Latin America is one of the regions with long-standing history in World Soccer Cups. A country in the region, Brazil, is the only one that has not missed any edition of the event and it holds the highest number of crowns: five. Argentina and Uruguay have held the champion trophy in two different times. Mexico and Brazil are on the exclusive list, joined by Germany and Italy, the nations that have hosted the most internationally sought-after tournament twice.
What are the best moments for Latin America in World Soccer Cups? PanamericanWorld has identified five unforgettable events that are part of the nine – decade history of an event coveted by more countries than the ones recognized by the United Nations.
BRAZIL, THE ONLY FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION
The Brazilian team holds several records in World Cups. In addition to being the only one that has competed in the 20 editions, it leads the historic table with the highest number of wins (70), has obtained the “Jules Rimet” Cup three times and holds two FIFA Cups. The “Canarinha” won its first crown in Sweden, back in 1958, where it beat the locals 5-2, thanks to two goals by Pelé and two by Vavá. Four years later, in Chile, the Brazilians, directed by Aymore Moreira, defeated Czechoslovakia, 3-1, with goals by Amarildo, Zito and, again, Vavá.
The Brazilian control was even stronger in the Cup organized by Mexico in 1970. Described as one of the most complete teams of all times, it won all six games and Mario “Lobo” Zagallo got his name written in books by becoming the first soccer player to score a goal in a final (in 1958) and then reach the title as a technical director. In the clash for the crown, the “Canarinha” prevailed over Italy, 4-1, with goals delivered by Pelé, Gérson, Jairzinho and the captain, Carlos Alberto
Afterwards, the Brazilian soccer team fell into a crisis and the fourth championship was won 24 years later, in the Cup hosted by the United States, in 1994. The selection was directed by Carlos Alberto Parreira and, in the final, it matched Italy again. For the first time in history, in the final match of a World Cup, goals were not scored in the regular time and it was necessary to go to penalties. Goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel was the hero there and Italy has certainly not forgotten the image of a heartbroken Roberto Baggio, after kicking the last penalty up to the sky.
In 2002, in the only World Cup organized by two countries (so far), Brazil won again the seven games, including the final, versus Germany, 2-0, with goals by Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima. When reviewing the statistics, we find that Brazil is the second team with more presence on top of the podium, only surpassed by Germany. The “Canarinha” has five titles, has lost two finals (1950 and 1998) and has two bronze medals (1938 and 1978).
ARGENTINA, FROM THE GOALS BY “MATADOR” TO THE MAGIC OF MARADONA
Argentina is another Latin American team with great history in World Cups. The team has participated in 16 editions of the Cup, in which they have won two titles and have been defeated three times in the finals. The most remarkable moments to the Argentinians are related to the wins in 1978 and 1986 finals. In front of their audience, the Argentinian team beat Netherlands, 3-1, in extra time, thanks to two goals by Mario Alberto “el Matador” Kempes and another one by Daniel Bertoni.
Then, in Mexico 1986, after defeating the archrival (not exactly sporting) England, in quarterfinals, with two goals by Diego Armando Maradona, one with the “hand of God” and another with the “leg of a God”, the Argentinians beat Belgium and reached the final, against Federal Germany. The South American team started ahead 2-0, with scores by Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano, but the Germans did not give up and tied up spectacularly, thanks to scores by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Vöeller. Then, Jorge Burruchaga appeared in the 83rd minute, and his goal gave Argentinian its second title. The national team has played three other finals. In the opening edition, in Uruguay 1930, they were defeated by the locals, 4-2, and, six decades later, by the unified Germany, 1-0, in that inexistent penalty invented by Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal. They were later defeated by the same opponent, in extra time, in Brazil 2014.
THE URUGUAYAN FIGHTING SPIRIT
Uruguay is the third Latin American country that has won a World Cup. The “charrúas” hosted the inaugural version of this event and, in the duel for the crown, at Montevideo’s Centenario stadium, they faced the Argentinian team. The match was very intense and those under the helm of Alberto Suppicci finished the first half under the score, 2-1; however, in the second half the goals by Pedro Cea, Victoriano Santos Iriarte and Hector Castro gave the locals a victory. Twenty years later, few people thought that the Uruguayans had any chance against Brazil, in the final match, the only time in history in which a World Cup has been decided in a round robin format.
The Brazilians only needed to tie the match to win their first Cup, so over 130 thousand fans attended the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, hoping to celebrate with their team. The party started when Friaca put the locals ahead; however, the Uruguayan fighting spirit was remarkable, when Juan Schiaffino tied the game in the 66th minute and then, in the 79th, Alcides Ghiggia scored the winning goal. The Uruguayans have not forgotten the “Maracanazo” and, surely, neither have the Brazilians.
MEXICO, THE VALUE OF VENUES
Mexico and Brazil are the Latin American countries that have organized a World Cup in two different occasions. The Brazilians have not been crowned in front of their audience and both editions left scars in their fans memory, because the “Maracanazo” of 1950 must be added the 7-1 thrashing by Germany, in the semifinal of 2014. The Mexicans have never climbed to the podium; but at least they have achieved their best historical performance in the two opportunities in which they were locals. In the 1970 meeting, the Mexicans reached the quarterfinals, where they fell 4-1 versus Italy, so they finished in the sixth place. Then, in 1986, the team showed their best level and eliminated Bulgaria, in the second round, 2-0, with goals by Manuel Negrete and Raúl Servín. In quarterfinals, locals matched versus Federal Germany and the game ended 0-0, but in penalties, the Germans had a better luck. Mexico has never again hosted a Cup (it aspires to co-organize the one in 2026) nor has been included among the best eight teams in a World Cup.
In eight of the 20 editions of the World Cup, a Latin American soccer player has won the Golden Boot, which is the prize for the top scorer of the tournament. The Brazilians are also good at this, because five players from that country have finished on top of the table: Leônidas da Silva (seven scores, 1938), Ademir (nine goals, 1950), Garrincha and Vavá (both with four, 1962) and Ronaldo (eight points, 1998).
The list also includes two Argentinians: Guillermo Stábile, leading scorer in 1930, with eight scores and Mario Alberto Kempes (six scores, 1978); Chilean Leonel Sanchez (four goals, 1962); Uruguayan, Diego Forlan (five goals, 2010) and Colombian, James Rodriguez, with six goals, in 2014.