Cup finals a beauty

ZURICH - The 1950 World Cup finals were a chaotic affair, comprising 13 teams, with no actual final and games in the same group played at venues thousands of kilometres away from each other in the vast Brazilian hinterland.

ZURICH - The 1950 World Cup finals were a chaotic affair, comprising 13 teams, with no actual final and games in the same group played at venues thousands of kilometres away from each other in the vast Brazilian hinterland.

The finals also provided one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport and a world record crowd estimated at 199000.

The deciding match ended with Uruguay beating the hosts Brazil 2-1 in the Maracana Stadium on July 16 to lift the Jules Rimet trophy for the second time.

Then, as now, Brazil were the only country that bid to host the tournament.

With much of Europe lying in ruins after World War II, the Fifa Congress in Luxembourg in July 1946 was eager to resurrect the tournament that had been won by Italy in France in 1938.

Fifa were also eager for the finals to be held as soon as possible and wanted to stage a tournament in 1949.

Brazil presented its bid and said it would be ready to host a 16-team tournament in 1950. But even on the day of the final match, many of the approach roads to the Maracana still resembled a building site and the stadium itself would never have passed modern-day safety standards.

Only 34 teams set out on the road to Rio - and only 12 actually joined Brazil in the tournament.

Scotland, who qualified as the second-placed team in the British qualifying group, refused to go because they were not British champions.

India withdrew because Fifa refused them permission to play barefoot, while Turkey inexplicably declined after beating Syria 7-0 to gain a place.

France, whose football federation president Jules Rimet had nurtured the idea of the tournament in the first place, initially agreed to replace Scotland, then refused to play their group matches at venues 3000 kilometres apart.

Instead of re-drawing the opening round in the wake of the withdrawals, the tournament began with two groups - or pools as they were called - of four teams, one of three and one of just two teams, with the four-pool winners qualifying directly for the final pool of four.

Brazil, the hosts and favourites, kicked off the tournament with a 4-0 win over Mexico in front of 80000 fans at the Maracana. Ademir, who would finish as the tournament's top scorer with eight goals, scored twice.

England were also expected to do well. The country that gave the game to the world had not competed in any of the pre-war tournaments, but on June 25, 1950 England beat Chile 2-0 in their first-ever match in the finals.

Spain beat the United States 3-1 in the same pool on the same day, and it was widely expected that either Spain or England would qualify for the final pool.

That idea ended four days later when one of the greatest upsets in international soccer history took place.

In the remote venue of Belo Horizonte, a northern mining town, the United States beat England 1-0 with a Haitian immigrant Joe Gaetjens scoring the only goal after 38 minutes.

When the result finally made it to England, some newspapers thought it was a misprint and waited for a corrected result to follow. It never came. England lost 1-0 to Spain in their last match and were out.

Spain joined Brazil, Sweden, conquerors of 1938 champions Italy, and Uruguay, the 1930 champions, in the final pool which began with Brazil beating Sweden 7-1 - with Ademir scoring four - and Spain 6-1.

Uruguay had drawn 2-2 with Spain and beaten Sweden 3-2 and with one match left to play, either Brazil or Uruguay would be world champions. Brazil just needed a draw, Uruguay had to win.

Although it was the "de facto" final, it was not actually scheduled as a pool match but has entered history as the 1950 final.

When Friaca put Brazil 1-0 up two minutes into the second half, most of the nearly 200000 crowd believed victory was theirs for the taking.

More than 50 years on, the match still evokes bitter-sweet memories in the country.

Uruguay refused to capitulate and after plenty of pressure equalised in the 67th minute through Juan Schiaffino, who scored with an unstoppable shot.

Alcides Ghiggia scored the winner 11 minutes from time, sending Uruguay into ecstasy and Brazil into mourning - which in football terms, lasted until 1958 when 17-year-old Pele inspired them to a long-awaited World Cup success. - Reuters