In the early twentieth century Latin American football was growing rapidly. Uruguay had won the triple crown of the Olympic Games in 1924, ’28 and the inaugural World Cup held in Uruguay 1930. Since then football had sprung up across the continent reaching all sections of society and social class, from Copacabana beach overlooked by Sugarloaf Mountain to the country clubs.

This new samba style football was developed; individual skill and flair outshined the rigidity of European tactics. The flamboyant philosophy is an extension of the carnival. Brazilians like to show off. There is a word in Brazil ufanismo, boastful, arrogant nationalism. When Brazil was chosen to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, they were going to put on a show to encapsulate their style of play, but come the climax of the competition, the Uruguayans did not read the script, and Brazil paid the price.

The Brazilians are to date the only host nation ever lose a World Cup Final on home soil.  The 16 July 1950 is a date that has been ingrained into the population, that fateful day as Ghiggia scored in the ’79 minute to allow rivals Uruguay to lift the Jules Rimet in a full Maracana has gone down as a black day in not just Brazilian football history but Brazilian history as well.

In a new format the World Cup, fourteen teams turned up for the sixteen team competition (India withdrew as they were not allowed to play barefoot!) Split into four groups the winner of each progressing into a final group, meaning whoever claimed top spot in that round robin group, would be crowned champions. Brazil, Uruguay, Sweden and Spain made up the finalists, and as fate would have it, the final group match between the South Americans would decide who would world champions.

Brazil had strolled through the first two matches, dispatching Sweden 7-1 and then Spain 6-1, compared to the Uruguayans, who had drawn 2-2 with Spain, and struggled to victory against the Swedes coming behind from 2-1 down to win 3-2. In the lead up to the match, the Brazilian press had called victory already for the hosts.

And why wouldn’t they? Brazil’s head to head record was good, eighteen played and Brazil had won eight drawing  five, and when they took the lead through a ’46th minute Friaca goal, the 210,000 crowd could only draw one conclusion. Nobody doubted that Brazil would not be the next world champions. However 44 minutes later fans were leaving the Maracana in disbelief.  One Brazilian fan committed suicide shortly after, and a Uruguayan fan apparently died of a heart attack such was his surprise. Uruguay equalised, Schiffano counter attacking on ’66 minutes starting the comeback, leaving it for Ghiggiao to fire home from an acute angle on ’79  to claim victory for the Celeste.

Ghiggia stated in an interview afterwards he was only the third person to silence the Maracana , (Frank Sinatra and Pope John Paul II the other two) shows magnitude of his bombshell goal. These sentiments were matched by journalist Joao Maximo “The goal was so great, its impact so violent, that the one goal, seemed to divide Brazilian life into two phases, before and after”

So where did it all go wrong for Brazil? – the obvious answer would be the hubris from the Brazilian media, this ufanismo of calling a victory before the match has been played, in the world’s biggest stadium, and national icon the Maracana.

However the problem could be deeper rooted than this. ‘Stray Dog Complex’ has been a term used to describe this Brazilian team. Stray Dog Complex is “the inferiority with which the Brazilian positions himself, voluntarily, in front of the rest of the world”.  As Nelson Rodrigues, Brazilian playwright, said “Uruguay kicked Brazil around as if they were a bunch of stray dogs”. Before the match has even begun, Brazil is always playing against itself as well as the opposition. The problem is psychological. The pressure, the stress to play in that samba style gets to the players, this 2-1 defeat is a metaphor for all Brazilian defeats.

Such was the shame in one of the greatest upsets of all time, many of the players went quietly and silently into retirement. Barbosa the goalkeeper, voted best at the tournament, only went on to play once more for Brazil and was not allowed to visit the 1994 Brazil Squad prior to the tournament, in fear of bad luck. Only two players in the squad, Santos and Castilho went on to represent the team in 1954 and 1958. The rest of the players went quickly and quietly into retirement. Out of the defeat came the now famous and iconic yellow shirts, the white top with blue trim worn previous was ditched as it would be now forever associated with that defeat

We can translate this into the modern era, the fateful 1998 World Cup Final 3-0 defeat to France and the mystery surrounding Ronaldo , Brazil the best team on the planet the time, and current world champions, just did not turn up. Twelve years later, Dunga, the most recent of Brazilian World Cup Coaches was heavily criticised for his negative 4-2-3-1 formation, and was promptly sacked as a result of not playing to the Brazilian philosophy. It has been argued that the Brazilian national manager is the hardest (along with England) job in the footballing world, because of the level of expectation, its five world cup victories means that Brazil demands winning in a certain way to be in the national football psyche.

Sadly, no matter how many victories and World Cup trophies Brazil brings home, they will not be able to exorcise the daemons of the 16 July 1950. Brazil has been a country that has waged no wars amongst other neighboring nations, and despite a dictatorship ending in 1946, there is no real ‘defining moment’ as Europe has in the First and Second World Wars, there was no nationalistic pride, nothing to date that had been incorporated into the Brazilian consciousness, the 1950 World Cup was supposed to be that defining moment. A chance to show that carnival on the pitch is the best way to play. As a consequence that fateful final date is in the memories of so many.

Eight years later Brazil went some way to exorcising those daemons. Three world cups in four tournaments ’58, ’62 , and ’70 wins made giant strides towards restoring that pride lost in 1950. The sense of national pride however, will not be completed until Brazil wins a World Cup at the Maracana in front of her adoring fans, and shakes of the unwanted tag as being the only world champion never to win a World Cup as hosts.

1950 was the start of the consecutive World Cups, and so can be reasonably argued as the ‘start’ of modern football. Year Zero will forever in the history books read as a defeat for Brazil, the trend pace and style setters of International Football, despite five world cup wins, will forever have the fact they are the only world champions never to win a world cup on home soil, come 2014, this surely has to change, anything other than a sixth title will be seen as failure?

One thing is for sure, Brazil expects.

Brazil – Barbosa, Augusto, Juvenal, Bigode, Jose Carlos Bauer, Danilo, Zizinho, Jair, Friaca, Ademir, Chico

Uruguay – Maspoli, Gonzalez, Andrade, Tejera, Gambetta, Perez, Varela, Ghiggia, Schiffano, Miguez, Moran

Goal Scorers Brazil – Friacca ’46 Uruguay – Schiffano ’66,  Ghiggia ’79

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AuthorAndrew Whieldon