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Butler: Brazil 1950 revisited... and all that

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Noel Butler, TSN.ca
12/8/2013 10:58:09 PM
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Remembering Nigel de Jong seemingly Kung Fu-kicking Xavi Alonso within inches of his life during an ill-tempered 2010 World Cup Final, it is hard to fully rationalize we now stand only a mere six months from the first ball to be kicked in anger at Brazil 2014.

On June 12, just as the sun sets on the magnificent historical city of Sao Paulo the inventors, innovators and purveyors of “joga bonitowill” open their campaign. The opponent, Croatia and all its football might and will.

As opposites do attract we are set for a corker of an opener. Brazil, though, will go into the 2014 World Cup Finals with the single mindset and firm view to finally remove the only significant un-removable stain on the host nation's World Cup Finals legacy.

It's been 64 years of tears, pain, anguish and embarrassment for the nation of 200 million. The source of which traces itself back to the 1950 Finals, the only other time Brazil has played host to the grandest and greatest show on mother earth.

The scene was The Estadio do Maracana, without a doubt world football's global shrine and likely the greatest sporting amphitheatre on the planet and the 1950 World Cup Finals.

Now lovingly restored for next summer's tournament for a cost well in excess of half a billion, Maracana was inaugurated this past spring when England were fortunately invited to attend.

A joyous occasion and celebration last June, but that was not the case on July 16, 1950. Close to 175,000 packed in to witness what they thought would be World Cup fame, glory and honour for their beloved football nation.

Sadly, Brazil forgot the script, completely botched their lines and went down to the stunning 2-1 defeat against fellow South Americans, Uruguay. Going 1-0 up early in the second half Uruguay hit back and scored the winner with just 11 minutes remaining on the clock.

All 173,850 were left open mouthed in shock come the final whistle.

Making the defeat all the less palpable was the format. The tournament called for a final group of four to determine the winners. In their previous two final group encounters Brazil had amassed an astonishing 13 goals against Sweden and Spain.

A draw would have seen Brazil win its first World Cup and the rather magnificent trophy named after the World Cup Finals' founding father, Jules Rimet. Instead, Uruguay were crowned champions for a second time at what was only the fourth Finals in FIFA history, this coming after a 12-year break due to War World II.

England's Dreaming … Or is it a Nightmare?

An Englishman may liken that momentous Final to what happened in Germany in 1974 and South Africa in 2010, but the national team were rightfully put in their place. It was a match that still stands as the most significant shock in World Cup Finals history. Make that in all world football history itself.

The English had held out from the previous three World Cup Finals afflicted with what could be best described as a decade-plus-long case of extreme snobbery, likely caused by the air of arrogance that in some ways still surrounds.

Football's founding nation, which celebrated its 150th birthday in late October, left London packing some of the most illustrious names ever for Brazil in 1950. They included Matthews, Finney, Nicholson, Milburn and a man who would go on to coach them to 1966 glory, Alf Ramsey himself.

Following Joe Gaetjens lone marker late in the first half England trudged off the Belo Horizonte pitch with their heads held shamefully low after a 1-0 loss to the United States. To put into a correct and clear perspective when Pathe News sent the score to Fleet Street London newspapers incorrectly stated England had beaten the US 10-1.

Speaking of the Americans…

I had the utmost pleasure of speaking with the 1950 US captain Walter Bahr on TSN 690 during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa who, although at the time a spritely 83-years of age, had memories as vivid as if it were just yesterday.

Bahr also disclosed in our chat that in the mid 1950's he played his football in Montreal and pointed out that not only was Canadiens goaltending legend Lorne “Gump” Worsley a teammate but that he was an exceptional central defender.

High praise indeed from a man who captained America to its greatest-ever football victory, which could only be surpassed by winning a World Cup itself.

That will certainly not occur next summer, after the Americans were handed a horrendous draw topped off with a frantic travel schedule. Their schedule is one that even the Rolling Stones - and all those millions they would command - would even baulk at.

Drawn in a group along with the 1974 and 2006 hosts (Germany), it is of no relevance what U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Friday afternoon.

"I guarantee you Jurgen [Klinsmann] knows more about Germany than “Jogi” Low knows about the U.S."

Nor does it matter the result of their recent friendly.

More important is the fact that the Germans - like the rest of the world - are fully aware of who currently coaches the U.S. team.

No one in World Cup Finals history prepares as successfully and efficiently as Deutschland.

The Americans will play friendlies like all other Brazil 2014 nations as part of preparations including a showcase one which is scheduled against England in Miami.

If the USSF have an ounce of genuine thought and desire about Brazil 2014 any England match should be rain-checked in favour of playing a nation whose football styles are more in keeping with the likes of Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

Jet… With the wind in your hair

An interesting sidebar to the last time Brazil hosted a World Cup Finals: Only 13 nations could be bothered to show up.

Absent despite qualification were India, who were denied a request made to FIFA to play in bare feet.

Imagine that, Cristiano.

France was another to withdraw due to a requirement to play two of their three group stage games so far apart. The distance between matches would almost cover the entire length of Canada.

You will be sure the U.S. will not be happy with their Brazil 2014 group, nor the fact no other nation will rack up the air miles like they have to.

Continental Shift?

As he rightfully did in Friday's draw Nelson Mandela's rightful and most honourable shadow will loom large over Brazil 2014 from Sugar Loaf Mountain to the beaches of Ipanema and beyond.

Not ever before in the previous 19 World Cups to date has an African nation reached even the semifinal stage. Let alone a final.

How wondrous it will be if the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon or Ghana can pull off the unprecedented. Get into the Final four and magic often occurs.

Come next June I know who I will be cheering most heartedly for. Do you?

Tune into TSN 690 when Noel Butler hosts a special edition of oranges at halftime which will include a significant tribute to Nelson Mandela. To broadcast Monday evening at 7:00pm Listen Live: TSN.ca/Montreal.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

@TheSoccerNoel

Luiz Felipe Scoalri (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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