In 1998, a friendly that seemed inconsequential ended up changing the course of the Brazilian team
This Saturday, Brazil and Argentina meet in the grand final of the Copa América at the Maracana. It will be the first time that the teams meet at the famous stadium in Rio de Janeiro since 1998, when a friendly that seemed inconsequential ended up changing the course of the Brazilian team.
On April 29, 1998, the team led by Zagallo was in its final preparation for the World Cup in France, which would begin in two months. For this reason, the “Old Wolf” put together a very strong team for the duel against Albiceleste, also taking the opportunity to try different alternatives.
That day, Brazil lined up with: Taffarel; Cafú, Júnior Baiano, Aldair and Roberto Carlos; Zé Elias, César Sampaio, Raí and Denílson; Ronaldo “Fenómeno” and Romário. Defender Clebão, midfielder Leonardo and forward Edmundo also entered the game.
However, despite the very strong line-up on paper, the team played a very weak game and were defeated 1-0 in the crowded Maracana, with a goal in the 39th minute of the second half that exposed the team’s many faults. of Zagallo.
In a quick counterattack, Claudio López received the ball from the left, took off Junior Baiano’s mark, arrived in the area and, taking advantage of Clebão’s delay, fired a shot that left Taffarel with no chances and gave the Argentine team the victory on Brazilian soil.
In the last five minutes, the green and yellow fans protested a lot. While the Argentines played the ball without being bothered by the score, the fans shouted “olé, olé, olé”. There were also shouts against several Brazilian players, in addition to an unpublished list of insults to Zagallo.
The result further increased the pressure on the coach, who had been questioned since he won the Copa América in 1997. Not surprisingly, after beating Bolivia in the final of that tournament, the “Old Wolf” released one of his most famous phrases: “They will have to put up with me!”
The game kept Raí from the World Cup
The friendly in Maracana ended up changing the course of the Brazilian team in its final stretch of preparation for the World Cup in France.
On a night when practically the entire team played very poorly, midfielder Raí, who was given a chance instead of the injured Juninho Paulista, ended up being one of the worst. He was replaced by Leonardo in the second half with the fans shouting “Raí, ask to leave.”
With that, Zagallo stopped calling up the then Paris Saint-Germain standout in subsequent friendlies, while Giovanni, a former Santos and later Barcelona midfielder, took over midfield.
The match also ended by annihilating the chances of Zé Elias, who, against Argentina, was a starter in Dunga’s place. After the defeat at the Maracana, Zagallo chose to take Doriva to the 1998 World Cup.
On the other hand, several other players criticized in that match, such as Cafú and Júnior Baiano, still managed to earn a place on the final list of the World Cup, while Romário, who would undoubtedly go to France, was cut by an injury suffered prior to the match. FIFA competition.
At the World Cup, Zagallo changed his mind during the competition and made changes to the team. The most prominent was that of Giovanni, precisely the athlete who had “replaced Raí”. He only played 45 minutes against Scotland, on his debut, and then lost his place to Leonardo.
After losing to Argentina in April 1998, Brazil has played little at Maracana since then.
Here are the matches played by the Brazilian team at the “World’s Largest” stadium between 1998 to date:
Brazil 1-1 Uruguay | Year: 2000 (2002 World Cup qualifiers)
Brazil 5-0 Bolivia | Year: 2000 (2002 World Cup qualifiers)
Brazil 5-0 Ecuador | Year: 2007 (2010 World Cup qualifiers)
Brazil 0-0 Colombia | Year: 2008 (2010 World Cup qualifiers)
Brazil 2-2 England | Year: 2013 (friendly)
Brazil 3-0 Spain | Year: 2013 (Confederations Cup final)
Brazil 3-1 Peru | Year: 2019 (Copa América final)
In other words, it’s only seven games in 23 years. This is in stark contrast to the past, between 1950 and 2000, when Maracana was the main home of the Brazilian team.