Monday, April 14, 2014

History Tells Us That Brazil May Not Actually Be Favorites for 2014 World Cup

World Cup 2014, Brazil
With the 2014 World Cup taking place in the warm confines of Brazil this summer, many experts and fans alike have basically come to the consensus that this the Brazilian World Cup to lose.

The host nation has an incredibly talented squad, a pure striker in Neymar who is ready to burst on the international scene, and a pride that is simply unmatched by any other soccer nation on the planet. In front of their vibrant home fans, the Brazilians should stroll to glory!

But one thing that might actually crush this blind hope is a little trip down memory lane. 2014 will actually be the second time that Brazil has hosted a World Cup, with the first edition coming in 1950. That year was also supposed to be a resounding victory for the host country of Brazil, but instead, it became a great soccer tragedy widely known as the "Maracanazo".

The 1950 World Cup was a strange one in many ways. Because of World War II, the event had not been held since 1938, and by 1950 there were many famous soccer teams that took no part in the tournament, including France, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Turkey. Nevertheless the tournament would go on, and still did contain some famous contenders like Italy, Spain, Uruguay, England, the United States, Mexico, and Yugoslavia.

Another strange quality to the 1950 World Cup was the organization. Because of teams dropping out, only 14 teams participated, and one of the 4 groups contained just Uruguay and Bolivia. But Brazil had a group they could dominate, featuring Mexico, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia.Brazil certainly liked their chances, but with the event having not occurred in over a decade, it was hard to place a finger on any favorites.

That all changed in the first game between Brazil and Mexico. Brazil won 4-0 thanks in large part to a brace by the fantastic striker at that time Ademir. Although a draw with Switzerland was not ideal, Brazil pushed on to the final round with a win over Yugoslavia, Ademir again scoring a goal! The final round would be a round robin affair with the 4 group winners taking part.Spain and Sweden both won their groups, while Uruguay turned a few heads with an 8-0 rout of Bolivia, but were still seen as outsiders.

In the final round, Brazil again opened strongly. They routed Sweden 7-1 (Ademir with a hat trick) and trounced Spain 6-1. Other potent Brazilians from this team included Cico and Zizinho, and they played beautiful soccer that wowed the spectators. Meanwhile, Uruguay struggled. They could only draw 2-2 against Spain and barely beat Sweden 3-2 with a late goal by Miguez. Heading into the last match, Brazil was a team on fire and needed just a draw to be crowned champions. Uruguay looked shaky at best and needed to win.

The days leading up to the match were a party for Brazilian fans who had already declared themselves as champions. The worldwide press agreed with these sentiments. A special song was being composed for the soccer team of Brazil, FIFA president Jules Rimet had a speech written in Portuguese for the impending "winners", and victorious medals had already been assembled for the Brazilian players. Everyone seemed to forget the simple fact that there was still a soccer match to be played.

On the morning of the final game, Uruguay captain Obdulio Varela collected a batch of newspapers (all declaring Brazil to be the World Cup champions) and brought them forth to his teammates, instructing them to pee on them!  In the dressing room, he brought forth a rousing speech, urging his players to not be intimidated by their opponents and go forth with an offensive strategy.

This famously contradicted with the views of the Uruguayan coach Juan Lopez, who had wished for his players to defend. But the players then had to march into a stadium filled with nearly 200,000 roaring fans, nearly all of which supported Brazil. It was the largest crowd for a soccer match in history!

Something tells me that such a monstrous crowd may have actually played to the favor of Uruguay. Due to all the pre-match hype and declarations of glory, Brazil was under immense pressure.  For such a proud soccer country, they had yet to actually attain the World Cup, and in front of their fans this was supposed to be their coronation. Even the mightiest of contenders can falter under such circumstances!


The match began tensely as this weight was firmly upon their Brazilian shoulders. At half time the score was still tied 0-0 and Uruguay was gaining hope that they could snatch victory. But Brazil scored early in the second half and the party was full on!  Friaca had broken through and beat the keeper, sending the crowds into frenzied celebrations.
Varela played a typical soccer stall tactic and began arguing a nonexistent offside call.  Eventually the crowd had settled from their cheers due to the delay and the game continued.  This move may have been the vital act that prevented an all-out trouncing from occurring.
Uruguay then took command of the game and played with an immense spirit beyond what people thought was capable. Schiaffino and Ghiggia both scored goals as the half winded down, and by the time of the final whistle, Uruguay had become the champions!
An eerie silence descended upon the stadium. There was no presentation for Uruguay simply because no one had thought they would win. The trophy was merely placed in Varela’s hands as the stadium began to empty.  Despair was widespread throughout Brazil as people failed to believe their eyes.  There were even reports of fans committing suicide!  The horror became known as the "Maracanazo" and Brazilian football would never again be the same. Players were booted from the team permanently. They even discarded their white uniforms forever, taking on the current yellow home jerseys. In essence, it was a national tragedy! So can something of the same sort actually happen now, 64 years removed from this infamous occasion?
You better believe it can! The latest odds makers only mark Brazil as 3/1 favorites to lift the cup. While those odds are the best among the contenders, it would still be less than a 50% certainty that Brazil should take home the title!
Additionally, with so many close competitors like Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and even Uruguay all vying for glory, Brazil will have an even tougher task at winning the World Cup than they did in 1950.
In some way, I could even see Uruguay completing the feat once again.  They have top class strikers in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and I am sure that they are being reminded regularly about that famous triumph in 1950.
However, this 2014 World Cup progress, we can be certain of one thing.  This will be no cake walk for Brazil!

© Nicholas Spiller & Soccerphile.com

No comments: