No.15: Brazil Crumble At The Maracana (Brazil, 1950)
If there’s any moment on our list that’s most applicable heading into the 2014 World Cup, it’s perhaps this one, when Brazil last hosted the tournament 64 years ago.
Back then, the format was a little different from what we are accustomed to in the modern game. Four teams would qualify for what was a final group stage, with the winner of that eventually lifting the trophy come the end of the tournament.
But when Brazil hosted their South American rivals Uruguay in front of roughly 200,000 people—the most ever seen at a soccer match to this day—at the iconic Maracana stadium, it was in everything but name a World Cup final. If either side won the clash, then they’d lift the trophy, whilst a draw would be good enough for Brazil to win the title as they were one point ahead of their opponents.
Naturally, the Brazilians were the overwhelming favorites the secure what would have been their first ever World Cup win. The local press had already pencilled this team in as winners, with the paper O Mundo printing a picture of the Brazil side with “These are the world champions” emblazoned underneath a day before the final itself.
After all, in front of a packed Maracana against a lesser side, what could go wrong? As it happened, there was plenty:
In the subsequent years after the game, it transpired that the Uruguayan’s indulged in some rather unusual preparations for this match. Their captain Obdulio Varela bought a bundle of the aforementioned paper that had already the hosts as champions, took them back to his hotel room and encouraged his teammates to urinate over them!
Not that it seemed to inspire this team, quite the opposite in fact. Some of the Uruguayan players were unable to cope with the Maracana atmosphere prior to the match; their inside-right Julio Perez actually wet himself with nerves during the playing of the national anthems.
But the team rallied and overcame all the odds to secure what was their second World Cup triumph. It was a classic example of what the Uruguayan people refer to as the “garra”—an unshakeable fighting spirit and will to win against all odds.
For the Brazilians, it was a case of a team thinking the hard work had already been done and subsequently they took their eye off the ball. The notion that the World Cup was already secured by the press and the public clearly manifested itself in the form of complacency amongst the players and the Uruguayans capitalized.
Ahead of another World Cup on Brazilian soil, the current crop of stars must avoid making the same mistakes as the class of 1950. And if anyone begins to get ahead of themselves, perhaps they should take a look at what happened in their own backyard 64 years ago.
Find out the top 25 most exciting World Cup moments.