Maracanaço – the shock of Maracanã
The fourth football World Cup took place in Brazil in 1950. It was the first and last World Cup decided by a final round with the four group winners, rather than with knock out rounds. The last match would be the decider.
On 16 July, Brazil met its small neighbour, Uruguay. Brazil had crushed Sweden and Spain with 7:1 and 6:1 victories, whereas Uruguay hadn’t done quite so well with a draw against Spain and a lucky late victory against Sweden. Therefore a draw would be enough for Brazil to become world champions.
Everyone was in agreement: The result was a foregone conclusion – in the bag, cut and dried, A-OK!
FIFA President Jules Rimet had a speech written in Portuguese in his pocket, to congratulate the sure-fire winners. The next day’s newspapers had already been printed. The whole country had been celebrating since the early hours.
But eleven minutes before the match ended, the Maracanã Stadium, the biggest stadium in the world at the time, built especially for the World Cup as a monument to the triumph, transformed into a stage for tragedy: Alcides Ghiggia got past his opponent and struck the ball into the back of the Brazilian net for a 2:1 final score for Uruguay. Uruguay were World Cup champions and, for Brazil, the whole world fell apart.
The horror, the sorrow and the shame were so great that the tens of thousands of fans watching in the stadium remained there for hours, in silence or crying. The Brazilians subsequently changed the colour of their strip from white and blue to yellow and blue, as if they wanted to symbolically wipe away the shame. And a new phrase was born, one that every Brazilian child knows to this day: Maracanaço – the shock of Maracanã.