One of the greatest joys of football is its unpredictability, and the FIFA World Cup is no exception. Before the 2014 tournament in Brazil, if someone had predicted that eventual champions Germany would struggle to draw with Ghana, scrape past Algeria after extra time and hammer host nation Brazil 7-1, most people would have laughed at them. And yet, incredibly, that's exactly what happened.
Before the tournament had even started, the omens weren't promising for the host nation, which was riven with strife and unrest. Many Brazilians felt that hosting a World Cup was an unpardonable waste of money in a country where poverty and social deprivation were rife, and the run-up to the tournament was marred by vehement anti-World Cup protests and a brutal response from the police.
To say that the Brazilian people weren't united in support of their national team would be an understatement. One Brazilian who was interviewed on the streets even said he'd be supporting England (the poor soul).
Even before the Germany debacle, things hadn't exactly been going smoothly on the pitch, either. Brazil began their campaign with a flattering 3-1 win over Croatia and didn't really improve from there - they were fortunate to beat Chile on penalties in the second round, and showed only flashes of quality in their nervy 2-1 quarter final win over Colombia.
Still, Joachim Löw's side hadn't enjoyed a smooth run to the semi final, either. After demolishing a disappointing Portugal side 4-0 in their opening game, courtesy of Pepe's sending off and Thomas Müller's hat trick, they were held 2-2 by Ghana and only managed narrow victories over the United States, Algeria and France. They were particularly unconvincing against the Algerians, whom they defeated 2-1 after extra time.
The Germans must have been encouraged by the news that the hosts would be without two key players in their semi final in Belo Horizonte on July 8. Star striker Neymar was injured, while Thiago Silva, Brazil's captain and best defender, was suspended. Nevertheless, not even the most wildly optimistic German could have anticipated that their side would effectively have won the match in less than half an hour.
The rot started as early as the 11th minute, when Müller capitalised on slack marking from a corner to fire Germany in front. From that point on, it's difficult to say what was the more significant factor - Brazil's defensive collapse or Germany's attacking ruthlessness. Either way, the six minute period in which the score went from 1-0 to 5-0 was truly surreal.
First, Miroslav Klose struck from close range in the 23rd minute, taking his tally in World Cups to a record breaking figure of 16 goals. Then Toni Kroos fired in two goals in quick succession. The first was a trademark low shot which Julio Cesar arguably ought to have saved, but the keeper had no chance with the second, after Sami Khedira had set up his fellow midfielder for an easy finish.
Barely a minute later, in the 29th minute of the match, Khedira scored his side's fifth of the night, playing an effortless one-two with Mesut Özil before beating Cesar with ease.
The rest of the match was little more than a formality for the Germans, although Manuel Neuer was tested early in the second half. Substitute André Schürrle added two late strikes for Die Mannschaft, the second of which was a superb finish from a narrow angle - although, again, Cesar might have done better.
Brazil's humiliation was complete when the home crowd - many of whom had been reduced to bitter tears in the first half hour - started cheering every German pass. When Oscar annoyed Neuer by denying him a clean sheet at the end of the match, the crowd's cheers sounded distinctly ironic.
'Consolation goal' would be a total misnomer. After a truly appalling performance, the Brazilians were inconsolable.
With football as with anything else, it's easy to be wise after the event. Both in 2010 against England and Argentina and in 2014 against Portugal, the Germans had shown their potential to demolish any side which showed even a hint of defensive vulnerability. Without the authoritative presence of Thiago Silva, and with David Luiz showing all his most wayward attributes and none of his best, Brazil showed much more than a hint of vulnerability.
And yes, if there had been a greater sense of unity and common purpose in Brazil - rather than the fractured and fractious atmosphere which prevailed - perhaps the hosts wouldn't have disintegrated at the first sign of serious trouble.
However, none of this alters one irrefutable fact - both the margin and the manner of Germany's victory over Brazil in 2014 were among the biggest shocks in World Cup history.
Brazilians could be forgiven for wondering whether they're destined never to win the World Cup on home soil. They were stunned 2-1 by Uruguay in what was effectively the final in 1950, and they suffered the biggest World Cup defeat in their history 64 years later. It was also their first competitive home defeat in 39 years.
The Germans responded to their extraordinary win with a commendable lack of triumphalism - they couldn't have been more magnanimous in victory. They seemed almost as stunned as Brazil by the ease with which they'd won.
They didn't have such an easy time against an obstinate Argentina defence in the final - a dour affair settled by a superb Mario Götze goal in extra time, as Die Mannschaft lifted their fourth World Cup and became the first non-American side to win the tournament in the Americas.
This was after Brazil had suffered their second thrashing in as many matches, crumbling to a 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands in the third place final.
The Samba Boys have gained some measure of revenge against the Germans since 2014, defeating them in the Olympic Gold Medal match in 2016 and winning a friendly in Germany earlier in 2018.
However, this summer's tournament in Russia will provide a far sterner test of how far Brazil have progressed since the shambles of Belo Horizonte.