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Apr 17, 2006

World Cup 1950 - Hosts Brazil

With much of Europe still recovering from the rigours of the Second World War, FIFA took the decision to return the championships to South America for the 1950 edition of the tournament.

Football was fast becoming the religion it remains in Brazil and the home team were reigning Copa Libertadores champions.

There were a few changes from the last World Cup twelve years earlier; The home nations at last took their place in the finals and in place of the pure knock-out structure, there would be two stages - with winners of the first groups qualifying for the final group.

In addition, the winners of the new tournament would pick up the newly-renamed Jules Rimet trophy, named after the championship founder and FIFA president of 25 years.

English football had long borne an air of superiority and its dignitaries had scoffed at the value of the World Cup, never doubting that it boasted the world's best team.

To say that it fell flat on its face would be an understatement. A routine 2-0 win over Chile was followed by arguably England's most embarassing defeat ever - 1-0 to the USA in the northern industrial town of Belo Horizonte.

The decisive goal was scored, somewhat luckily, by Haitian immmigrant Joe 'Larry' Gaetjens, who was later to sadly fall victim to the terror regime of Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier in his country of origin. His legacy was such a shock at the time that many newspaper in readers in England actually thought the scoreline was a misprint of 10-1!

After losing to Spain, England were out of the tournament, and the arrogance that came with them was removed forever in just a week.

Elsewhere the home team Brazil were flying, easily making it out of their group. Forwards Jair, Zizinho and Ademir were tearing teams apart at will.

Uruguay, making their first finals appearance since 1930, made it into the second group phase by beating Bolivia 8-0. Star inside-forward Juan Schiaffino grabbed four goals.

This was to be the only World Cup without a final but the decisive match would come between the aforementioned South Americans. After beating Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 in the final group stage, the Brazilians only needed a draw to take the title that the football crazy nation was baying for. However, it was not to be.

In front of an 'official' crowd of 199,000 in the specially-built Maracana, Uruguay, with half-backs Obdulio Varela and Victor Andrade outstanding, held off wave-after-wave of Brazilian attacks for the first-half.

But after half-time the deadlock was broken by Brazilian winger Friaca and destiny seemed to be with the home side. However, Varela began to make his trademark runs forward and Uruguay's right-winger Ghiggia began to exert more and more influence.

Ghiggia first beat the defence to play in Schiaffino to score the equaliser. He then delivered the coup de grace by again slipping pasr full-back Bigode but, instead of crossing, beating keeper Barbosa at close-range from a narrow angle.

For the whole of Brazil it was a national disaster and the country collapsed into deep mourning. For Uruguay, a country of just three million people, it was a case of two World Cups entered and two World Cups won!