It was when the huge, heaving mass of Corinthians players and staff were partying at the final whistle, when their 20,000 fans were lighting flares and chanting their idols' names, that it really hit home to Chelsea that the Club World Cup was a trophy worth fighting for. Corinthians simply had a greater yen for it.
Chelsea's latest inquest will focus on desire levels, on the late arrival here, but it really was the little details that truly cost the champions of Europe, the decisions that define a game's destiny. It was Fernando Torres's hesitant decision-making in front of goal that always made Chelsea vulnerable to one of Corinthians' incisive counters.
"He has to take these chances in a final because it's not easy to create too many," said Chelsea's interim first-team manager, Rafael Benitez, of his profligate No9. "If you have two or three you have to score."
It was Benitez's decision to start Victor Moses ahead of Oscar that surprised. Given the Brazilians' appreciation of the competition's worth it was particularly strange that there was no starting place for Oscar, who had talked emotionally in the build-up of how much he cherished the Club World Cup.
Benitez sought to explain his decision on the grounds of speed. "We knew they had some problems behind their full-backs in the wide areas, so we wanted a player with pace in those areas," Benitez said.
Moses did run through a couple of times but did little to justify his place ahead of Oscar. He denied Brazilian media reports that he had called Benitez "crazy" for keeping him in reserve for 73 minutes, emphasising: "I respect the coach's decision.''
Decisions, decisions. It was one of Benitez's substitutions, Cesar Azpilicueta for Branislav Ivanovic, right-back for right-back, that really bemused at a time when the team trailed. Why not Lucas Piazon? The teenaged Brazilian may be inexperienced but his skill is regarded highly at the club.
It was the decision of the owner, Roman Abramovich, to dispense with the services of Roberto Di Matteo that again came under scrutiny. If Benitez was the great tactician and master-motivator, then his impact on events here were minimal. Torres was poor. Corinthians looked more organised than Chelsea, more inspired.
"We didn't have the desire to be champions," Piazon was quoted as telling Brazilian television. "I think only David Luiz and Ramires, the Brazilians, show willpower. That's why they're sad. The team went to the pitch with no desire."
Afterwards, Piazon tweeted a clarification saying he felt "Corinthians had more courage to play the final than us, that they wanted more this title and that they played with more passion than us". It hurt Chelsea's Brazilians. Ramires was in tears at the end. So was Luiz. "I cried,'' he said. "I have a heavy heart. I dreamed one day of playing in the Club World Cup final. I wanted to win."
Luiz played well, looking increasingly a personality that Chelsea players can rally to, beginning swiftly as a baying Elland Road awaits on Wednesday. "Life continues," Luiz added. "You can cry one night. Tomorrow is another day." Tomorrow brings a fight against jet-lag and then preparation for the Capital One Cup. Benitez simply cannot risk another damaging defeat.
He can legitimately argue that he needs time to instill his philosophy but those who assume occupancy of the Chelsea dugout know it is only ever a short-term lease. They have to hit the ground running, not stumbling. Japan represented an opportunity for Benitez to orchestrate a trophy win but instead, he returns home today as another Chelsea manager with another embarrassing result, with catcalls anticipated from the away fans travelling to Yorkshire, some of whom were here, their hearts, wallets and purses empty.
Chelsea supporters must wonder when their club will escape this sudden nightmare that 2012 has dissolved into, whether the agonies will stretch into the new year. Gone are the joys of spring, the successes in the FA Cup and Champions League. Chelsea have slid into the bleakest of midwinters, still struggling to find the balance of their old power and new commitment to deftness.
To lose one competition may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose four before Christmas looks more than carelessness: first the Community Shield, then the Uefa Super Cup, the Champions League and now the Club World Cup.
In the first half, Gary Cahill and a nervous Torres were denied by Cassio, who then pulled off a marvellous save, diving to his left to push away Moses's curling effort. These were promising times but Corinthians' cutting edge always glinted under the floodlights. Luiz had dealt well with Paolo Guerrero for 69 minutes but then the Peruvian demonstrated the movement of a natural predator, the confidence that Torres lacked.
Guerrero acted sharpest to a loose ball, leaping up and heading the winner past Ramires, Luiz and Ashley Cole on the line. The misery intensified: Torres wasted a glorious chance and then Cahill was dismissed for kicking out at Emerson.
Moments later, the Corinthians really got the party started. "It's a real battle between the third world and the first world,'' their defender, Paulo Andre, said. "For our people, for our fans, who have a difficult life, it's very important to show the world that we can be the best in the world just once." Chelsea blew that chance. They must react robustly and swiftly to the season of gathering sorrows.