Careca (50′)


World Cup Qualification
CONMEBOL – Group 3
Video: ‘full’ game
Estádio do Maracanã, 
Rio de Janeiro
Att.: 141,072
Match revenue: 600,000 USD
Sun. 3 September 1989
Kick-off: 5.00pm
Ref.: Juan Carlos Loustau (ARG)
L1: Carlos Espósito (ARG)
L2: Francisco Lamolina (ARG)

* The game was abandoned after 69 minutes, when the Chilean team walked off the pitch after goalkeeper Roberto Rojas alledgedly had been hit by a firecracker thrown from the crowd. Later investigations revealed how Rojas’ injury had been self-inflicted, prompting severe punishment from FIFA, who subsequently awarded Brazil a 2-0 win. Chile were also banned from participating in the next World Cup qualification, and there was further individual punishment for Rojas, manager Orlando Aravena and team doctor Daniel Rodríguez.


(Twitter thread)

It was time for the group decider, and what a tasty prospect Brazil against Chile was after what had happened in the Chilean capital three weeks earlier, when the 1-1 draw had been so full of incident and controversy it almost beggared belief.

Permutations were easily understood: Only a Chile victory would take them through. A draw or a home win would see the Brazilians through to Italia ’90. This had become clear after Chile’s 5-0 win against Venezuela on neutral ground in Argentina last week. They had needed to win by eight clear goals in order to overtake Brazil in the standings ahead of the final showdown.

The game would take place in one of the largest and most iconic stadia in world football: The Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. With the capacity exceeding 140,000, it seemed likely that the visitors would be in for a difficult afternoon, and against an opponent which had never lost a single World Cup qualifier in history.

The table read thus beforehand:


Brazil team news

This was the big decider, and there had been some pre-match spat in the media in the days leading up to the game.

On the day of the match, Brazil boss Sebastião Lazaroni claimed that he had available to him “the strongest squad possible”, with the exception of Mozer (not released by Marseille) and the suspended Romário (Brazil had not been able to win through with their appeal to have his ban reduced from three matches to one following his sending off in Santiago).

The Brazilian subs’ bench (l to r): Acácio, Alemão, Renato, Ricardo Rocha, Mazinho

In the week prior to the game, the squad had been gathered in Teresópolis (Rio state), as per norm. On the injury front, there had been some minor issues with Mazinho (thigh strain) and Aldair (pain in his right knee), though both would be deemed fit in time to take part in the 16 man strong matchday squad, thus forcing their way back in after the pair’s enforced absence two weeks ago. This made sure that the experienced Josimar dropped out of the squad, and furthermore there was still no place available for talented 21 year old centre-back André Cruz.

While both Zé Carlos and Acácio had been participating in the training sessions ahead of the game, Lazaroni had ultimately once again opted for the latter as Taffarel’s probable understudy.

Another player who had dropped out since the 6-0 drubbing of Venezuela in São Paulo was forward Tita, who had come on as a substitute on that occasion with 17 minutes left for play. Lazaroni had rather opted for an extra defender this time around, making sure Renato Gaúcho remained the (only) forward option in addition to Bebeto and Careca.

Chile team news

Chile had, despite their failure to achieve that win by eight clear goals last Sunday, certainly not given up hope of qualifying for Italia ’90. Still, they were well aware of the size of their task, which was winning in Rio if they were to make it through. Manager Orlando Aravena had faith in his disciples completing the mission.

Captured during the playing of the national anthem, l to r: Yáñez, Pizarro, Reyes, Gonzáles, Hisis

Due to the fact that they feared a hostile welcome following the debacle from three weeks earlier, the Chileans had altered their original plans of arriving in Rio de Janeiro on the Friday before the game. Instead, they came flying in on the Saturday evening, seeing to that they missed out on their set training schedule at the Maracanã, which had been planned for at 3.30pm on the Saturday and two hours forward.

There had again from the Chilean camp been attempted some media mind-games in the days leading up to the fixture: “The Brazilians are anxious. We’ll be upset if we do not make it through, though if the opposition don’t pull it off, then there’ll be grief throughout the world. This is why there’s this hostility.” The quote belonged to Brazil based (with Porto Alegre club Grêmio) defender Fernando Astengo.

Chile had had to make do without Swiss based forwards Hugo Rubio and Iván Zamorano in their previous qualifier, though they were still, in the wake of last Sunday’s win, hoping to have the pair available to them in Brazil. However, as time was passing by, it became clear that the two would not make the return to South America in time. It should be noted that Zamorano went on to score all four goals for St Gallen in their 4-3 league win at Neuchâtel Xamax the following weekend (Sat 9 September).

There were knocks to nurse following the win over Venezuela for midfielder Jorge Aravena, the manager’s nephew, and forward Patricio Yáñez, but they were both deemed fit for participation a couple of days prior to kick-off. In training on home soil in Santiago, Chile had been seen testing out various tactics, even one involving a five man defensive line. In their three qualifiers thus far, they had lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. The new defensive formation had involved Leonel Contreras (featuring as libero for the entire second half at home to Venezuela) as centre-back alongside Hugo Gonzáles, with Astengo sweeping behind them.

