Candace Rose Rardon | Longreads | July 2018 | 11 minutes (2,824 words)
They call it the Maracanazo — the final match of the 1950 FIFA World Cup, held in Rio de Janeiro. Host team Brazil was the obvious favorite, set to take on their much-smaller neighbor to the south, Uruguay. Victory was nothing short of inevitable.
The match took place on July 16, in the newly opened Estádio do Maracanã. The official paid attendance was 173,850 — of whom approximately 100 were Uruguayans — but because the stadium’s grandstands had no seats, the actual number might be closer to 210,000. It’s still one of the most-attended sports events of all time.
On the morning of the match, in true Brazilian style, an impromptu carnival began at dawn, with the crowds chanting “Brazil must win!” A samba, “Brazil The Victors,” had been composed, and the mayor of Rio addressed the Brazilian team with a rousing speech: “You, players, who in less than a few hours will be hailed as champions by millions of compatriots! You, who have no rivals in the entire hemisphere! You, who will overcome any other competitor! You, who I already salute as victors!”
That day’s morning edition of O Mundo ran a photo of the Brazilian team on its front page, beneath which a caption read five fateful words:
There was only one problem — they hadn’t played the game yet, and Brazil’s small but mighty opponents weren’t ready to go down without a fight.