confederations Cup title last year. This was the case of Brazil Luiz Felipe Scolari before Germany crushed it by surprise by seven in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, in what was later known as “Mineirao” or “The Agony of The Mineirao”, relative to the Mineirao stadium on which the match was held.

In fact, there were many doubts about Scolari's ability to lead the national team in the World Cup before he took over in 2012. Some considered his appointment as hypocrisy to the fans and resorting to easy solutions, even though it was Scolari who won the tournament in 2002.

But doubts soon disappeared after the team’s performance gradually escalated, and with it hopes rose to get rid of the spectre of the Maracanã that had been hanging over the minds of Brazilians for 64 years since the defeat against Uruguay in 1950, and of course, the 2014 tournament was only the second tournament organized by Brazil in history and the first in history. Launch since the Maracanã earthquake.

Back from the Dead

For this exact reason, the press used the word "Agony", which is the agony of death, and that defeat was tantamount to announcing the death of the majority of the members of this generation, if it may be considered a generation at all. There are at least 10 players from Brazil's list in this World Cup who did not wear the national team's shirt after that night.

The Brazilian death also had digital dimensions. This is typical of such scandals. Liverpool's seven raised their tally against De Gea to 17 goals in four matches over two seasons, similarly Germany's seven, and then the Netherlands' triple in the third and fourth place match, raised the total of what the Selecao received to 14 goals; The highest for any homeowner since the start of the tournament.

Just imagine that before this moment Brazil had conceded only 4 goals in 6 matches, and then 10 in two matches after that. This is the embodiment of what sports psychologists call "Collective Team Collapse", which they define as "a sudden sharp collective decline in the team's performance caused by a critical situation that affected its style and the relationship of its members with each other, and thus lost control of the course of the game, and made it difficult They have to get back to their previous level."

Matt Furness, editor and analyst for The Analyst, believes that the reason for this "critical situation" was the unforeseen absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva from the match; The first was injured in the back after a reckless intervention by the Colombian Juan Camilo Zuniga, and the second received an unnecessary warning after intercepting the Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina in the same match.

Furness goes on to say that raising Neymar's shirt during the team's group photo before the start of the Germany match was tantamount to an acknowledgement of weakness and helplessness without the most important playmaker in the team, which gave the Germans the required moral boost on the one hand, and at the same time "affected the team's playing style and the relationship of its members with each other."

This was the hardest part of it. The inability to understand and explain, as there was nothing in the Brazilian march before this moment that indicated this defeat at all. In fact, the Selecao entered the match with equal fortunes, supported by the legendary mass back who distinguished the matches of this World Cup, and for the same reason, the Brazilians did not succeed in explaining that defeat until the moment.

International vs Local

Dr Susan Whitbourne, who has specialized throughout her career in studying the behaviour and mentalities of football fans, believes that the fans' emotional response reaches its peak in the matches of their national teams, compared to clubs, for example. During the World Cup itself, researchers noticed an increase in levels of testosterone, the male hormone, and cortisol, the stress hormone, in both Brazilian men and women, and German hospitals recorded a greater number of cases of heart problems among men.

This is due to the so-called mirror neurons in the brain, which are primarily responsible for empathy and a sense of sympathy for the feelings shown by others. These cells feel more familiar when you support your country's national team than Manchester United, for example.

Of course, this seems like a complicated way of telling you the obvious, which is that your enthusiasm for your country's national team - surprisingly - will exceed your enthusiasm for a team that consists of more than 10 nationalities and plays in a country that you have not often visited before, but the example of Brazil had only one purpose; Examining the effects of a similar defeat on a team that was not expected. This is what we can describe the seven Liverpool by at least.

The important question now is: How do you forget such a defeat? Answer: You never forget it.

In a previous study led by Dr Vanessa Vergen - ironically enough, she is German - in 2017, I used a remarkable statement by Dan Quinn, coach of the Atlanta Falcons, after they lost the Super Bowl in the same year, when he said: "Loss is in the past, but I'm not over it yet."

The Falcons were leading 28-3 until the second half, then lost 28-34 at the end. Of course, this is another example of a "collective team collapse" that neither Dan Quinn nor his players understood.

In the worst-case scenario, the player or coach remains trapped in this feeling of helplessness, and what is meant here is the inability to understand specifically, simply because it means that his abilities may betray him again, and this leads him to question everything that preceded that moment until it becomes the most important thing he is known for. Brazil's goalkeeper in that match, Julio Cesar, stated something similar after his retirement in 2018, saying:

Even today, when I lie down, it’s inevitable that I think about it. I’m already imagining the day I die, years from now, when they announce on the news: ‘Júlio César, the goalkeeper in the 7-1, has died.'

Stand for a moment and imagine that the man who contributed to 28 titles throughout his career as one of the most crowned players in the history of the game, including a hat-trick with Inter in addition to a title for the Copa America and the Confederations Cup with the national team, and like the Selecao in 87 matches, this was his feeling upon his retirement; That one match was the most famous for which he would be known.

What's left is the realization that you need to forget about forgetting and truth vs nonsense, but more on that in the second post of this two-parter.


About that match: Brazil 1-7 Germany - The Analyst
When Everything Suddenly Stops Working: The Causes of Team Collapse in Team Sports - Frontiers
How to deal with heavy losses - Online Soccer Academy
Football; A mix of mixed feelings - Tech Talk
High altitudes and overwhelming lows; Is being a sports fan good or bad for your health? Conversation
What happens to your body and brain when you watch sports? - NBC News
When you watch your team fall apart; Coaches, Psychologists, and Players Analyzing the Causes of Team Collapse - Frontiers
Quinn on the Super Bowl: "It's in the past, but I'm not over it yet." - NFL
Julio Cesar's March - Transfermarkt
The five stages of dealing with trauma and grief and how to deal with them - CNN
How do you cope with losses without losing confidence? - Soccer Psychology Tips
12- How do you see lessons in defeats? Peak Performance Sports
Liverpool 7-0 Manchester United; Analysis - Football Made Simple
My Post: Erik ten Hag's Two Faces: Bloody Fist
My Post: Erik ten Hag's Two Faces: The Other Guy


That Germany win rates as one of my favourites of all time for me personally (German grandfather). I admit I was guilty of proper schadenfreude and it was even sweeter that it was in Brazil. I think it was a result of coming to a head the weight of expectations playing at home for Brazil, and the peak of Germany's modern golden generation. They absolutely tore them to shreds and Germany could seriously have won that game 10-1.