The solitary squad change from the 16 who had featured against the Venezuelans, was young forward Luka Tudor leaving in order to be replaced by defender Óscar Reyes. This after it had been confirmed that Rubio and Zamorano would not be arriving.


Carlos Espósito, Juan Carlos Loustau, Francisco Lamolina

42 years of age was Argentinian Juan Carlos Loustau. He’d refereed in two Argentinian 1982 friendlies on home soil, 0-0 against Czechoslovakia and a 2-1 win against Bulgaria, and then been tasked with the 1983 Copa América semi-final between Brazil and Paraguay (0-0, Brazil through to the final on the away goals rule after 1-1 in Paraguay).

Loustau had been an annual feature in the Copa Libertadores tournaments since 1982, and had appeared three times during the recently held Copa América in Brazil. He’d refereed Peru’s two group stage matches against Paraguay and Colombia (2-5 and 1-1 respectively), as well as the second group stage match between Uruguay and Paraguay (3-0).

The Argentinian had also been in action twice during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, when he’d been put in charge of Australia’s group stage match against Yugoslavia (1-0), in addition to overseeing the third place play-off game between Italy and West Germany (0-3).

Loustau was surely no novice.

Previous meetings

Having played out that fiery and highly controversial 1-1 draw in Santiago three weeks earlier, Brazil had still just lost five times against Chile throughout history. The pair’s very first meeting had happened in the 1916 Copa América tournament, with the Chileans not winning until the 17th attempt, in another Copa América clash, 4-1 in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1956.

Chile’s record against their more illustrious South American rivals had improved over the last decade, with the stats in Brazil’s favour in the 1980s reading 5-4-2. Chile’s two wins had come in an ’85 friendly and then that emphatic 4-0 in the 1987 version of Copa América, when they’d finished runners-up behind Uruguay. That was a defeat which still pained the Brazilians.

While only few Brazilians remained from that ’87 defeat in Argentina, most of the Chilean team was still intact.


The stadium officially named ‘Estádio jornalista Mario Filho’, was built just in time for the 1950 World Cup, and the aim had been to create the world’s biggest footballing arena. It would achieve fame very quickly, albeit perhaps not quite for the reasons which the host nation back then had wanted: Brazil had to see Uruguay win 2-1 in the final game of the second group stage to claim their second title in front of an estimated 200 000 crowd. Officially, the attendance had been approximately 173 000. Maracanaço had been born as a worldwide term.

There had been few changes to the vast stadium until the time of the 1990 World Cup qualification. Obviously, the first of Brazil’s two home qualifiers had taken place at the Morumbi in São Paulo, as Venezuela had not been expected to draw sufficient attention to see the Maracanã filled. For the visit of Chile, though, and particularly after the two countries’ first encounter in Santiago three weeks earlier, there was no other stage than the pride of Rio de Janeiro.

During the 1989 version of the Copa América, held in Brazil, with the host nation winning to claim their first continental title in 40 years, their three matches in the final group stage had all been played at the Maracanã, with nearly 150 000 paying spectators arriving to finally bury the ghost of Uruguay as they won 1-0 in their final match to lift the trophy.

By the time of the afternoon kick-off, the temperature in the Maracanã area of Rio de Janeiro was 21 degrees. 

Brazil (3-5-2)

1 Taffarel23Internacional
2 Jorginho25Flamengo
3 Aldair23Benfica
4 Mauro Galvão 41′27Botafogo
5 Branco25Porto
6 Ricardo Gomes (c)24Benfica
7 Bebeto25Vasco da Gama
8 Dunga25Fiorentina
9 Careca28Napoli
10 Silas24Sporting Lisboa
11 Valdo25Benfica

x Acácio31Vasco da Gama
x Ricardo Rocha26São Paulo
x Mazinho23Vasco da Gama
x Alemão27Napoli
x Renato Gaúcho26Flamengo
Manager: Sebastião Lazaroni

Chile (4-4-2)

1 Roberto Rojas (c)32São Paulo
2 Alejandro Hisis 65′27OFI Kreta
4 Héctor Puebla 7′34Cobreloa
5 Hugo Gonzáles26Colo Colo
6 Jaime Pizarro25Colo Colo
7 Juan Carlos Letelier30Deportes La Serena
8 Jaime Vera26OFI Kreta
10 Jorge Aravena31Puebla
11 Fernando Astengo29Grêmio
14 Patricio Yáñez28Real Betis
18 Óscar Reyessub 63′31Deportes La Serena

x Marco Cornez31Universidad Católica
x Leonel Contreras28Deportes La Serena
x Juvenal Olmos26Irapuato
x Juan Covarrubias28Cobreloa
9 Ivo Basayon 63′23Stade Reims
Manager: Orlando Aravena

Tactical line-ups

Match report

First half

It was time for the big showdown, and once the two national anthems had been completed, the Argentinian referee signalled for the two team captains to come and accompany him in the centre-circle. Mr Loustau informed Chile’s Roberto Rojas that he’d won the toss of the coin, upon which the ‘keeper decided to remain in that half of the pitch where they had been warming up: To the left as the cameras were looking. That meant Brazil would be the ones to set the wheels in motion. The actual kick-off was performed by the two home strikers, Careca and Bebeto, to an expected crescendo from the packed stands.

