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May 27, 2014

Fates of the 1950 World Cup finalists

By now, the details of the final match of the 1950 World Cup are well known. The footage has almost become Brazil's Zapruder tape, analysed again and again to see just what went wrong, sometimes in the intangible hope something might change.

For Uruguay, the eventual 2-1 victory is obviously something much greater, and the finest moment in the country's distinguished football history. It is seared onto the collective consciousness of both nations, if for very different reasons.

Bellos: Rebuilding from ruins of 1950
Duarte: Omens of failure existed in 1950
Bennett: Ghost of Barbosa haunts Brazil
Carlisle: Remembering the U.S. upset of England in 1950

What is not quite well known, however, is what happened next. Not for the countries, of course -- Brazil went on to finally win the World Cup in 1958, and there is an argument they may never have become the competition's most successful team without the pain of 1950. But what happened to 1950's players? Some of their individual stories almost feel out of place for a group of 22 that created such history on that afternoon of July 16. There are certainly contrasts as that between the countries' reactions to the result, but not all as a consequence of it.

Among their number, there are heroes who did not get the recognition they deserved, and others who suffered far too much for single errors. Some drove teams onto Copa Libertadores and Copa America titles as managers, others went on to drive taxis. One player was the most expensive the world had ever seen, some lived in poverty. This was a match where the fall-out went far beyond the mood of the two countries...

URUGUAY

Roque Maspoli: At 32, Maspoli was a world-class goalkeeper with Peñarol, which he emphatically proved in the 1950 game. He pulled off a series of sensational saves in Brazil's siege, not least from Ademir. Maspoli would later go on to enjoy similar success as a coach. His own Peñarol team beat River Plate to lift the 1966 Copa Libertadores before also defeating Real Madrid to claim the Intercontinental Cup. Managed Uruguay in 1987, before his death in 2004.

Matias Gonzalez: A 25-year-old full-back at lowly Cerro, Gonzalez nevertheless became known as "the Lion of the Maracana" for his defiant display. That legendary status was all the more remarkable because he only earned a first international cap on the recommendation of captain Obdulio Varela. Like many of the squad, he was given a state job in retirement. The stadium in the city of Artigas now carries his name. Died in 1984.

Eusebio Tejera: A well-travelled 28-year-old defender at that point with Nacional, Tejera had previously played with River Plate. He was one of eight 1950 squad members to later earn a transfer to the lucrative Colombian league, which was then outside FIFA and famous for paying fortunes. Tejera joined Cucuta along with Schubert Gambetta, who became his brother-in-law when they married a pair of sisters. He spent his retirement working in taxis. Died in 2002.

Schubert Gambetta: Gambetta was one of the most experienced and successful players in the side, as a 30-year-old left-half with serial title winners Nacional. He was also part of the squad that won the 1942 South American Championship. His legacy would go far beyond Uruguay as his style of play lent the word "gambetear" -- to dribble -- to the Spanish football lexicon. Died in 1991.

Victor Andrade: A 23-year-old midfielder for Central and later Peñarol, Andrade would also go onto play in the 1954 World Cup. Worked as an usher at Montevideo's Palace of Congress in retirement and was involved in the founding of basketball team 25 de Agosto. Died in 1985.

Obdulio Varela: The rock on which Uruguay stood and Brazil broke. Varela was the side's legendary captain, and the heart of the team in so many ways. The 32-year-old set the tone in so many ways. It was Varela who remonstrated with the ref in order to calm the crowd after Brazil's opening goal, and then used it all as a proper rallying call for the team. It worked. Four years later, the Peñarol centre-half would drive Uruguay to the semi-finals. Somewhat going against his on-pitch persona, Varela is said to have always felt somewhat solemn about the effect of the performance on "the nice people of Brazil", and maintained a strong and symbolic friendship with opposition goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa. After retiring himself, Varela briefly managed Peñarol but would spend much of his retirement close to poverty and out of public eye, dying in 1996. Appropriate recognition of his status came all too late, as his 1950 shirt and boots are now exhibited in the Uruguayan federation headquarters.

Alcides Ghiggia: The only player from that 1950 match still living, and the man who ended a Brazilian dream by scoring the 79th-minute winning goal. Then a 23-year-old right-winger with Peñarol, Ghiggia would eventually spend nine years in Serie A with Roma and Milan, also earning five caps for Italy. On retiring in 1968, he got a job in the Casino Montevideo to prevent cheating, and occasionally gave driving lessons. Ghiggia's financial situation forced him to sell his winning medal, only for a Brazilian-Uruguayan businessman to buy and return it.

Julio Perez: A dashing 24-year-old inside forward for Peñarol, Perez forced one of the saves of the game from Barbosa in the 1950 final, which was often forgotten in Brazil's intense post-mortem. He later became a youth coach in Uruguay, Paraguay and Mexico before dying in 2002.

Omar Oscar Miguez: The 22-year-old forward was one of just four Uruguayan starters who would also go to the 1954 World Cup, along with 1950 squad member William Martinez. Miguez was among his country's most prolific goalscorers, and won a series of titles with Peñarol, all while repeatedly turned down offers from Europe throughout the 1950s. Died in 2006.

Juan Schiaffino: His equalising goal in the 1950 match may not have as great a status as Ghiggia's winner, but Schiaffino himself has gone on to become recognised as perhaps the greatest Uruguayan player of all time. He was certainly the starter from that game in the Maracana with the most lucrative career -- and expensive price. Schiaffino's displays in the 1954 World Cup saw him move to AC Milan for a world record fee of £72,000. Few would argue he wasn't worth it, as the playmaker hit the opening goal in the 1958 European Cup final defeat to Real Madrid. Like Miguez, he won a number of caps for Italy, and also played for Roma. Schiaffino eventually returned to Uruguay, managing both Peñarol and his country. Unlike so many of his teammates, however, he had assured himself a comfortable life until his death in 2002.

