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Ghost of 1950 haunts Brazil

sports Updated: Jun 26, 2013 01:18 IST
Agence France-Presse

For all the glory associated with their famous yellow shirts, Brazil can never shake the sense of unease that descends whenever they find themselves confronted by Uruguay.

Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semifinal in Belo Horizonte will be the 71st match between the South American neighbours, and for Brazilians it will dredge up a 63-year-old nightmare that haunts the Selecao to this day.

The 1950 World Cup in Brazil was intended to crown the hosts' emergence as the world's best national team, but instead it witnessed their most traumatising defeat, immortalised as the 'Maracanazo' ('Maracana Blow').

A side led by all-action inside-forward Zizinho went into the decisive match at Rio de Janeiro's newly built Maracana stadium needing only a draw to win the tournament for the first time.

On July 16, the day of the game, Rio newspaper O Mundo carried the headline "THESE ARE THE WORLD CHAMPIONS!" alongside a picture of the team, and an estimated 200,000 fans streamed into the giant concrete arena in anticipation of Brazil's coronation.

fulfil their destiny Opponents Uruguay, narrow victors over Sweden in their previous game, were offered up as the sacrificial victims and they seemed destined to fulfil that role when Friaca put Brazil ahead early in the second half.

Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised, but Brazil remained on course for the trophy until Uruguay winger Alcides Ghiggia surprised goalkeeper Barbosa with a low shot in the 79th minute that stunned the giant stadium.

"Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture," Ghiggia once said. "Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and I."

Uruguay, not Brazil, were the world champions, and the host nation sank into mourning.

Uruguay, the country, spent the first three centuries of its existence being tugged back and forth between the Spanish and Portuguese empires and was only granted independence from Brazil in 1828. It has been wreaking vengeance in the form of guerilla raids on the football pitch ever since.