The initial stages

In Santiago, the opening of the game had been marred by the early incident involving Romário and Hisis, with the former being sent off for throwing a punch. On this occasion, there’s more fluency to the early proceedings, with the home side going about their business as if it were they who needed to score.

Determining formations is always an interesting task, and while little had been expected in terms of surprises from the hosts, there had been plenty of talk in the media in the days leading up to the game how Chile would deploy a more pragmatic numbers combination this time around. They had been playing in 4-3-3 for their three first qualifiers, though it was easy to see how they had drafted in another defensive midfielder for this occasion. However, they were still just with the four players at the back, and so the extra defensive midfielder had been brought in at the expense of a forward, making sure they were now working according to 4-4-2 principles.

The ‘funny’ thing is that Chile supremo Aravena had said in the press in the wake of Brazil’s qualification opener in Caracas that the famous yellow and sky blue would never dare to approach the game in Santiago with such an attacking formation: Brazil had begun in Venezuela with three men up front in a 3-4-3, though returned to the defensively more secure 5-3-2 for the journey to Chile. This had given Aravena right, though now the manager had made an identical tactical adjustment to his select.

Valdo in possession, faced by Vera. Letelier in the background

Brazil were looking to utilize their wide areas when they went on attack. They kept possession among themselves, flicked the ball around at one or two touches, and were quite direct in how they wanted to play Jorginho and Branco in down either flank. They were looking for quick transitions, spending little time in possession through their more defensive players, with the two inside midfielders, Silas and Valdo, also having vital roles in trading the ball out into the wing positions. This time around, it was much more of a 3-5-2 than 5-3-2.

Branco, who had been exposed to that most horrid of tackles when Chile midfielder Raúl Ormeño saw red before the quarter of an hour mark last time the teams had met, seemed cautious in these early stages, going down easily a couple of times in quick succession. He’d need to regain his confidence in order to make a threat, although he kept being a willing customer coming forward, even before ten minutes had been played.

Mauro Galvão’s leg takes a hit

There were a couple of early nasty incidents involving Chile left-back Héctor Puebla. The 34 year old of Cobreloa, a converted full-back, had often displayed his desire to move forward hitherto in the qualification. With just four minutes on the clock, he’d followed through in a tackle against Mauro Galvão, placing his studs right into the Brazil libero’s left knee. It had looked pretty ugly from the replay, while the initial challenge had not even led to a stop in play. The referee had only signalled his whistle as he’d been made aware that there was a player down. With Galvão fit to resume, play was brought back to life through the means of a dropped ball.

Puebla earns his yellow

Puebla, like Ormeño last time around, seemed quite charged, and only two minutes after the incident with Mauro Galvão, he saw yellow for an infringement involving Bebeto. The nippy Brazil forward had outwitted the experienced Chile man, who had proceeded to kick him down, and then, as he was jumping away, he seemed to deliberately stamp his feet into Bebeto’s thigh. The home forward, laying on the floor, was writhing in agony, but fortunately, no severe damage had been done, and Bebeto was able to carry on. Puebla could have few objections against his booking.

Valdo tests Rojas with a drive

As for attempts at goal, Careca had been played in by a frequently involved Valdo as early as two minutes and 40 seconds in, and quickly turned on the edge of the box before firing a half volley over the bar with his left foot. Then Valdo, five minutes later, set himself up with an opportunity to strike from 25 yards, and though the shot appeared to have sound pace and direction, Chile ‘keeper Roberto Rojas flung himself well to his left and held on to the ball, conceding no rebound. The first ten minute period had for sure been an interesting one.

Midfielders Vera (l) and Aravena

Brazil enjoy the majority of the possession, while Chile risk very little in the opening quarter of an hour. They do not wish to expose themselves, and sit tight with both holding midfielders just in front of the centre-back pairing, and even with their central midfielder, Jorge Aravena, just in front of them again. This leaves everything to the innovation of their three most forward players, something which typically sees the ball come boomeranging back once it has been cleared. However, Chile’s discipline and work ethic can’t be faulted so far. They’re like a big ship with a number of watertight compartments.

Branco: wasteful

While a draw will suffice for the hosts, it is they who go out in search of the opening goal. They have players in every single position which is so comfortable on the ball, and the way they spread the ball about in midfield, often delievered with the outside of someone’s foot, is pleasant to watch. You have a feeling that they’ll be capable of carving goalscoring opportunities out, although they are realizing already at this stage that they’ll need to be patient. A pair of wasteful Branco efforts on 13 and 15 minutes respectively pose no threat to Rojas.

