The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is almost upon us. To get you in the mood for this summer’s tournament, in the week leading up to kick-off, we’ll be taking a look back at the stories behind some of the most significant world records set on the beautiful game’s biggest stage.
Today: The 1950 final in Brazil remains the highest attendance ever at a football match
The way Russia feels about the Miracle on Ice.
The way Britain feels about the Revolutionary War.
The way Alexander Karelin feels about Rulon Gardner.
Wow, sorry, this writer’s American bias got way out of control there!
Anyway, all those emotions – that’s how Brazil still feels about the 1950 FIFA World Cup.
The last time the South American giant hosted the world’s most popular tournament, its people’s passion for the game showed no bounds. In fact, the final match of the 1950 World Cup remains the record holder for not only the largest attendance at a World Cup match, but also the highest at any football/soccer match, period.
Officially, 173,850 paid spectators crammed into Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium on July 16 to watch host Brazil take on Uruguay for arguably the most prized trophy in world sports.
And Brazil lost.
Nearly 200,000 sets of tearful eyes and shattered hearts wondering when their mothers would come wake them up from this national nightmare.
Some estimates have even pegged the attendance as high as 199,000 or 210,000 unofficially. Those claims state that thousands had entered the stadium illegally and without tickets, just to witness what was certain to be Brazil’s first World Cup triumph happen on home soil.
And why wouldn't those fans believe it?
The tournament final was decided by a four-team final group, as opposed to the knockout format we know today. Amazingly, Brazil had crushed its first two finals opponents, Sweden and Spain, by a combined 13-2 score.
All it required was to draw against its much tinier neighbor to the south and the Jules Rimet Trophy would sit with the Seleção.
Brazilian newspaper O Mundo even printed an early edition claiming the Brazil squad the world champions. There isn’t a perfect translation for “bulletin board material” in Portuguese, but this was basically it.
Some of the shockwaves from the surprise result in front of the record crowd reverberate to this day.
The term “Maracanazo” remains used in Latin American soccer to this day in describing a mammoth upset.
The 22 gold medals commissioned by the Brazilian Football Confederation for its squad have proven that you don’t etch names on trophies until after the final whistle.
And the famous yellow shirt that Brazil has turned into a universal cloak of destruction over the last 60 years? That came about as part of a uniform redesign after the “cursed” home white shirts worn in the 1950 final were discarded forever.
This year’s World Cup will see no threat to the single-game attendance record.
The modernized Maracanã remains the largest-capacity venue in the competition, but holds a “mere” 73,531 spectators. And stadium ticket policies have grown just a little stricter since 1950.
What Brazil hopes, though, is that even if fewer people will see the final in person, they’ll do so smiling at a different result.
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