Thirty-two of the world's best sides gather every four years to play in an impossible tournament that guarantees nothing but emotional trauma of every scale for 31 of those teams. Personal, professional and national pride are all laid on the table and one team, just one, gets to bring back all three intact to their home country. Actual billions of people watch and willingly invest themselves in the unknowable outcome of this sadomasochistic drama. On those facts, what can be said is that soccer is the world's most popular dominatrix and the world is into some no-safeword submissive kink. The semifinals of this World Cup took their free rein and found new limits. Brazil knows this feel.

Brazil, the government, has and continues to spend north of $14 billion for the right to host 2014's World Cup and further line the bulging pockets of its ruling class. Brazil, the people, faced with the appalling dichotomy of diminished public services and massive investment in private sporting events, protested by the millions. Brazil, the team, was not so much favored as expected to transcend this national strife, deliver a sixth World Cup trophy and erase the sore memories of 1950's 2-1 World Cup final loss to Uruguay in the Maracanã Stadium -- Brazil's home turf of home turfs. Only someone looking to get off on a painful outcome would invest their hope in a team faced with such odds, but soccer convinced the world, the whole wide world, that Brazil need only show up and claim its glory. 

Germany won the semifinal by a score of 7-1, which is … Unimaginable? Asstastic? A Crisis On Infinite Earths? Whatever words one chooses, the result still feels bone-deep impossible the world over. This enduring disbelief, however, only illustrates the inevitable cruelties that the World Cup keeps us from seeing in advance, even as they happen for all to see.

A number of people close to "everyone" knew that Brazil lost Thiago Silva to yellow cards and Neymar to injury before they even eliminated Colombia in the quarterfinal. In losing Silva, an atypically defensive Brazilian side lost not just the game's best center back, but a backline force without equal. Silva was considered the less damning absentee only because his stabilizing presence in Brazil's defense paled in comparison to the team's desperate reliance on Neymar summoning transcendent offense forth from the ether. For all of Brazil's cultural association with playing beautiful, fluid soccer, they were getting awfully far on Neymar compensating for the assorted foibles and skylarkings of his mononymic companions on offense. No team can be expected to overcome losing its two best players. Somehow, Brazil remained the favorite. 

Even Nate Silver, the internet's Guy With All The Numbers, gave Brazil a 65 percent chance of beating Germany based on 538's prediction model, which is still not as bad as formulating a Bayesian analysis of rape allegations, but also not his greatest call, albeit a perfectly understandable one even with the benefit of hindsight. The World Cup is so powerful a force and the global submission it demands so tempting, that not even numbers can make sense of the heartbreaking chaos written into its ongoing history. Argentina beating the Netherlands on penalty kicks provided its own sporting tragedy, except it wasn't a shocking one. Familiarity isn't much comfort in these situations though.

The Netherlands national team is known for two things: Being really good and never being quite good enough to win a World Cup. In the 40 years since the team established itself as a global soccer power, the Netherlands has reached the semifinals five times and its best result remains a trio of second-place finishes. Yesterday's loss to Argentina is just what happens to the Netherlands. The tiny country that took Total Football to a global stage and made itself into a paragon of beautiful soccer must also live with a team that can't seem to close the damn deal. Imagine rooting for a national side known for fielding truly sublime teams and having only the vaguely comforting memory of beautiful plays that produced no trophies. That sounds like it really sucks.

What makes it bizarre is that Le Oranje and its relationship to the Netherlands is hardly unique. Any country that invests any of its collective soul into soccer has its own tortured history with the game and every last bit of it is as thoroughly mythologized as even the greatest of victories. Already, 7-1 and 4-2 are a matter of history and the cultural memories of the last two days are on their way to the next generation. This happens before, during and after every World Cup without fail and we all have a natural urge to just let go already. The nature of sports makes the consequences of letting go easy to live with. The stakes of the World Cup push the consequences to the point of being too painful and the world not only loves it, but comes back begging for more the moment it's over. Clearly, the world is much kinkier than anyone suspects.