Chile’s pick

Patricio Yáñez, seen with Branco

Chile’s 4-4-2 is a narrow one, although their pair of forwards are often looking to attack towards wide areas, possibly attempting to exploit spaces left behind by the Brazilians’ two attacking full-backs. The front duo are Patricio Yáñez along the right and Juan Carlos Letelier across from him. Both had scored in the previous weekend’s 5-0 drubbing of Venezuela, and while Yáñez had plenty of pace to burn despite his relatively stocky frame, Letelier was stronger in possession, not poor at shielding the ball from defenders. He had certainly also proved through his hat-trick last week that he was someone capable of tucking away an opportunity.

Jorge Aravena

Working just off the front pair was the diminutive Jaime Vera. The Crete based midfielder had had a superb game last time around, and particularly in the second half, when he had been behind so many opportunities against the Venezuelans. He’d even, rightfully, got his name on the scoresheet late on. So far, though, he’d been well looked after by Brazil’s defenders and defensive midfielder, and he’d not got into his stride yet. The same could be said for Mexico based Jorge Aravena behind him. The gifted playmaker was someone who usually excelled when he had time to execute a pass out into the wide areas, preferably from a relatively deep position, but so far he’d mainly been chasing the home side’s midfielders.

Jaime Pizarro stood just behind Aravena, with Silas and Puebla in the vicinity

Chile’s two defensive midfielders were previous Colo Colo team mates Alejandro Hisis and Jaime Pizarro. The former, while a midfielder at club level, had performed well as their right-back in the three previous qualifiers. Now he’d been drafted into a more central position, working as the right-sided of their two holding men. The idea could well have been to look after the advance from Brazil’s two inside midfielders, but rather than being man-orientated, the Chile pair were working according to zonal principles. Pizarro to Hisis’ left was similar in his interpretation of the same type of role. They were both committed players who boasted plenty of ethos, something which benefitted the collective thus far, restricting the hosts to shots from distance.

Captaining the visitors was, for the fourth time from four in the qualification, Brazil based Roberto Rojas. The 32 year old was known as a very reliable customer, and had stood his ground well so far in these exchanges. He was even comfortable enough when coming off his line to claim aerial balls.

Hugo Gonzáles

The four men ahead of him were Óscar Reyes at right-back, Fernando Astengo as libero, Hugo Gonzáles in the marking centre-back position, and said Puebla at left-back. Reyes, whilst far from a novice at this level, had previously not featured in either of Aravena’s three qualification match-day squads, and perhaps was he seen as a more secure pick defensively at full-back than Hisis? Hard to say. Astengo and Gonzáles were working without a whole lot of depth between them, though it was still fair to assume that the former of the two’s role was that of the defence’s spare man. Gonzáles would at times be drawn towards Bebeto, and possibly more so than towards Careca. Puebla, being a winger all his career, was probably exposable along his left hand side.

Brazil threaten

Rojas has leapt well to palm a Careca header away for a corner

With the game arriving at the halfway stage in the opening period, the hosts keep turning the screw on their visitors, with Chile still showing no interest in or appetite for abandoning their defensive stance. How long can they weather the home side’s siege, though? Captain Rojas makes successive saves from threatening Careca headers just shy of 20 minutes, and then claims a Branco free-kick from the left hand channel, before relievedly seeing Silas skew a right-footed attempt just wide of the upright from inside the area. Brazil have upped the pace, and the visitors are struggling for air.

Dissecting the home side


In Brazil’s 3-5-2 select, Taffarel remains their option between the sticks. He has looked confident and reliable so far in the qualification, although he had rarely been put under stress. If he could just maintain his sheets clean, his country would make it through to yet another World Cup. At 23 years of age, the Internacional man looked a safe bet for that number 1 position for years to come.

(l to r:) Aldair and Mauro Galvão (with Valdo and Taffarel)

With Aldair having recovered from a sore knee, the stylish central defender regained his place at the expense of Ricardo Rocha to the right in their central defensive unit. The Italy based ace was as comfortable in possession as he was when making a header, and certainly looked a class act. He was operating with libero Mauro Galvão inside of him. The latter had rarely been put to the sword so far in the qualification, though in order to fend off the Chileans, he would need to show again why Lazaroni kept such faith in him, even if it also had to do with the ineligibility of Mozer. To complete the back three, there was captain Ricardo Gomes as the left-sided centre half. The Lisbon based 24 year old was strong, composed and a monster in the air, and was capable of spreading a pass with his fine left foot.


The two wide players were Jorginho to the right and Branco down the left. The former had so far not been highly prolific as a threat along his side, though it was not for the lack of trying. Most of Brazil’s attacking play had been aimed towards the left hand side in the initial stages, and whilst Branco might have looked a tad insecure to begin with, he was certainly regaining his confidence by the minute, despite some disappointing efforts from distance. Defensively, either had yet to be tested.

