Some say scoring a goal in front of your home crowd and watching them cheer is the best feeling you can get as a player. But silencing a raucous partisan crowd supporting your opposition can give a satisfaction that cannot be explained. No one knows about it better than Uruguayan footballer Alcides Ghiggia. 200,000 had gathered at the imposing new Maracana Stadium for the final game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup to cheer on what was going to be a certain victory for their beloved Brazil team, which would give them their first World Cup title. But after leading by one goal, Brazil had let their lead slip and then, 11 minutes from time Ghiggia, with a swift kick, had managed to silence the biggest crowd ever to have descended on a stadium to watch a football game and win Uruguay their second World Cup. Ghiggia in an interview later said of the winning goal, “Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and me”.
The ‘ghosts’ of that night still linger in the minds of the Brazilian fans who call it the “Maracanazo” or the “Maracana blow”. Although the Maracana now seats just under 80,000, it is still an imposing stadium which will host the finals again in this year’s tournament. So, could there be another Maracanazo in 2014, and if so then who is most likely to follow Sinatra, the Pope and Ghiggia? Here is a list of the contenders.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay): - It would be too much of a coincidence if Uruguay does meet Brazil in the finals again, but considering that Uruguay did win the Copa America last time out and they have a solid team this time, it wouldn’t be surprising. At the forefront of that team is the best player in the English Premier League this season. Suarez could very well be the difference in the tournament with the form he is in and with Uruguay having history with World Cups in Brazil; we could certainly see Luis Suarez silencing the crowd with his goals.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): - At the peak of his career, this is probably Messi’s best chance to win Argentina the World Cup and cement his name alongside Maradona. There is a good chance the Albiceleste could make it all the way to the finals on South American soil and if that does happen, you can bet that Messi could very well be the one to break Brazilian hearts this time.
Andres Iniesta (Spain): - He did it before and he is very capable of doing it again. The defending champions Spain have been dominant since 2008 and they lead the world rankings going into this World Cup. Spain are the favourites alongside Brazil in this tournament and if the two do meet in the final then the sole goal scorer in the 2010 World Cup Final, Iniesta will be most likely to come up with one of his important strikes again.
Mario Balotelli (Italy): - If Italy can qualify out of their tough group then you wouldn’t bet on them not making it to the Maracana. He might not be the most liked character on or off the field, but Mario Balotelli can certainly conjure up some magic on his day. He singlehandedly demolished a brilliant Germany team in the semi-finals of the Euro 2012 so we know he is capable of it, come the big stage.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands): - He was sent clean through on goal twice in the 2010 WC Finals to win it for the Netherlands and managed to miss on both occasions. In the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, he had a chance to win it for Bayern Munich with a penalty in Extra Time. He missed again and on both the occasions the opposition lifted the trophy. But since, Robben has slayed one of those demons as he scored a brilliant winner in the final minutes of the 2013 Champions League Final. If the Netherlands do somehow manage to make it to the finals again, you can be sure that Arjen Robben will be looking for the opportunity to put that other demon to rest and silence the crowd.
Manuel Neuer (Germany): - The last man on this list is from the perennial underachievers in recent years even though they have an embarrassment of riches to choose their starting XI from. Germany is one of the favourites again going into this tournament and nothing short of winning the World Cup will be enough for their fans. Germany should be aiming to make it to the finals and unlike the others on this list; this man won’t be scoring goals to silence the crowd. If the final does go into penalties, then there is no team with a better record in shootouts in World Cups than Germany. Needless to say, the amazing goalkeeping skills of Manuel Neuer might be what wins Germany their long awaited title and silences the Brazilians on their home turf again.
(The writer is a B Tech final year student and club-level football player)
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