It's unlikely any team has played a World Cup under more pressure than Brazil faced this summer.
But it's certain no team unraveled more quickly or more completely than Brazil, which was blown out in the World Cup it is hosting in a 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.
With the win, the Germans advance to a World Cup final for the second time in four tournaments. On Sunday, they will play the winner of Wednesday's second semifinal between Argentina and the Netherlands in Sao Paulo.
Brazil, meanwhile, is scheduled to play the loser of that game in the third-place match on Saturday. It will likely take every bit of courage and resolve for Brazil to show up for that game given what it has dealt with over the last month.
With the government having spent a record $11.5 billion to put on this tournament, Brazil's national team was expected to win the title to justify the cost. But that proved to be a too big a burden for this young team to carry. Twice Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari had to call in a psychologist to counsel his players, many of whom cried openly on the field during Brazil's tense penalty-kick shootout with Chile.
When they were forced to play Germany without Neymar, their most dangerous striker who was injured, and Thiago Silva, their captain and best central defender who was suspended a game with two yellow cards, the players finally cracked, giving up more goals in the first 29 minutes than they had allowed in five full games leading up to the semifinal.
Thomas Mueller got the rout started in the 11th minute, scoring his fifth goal of this World Cup off Toni Kroos' bending corner from the right side into the box. Mueller slipped his defender easily, then volleyed the cross out of the air and by Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar.
And it would soon get worse -- much worse -- for the home team with two goals by Kroos and one each from Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira in a six-minute span making it 5-0 Germany before the half-hour mark.
Germany made it look easy, beating the disorganized Brazilians down the field with superior numbers on every rush.
Klose got the next goal in the 23rd minute, burying his own rebound for his 16th World Cup goal, breaking the record he had shared with Brazil great Ronaldo.
Kroos then scored twice -- in the 24th and 26th minutes -- and the rout was on.
The first Kroos goal came on a left-footed shot from inside the area, although it could have been just as easily scored by Mueller, who was standing next to Kroos and was just as open.
The next one two minutes later was even easier, with Kroos scoring from the edge of the six-yard box. By now Brazil's defense was in tatters, its team appeared depressed and many of its once-hopeful fans were weeping in the stands.
The two goals from Kroos made Germany the first team in history to build a four-goal lead on Brazil. Then Khedira scored in the 29th minute, pulling up deep in the box, waiting for a return pass and then sending it home to make Germany the first team to build a five-goal lead on Brazil.
At this point, the Germans weren't celebrating their goals. And that all five goals came from well inside the 18-yard box was as big an indictment of the Brazil defense as it was a compliment to the Germany attack, which was given free rein near the goal.
Brazil simply had no answer. When the game paused, mercifully, at halftime, the Brazilians were booed off the field and some fans began to file out into the night.
Brazil came out to start the second half intent on getting a goal – or at least earning some respect – but German keeper Manuel Neuer refused to cooperate, making nice saves on Oscar and Paulinho in the opening minutes.
Oscar finally got the best of Neuer in second-half stoppage time but they then Germany, which the exception of Neuer, appeared to be going at half-speed. Yet they still couldn't help scoring with Andre Schurrle, a second-half substitute scoring twice late in the second half.