Paulo Silas goes close to scoring

Sitting at the base of their midfield was once more Dunga, for the fourth game in succession. He seemed to have just about every attribute which a holding midfielder ought to possess: Strength, distribution and positional awareness. Playing in Italy would’ve hardened him, and he was the perfect shield, happy to allow the other two midfielders more attacking freedom. They were Lazaroni’s favoured pair of Paulo Silas and Valdo. Both were plying their daily trade in the Portuguese league, and both thrived in possession. Silas was possibly the stronger of the two off the ball, capable of making a run from the deep, whilst Valdo’s sublime technique and range of passing made him a big asset in transitions. He’d distribute at pace. While Valdo again started as the inside left, the pair would invariably switch sides during the course of the opening half.

Bebeto (and Gonzáles, second half pic)

Up top were Careca and Bebeto. With Romário suspended, the former’s return to form via his four goal haul against Venezuela had come very timely for Lazaroni. Such a menace for his Napoli side in arguably the strongest league in Europe, Careca carried a constant threat to the opposition’s defence. He was flexible, strong, lept well, as shown via his two headers which had both drawn strong saves from Rojas, and combined well with the other players. As for Bebeto, he was so far operating somewhat in Careca’s shadow, rarely being allowed time in possession due to the fact that he often had Gonzáles to contend with. His pace and his ability to drift off into the channels still made him a huge possible threat, though.

Brazil continue to boss

Careca shouts his instructions, while Rojas, Astengo and Gonzáles persevere at the back for the visitors

The Chileans are unable to work themselves collectively into the opposition’s half, and once a ball is played towards either forward or even attacking midfielder Vera, they’re put under severe pressure, and possession is quickly lost. Their midfield and attack offer their seriously worked defence little respite, though while Brazil are enjoying such a large percentage of possession, it should be stressed how Chile are restricting them yet to long range efforts. The visitors’ defensive line is so deep and compact that finding space in behind is impossible. It is either a mistake by a Chilean or a lucky hit from distance which appear to be the best bets for an opening goal.

Valdo is about to strike his free-kick well over

Another skied effort from Careca from just outside the area, this time with his right foot, and a Valdo free-kick from 25 yards which went well over the bar, as well as a sniff of an opportunity for Bebeto, who then fails to read the situation in time before Puebla can get a challenge in, and a sad long range effort from Dunga, are the hosts’ next attempts at goal. With nearly 32 minutes on the clock, the game remains a one-sided affair, though there’s still no broken deadlock. With intensity levels soaring, there is still a possible drama in there somewhere.

Still no breakthrough

Despite all their neat approach play, the Brazilians had failed to draw more than those two Rojas saves from Careca’s headers. Perhaps was this demonstrating something of an achilles heel in this Canaries team? They were clearly a couple of levels up from Chile, but with no goals to show for, they would need to continue their forward push if they were to punish their visitors before the half-time break.

Aravena’s range for Chile’s solitary first half pop goalwards

The disciplined Chile side, which to their credit had not resorted to foul play other than that pair of incidents involving left-back Puebla early doors, attempted to slow the pace of the game down whenever they had the chance to resume play after another failed Brazil effort. Who could blame them? Their big chance was frustrating the hosts for as long as they could, and then try to create that moment of quality down the other end to perhaps nick this against all the odds. Their only strike goalwards in the first half had come on 24 minutes, when an Aravena free-kick 35 yards out had been hit well wide of target, with the ball even bouncing well prior to exiting for a goal kick, as if to underline the lack of threat.


Galvão earns his yellow

There’s a bit of temperature on 41 minutes, when the home side’s players, and midfielder Dunga in particular, feel that the referee is slow in awarding them a free-kick after a Yáñez push on the midfielder just inside the Brazilian half of the pitch. Yáñez appears to continue his chase of the ball down the right hand channel, prompting a silly and intentional clip of the heels by Mauro Galvão. Even if it is a free-kick for the hosts, the libero gets shown the yellow card.

Late efforts

Branco tests Rojas’ mettle

In a late push for the opening goal, Branco yet again tests his shooting boots, and his banana effort from the outside of his favoured left foot draws a reaction save by Rojas, who had been moving in the other direction, but who had been able to shift the weight back onto his right leg in time. His shot-stopping had prevented a Brazilian first half goal. Two minutes from the whistle, there had been another skied effort by Valdo, this time from open play some 25 yards out.

Despite the huffing and puffing by the home side, the score at the interval remained 0-0.

Second half

The home audience had made their presence felt during the opening 45 minutes, and with that added into the consideration, it had been a brave half of resistance from the visitors. They would have to do it all again, though, and even go one better: Scoring of their own. If they could not apply at least one final ball into the net behind Taffarel, the next three quarters of an hour would seal their fate as home sitters during next year’s World Cup.

Careca applauds the fact that the second half’s under way. Héctor Puebla bending down

The exact moment of kick-off for the second period has not been captured, though we rejoin the action only about four seconds in. Chile had set the wheels in motion for the final stage, and they were now defending the goal to the right as we were looking. There had been no changes in personnel from either manager, and so the same 22 who had started were still able to influence on the proceedings.