Ruben Moran: The youngest player to appear in that final at just 19 years of age but also, sadly, the first to die. The match against Brazil was Moran's solitary appearance in the 1950 World Cup. He would only play four times for Uruguay in total, and later worked in a state. Died in 1978 at just 47.

BRAZIL

Moacir Barbosa: The tragic figure of the 1950 match, and the individual most blamed for defeat. The goalkeeper was caught out of position, and never again recovered his status with the national team. Expecting a cross from Ghiggia in that fateful 79th minute, Barbosa moved to the centre, only to see the ball fly past him and Brazil's chances of a first World Cup go with it. The 29-year-old Vasco da Gama keeper was at the centre of the storm after the World Cup, with one school of thought suggesting the criticism was so intense because of the colour of his skin -- a reminder that the country hadn't yet escaped its past. That was just one other reason why the game was said to be such a rupture for Brazil as a whole, given how its dimensions echoed so much national culture and history. Barbosa himself could never escape the echoed of 1950. After his club career ended, he actually spent more than 20 years working in administration at the Maracana. On being given the famous goalposts where Ghiggia scored as a "gift", Barbosa burned them. Died in 2000.

Augusto Da Costa: The man many thought would lift Brazil's first ever World Cup. Augusto was captain of the team, and a 29-year-old defender at Vasco Da Gama. Aside from briefly managing Guara-DF, he spent retirement serving in Rio's military police. Died in 2004.

Juvenal: A 26-year-old central defender for Flamengo at the time of the final, Juvenal was the player apportioned the most blame after Barbosa and Bigode. He became a recluse in Bahia on retiring in 1959. Like many of his teammates, he lived close to poverty, but actually suffered more than most. The nine-time international was virtually unable to walk because of arthritis in his knees and hips, until his plight drew to the attention of TV Globo, who initiated a campaign to help. Juvenal lived out his final days more comfortably and, remarkably, was the last of the Brazilian players to die in 2009.

Bigode: The defender supposed to mark Ghiggia, and the man who received most criticism beyond Barbosa. The goalkeeper, however, never blamed Bigode. Others did. The Flamengo full-back was one of those to never be capped again. The match did have other consequences. Bigode -- full name Joao Ferreira -- had previously been awarded an apartment as "the most popular player in Rio de Janeiro." He never got to live in it, despite attempting to take legal action. Like Juvenal, Bigode effectively exiled himself on his retirement in 1955. Died in 2003.

Jose Carlos Bauer: One player to largely escape criticism, but who himself spotted one of the game's great talents. On the day of the 1950 match, Bauer was a 24-year-old centre-half with Sao Paulo, where he enjoyed a hugely successful career in winning five state championships. He would manage 14 clubs, and it was one pre-season trip that saw all these circumstances coincide. On a trip to Mozambique with Ferroviaria de Araraquara, Bauer was blown away by the talent of a local teenager. The name: Eusebio. Bauer suggested the young forward to Sao Paulo, who turned the opportunity down, only to fortuitously meet his old Sao Paulo coach Bela Guttmann -- now managing Benfica -- in a Lisbon barbershop. It took two hugely insistent encounters for Bauer to finally convince Guttmann, who very quickly realised Eusebio was one in a million. Bauer died in 2007.

Danilo Alvim: The 29-year-old centre-half was another member of the relentlessly victorious Vasco da Gama team of the late 1940s. He may not have enjoyed such success at international level with Brazil, but did as a manager with Bolivia. Danilo guided the country to the only Copa America in their history, in 1963. Died in 1996.

Zizinho: The 27-year-old Bangu creator was voted the 1950 World Cup's best player, and was considered by Pele as the greatest player he ever saw, but all of that was to be overshadowed. A serial title winner who was adored in Brazil's two biggest cities as a star with Flamengo and Sao Paulo, Zizinho was always hurt that "he was remembered more for 1950 than his glories." Otherwise, he was renowned as a humble man, who spent his retirement working in a local government job. Died in 2002.

Jair: One of the three-man forward line, along with Zizinho and Ademir, that made Brazil so fancied and feared in that World Cup. Jair played for all the country's major clubs -- Vasco, Flamengo, Palmeiras, Santos, Sao Paulo -- and later became a manager. A supreme technician himself, he helped bring through Pele when coach at Santos.

Friaca: The man who could have been king. Friaca, a 25-year-old lightning-quick winger with Sao Paulo, scored Brazil's only goal in that final when he slid the ball past Maspoli after just 47 minutes. It was to prove a turning point, but not for the hosts. Varela used the moment to properly rally his team. Friaca didn't play for the national team again for six years. He would enjoy a modest retirement as a store owner, eventually dying in 2009.

Ademir Ademir was one the finest players on the planet at that point, even if he never quite got to stand on top of it as world champion. The forward won a series of titles with Vasco da Gama, where he was the creative hub. The club also allowed Ademir, who was 27 in 1950, to gain some semblance of revenge for that reversal. Less than a year after the World Cup, Vasco played a Peñarol team featuring nine of the Uruguay squad in a fixture billed the "game of vengeance". Ademir scored twice in a 3-0 win, earning the applause of the Montevideo crowd. He later became a coach and commentator, and died in 1996.

Chico: A usually uncatchable left-winger, Chico -- full name Francisco Aramburu -- was one of the unlucky players whose international career was simply cut short by that match at the Maracana. He never played for Brazil again. He still won a title at Vasco two years later, and worked as a taxi driver and chauffeur in his retirement. Chico died in Rio in 1997.

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