Throughout the Second World War the Italian Vice-President of FIFA, Dr. Ottorino Barassi, hid the FIFA World Cup trophy in a shoe-box under his bed and thus saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops.
The qualifying competition turned into something of a farce with teams qualifying then withdrawing - and teams already eliminated being offered places. India withdrew because FIFA would not let them play in bare feet. So only 13 teams participated in the final tournament.
The FIFA World Cup returned and Uruguay won it for a second time in the "final which was not a final".
Before that, however, the United States beat England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte and Sweden's amateurs beat Italy 3-2 in Sao Paulo.
A mini-league format was used and Brazil, Sweden, Spain and Uruguay were the final contestants. Brazil needed only a draw in their clash with Uruguay to clinch the trophy, but lost 2-1 in front of a crowd of 174,000 in Rio's Maracana Stadium.
Football was to live on after the Second World War
The first post-war FIFA congress meeting, held on 25 July 1946 in Luxembourg, was historic for several reasons. Firstly, by paying tribute to the FIFA President, who during the war years did everything in his power to keep the spirit of football alive. The FIFA World Cup trophy was henceforth to be known as the "Jules Rimet Cup". The congress also heralded the return of the British associations, absent since 1929. It was to be the Brazilian Sports Confederation, however, whose team had made such an impact on the 1938 FIFA World Cup, that was granted the responsibility of hosting the next FIFA World Cup, scheduled for 1950.
Twelve years after the FIFA World Cup in France, the new competition emerged into a new era when the tournament was staged in the famous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro and other cities in Brazil.
The planet's biggest stadium
Football in Brazil had become so popular that it was decided to build a brand new stadium with a capacity of 220,000 in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Work began on 2 August 1948. The deadline however, proved too ambitious, and building work was soon running behind schedule. Five weeks before the opening match, the Brazilian organisers found themselves somewhat overwhelmed by the situation, and FIFA decided to send Dr. Ottorino Barassi, the president of the Italian Football Federation who had so brilliantly organised the 1934 FIFA World Cup, to Rio. On 24 June 1950, the Maracana stadium was officially inaugurated, though still looking like a building site and without a press stand. But the stadium was ready to play host to the 13 teams qualified for the finals. The teams were divided into 4 groups (2 groups of 4 teams, 1 group of 3 teams and 1 group of 2 teams).
A nation gets behind its team
After an easy victory over Mexico (4-0), the Brazilians, to everybody's surprise, were held to a draw (2-2) by the Swiss. Yugoslavia, having won its first two matches, needed only a draw against the Brazilians to qualify for the next round. But in front of a fervent 150,000-strong crowd at Maracana, Brazil ran out winners (2-0). Brazil thus qualified with three other teams, Spain, Uruguay and Sweden, not for the semi-finals, but for a final series of matches in round robin format, in which England and Italy were surprising absentees. After a week's rest, the Brazilians ran riot, thrashing Sweden (7-1) and then Spain (6-1). Nobody doubted for a minute that this impressive string of results would continue against Uruguay, who, having drawn against Spain, had just three points to their credit. The Brazilians therefore needed only a draw to become World champions.
In front of a capacity crowd, Brazil opened the score just after half-time, but seemed tense and never displayed their characteristic samba-style football. The Uruguayans equalised - far from being overawed by the partisan crowd - and then, with just 11 minutes to go, scored the winner. Brazil had lost "its" FIFA World Cup. A whole nation was plunged instantly into mourning. The Brazilian officials even forgot to present the Uruguayans with the FIFA World Cup trophy. And it was left to Jules Rimet himself to go down onto the pitch in search of the Uruguayan captain to perform the ceremony. Brazil could only console itself in the knowledge that the "Taça de Mondo" proved to be a tremendous sporting and financial success story. Football had entered a new era...
Did You Know?
A total that is not likely to be equalled ever again is the 174,000 crowd in the Maracana stadium in Rio on 16 July (unofficial sources quote the figure as over 200,000). With the score at 1-1, Ghiggia broke the hearts of the home supporters by scoring the winning goal eleven minutes from time. Apart from 1958, it was the only World Cup in which the home team reached the final and failed to win the title.
A unique record was by Mexico's goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal in terms of World Cup final appearances. He represented his country at five World Cups between 1950 and 1966. Eight players have made it four times, but Germany's Lothar Matth?us went one better at France 98 and equalled Carbajal's record. Matth?us has also played in a total of 25 World Cup final round matches - another record. Best among active players is Italian defender Paolo Maldini, with 14 matches to his credit.
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