Early breakthrough

Whether or not the Chileans were fully switched on for the start of the second period is up for debate. Fact is that they had let Careca drive at them in the right hand channel early, before winning a corner after Astengo’s defensive header away, and three minutes in, they’d conceded a Valdo shot from 26-27 yards out, only to see it go well wide of target in what had been the midfielder’s fourth attempt from distance of the afternoon.

Careca crowns a direct Brazil attack with the opening goal

However, the above were only warnings of what was to come, as the hosts moved into the lead as the clock had just surpassed the four minute mark after the break. It had started when Rojas’ long kick out had been headed up in the air by Branco, only for Dunga to accept it as it came back to earth, playing a quick ball 20 yards on in the forward direction for Bebeto, who quickly orientated himself and turned around with his face towards goal. He skipped away from Gonzáles’ challenge, and threaded the ball delightfully forward for his strike partner Careca. For the second time since the restart, the Italy based ace drove with the ball at feet against the defence, albeit this time through the centre, and right before making it into the area, he sidestepped Puebla, before bursting into the box and firing a low shot which just eluded Aravena’s attempt at blocking. The effort from Careca’s left foot just squeezed through Rojas’ left arm somehow, despite the ‘keeper’s effort at stopping its path towards goal. It bounced off him and found its way into the back of the net, with the recovering Puebla unable to do anything to keep it out. 1-0. The hosts were well and truly on their way.

Any chance of a comeback?

While conceding had always been a distinct possibility, it hardly was ideal for the Chileans, who so far had been unable to string even a move together inside the opposition’s half all afternoon. Would they immediately abandon their defensive stance and go looking for a quick equalizer to revive their hope of gaining that unlikely win to make their passage through to Italia ’90?

Aravena elects to shoot from a difficult angle, and especially for a left-footed shooter

Well, in the five minutes following Careca’s goal, Chile would take the game to the hosts. They would have what turned out to be their best spell of the afternoon. Left-back Puebla had often been important in their attacking probings throughout the qualification, and he was allowed to participate down the left in a forward sense for the first time, drawing a free-kick off Dunga in the left hand channel, outside the box. Aravena decided to strike at goal with the outside of his left foot, though well over the target. A glimmer of hope, though?

Aldair fouls Vera

Chile then capitalized on what was the first moment of hesitation in these qualifiers by Brazil centre-back Aldair, who, instead of attacking a high cross towards the visitors’ attacking midfielder Vera towards the left outside the box, let the Chilean take the ball down and move towards the centre before making a challenge, conceding a free-kick in a promising position some 23-24 yards out. However, it was still not the totally ideal range for Aravena’s left foot, so Vera instead poked the free-kick into the path of Pizarro, whose right-footed effort went low into the defensive wall and was cleared. Another possible chance gone.

Hisis’ free header is aimed on target, but doesn’t worry Taffarel

The visitors’ mini-revival was to come to an end once Yáñez’ corner in from the right was headed straight at Taffarel by Hisis from 12-13 yards out, with the defensive midfielder having been allowed to attack the ball unchallenged. Still, it had been a five minute period in which the visitors had displayed their first attacking intent of the game, very much forced upon them following that Brazilian opening goal. They would be unable to maintain their levels, though.

Hosts seize back the initiative again

While it had hardly been a totally unexpected change in game picture taking place in the wake of Brazil’s goal, given the visitors’ need for a win, the hosts would soon enough regain their composure and win their authority back. Chile’s best part of five minutes spent inside the hosts’ half of the pitch had come to nothing, and eyeing qualification, the Brazilians probably had let their guard down somewhat. They found their shape back, and probably realized how Chile’s need to get up the pitch and score not just once but twice could bring about further openings. Both Careca and Bebeto were good at running directly at defenders, though one felt that their two inside midfielders, Silas and Valdo, were holding the key for further fun for the vast crowd.

Woefully skewed Bebeto effort

Jorginho and in particular Branco had been active down the flanks during the first half, though with a somewhat added focus on defensive security after their goal, the two wide men are not joining in attack at full throttle as previously seen. It is a more calculated approach from the hosts as the game is arriving on the hour mark. They must feel so confident that the match is headed in exactly the direction which they had been looking for. Bebeto’s run and left-footed shot well wide had been another pop.

Substitution and booking

Ivo Basay about to make his entry

Chile do not show a whole lot of urgency in their play; it is like they’ve come to terms with their fate. The game does no longer have much pace, and intensity levels are on the decline. It is to this backdrop that the Chile manager decides to introduce France based winger Ivo Basay, the 23 year old of Stade Reims. Basay had featured in all of their qualifiers so far, having made two starts, and even come on as a substitute during the opposite clash in Santiago, when he’d been the one who’d struck the late equalizer. Could he repeat this deed? Coming off to accomodate Basay was full-back Reyes, something which surely meant a switch back to 4-3-3, with Hisis dropping back to the right side in defence from his defensive midfield position.

