For Brazilians and Uruguayans alike, one of the most unforgettable World Cup matches of all time was the final match of the 1950 World Cup.
Brazil were hot favourites to win the trophy for the first time in front of almost 200,000 fans at the newly built Maracana. But Uruguay silenced the home crowd with a stunning 2-1 victory.
Brazilians were sure the cup was theirs and defeat was so crushing that even today they refer to it as “our Hiroshima.” They were so traumatised that it was two years before they played another international match. To this day they have never worn the white shirt they used that day.
The scapegoat was goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa. Barbosa was ostracised after the loss, even though he was voted the best keeper of the tournament. In his excellent biography of the keeper, Roberto Muylaert recalled how a mother once pulled her child away from him in a supermarket, telling him, “that’s the man who cost Brazil the World Cup.” Barbosa died poor in Rio de Janeiro after attempting to exercise the ghosts of the game by using the Maracana’s goal posts as fuel for a barbecue.
Curiously it was not the final per se, the only time the deciding match in the World Cup was not the final. Four teams – Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Sweden – qualified for the final stage and they played each other on a round-robin basis. Brazil demolished Spain 6-1 and Sweden 7-1, while Uruguay had drawn 2-2 with Spain and overcome Sweden 3-2.
Brazil were odds-on favourites and needed just a draw against Uruguay to win the Jules Rimet trophy. They took the lead early straight after half time with a goal from Friaça. But Juan Schiaffino made it 1-1 in 66 minutes and with 11 minutes to go Alcides Ghiggia made it 2-1. History was made.