KEIR RADNEDGE reports from Belo Horizonte
—- Moacir Barbosa Nascimento was Brazil’s scapegoat goalkeeper when, infamously, they lost 2-1 in Maracana to Uruguay in the final match of the 1950 World Cup. Shortly before his death in 2000, Barbosa told a friend: “That was not my saddest moment. The worst was years later, in the street, when a woman pointed me out to her little girl and said: ‘Look, that’s the man who made all Brazil cry!’
Brazil has never quite recovered from a defeat born of over-confidence. Three days before the 1950 final a Rio paper had produced a picture of the Brazil squad with a ‘halo’ describing them as: ‘Champions of the World.’
So intimidated and defeatist were some of Uruguay’s officials than they left for home before the final.
By contrast, captain Obdulio Varela collected more than a hundred of the posters and scattered them around Uruguay’s dressing room before the final as “ammunition.”
History tells it: Brazil scored first, sat back, and Uruguay struck twice to beat them in front of a world record 199,000 attendance.
Events on July 16, 1950, fuel every meeting between Brazil and Uruguay and this imminent semi-final in the 2013 Confederations Cup should be no exception.
Of course, other issues demand attention. Street protests have convulsed Braziland driven President Dilma Rousseff to concede a reform referendum and a pledge of new anti-corruption laws.
That will not be enough to prevent an expected 100,000-plus turn-out for BH’s most massive demonstration yet before and after the game.
Nor are of much use the words and statistics trotted out by Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo on Monday to try to show that the cost of hosting the Confederations and World Cups is a drop in the ocean compared with the social welfare budget.
Belo Horizonte Mayor Marcio Lacerda, accused originally by activities of playing down the protests, has proclaimed the day a public holiday. Businesses can stay shut and board up their windows.
If Lacerda wants to cool tension on the streets he may just have opened them up for many thousands more to come out and join the protests.
Brazil, as usual against Uruguay, are favourites. Recalled coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has seen them improve from game to game with both Neymar and Fred up front perpetual dangers.
Neymar wants to maintain his goal-a-game Confed record; Fred wants a goal to honour the memory of his mother, a local woman from Belo Horizonte where he began his career with America.
Uruguay– Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani & Co – have not beaten Brazil since July 1, 2001, when the Celeste won a World Cup qualifier 1-0 in Montevideo.
That was Scolari’s debut as manager of Brazil.
But if Uruguay draw encouragement from the weight of superstition then so will Brazil. . . one year later Scolari was guiding them to glory in the World Cup Final in Yokohama.
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