|A crestfallen Mohammad Azharuddin after India’s defeat in the 1996 cricket World Cup semi-final at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta and (above) Brazil’s David Luiz cries after his team lost to Germany in their 2014 World Cup semi-final tie at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. Pictures by The Telegraph and Reuters
When Kroos smashed a thunderbolt into the Brazil net, Kankerbagh quivered. Much like that balmy March evening 18 years ago when India went out of their own World Cup. Calcutta then had reared its ugly head at the Eden: cricket cried.
Fifa World Cup hosts — Brazil — experienced heartbreak on Monday night. The Germans bulldozed the “knee-marred” home team 7-1 in the first semi-final, silencing the Samba rhythm at Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.
Indians experienced that sinking feeling much earlier — 18 years ago. Cut to March 13, 1996 — the World Cup cricket semi-final between India and Pakistan at the Eden Gardens. Like the Brazilians, Indians lost the plot midway.
Chasing 251 for victory, India was reduced to 120 for 8 in 34.1 overs. The crowd vent their disgust with the state of the match, setting some parts of the stands on fire and using water bottles and fruits as missiles.
Sri Lanka was finally declared winners in the disrupted match by default. Southpaw Vinod Kambli broke into tears after the match like David Luiz — wearing the Brazilian armband on Monday in the absence of suspended central defender Thiago Silva.
Silva “earned” a second yellow card for unnecessarily challenging the Columbia custodian in Brazil’s quarterfinal tie.
“The nation perhaps cursed ‘missing’ captain Silva as Germans toyed with the Brazilian defence on Monday, much like Indians who still cannot forgive then skipper Mohammad Azharuddin for his decision to field first on a turner going against the curator’s view,” said Kankerbagh resident Sanjeev Mishra, drawing a parallel between the two setbacks to the World Cup hosts. Neither Indians, during the tournament in 1996, nor Brazilians, during this edition of the World Cup soccer, thought about the humiliation in their wildest dreams. Nationals of both the countries were euphoric till “catastrophe” struck on March 13, 1996, here and July 7, 2014 there.
On both days, residents of the respective countries woke up with the dream to demolish their opponents and march to the title match. Prayers were on the lips of the spectators on the stands and those off them.
The atmosphere was electric at the Eden that Wednesday, as was it at the noisy Estádio Mineirão. Both the hosts started the proceedings in style. “The Indians quickly saw the back of the dangerous Sanath Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana. The stadium roared. But Aravinda de Silva counterattacked the Indian domination with his effortless cheeky shots,” said Boring Road resident N. Kumar.
Brazil also kicked off in style. For 10 minutes, they dominated the proceedings and earned a corner.
Then, it was the Germans all around. They attacked left, right and centre and unmarked Thomas Muller found the net in the 11th minute.
For 12 minutes, Brazil were alive. India, too, were in the hunt against Sri Lanka till Sachin Tendulkar occupied the crease. After he departed scoring 65, wickets tumbled like a pack of cards — identical to the Germans scoring at will between the 23rd and 29th minute. Bihar Players’ Association president Mritunjay Tiwari said: “We Indians had felt a similar pinch in 1996. We know how the people of Brazil would have felt at that juncture.”
The Germans pumped in two more in the second-half. Brazil’s only consolation came in the 90th minute through Oscar.
By then, the Brazilian fans on the stands were crestfallen. So were the players. Tears trickled down the cheeks of Luiz, reviving the memories of a crying Kambli.
Brazil players sunk to their knees at the final whistle, seeking celestial succour. But there was no clemency from the faithful on the stands. The Brazilian players were an embarrassment to a famous shirt, yet they stayed to the end, most of them.
They saluted Germany unlike the fans at the Eden in 1996, who could not take the home team’s defeat in the right spirit.
Lauding the spirit of Brazil supporters, president of Patna Football Association Rajendra Yadav said: “They have shown a lot of character after their country’s humiliating defeat. Their defeat is something similar to India’s loss in the 1996 cricket World Cup semi-final.”