Atletico Madrid’s traumatic defeat against Real Madrid last weekend not only recalled the club’s similarly painful loss in the European Cup final against Bayern Munich 40 years ago, it also made us think how World Cup defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory.
Brazil, looking to erase the haunting memory of 1950, needed no such reminders to further fray already fragile nerves. A home defeat to Uruguay in the Maracana final that year, when all was needed was a draw for the Brazilians to become champions, sent a nation into mourning.
Our country has spent 64 years waiting to wipe that slate clean. Yes, there have been subsequent triumphs all around the globe, but we are desperate to have that chance – ideally against Uruguay – to end the hurt.
Which is why their every move is being monitored now, on and off the training pitch, as coach Luiz Felipe Scolari attempts to guide his side to a repeat of the world title he won in Japan in 2002.
Of course it’s not just Brazil which has suffered. Poor Netherlands, three times the bridesmaid in finals. The Dutch face Spain, their nemesis from four years ago, in the opening game this time, with a squad four years older and coming off the back of a dreadful campaign in Euro 2012. Perhaps they will have to wait longer for redemption.
Argentina has gone 28 years without a World Cup triumph, despite boasting talents like Batistuta, Caniggia, Ortega, Riquelme and Palermo. Messi has not yet shone as he has at Barca in a major tournament. In 2006 in Germany he was just a young boy and he was under-utilized in 2010. But the team still has Angel Di Maria. It may be the time for these guys to taste success again.
For England, the tables turned against Germany four years ago. For the team’s sole win, in 1966, it needed help from a linesman but in South Africa the boot was on the other foot as Frank Lampard’s goal was not given, despite clearly crossing the line. Was that the payment of a moral debt the team had accrued 44 years earlier?
France, like England, champion on home soil in 1998, was eliminated in the first round without scoring a single goal in Japan in 2002. Go figure. The team reached the final in 2006 but again went out after the first three games, and the largest “washing of dirty linen in public” ever, four years later.
Now we await this year’s script. What story can we expect?