Chile’s Hisis is booked

On 65 minutes, there’s a third booking of the afternoon. It goes to Hisis, who had just returned to that full-back position. He’d arrived too late in a tackle on Careca, and while he’d unceremoniously brought the Brazil striker to the ground, the referee had initially let play continue, as Branco was in position to take over and put a cross in from the left. With the danger eventually cleared, the very sound Argentinian referee then proceeded to show the Greece based man his yellow card upon the next stop in play.

Galvão hacks Aravena down

Upon that substitution, the game enters a scrappy few minutes, with neither side capable of displaying any fluency in their passing, and with a few free-kicks being awarded. As for the most recent acquisition, Basay certainly slots in up front, though perhaps not in an outright wide position as had been expected. Instead, there appears to be a fluctuating tendency among the three up top for the visitors, though at one moment the outline is definitely Basay through the centre, Letelier to his right, and Yáñez wide to the left. Chile fail to make use of a free-kick awarded to them 30 yards out when Mauro Galvão throws himself in studs first in a challenge on Aravena. It was a nasty bit of work, and a yellow would certainly not have been out of place. The resulting kick is prodded into Aravena’s direction for him to have a go, but he can’t get it past the wall.

Proceedings brought to a half

Portrayed through a replay

With 23 minutes and 45 seconds having been played of the second half, there’s a big roar going through the crowd with the visitors in possession inside their own half through Astengo. Five seconds later, the referee stops the game, and we’ve been zoomed in on Chile’s goalkeeper Rojas, who is laying on the floor with smoke pouring out from an item about a yard or so away from him. Has he been hit by a flare? Just about every Chilean players runs across to their clearly stricken team mate, with some of them beginning a discussion with the referee. Careca comes over to see how Rojas is doing. Yáñez makes obscene gestures in the direction of the crowd. Multiple times. Replays show how a firecracker has landed just feet away from the visitors’ captain, though there’s no footage of the moment of impact. Rojas must have been struck in the head, though.

Rojas with blood trailing

Careca attempts to calm the crowd down. Bebeto, who is also curious as to how the situation is with the stricken player, is pushed away by Hisis, who had been signalling just before that there’s a need for a stretcher. Some players, perhaps most notably Vera, have looks of total bewilderment at what is going on. With no stretcher arriving, the Chilean players decide to carry Rojas off the pitch themselves. As they approach the touchline, one can clearly see blood from the back of Rojas’ head, which has trickled down to his neck and onto his shirt. He appears to be in a bad state. However, only moments earlier, there had been no evidence of blood. Odd. The players disappear with their goalkeeper down the stairs just on the side of the pitch.

“Where do we go from here, ref?” Mauro Galvão

The Brazilian players remain on the pitch along with the officials. Several carry big question marks. Captain Ricardo Gomes is seen making “what now, ref?” gestures. The Brazil bench looks in disbelief. Unfortunately, this is about when the tape starts to show a replay of the game’s only goal, and there’s no further footage from inside the Maracanã.

Sebastião Lazaroni doesn’t know just what to make of the situation

With the benefit of hindsight, what we do know is that the home side’s players and the refereeing trio would remain on the pitch for about 20 minutes, waiting for the Chileans to return back on. However, this appeared not to have been the visitors’ intention, and ultimately, señor Loustau was forced to abandon the game, officially on 69 minutes. As things were looking, a replay in a neutral venue would be the best bet for what would happen next. Alas, the coming few days would reveal the real story behind the events.


Brazil, in need of just a point, set an early marker, and went on to boss the entire first half, creating several opportunities in front of Chile’s ‘keeper and captain Rojas. They were playing with swagger and assuredness, and the very deep visitors were unable to keep hold of the ball for longer spells, something which only heaped more pressure on their over-worked defensive line.

Rojas made only four significant stops during the first half, though, as some of the Brazilian attempts, coming from distance, had been wayward. The goalkeeper had held on to an early Valdo drive, and later he’d done very well to parry two strong headers by Careca in quick succession, before he’d also been able to keep out a curved Branco effort late in the half. The Chile number 1 was more and more looking to assume the role as their saviour. Silas had wasted perhaps the greatest chance when shooting just wide from inside the area.

Only five minutes into the second half, the hosts go in front through Careca, who accepts a forward pass from his strike partner Bebeto, before advancing and slotting home via Rojas’ left arm. Chile have easily their best spell of the game just in the wake of the goal, but they can produce no telling efforts, with only Hisis aiming a header following a right-wing corner on target (easily claimed by Taffarel).

The Chile team disappears down the tunnel never to return

The mini-revival comes to a halt, and though the hosts are once again in the ascendancy, Brazil rarely threaten to score a second thereafter, until the controversial moment when Rojas goes down, claiming to have been hit by a firecracker thrown onto the pitch. The game’s abandoned on 69 minutes, with the visiting players taking their captain back into the dressing room never to reappear.

