On this day 16 July 1950 (Exactly 69 years ago) Alcides Ghiggia scored a 79th minute winner as Uruguay beat Brazil to win their second FIFA World Cup at the Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
History invariably remembers the winners. Just occasionally, however, it is the losers rather than the victors who earn their place in the collective memory. There is no finer footballing example of this than Brazil’s stunning 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the final game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup tournament .
Though the wholly unexpected win gave the Uruguayans their second world crown, their triumph was completely overshadowed by the profound effect the loss would have on the host nation, a loss they greeted with a deafening and disbelieving silence.
The story of the deciding game of Brazil 1950, an unexpected and shocking defeat that left a nation too stunned for words. Though delighted at winning the title for a second time and keeping their unbeaten World Cup record intact, the victorious Uruguayans felt as if they had accidentally stumbled across a funeral wake, such was the grief and desolation that met the final whistle.
“I have never seen people as sad as the Brazilians were after that defeat. It made you shudder,” recalled Alcides Ghiggia, the scorer of Uruguay’s winning goal that fateful July day. “Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and I.”
A foregone conclusion
It is impossible to understand the significance of a defeat that has since become known the world over as the Maracanazo without looking beyond events on the field of play that day. The disaster is even the subject of a book, Anatomia de uma Derrota (Anatomy of a Defeat), written by Paulo Perdigao in 1986, and had such an impact on the country that its self-esteem suffered as a result. Dejected at letting slip a Trophy that seemed theirs for the taking, Brazilians began to question their status as a nation of the future and the status of football as the finest expression of its talent and creativity.
The hosts went into the game needing only a draw to come top of the final four-team group and become world champions for the first time. Yet, having already beaten section rivals Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1, the Brazilians had nothing but victory on their mind, especially as the Uruguayans had only edged out the Swedes 3-2 and had drawn 2-2 with the Spaniards.
The sense of triumphant expectation was summed up by midfielder Zizinho: “The day before the game I signed more than two thousand autographs with the words ‘Brazil, champions of the world’.” That complacency was later identified by national team coach Flavio Costa as a crucial factor in their demise. “Destiny laughed in our faces. The fans, the press and the officials all thought the World Cup was ours, and that’s what did it.”
That belief that all Brazil had to do to win was turn up was one shared by the thousands upon thousands of fans who crammed into the Maracana.
Initially, their confidence seemed well placed. In the opening three minutes of the game Ademir and Jair forced Uruguayan goalkeeper Roque Maspoli into action with a brace of shots, repeating the dominance that A Seleção had enjoyed in their previous five games in the tournament. Nevertheless, the Uruguayans also had their chances in the first half, the best of them coming after 38 minutes when Oscar Miguez’s long-range effort struck the post.
As Maspoli later explained, that close shave probably worked in Uruguay’s favour: “We scored our goals at just the right time. If we’d gone ahead in the first half, Brazil would have had the half-time interval to calm down and change their tactics and ignore the crowd in the second half.”
Even though the home favourites had 17 chances in the opening 45 minutes to their opponents’ six, the first half ended goalless. “It was a tight game and the Uruguayans were playing very defensively,” said Brazil coach Costa. “There was no sign of the counter-attacks they would hit us with in the second half.”
Brazil’s dominance was finally rewarded just 78 seconds after the restart. Receiving a pass from the advancing Zizinho, Ademir crossed for Friaca to head in what 52 million Brazilians believed would be the goal that gave them the title. “The fans had got used to us winning easily and they were convinced that it was the start of another big win,” continued Costa. “That goal should have calmed us down but it had the opposite effect because the crowd started to celebrate.”
The dream turns sour
One man who seemed unmoved by the commotion around him was Celeste captain Obdulio Varela, as team-mate Miguez explained: “For about a minute Obdulio was just shouting at everyone: at the referee, the linesmen, the Brazilians, and at us. He was clutching the ball the whole time and when I went to get it off him to restart the game he shouted, ‘Either we win here or die trying’. It was an order.”
And it was one that was promptly obeyed. Twenty minutes after falling behind, the Uruguayans pulled level, Ghiggia getting the better of Bigode in their umpteenth battle of the afternoon and cutting the ball back from the byline for Juan Schiaffino to prod home. “There was total silence,” recalled Maspoli. “I knew there and then that the Brazilians were terrified of losing.”
Though a draw was enough for them, the Brazilians continued to attack. It was the only way they knew how to play and had yielded rich rewards for them throughout the tournament. Their fate, however, had already been sealed, as Costa later explained: “It wasn’t the second goal that beat us, but the first.”
That second goal, just 11 minutes from time, came from a now-familiar source, with Ghiggia once again getting the better of Bigode and bearing down on goal. “Schiaffino was running down the middle again and was expecting me to pull it back for him, just like the first goal,” recalled Ghiggia. “Barbosa thought it was going to be a repeat of the previous move too and came off his line to try and cut out the cross. That’s when I saw the chance to shoot straight at goal.”
Setting the seal on a seemingly impossible comeback, Ghiggia squeezed his shot between the post and Barbosa, who would forever be blamed for Brazil’s defeat. “It was my way of taking my place in Brazilian history,” the unfairly maligned custodian said years afterwards.
“The maximum sentence in this country is 30 years,” he added in an interview in 1994, six years before his death. “I’m not a criminal but I’ve already served ten years more than that, and I think I’ve earned the right to rest easy at night.”
As the stunned crowd looked on, Brazil continued to attack. But when English referee George Reader finally brought the game to an end, an inescapable sense of disbelief and sadness took hold of the Maracana. Not even the victorious Uruguayans were immune to the unfolding tragedy.
