As the clock ticked round to 9.30 this evening, and Germany stroked in their fifth goal against Brazil, it was possible to imagine the entire world sitting open-mouthed. People from Shanghai to Sevastopol watching dumb-founded, unable to speak, incapable of digesting the events unfolding in front of their eyes.
Such brutal evisceration just doesn't happen in professional sport. Even when a team is beaten, it is rarely made to look as dishevelled, as denuded, as amateur as Brazil looked tonight. Luis Felipe Scolari's men looked like a hungover pub side bumbling around the local park on a Sunday morning, not one of the world's most storied football teams playing to an audience of billions.
This wasn't simply a thrashing. It was the single most earth-shattering football match of all time.
Think I'm guilty of hyperbole? Well, let's look at the facts. First of all, one must consider the magnitude of the game. The World Cup comes round once every four years, and is the most popular sporting event on the planet. Although the finalists take the glory, each semi-final is remembered for years afterwards. Indeed English fans are still rabbiting on about the semi-final defeat to Germany in Italy, almost 25 years ago.
Then one must factor in the pedigree of the losing team. Brazil may have been missing their talisman, Neymar, but tonight's team still contained players from Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Sure, there were weaknesses in Scolari's squad – his forward roster of Fred, Bernard and Jo read more like the dramatis personae of Coronation Street than a potent Latin strikeforce, and in truth Brazil's attack carried little of the beguiling flair which has distinguished the country's great teams of the past.
Yet this was Brazil, the five-time World Cup winners, proud wearers of those iconic jerseys which seem to infuse even the most mediocre of players with the belief that they are world-beaters. And this lot were playing at home, roared on by over 200 million people in familiar surroundings and in conditions which should have suited them far more than their European opponents. Prior to tonight, Brazil hadn't lost a competitive home match for 12 years.
Given Brazil's history, their home advantage, and the stakes for which both teams were playing, any German win would have constituted an outstanding result. Yet they inflicted Brazil's biggest-ever defeat, and one of the widest winning margins ever seen at the World Cup; only six times in history has a team scored more than seven goals at the tournament. The last time a team shipped seven goals was in the group stage, and that team was North Korea.
There have been drubbings of fancied sides before, of course. Just last year Bayern Munich, for whom many of this German side play their club football, inflicted a 7-0 humiliation on Barcelona in the Champions League, albeit over two legs. Go back in history and you have Real Madrid's 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup, and, even further back, Hungary's 7-1 demolition of England, then the aristocrats of the game, during the 1950s.
Yet surely no hammering has ever captured quite so much attention as this one. The entire world tuned in to watch a heavyweight contest this evening, and ended up seeing a proud footballing nation brought to its knees, reduced to a pathetic rabble. The dust is now starting to settle, as people finally accept that what they saw on their television screens was, in fact, real. But football's aficionados will be talking about tonight for as long as the game is played.