The last game of the 1950 World Cup pitted the first World Cup Champions, Uruguay, against their neighbors and hosts Brasil, looking to win their first World Cup.
The 1950 tournament featured a Final Group Phase, rather than a knockout style tournament, and therefore the Brazilians only needed a draw to become World Champions after hitting seven past Sweden and six past Spain in the first two group matches.
Uruguay were such underdogs, that Angelo Mendes de Moraes, the state governor of Rio de Janeiro, proclaimed “You players who in less than a few hours will be acclaimed champions by millions of your compatriots…You who have no equals on the terrestrial hemisphere…You whom I already salute as conquerors.” in a pre-game address to both teams and the crowd of 200,000 at the Maracana.
The game was scoreless at half time, but it seemed only a matter of time before Brazil broke the deadlock, and they did just two minutes after the restart, through Friaca.
The celebrations had begun in the stands, surely Brazil would now go on to win by three or four, but goalkeeper Rosque Maspoli “performed acrobatic prodigies in goal” according to World Cup historian Glanville, and right winger Alcide Ghiggia took over the game.
In the 66th minute, he charged down the right (the Brazilian left) and played in a cross for Juan Schiaffino to level matters at one.
After the goal Brazilian coach Flavio Costa recalled: “Silence in the Maracana”, and it would only get worse.
Although a draw was still good enough to crown Brazil as champions, Ghiggia found himself again free down the right, this time beating goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa at the near post 11 minutes from time.
Ghiggia would say later: “Only three people have, with just one motion, silenced the Maracana, Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and me.
So ridiculed was Barbosa for the defeat, that in 2000 he said “In Brazil, the maximum sentence is thirty years, but I have served fifty.” Brazilian playwright Nelso Rodrigues called the match “our catastrophe, our Hiroshima.”
Following Brazil 1950, El Selecao changed from white jerseys to the famous bright yellow they are now famous for. Had Uruguay not pulled off the impossible, we may have never seen the shirt so synonymous with the Beautiful Game.
While the game stood as national disaster for Brazil, for Uruguay it is by far the country's greatest sporting achievement against all the odds.
Ghiggia and Schiaffino are still idols in Uruguay today, but the public holds out hope that Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez can join them in immortality.