Many people won’t recognize the name or the face of Alcides Ghiggia but he is the man who shattered Brazilian dreams of winning the World Cup final in 1950.
After host nation France had their dreams shattered in their national stadium, The Panenka looks back at the scarring experience of when it happened to Selecao.
In front of a record 200,000 strong crowd, a record which still stands today, the Uruguayan underdogs sent the Maracana into a deathly silence when they netted the match winner in a 2-1 victory.
Brazil’s defeat is ingrained into the consciousness of Brazilian international football with some suggesting the South American nation still hasn’t fully recovered from. Brazil, as favorites, entered the game with their usual arrogance and swagger, epitomized by a national newspaper declaring the day before the game “Tomorrow, we will beat Uruguay!”
Even with Brazil having won five World Cups since the disaster, it is still a touchy subject to mention on the streets of Maracana’s Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities.
Alcides Ghiggia scored his country’s second goal that day. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, the former Uruguay international was the only surviving member of the 1950 World Cup winning team. Before passing away at the age of 89 in 2015, he spoke of the moment he scored the winning goal during the 2-1 success over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in an interview with FIFA.
“There was complete silence. The crowd was frozen still. It was like they weren’t even breathing,” he said.
“They couldn’t even raise their voices to cheer on Brazil. That was when I realized they weren’t going to do it and that we’d won,” he added.
Ghiggia explained: “I took the ball on the right. I dribbled past Bigode [the Brazilian left-back] and entered the box.
“The goalkeeper [Moacyr Barbosa] thought I was going to cross it, like with the first goal, so he left a gap between himself and the near post. I just had a second so I shot low between the keeper and the post.”
And history was made. Ghiggia was one of many legends invited to make the 2014 World Cup group stage draw and helped seed his country along side Italy, England and Costa Rica in a group which possessed seven World Cup trophies, more that any other group at the tournament.
For Brazil the 1950 result was considered a national catastrophe. The match remains etched solemnly on the national consciousness as O Maracanaço (a Portuguese term roughly translated as ‘The Maracana Blow’, which became synonymous with the match). With just a touch of hyperbole, not to mention bad taste, the Brazilian writer Nelson Rodrigues referred to the defeat as “our Hiroshima”.
Former Selecao coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided Brazil to its 2002 triumph, wanted that 1950 team to be remembered as the great team they really were rather than villains who disappointed the nation.
He told the press before the 2014 World Cup that Brazil could exorcise those demons but winning the tournament in the very same stadium. “My vision of 1950 is entirely different to what most people think,” Scolari said.
“Before 1950, Brazil had never reached the final. They were the pioneers of the five titles we have won since then. Those players got there and made Brazilian history.
“We built our success on top of them. We are going to try and get back to the Maracana for the final and properly remember the team of the 1950s because they were wonderful and fantastic and that’s how I’d like Brazilians to think about them.”
Scolari’s words were of course in vain and with hindsight, slightly ironic, due to the fact that at the 2014 tournament Brazil were defeated 7-1 (seven) by eventual champions Germany in the semi-final held in Belo Horizonte.
The O Maracanaço seemed like nothing compared to biggest humiliation in the history of Brazilian football. In some sort of homage to remembrance it was nicknamed O Mineiraço, after the stadium and region the massacre took place in.