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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: February 24, 3:20 PM UK
World Cup 1950

John Brewin and Martin Williamson

Winners: Uruguay
Teams: 13
Teams in qualifiers: 34
Notable absentees: France, Germany, Hungary
Surprises: Bolivia
Golden Boot: Ademir (Brazil) -- 9
Stats: A total of 88 goals were scored (4.00 per match); Brazil (22) scored the most
Format: Four groups, with the winners of each progressing to a four-team round-robin final group. Withdrawals meant there were two groups of four, one of three and one of two
Number of matches: 22

Innovations
• The tournament saw the involvement of a British side for the first time as England took their place. However, Scotland, runners-up to England in the British Home Championship, qualified but refused to take part on the grounds they were not champions of Britain

Controversies
• Germany and Japan, defeated in World War II, were barred
• India qualified for the finals but refused to travel after FIFA banned them from playing barefoot
• France withdrew after Brazil had refused to reschedule their two first-round matches, which were 3,000km apart
• The organisers refused to geographically seed the groups, meaning some teams had arduous travelling between matches

Trivia
• The tournament had originally been scheduled for 1949
• Two players -- Erik Nilsson of Sweden and Alfred Bickel of Switzerland -- appeared in the finals either side of the war
• The trophy was officially renamed the Jules Rimet Trophy to mark the Frenchman's 25-year tenure as FIFA president. It had spent the war under a bed after Dr Ottorino Barassi, an Italian sports official, smuggled it from the bank in Rome in 1940
• Eight of the Italian national side had died in a plane crash in May 1949 when Torino's entire side was wiped out
• Yugoslavia's Rajko Mitic had his head badly gashed by an iron girder as he left the dressing room before the game against Brazil. The referee refused to delay the match, and Yugoslavia kicked off with 10 men
• The final round-robin game was played in front of an official crowd of 199,850, the largest attendance at a football match


With much of Europe still recovering from the turmoil of World War II, FIFA took the decision to return the championships to South America for the 1950 tournament. Football was fast becoming the religion it remains in Brazil and the home team were reigning Copa America champions.

There were a few changes from the last World Cup 12 years earlier. A British nation at last took their place in the finals and, in place of the pure knockout structure, there would be two stages -- with winners of the first groups qualifying for the final group. In addition, the winners of the new tournament would pick up the newly retitled Jules Rimet Trophy.

English football had long borne an air of superiority and its dignitaries had scoffed at the value of the World Cup, never doubting that they boasted the world's best team. To say that the nation fell flat on its face would be an understatement. A routine 2-0 win over Chile was followed by arguably England's most embarrassing defeat ever -- 1-0 to the USA in the northern industrial town of Belo Horizonte.

The decisive goal was scored, somewhat luckily, by Haitian immigrant Joe Larry Gaetjens, and the result was such a shock at the time that rumours emerged that many newspaper readers actually thought the scoreline was a misprint of 10-1. After losing to Spain, England were out of the tournament.

Elsewhere, the home team, Brazil, were flying, easily making it out of their group. Forwards Jair, Zizinho and Ademir were tearing teams apart at will. Uruguay, making their first finals appearance since 1930, made it into the second group phase by beating Bolivia 8-0. Star inside-forward Juan Schiaffino grabbed four goals.

This was to be the only World Cup without a final but the decisive match would come between the aforementioned South American sides. After beating Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 in the final group stage, the Brazilians only needed a draw to take the title that the football-crazy nation was baying for. However, it was not to be.

In front of an official crowd of 199,000 in the specially-built Maracana, Uruguay, with half-backs Obdulio Varela and Victor Andrade outstanding, held off wave after wave of Brazilian attacks for the first-half. But after half-time, the deadlock was broken by Brazilian winger Friaca and destiny seemed to be with the home side. However, Varela began to make his trademark runs forward and Uruguay's right-winger, Ghiggia, began to exert more and more influence.

Ghiggia first beat the defence to play in Schiaffino to score the equaliser. He then delivered the coup de grāce by again slipping past full-back Bigode but, instead of crossing, he beat keeper Barbosa at close-range from a narrow angle.

For the whole of Brazil, it was a national disaster and the country collapsed into deep mourning. For Uruguay, a country of just three million people, it was a case of two World Cups entered and two World Cups won.


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