The high before Brazil’s biggest low
© FIFA.com

According to official records – thus not including the thousands of people that managed to get into the stadium on the cusp of kick-off – there were 152,772 supporters in the stands of the Maracana on 13 June 1950. And, ten minutes into the second half of Brazil’s clash with Spain, 152,771 joined voices to sing one of the biggest collective choruses ever known but, at the same time, one person was crying.

When Brazil struck to make the scoreline 4-0, an inspired home faithful decided to pay homage to their struggling opponents by waving white handkerchiefs and singing Touradas em Madri (Bullfighting in Madrid), which had been a roaring success at the 1938 Rio Carnaval. Everyone, that is, except for Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga.

Overcome with emotion at how a tune written by him and colleague Alberto Ribeiro was being sung by so many people, Braguinha – who for his entire life worked under the pseudonym ‘João de Barro’ – choked up with tears. That evening in the Maracana, it was just too wonderful, just too perfect. It was as if, at some subconscious level, those in the stadium put on such a collective display of joy in a bid to make up for the enormous disappointment of events three days later.

The fifth game played by A Seleção Brasileira at that year’s FIFA World Cup™, the Spain encounter marked the peak of the euphoria that had gripped the entire host nation. After kicking off the four-team final round that would decide the world title with a 7-1 humbling of Sweden, coach Flavio Costa’s charges overwhelmed the team then known as La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) by a score of 6-1.

What is more, Spain were the final-round opponents Brazil had most feared, thanks to players of the calibre of goalkeeper Antonio Ramallets, Agustin “Piru” Gainza and Telmo Zarra. If a Brazil side featuring Jair, Zizinho, Chico and marksman Ademir was capable of downing the Europeans in such a fashion, how could Uruguay possibly prevent Brazil from lifting the Trophy at the Maracana?

“I think it was then (in the days following Spain game) that Brazil lost [the world title]. The celebrations were just too huge and had spread across the entire country. It was as if Brazil had already won the World Cup. And nobody wins before the game is played,” said future Brazil player and coach Mario Zagallo, who was part of the security set-up in the Maracana as a young soldier in the military police, as he would be for the subsequent 2-1 defeat against Uruguay.

“It’s hard to believe that it was even the same stadium. The panorama can’t even be put into words. Later I thought, perhaps all the white handkerchiefs [from the Spain game] could be used to dry all the tears that flowed after that [Uruguay] defeat,” he told FIFA.com.

The Furia part of their nickname long shed, as befitting a side with the class of the reigning world and European champions, La Roja are currently preparing to take on Brazil again in the Maracana - to decide the victors of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 - and the world is a very different place.

On this occasion, in the stadium will be little more than 70,000 spectators. Gone too are the days when Brazilian football had an inferiority complex: instead at stake will be A Canarinha’s pedigree as five-time world champions against a Spain generation currently sweeping all before them.  

Nor can we expect Carnaval tunes to be on the menu but, 63 years on, everyone in the Maracana will know that, whether the Final ends in celebration or disappointment, another fascinating page in the history of the local and global game will be written by Brazil versus Spain.