Brazil's 1950 World Cup revisited
Bookies are expecting host country Brazil to win the World Cup, which starts Thursday and ends July 13 in the Maracanã Stadium in the heart of Rio. But the last time the Maracanã was the site of soccer’s biggest game, things didn’t go according to plan for the home team.
It was 1950, and all of Brazil expected the revered Seleçao to hoist the trophy for the first time. Almost 200,000 paying customers flooded the newly built Maracanã—then the world’s largest stadium—to watch the final. But late in the game, with the score tied 1-1, Uruguay’s Alcides Ghiggia upended the script by striking the goal. The defeat, known as the Maracanaço—“the Maracanã blow,” more or less— is considered a genuine national tragedy. “It was the first time I saw my father cry,” Pelé, 9 years old at the time, said recently.
But until then, the tournament was a source of largely unalloyed joy, both for its hosts and for the world. Thanks to the war, it was the first World Cup for 12 years, and it took place against a backdrop of sun, sand, and spectacular scenery. These vintage photos of the action—both on and off the field—from the 1950 tournament, will whet your appetite for this month’s festival of football, and remind you, if you’d forgotten, why soccer really is ”the beautiful game.”