“I was crying more than the Brazilians,” recalled Schiaffino. “It made me very sad to see them suffering like that. When we were waiting to receive the Trophy out on the pitch I felt like running off to the dressing rooms. We all felt very emotional.”
Jules Rimet, the FIFA President at the time, devoted part of his book, The Wonderful Story of the World Cup, to the dramatic denouement. “Just a few minutes from the end, with the score still at 1-1, I left my seat in the president’s box and, with the microphones at the ready, went down to the dressing rooms, the deafening shouts of the crowd ringing in my ears … I walked towards the pitch and at the end of the tunnel that jubilation had given way to a desolate silence. There was no guard of honour, no national anthem and no ceremony. There I was alone, in the middle of the crowd, being pushed here, there and everywhere, with the Trophy under my arm. I eventually found the Uruguayan captain and, virtually out of sight of everyone, I handed him the Trophy.”
That chaotic presentation was the final act not just of a courageous and brilliant victory, but also of a disastrous and eternal defeat, memories of which still impinge on the Brazilian consciousness despite five subsequent world titles and their domination of the global game.
The Maracanazo marvels in numbers
The script had been written. Brazil were hosting the fourth FIFA World Cup tournament. Brazil were winning the fourth World Cup. They had scored a staggering 5.75 goals per game en route to conquering the previous year’s Copa America. They boasted a mind-blowing attack with Zizinho as its nexus. They had even rehearsed a victory song for weeks. Obdulio Varela and Co, however, were not interested in being a bit player in a local fairy tale. Here is the statistical story of Uruguay’s 1950 triumph.
173,850 was the attendance that gives Uruguay-Brazil the record crowd for a World Cup match. Although that was the official attendance, it is widely believed that over 200,000 were inside the Maracana that day – exactly one month after it was inaugurated.
65 years to the day after his goal won Uruguay the World Cup, on 16 July 2015, Alcides Ghiggia passed away, aged 88. The former Penarol and Roma player was the only member of Uruguay’s 1950 squad to live to see the second World Cup Brazil hosted – but not without overcoming the odds once again. In 2012 a truck collided with Ghiggia’s Renault Clio, throwing him through its windshield, and leaving him on life support for 37 days. Ghiggia did not quite become the longest living member of Juan Lopez’s squad – Anibal Paz was two months shy of his 96th birthday when he died in 2013.
53 years and 236 days old was the age at which George Reader, while overseeing Uruguay-Brazil, became the oldest man to referee a World Cup match. The English school teacher was, incredibly, born nine years before Ivan Eklind, who refereed the 1934 Final.
22 days before Brazil 1950 kicked off, Uruguay didn’t even have a coach. Oscar Marcenaro and Romeo Vasquez had overseen some forgettable recent results. Penarol refused to release their players if either Hector Castro, Enrique Fernandez or Jose Nasazzi – all Nacional-affiliated – was appointed. Nacional responded by vetoing Penarol’s Hungarian coach Imre Hirschl. The saga was finally ended by the Uruguayan Football Association handing the reins back to Lopez, whose only club experience came as a medical assistant at Central Espanol.
20 copies of the newspaper O Mundo – its cover emblazoned with the headline Here Are The World Champions above a picture of the Brazil team – is what Obdulio Varela scattered across the toilet floor of the Paysandu Hotel on the day of the decider. The Uruguay captain wrote ‘Trample and urinate on these newspapers’ in chalk on the mirrors, returned to the hotel restaurant, and ordered his team-mates to pay a visit to the lavatory and follow his instructions.
17 matches had passed since Uruguay had kept a clean sheet until Roque Maspoli managed one in an 8-0 thrashing of Bolivia in Belo Horizonte. La Verde had beaten La Celeste, who had Paz in goal, 3-2 at the Copa America 1949 in Rio de Janeiro.
10 was the whopping final-round goal-difference advantage Brazil had over Uruguay (+11 to +1) heading into their decider. A Seleção had smashed Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1, while La Celeste had drawn 2-2 with Spain and edged Sweden 3-2. Furthermore, Brazil’s goal-difference advantage over Uruguay at the Copa America 1949 was an astronomical 45 (+39 to -6).
8 goals without reply is what Uruguay posted against Bolivia to record the joint-fourth-biggest victory in World Cup history. It is outranked only by Hungary’s 10-1’s thumping of El Salvador at Spain 1982, Hungary 9-0’s win over Korea Republic at Switzerland 1954 and Yugoslavia’s 9-0 triumph against Zaire at Germany 1974.
7 of their last nine matches is what Uruguay lost heading into the 1950 World Cup – easily the worst run a triumphant team was on heading into the tournament. Los Charrúas’ defeats included ones to then-minnows Chile, Paraguay and Peru.
On this day 16 July 2017(Exactly 2 years ago) Roger Federer became the first man to win Wimbledon eight times and extended his record to 19 Grand Slam titles with victory over Croatia’s Marin Cilic.
The Swiss third seed won 6-3 6-1 6-4 as seventh seed Cilic struggled with a blister on his left foot and broke down in tears during the second set.
Federer, then 35, finished the contest in one hour and 41 minutes to claim his first Wimbledon title since 2012.
He is the oldest man in the Open era to win at the All England Club.
“It is cruel sometimes,” Federer said of Cilic’s physical difficulties.
“But Marin fought well and is a hero, so congratulations on a wonderful tournament.”
Federer surpasses Pete Sampras and William Renshaw, who won their seventh titles in 2000 and 1889 respectively, with only Martina Navratilova still ahead in terms of Wimbledon singles titles on nine.
BY: GEORGE ‘Alan Green’ MAHAMAH
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