BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — With Neymar out injured, just about everyone in Brazil knew it would be tough against Germany.
Nobody ever expected this.
The Germans tore apart Brazil's porous defense time and time again Tuesday, routing the hosts 7-1 in the World Cup semifinals, the largest margin of defeat at this stage in tournament history.
"We wanted to make the people happy … unfortunately we couldn't," said Brazil defender David Luiz, who had scored in each of the previous two matches. "We apologize to all Brazilians."
The astounding scoreline overshadowed Miroslav Klose's record-setting 16th career World Cup goal. The strike pushed Klose past Brazilian great Ronaldo, who was at the Mineirao Stadium as the Germans reached their record eighth Cup final (Brazil was denied that honor).
Germany faces either Argentina or the Netherlands on Sunday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro with a chance to win its fourth Cup title.
Brazil was without Neymar, its key player and poster boy for the World Cup, who sat out with a broken vertebra. He scored four goals in the group stage, but Brazil's attack seemed to get weaker as the tournament progressed.
With captain and central defender Thiago Silva suspended, the collective hopes of a nation remained high even if expectations were lowered.
The atmosphere at the start was spine-tingling, but the euphoria of the yellow-shirted thousands soon turned to tears as the Germans scored five goals in the first 30 minutes — four in a seven-minute span. Brazil's defense kept getting shredded, the unit clearly missing Silva as much or more than the Selecao's feeble attack missed Neymar.
"It was very important to stay calm, cool and courageous in facing Brazilian passion," Germany coach Joachim Low said.
Germany's 5-0 halftime lead marked the first five-goal first half in the World Cup since Poland against Haiti in 1974. And the five-goal outburst came in 29 minutes, fastest for any match in World Cup history (Yugoslavia led Zaire 5-0 after 30 minutes, also in 1974, and 6-0 at halftime the day before Poland-Haiti).
Afterward, several Brazilian players joined their fans in crying including David Luiz in a TV interview.
The loss matched Brazil's most-lopsided defeat ever, and its first in a competitive match on home soil since 1975, when Peru won 3-1 at the same stadium in the Copa America. Brazil's last loss at home came in a friendly with Paraguay in 2002.
Brazil's biggest World Cup loss had been 3-0 to France in the 1998 final. The margin equaled Brazil's worst in any competitive game, 6-0 against Uruguay in 1920.
"The responsibility for this catastrophic result is mine," said coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to the World Cup title in 2002 but surely will see his second stint end after Saturday's third-place game. "I was in charge."
It was the largest margin of victory in a semi — three had ended 6-1, including Argentina over the United States in 1930, the inaugural World Cup.
Toni Kroos and substitute Andre Schurrle scored twice each and Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira added the others. Oscar pulled a late goal back for Brazil.
Even the Germans were stunned at the margin of victory: "We had trouble believing it," Kroos said.
"It was, of course, not exactly expected. The space we had was bigger than against defensive teams," Muller said. "We took advantage of it superbly, the opponent at some point gets broken."
Klose scored his record goal in the 23rd minute, off of his own rebound spilled by goalkeeper Julio Cesar, to make it 2-0.
Despite its record five World Cup titles, Brazil still carries scars from its previous time hosting the tournament in 1950. Its 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the finale was coined the Maracanazo, a term symbolizing the heartbreak at Rio's Maracana stadium.
Brazil will have to coin a new idiom to pass through the generations for this collapse.
Jorge Cardoso, an engineer watching on TV in Rio, said simply: "It's like someone you love has died."
"Truthfully," Cesar said, "it's very hard to explain the unexplainable."