The Maracana. Brasil’s preemptive monument to a victory that was meant to be, should have been, so nearly was, but, thanks to Alcides Ghiggia, never became.
The 1950 World Cup was Brasil’s big break through. They had never won (never even come close) but this was their year as it was being hosted magnificently by themselves.. It was the first world cup after World War II, and today the format appears strange. Instead of a knockout, the first group stage was followed by a second, in which the winner’s of the 4 initial groups competed. This meant that the final second group stage game was effectively the final.
Brazil waltzed through the first group stage playing some attractive attacking football that showcased the talents of Zizinho, Jair and Ademir, beating Mexico and Yugoslavia, and drawing with Switzerland. The Final Round group contained Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Sweden. Brazil hammered Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1, and so just needed to avoid defeat vs Uruguay in the final game at the Maracana.
It’s difficult to express the expectation the people of Brasil harboured. Having just scored 7 goals, and then 6, the world was waiting for a goal fest.
For that tournament the Brasilians had erected the fantastic Maracana stadium; easily the largest stadium in the world then, it still holds the record attendance for a single game. A monolith, and for that final group game against Uruguay the nation went mad. 210,000 people packed into the Maracana to see their nation win the world cup.
It started alright, Fariaca giving them an early lead, and the stadium erupted. Even Juan Alberto Schiaffino’s 66th minute equaliser couldn’t calm them down. But this could:
210,00 people fell silent as the night, as Alcides Ghiggia took their dream away.
That disaster, and it was a disaster, has reached past football. It has cast it’s shadow over society itself. There was a curious social backlash against the black players in that squad, particularly goalkeeper Barbosa who protested his innocents of that crime till the day he died. Brasil didn’t select a black goalkeeper for decades.
This disaster, which was put partially right with a ’58 victory, is also the reason we have the iconic yellow shirts. Until that day the national team shirts had been white with a blue collar, but in response they were changed to today brand as part of the attempt to wipe the memory from the Brasilian psych.
Decades later Ghiggia said:
“Only three people in history have managed to silence the Maracana, the Pope, Frank Sinatra and me.”
To read more from the author, Oli, visit: Barnsley Blog and World Cup Barnsley Blog