So Confederations Cup audiences have gobbled away their two veg in the form of the exciting group stages, and that leaves us with the meat of the tournament; the semi-finals.
More specifically, the beef.
It may have escaped your attention but Brazil and Uruguay are not best friends. Now, I wouldn’t say they hate each other but their professional rivalry is as strong as any match up. They meet each other constantly: two of the biggest players in the continental cup, the Copa America, they also meet twice in qualification for every World Cup, and that’s where the rivalry began.
See in 1950 Brazil were hosting the World Cup which was a bit different back then. After four sets of four teams competing the group stage came a final group stage consisting of the four winners of their respective groups, whoever topped that final round-robin group would be crowned the winners, no final.
The final four teams were Brazil, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay. The Brazilians absolutely mutilated the Europeans in their first two games, scoring 13 goals. Uruguay beat Sweden and drew with Spain. The end result was Brazil on 4 points (a win was only 2 points back then) and Uruguay on 3. Brazil would play Uruguay for the World Cup title, needing only a draw to win.
The whole of Brazil was pumped for the final. While they crushed their opposition, Uruguay had only beaten Sweden 3-2 in the final minutes, and had to come from behind to draw with Spain.
Expectations were higher than a weather balloon; a victory carnival was organised, fans held signs proclaiming Brazil to be the winners, and perhaps most disrespectfully of all, newspapers like O mundo printed a front page picturing Brazil with the headline ‘These are the world champions‘. They really went for it, a victory song was composed and medals were minted in what has to be the most blatant disregard for foreshadowing in sport.
Meanwhile Uruguay were preparing psychologically. Obdulio Varela, Uruguay’s captain bought as many copies of the newspaper as he could and laid them on the bathroom flood. He then instructed his fellow players to make like an opportunist at a free vegetable giveaway and take a leak.
Allegedly, Uruguay’s coach told them their only hope would come from a stalwart defence against the rampant Brazil which Varela disagreed with. When the coach left the room, Varela performed a dream motivation speech straight from the movies saying “Juancito [the coach] is a good man, but today, he is wrong. If we play defensively against Brazil, our fate will be no different from Spain or Sweden“. He intended to fight fire with fire, to ignore the intimidation and to win the World Cup.
As the video says, the game was called the Maracanazo which means ‘Maracana Blow’, a term which is still used today to describe any big Brazilian upset be it country or club.
Obviously Brazil have gone on to surpass Uruguay’s World Cup triumphs, and although La Celeste became the record winners of the Copa America with their most recent win, the two teams are no longer considered equal (not that they ever were by Brazilian press). However, every time the blue shirts come back to the country, Brazil’s pride still stings from that defeat in 1950.
They currently sit on 70 international games over 97 years, Brazil have 32 wins and Uruguay have 19. Brazil once again have the pride and expectation of their nation on them, and Uruguay, once again are the underdogs no one should underestimate.