Four years ago, Brazil were hit by a tragedy bigger than a tsunami. A 7-1 thrashing by Germany was beyond the wildest imagination of the proud football nation.
Maracanzo was previously the lone tragedy that Brazil ever experienced, when Uruguay denied their first World Cup in the last 15 minutes of the game to clinch a 2-1 victory from 1-0 down at the famous Maracana stadium in 1950. Since then Brazil went on to win five WorldCups, more than any other country.
Brazil were never humiliated like they were on July 8 in the 2014 semifinal. In front of a home crowd, it felt like a brutal public flogging -- a wound so deep that many pundits thought it would take at least a decade to heal.
Some famous football critics even saw the end of Brazilian era in world football. Brazil even vindicated that prediction by sinking further into the abyss after replacing Felipe Scolari with Carlos Dunga.
From number six in the rankings, Brazil are back to number one again. When countries like Italy failed to get a World Cup ticket, Brazil became the first country to qualify for the Russian fiesta. When hot favourites Germany, Spain and Argentina got dumped out of the World Cup, Brazil looked solid and like champions.
The Selecao's recovery is almost like the rise of the mythical phoenix from the ashes. So, was the Brazilian renaissance almost natural? Far from it. The Brazilian football federation played practically no role in it. The federation hit its lowest ebb as three of its bosses had to step down upon corruption charges.
Brazil were lucky to make an all-important recruitment. Brazil are born again and have become a force to reckon with mainly because of one man. He is Tite, The Coach.
The biggest challenge of the Brazilian coach was to fulfil the typical expectation of spectators. Winning is not enough. It has to come in 'Braziliance', through beautiful football. Under Tite, Brazil are playing 'Brazilliance' brand.
Fondly called Professor by his charges, Tite inspired his team to win 19 of 21 matches before the World Cup.
"Tite is a great coach, one of the best in the world. He just doesn't have the status of [Manchester City coach Pep] Guardiola and [Manchester United coach Jose] Mourinho because he's not in Europe. But he's as good as these guys."
Quotes like this from players and critics are common these days.
The secrets of Tite are planning, confidence and motivation. He is very dedicated and has an incredible ability to explain his ideas and explore the best of every player.
The first thing Tite did was institute the rule that there would be no permanent captain for Brazil. The armband is being rotated among players since he took over. The next remarkable step is less dependency on superstar Neymar.
Scolari went into Mission Hexa, the sixth World Cup for Brazil, purely depending on Neymar, who was then 21 years old. But Tite built a squad of several winners, of which Neymar is one. Interestingly, Tite is yet to offer the world's most expensive player the coveted armband. Neymar has to work harder to earn it.
Tite made his team more attacking, but with beefed up defence. Brazil have only conceded six goals in 24 matches with Tite in charge. Conceding seven goals in one game seems to be a thing of the past.
Tite is least interested about the favourites' tag or the No. 1 ranking.
“I care so little about it!” is Tite's reply for journalists. All he wants is hard work from his team. Because, he reminds his charges, talent doesn't win matches.
When Brazil take on Belgium in the make-or-break match tonight, any one of Philippe Coutinho, Paulinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, Douglas Costa or Firmino can seize the limelight from Neymar. Any of the players can score or become player of the day.
I believe Brazil will win. And, if it is a victory, the real winner will not be playing in the field but watching the game from the dugout!
The writer is former Sports Editor of The Daily Star