Saturday, October 03, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: Brazil-Uruguay (1950)

The World Cup of 1950 in Brazil was the only one ever that was played without a final. Instead, all four teams in the final round (Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Sweden) played in a final group, where the winner would become world champion. In spite of this, the group went into what was practically a final when Brazil faced Uruguay in Maracana in the last group match on the largest football stadium in the world, the mighty Maracaná in Rio de Janeiro, that had been built specially for this tournament.
Before this final match Uruguay had tied Spain 2-2, and barely defeated Sweden by 3-2. In the meantime, the Brazilians had been awesome: Spain had been defeated by 6-1 and Sweden had been trashed by 7-1 in a match where the later top-scorer of the tournament, Ademir, scored four goals.
In front of 200,000 spectators in Marcaná against their tiny neighbors of Uruguay, Brazil needed only a tie to proclaim themselves as world champions for the first time ever, and nobody really doubted that it would happen: more than 500,000 shirts with the inscription “Brazil campeón 1950” had already been sold; gold watches and limousines reserved for the Brazilian players, parties prepared, the newspapers had already prepared their celebratory front-pages, and the Brazilian national bank had even printed a commemorative coin with the triumph. The security went beyond Brazil, as the president of FIFA, Jules Rimet, had prepared a speech in Portuguese to congratulate the victors.
At the same time, the Brazilians had been so superior before the match that even the leaders of the Uruguayan Football Federation urged their players to play to limit the loss, and that they had done what they could by reaching the final.
This greatly angered the great captain of the Uruguayan side, Obdulio Varela, who urged his companions to do their best and ignore the Uruguayan leaders, whom he refused to talk to after the match that led to a very unlikely result: Uruguay won, and became world champion for the second time.
The game had otherwise started as had been anticipated for the Brazilians: they pressed massively, but were nevertheless unable to score against the Uruguayan and Peñarol goalkeeper Roque Maspoli. Still, Uruguay was barely able to attack, and 0-0 at halftime still made Brazil world champion.
Early in the second half all of Brazil exploded in the expected celebration as Friaca brought Brazil ahead. The legend tells that the Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela picked up the ball, and spent many minutes protesting an unexistant off-side. He later recalled that he had done it on purpose, as they needed to cool down the match against the Brazilian “football machine”. “If not they would overrun us”, he added.
From that moment the Uruguayans started attacking: they had nothing to lose in the inferno of Maracaná.
In the 66th minute the outstanding tehcnical player Alcides Ghiggia, who a years later captained AS Roma in Italy, received the ball on the right hand side and spectacularly got around a defender to make a perfect pass to the Peñarol and later AC Milan striker Juan Alberto Schiaffino, who got in front of the defender to make the equalizer for Uruguay.
The stadium was dead quiet, in spite of the fact that Brazil still had all the odds with them. Obdulio Varela nevertheless recalled “…I saw our rivals who were pale and insecure and I told my comrades that these guys can never win, that we had passed our nerves over to them. The rest was easy.”
Eleven minutes before the end of the match Alcides Ghiggia again outplayed a defender and made a shot at the nearest corner which went in and brought Uruguay ahead 2-1. The Brazilian goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa looked somewhat duped, and was blamed for the goal for many years after. In fact, he was largely despised in all of Brazil, and in an interview in 2000 he bitterly said "The maximum punishment in Brazil is 30 years imprisonment, but I have been paying, for something I am not even responsible for, by now for 50 years.”
Brazil tried to attack during the last ten minutes of the match, but without belief against the Uruguayans who had done what nobody believed to be possible.
As the game ended silence descended upon the Maracaná. People cried, and many suicides were reported in Brazil on the following days. The ceremony to hand over the trophy didn’t take place, and instead Jules Rimet handed Obdulio Varela the trophy amid the chaos of the pitch.
The Uruguayan players didn’t leave the stadium for four hours, afraid of what could happen to them. However, many of the players of the team later recalled that there was no reason for this: when they went out into the streets of Rio de Janeiro the following day, they said that they were only met with congratulatory remarks by Brazilians, who nevertheless didn’t show the same grace towards their own players, who had to live the rest of their lives with this defeat.
This was Brazil’s most painful defeat ever. To this day, Brazil, the mightiest footballing nation of all time, is still the only world champion that has never won the title on its own soil.For Uruguay, this is their greatest victory ever.

Match Stats:
  • 16th July, 1950, Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
  • Attendance: 200,000
  • Referee: George Reader (England)
Uruguay-Brazil 2-1
: 0-1 Friaca (47), 1-1 Schiaffino (66), 2-1 Ghiggia (79)

Uruguay: Maspoli, M. Gonzalez, Tejera, Gambetta, Varela, Andrade, Ghiggia, Perez, Miguez, Schiaffino, Moran
Brazil: Barbosa, Augusto, Juvanal, Bauer, Danilo, Bigode, Friaca, Zizinho, Ademir, Jair, Chico


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