Every so often, football throws up a result so shocking as to be barely believable. Indeed, the sport's unpredictable nature is one of the many things that keeps fans trudging through rain, wind and snow, week after week, to watch the team we love. Still, it is difficult to recall a match whose outcome was as staggeringly incomprehensible as Tuesday night's clash between Brazil and Germany, at Belo Horizonte.
Watching that game, a World Cup semi-final, no less, was an experience so strange that it felt like a hallucination. With each of Germany's seven goals, the footballing world rubbed it's collective eyes in baffled wonder, repeatedly pinching itself in the face of the public disemboweling it was witnessing. Some laughed, while others cried, as Brazil's fairytale was ripped apart, in their own back yard, by a German side whose hearts appeared to be made of flint.
Much has been written, since that fateful night, about Brazil's hopelessness and ineptitude. The words 'capitulation' and 'collapse' have been popular in describing the hosts' performance, with many pointing to the raw, raging emotions and the unbearable, suffocating pressure felt by their players, as the cause of their demise. Which, undoubtedly, holds some truth.
Yet, there was more to it than that. For there were two teams, two nations, involved in this encounter, and Germany have, surely, not been given nearly enough credit for their jaw-dropping display. Yes, the Brazilians fell apart like a house of cards in a hurricane, but they were also picked apart by a set of players who have been threatening such a coming-of-age for years.
This German side is a wonderful blend of burgeoning talent and rugged, wizened experience. They played, on Tuesday, with an almost telepathic understanding of each-other's games. They're performance was a Shakespearian masterpiece to their opponents' circus-act. They looked every bit a collection of players who know each-other like the backs of their own hands, having competed alongside one-another for years.
There was, inevitably, all of the old efficiency that we all associate with this nation. Yet there is so much more to Germany's game, nowadays, than simply being able to get the job done with minimal fuss. Alongside all of their usual attributes, they have added a great deal of flare; slick passing is as much a part of their makeup, now, as clinical finishing has always been.
Brazil, for all their faults, came up against a machine that purred majestically. It may seem an odd suggestion, but the act of dismembering the dreams of football's most celebrated nation cannot have been as easy as Germany made it look. Many other teams would have suffered a form of stage-fright as the enormity of what was taking place dawned on them.
Not Germany. They went about the task of butchering the Brazilians with the ice-cold, methodical, dispassionate air of a serial-killer. As their victims, with shoulders slumped, stood in shell-shocked bewilderment around them, they cooly, yet understatedly, celebrated their goals, before returning to their formation to do it all again. In truth, it seemed they could have scored at will, had they chosen to do so.
Some complained of Germany's goals being dull; too similar to each-other to raise the pulse of the spectator. Perhaps this is true but each was a masterclass in patience, toying with the Brazilians with humiliating ease, like a ferocious predator, calmly standing over its twitching, wide-eyed prey, with all the self-assurance that their superior power and skill instilled within them.
Even when, for a while after halftime, Brazil looked relatively threatening, they found themselves faced with the magnificent, immovable, Manuel Neuer. The German goalkeeper had been little more than a spectator during the first forty-five minutes, his concentration and professionalism, snuffing out the last flicker of Brazilian belief that even a modicum of pride could be restored, perfectly summing up the German mentality.
There is no doubt that the Brazil of 2014 is a pale imitation of their glorious teams of the past. That was clear from their very first group game. Hulk, more like Wiley Coyote - forever crashing into brick walls - than his namesake, is not the kind of player we associate with this nation, and he is just one of many. It always felt, at this World Cup, as if they were having to force the sense of romance their teams have effortlessly conjured over the preceding decades.
Nevertheless, Germany appear to have finally clicked into place; to have blossomed and ripened and matured into what we all felt, and feared, they could become. Brazil were poor but they may also have just run, headlong, into a force of nature. Argentina, beware.