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The apex of euphoria at the Maracana

World Cup Finals, 1950, Brazil, Maracana Stadium, Rio De Jainero, Brazil
  • Handkerchief-waving and bullfighting barbs
  • Mario Zagallo, 18, was there… working for the Military Police!
  • Jair, Zizinho, Chico and Ademir ran riot

The official attendance was 152,772, but this figure does not include the thousands of fans who sneaked their way into the Maracana stands at the last minute on 13 July 1950. Ten minutes into the second half of the Brazil-Spain match, all but one of them joined forces to belt out one of the loudest collective chants in history. The other one cried.

When Brazil made it 4-0, the inspired crowd decided to toast the opposition by waving white handkerchiefs in the air and singing a verse of Touradas em Madri (Bullfighting in Madrid), a hugely popular ditty dating back to the 1938 carnival.

All four sides of the stadium sung it in unison, with the exception of Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga. Overcome with emotion at hearing a song he and his companion Alberto Ribeiro had composed emanating from the throats of so many people, Braguinha, who signed his works using the pseudonym 'Joao de Barro', choked up in tears.

It was all too good to be true, too perfect, on that afternoon at the Maracana. Perhaps the overwhelming manifestation of collective joy was at some level to offset the collective desolation and trauma that would fall upon the nation three days later.

It was the host nation’s fifth match at the 1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, in the four-team final group stage. A Seleção ran on to the Maracana pitch on the back of three victories and just the one hiccup, a 2-2 draw against Switzerland at the Pacaembu in Sao Paulo. In an impressive campaign, the Brazilians had scored 15 goals and conceded just three.

On the other side of the barricade, the Spaniards were the team Brazil most feared in the final group stage. Known even at that time as La Furia, the European nation boasted players of the calibre of Antonio Ramallets, Agustin 'Piru' Gainza and Telmo Zarra. Their run at the tournament had been equally impressive, clocking up wins over USA, Chile and England, and drawing 2-2 against Uruguay.

The match
But Spain’s good form counted for nothing. Brazil were cowed by nobody and had decimated most of their opposition with the exceptional quality of their football. They had kicked off the final-four stage with a 7-1 thrashing of Sweden, and Flavio Costa’s charges showed no mercy against the Spaniards, crushing them 6-1.

The scoreline said it all, and the result was a fair reflection of Brazil’s absolute superiority, completely dominating the match from start to finish. They opened the scoring in the 15th minute thanks to an own-goal, and when the half-time whistle went A Seleção were winning 3-0. By the time Spain hit their consolation goal through Silvestre Igoa on 71 minutes, they had shipped six goals.

It was the height of the euphoria that gripped the country during the World Cup. If the team containing the likes of Jair, Zizinho, Chico and striker Ademir could swot aside Spain in such a commanding fashion, there was surely no way Uruguay could spoil the glorious destiny awaiting Brazil at the Maracana, was there?

What they said
“I believe Brazil lost the trophy in the days preceding the final match, because there were too many celebrations all over the country. Most people thought Brazil had already won the World Cup. But nobody wins a game before it’s played.”
Mario Zagallo to Before winning two World Cups as a player and coaching the mythical 1970 Brazil team to another trophy, Zagallo had been in the stadium that day as a young member of the Military Police, working on safety duties.

What happened next?
On 16 July, Zagallo was again on duty at the stadium. Only this time he would not have to worry about keeping any celebrations in check. He was one of the witnesses of the infamous Maracanazo, where Brazil threw away a lead, losing 2-1 to Uruguay, and with it the World Cup. “It was hard to believe it was the same stadium," he told The scene was indescribable. Afterwards my mind’s eye imagined all the white handkerchiefs, patched together, had transformed into a single sheet to soak up the tears of defeat."

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