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In the Aftermath of a Football Disaster, What Should Brazilians Remember?

10/07/2014 11:54 BST | Updated 08/09/2014 10:59 BST

The shame. The embarrassment. The horror. These are only three ways of describing how Brazil and the Brazilian people reacted to the 7-1 pasting inflicted on them by the German national football team in the World Cup semi-final game on Tuesday.

The backlash didn't take very long to start. During the match, the crowd could be clearly heard singing offensive chants directed at their own players and great moves by the German team were greeted with semi-ironic Brazilian shouts of 'olé!'

This game was a record-breaker for social media service Twitter. They recorded over half a million tweets about the game at one point and almost 37 million tweets were posted about the game while it was taking place - the most tweeted sporting event ever.

Many of those tweets were ironic, self-deprecating, or even just plain insulting. Photoshop wizards got to work and created new images of the Christ statue in Rio holding his hands up to cover his face. They remodelled the Brazilian flag with a goal in the centre full of German balls. They reworked the image on cans of 7-Up as if the logo reflected the result of the game.

However, apart from a few drunken scuffles, a few torched flags and one man who smashed up his television in disgust, there was no widespread violence after the game. Most of the people I witnessed in person and on the TV reports just gave up and went home. An evening that could have been full of mid-week partying just closed down and died early. In my own São Paulo countryside town, hundreds of people suddenly vanished ten minutes after the final whistle.

Soon after the game, commentators and bloggers started going to work on their own national identity. Brazil has recently suffered a shortage of doctors prepared to work in the remote interior regions of the country, so the government resorted to importing Cuban medics. On Facebook it was a popular suggestion that they should repeat the same tactic with the national football team.

A lot of nasty Nazi jokes started to circulate online that make the typical British red top humour about lining up tanks on the goal line look childish in comparison. My social media feeds were full of angry Brazilians screaming about how the mighty Germany with their great people, wonderful health system and education had shown the Brazilians how to behave. Many suggested that the people of Brazil - especially the footballers - are parasites, not paying their tax, corrupting the nation and they needed a good spanking by the Germans to instil a more positive work ethic.

It is very easy to ascribe ideas of corruption and dishonesty to a team that performed poorly. But...they are a football team! They don't represent the entire realm of hopes and aspirations of every person in Brazil. Anger, frustration, and disappointment can be blamed for much of the immediate self-hatred, but the media has continued their frenzied post-mortem today and it just highlights the class divisions in Brazil.

This reaction is less about a sudden hatred of Brazil and more about the ongoing issues that Brazil faces. Brazil is one of the most unequal societies on Earth and the people don't like many of the realities this creates - the poor don't believe that they have access to a good education or healthcare system and the rich complain that they need big walls, electric fences and private security to guard their own homes.

It is important to remember, though, that this government - which has to fight a general election later in the year - has done more than any other in history to drag the desperately poor out of poverty and the merely poor into the world of the middle-class. President Rousseff and her party are often on the receiving end of middle-class accusations of corruption - without the accusers acknowledging that the whole political class in Brazil is in desperate need of a reform so it can be more representative of the people.

Politics aside, what the people of Brazil should remember is this: the best team won that game. In fact, the Brazil team has not looked very strong throughout the tournament, so losing in the semi-final was a major achievement. Just ask any England, Spain or Portugal fan for their opinion on that. Also, 209 countries enter the World Cup so the 32 who make it to the finals are all in a privileged position and yes, they deserve praise.

People all over the world have said that this the best World Cup ever and they are right. We have witnessed fluid, attacking football, many more goals than is usual in a World Cup tournament, more last-minute comebacks than ever, and more excitement through the entire length of the competition. Brazil has been the greatest ever host for the World Cup and this is what the people outside Brazil will remember. As a Brazilian citizen, I am very proud of all this.

So, let's enjoy the weekend. Brazil will play one more game on Saturday to compete for third place. Felipão will then depart and a new coach will shake up the team before the next competition and no doubt, the likes of Thiago Silva and Neymar, who did not take part in Tuesday's carnage, will be part of the next World Cup squad. On Sunday almost a billion people will watch the final and I'm sure that the people of Brazil will be partying late into the night - whoever wins.