For the first time since the advent of World War II the soccer world reconvened in Brazil in June, July 1950. With the Maracanã as the larger stadium in the planet, the country that played well in 1938 (3rd place) was galvanized around its Seleção that seemed unstoppable. In the first phase Brazil beat Mexico (4-0), tied with Switzerland (2-2) and beat Youguslavia (2-0). With a couple of nervous appearances the Seleção was not as exuberant in its first 3 games. The biggest surprise of all was the amateurish team of USA beating England (1-0) in Belo Horizonte, sending the favorite British Team back home.
The second and final phase between the hosts, Sweden, Spain and Uruguay would see the Brazilian splendor that all 50 million Brazilians were waiting for. The first game was an elastic 7-0 win over Sweden, followed by another “goleada” of 6-1 over Spain. Meanwhile, Uruguay struggled to tie with the Swedes (2-2) and beat the Spanish (3-2) on a very tough game.
For the final on July 16th 1950 the Maracanã stadium was at full capacity (200,000) waiting for Brazil to continue its winning strike and take the FIFA World Cup for the first time. Brazil would be champion with a simple tie and actually scores first. But Uruguay’s dangerous counter-attacks worked twice. End of the game, Uruguay 2-1 Brazil. The biggest loss of Brazilian history. The biggest victory of La Celeste Olímpica.
Meanwhile, in 1950 the city of Rio did its first census of informal neighborhoods. The census showed that 340,000 people lived in favelas, half of which was below 20 years of age. The census also showed that 70% of Rio’s favela population described themselves as black or mulatto (while in the rest of the city this number was below 30%). The favelas were already black territories but nobody was talking about it this way, either in the press or in academic research.
The Maracanazo of July 16th 1950 would be prominent on Brazilian imaginary for many decades. The Afro-Brazilian Moacir Barbosa, the goal-keeper took the blunt of the blame. Nelson Rodrigues coined the term “complex de vira-lata” (mutt complex) to explain the Brazilian lack of self-esteem that cursed our great players, a concept with direct racial undertones. It would take dozens of other mulatto geniuses (Pelé 1958; Vavá 1962; Pelé again 1970; Romário 1994; Ronaldo 2002) to bury this idea. The goalkeepers, however, would be all white: Castilho, Gilmar, Felix, Leão, Valdir Perez, Carlos, Taffarel and Marcos. This taboo would only fall 56 years later with Dida (2006) when Brazil was already “penta” (5-times) World Cup champion.