Post game reactions

Under FIFA’s regulation, a team which abandons the field of play will lose the game, and the score will be set to 2-0. Obviously, right in the game’s aftermath, making a decision was difficult. More information was needed. Referee Loustau’s report would obviously be an important document. Likewise that of the referee inspector, Mr Eduardo Rocca Couture from Uruguay, and also from FIFA’s representative at the game, Spaniard Augustin Domínguez. There appeared to be the following possibilities shortly after the game had been forfeited: 

  1. A replay in the Maracanã
  2. A replay in another Brazilian city/stadium
  3. A replay in a stadium on neutral territory     

There was little previous experience to draw advantage from, although early doors, a few comparisons were made with what had happened in a qualifier for the 1988 European Championships between the Netherlands and Cyprus, where the Cypriot goalkeeper, Andreas Kharitou, had been struck by a battery (!) thrown from the crowd, leading  to a replay in another, near empty stadium.

There had also been incidents in a U21 European Championships qualifier between the Netherlands (again) and Luxembourg in February 1984, when a firecracker had been thrown on to the field of play by a Dutch supporter, ultimately leading to the Netherlands being disqualified from the qualification, and furthermore in a European Cup tie between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Internazionale in 1971, when the West German team’s 7-1 win had been annulled in the wake of Internazionale player Roberto Boninsegna having been struck by a can of Coke (a replay on neutral ground in West Berlin would later be played out).

Sergio Stoppel, president in the Chilean FA, said the day after the game that he was not carrying high hopes regarding a possible replay, acknowledging the difficulty in setting a date for such. Similarly was also heard from team coach Orlando Aravena. 

Chile defender Fernando Astengo vowed to quit his Brazilian club side (Grêmio), and according to an interview made on the flight back to Chile, he would also try to persuade Rojas to leave his team São Paulo. 

Two days after the game, the medical report from the examination of Rojas had revealed that there were no signs of any burns from a firecracker, just that there had been a cut to the left side of his forehead. Rojas himself said that he had been a ‘model professional’ throughout his career, and he did not understand why it had been doubted in Brazil that he was injured. “I would not even wish this on my enemies”, he was quoted saying. Resting in his Santiago home, he’d released a statement in the press. He felt he was not being believed regarding his inury. He furthermore claimed he had no problems regarding the relationship with his club (São Paulo), even if reports were claiming that they had put him up for sale. 

On Sep 10, seven days after the game, the FIFA led inquest in their Switzerland headquarters ultimately awarded Brazil the win with the score of 2-0. This was on background of the medical report of Rojas (no evidence of any burns), and under the ruling that the Chilean team had walked off the pitch. Brazil had qualified for the World Cup, while Chile were out, having finished second in the group. 

A fogueteira do Maracanã

Throwing the firecracker onto the pitch in Rojas’ vicinity had been 24 year old Rosenery Mello. Her name was revealed in the Brazilian press already the day after the game, and she went on to gain some kind of highly odd celebrity status. She was even requested by ‘Playboy’ to feature in one of their magazines. Interestingly, or perhaps not, senhorita Mello was without a telephone in her São Gonçalo home, some 20 miles from the city of Rio de Janeiro, and due to this, the mens’ magazine’s proposal took some time to reach her in person. Ultimately, they would get hold of her, and she would feature on the front page of the Brazilian November ’89 edition. Furthermore, it was said that she decided to turn out for the magazine due to the Brazilian FA passing on to her the fine which had been imposed on them by FIFA in the wake of the security breach, which had allowed Ms Mello to hurl a firecracker onto the pitch in the first place. This amounted to 12 000 USD, and apparently her earnings for featuring ‘sparsely dressed’ would cover this and plenty more: 40 000 USD was alledgedly her prize.

Individual punishment:

Roberto Rojas, nicknamed ‘the Condor’, was banned from football for a life time in the wake of what happened that afternoon in Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 32, he would never play again. Only in 2001, as Rojas was 44, was the ban rescinded, though obviously by that time, it mattered little in regards of him as a footballer. He would go on and manage São Paulo (!) in 2003. Interestingly, with a defensive focus, he took them to the Copa Libertadores for the first time in ten years, but he would be unable to lead them in the most prestigious continental club tournament as he was subsequently removed from his position.

Fernando Astengo (29) was Chile’s vice captain at the time, and with Rojas concussed (sic) during the melee, he had been given the responsibility of taking his team mates off the pitch. This had been done as they were carrying their goalkeeper between themselves. Astengo, a superb defender, was headed for a life in Serie A with Lazio, something which would never materialize, as he was given a three year ban. He would resume his career in 1993 with Santiago club Unión Española.

Orlando Aravena, the manager, was given a five year ban for his part in the surreal events that September afternoon in Rio. He had alledgedly ordered Rojas to feign injury after the goalkeeper had nearly been hit by the firecracker thrown onto the pitch. Aravena had resigned from his position as national team manager on Sep 12 under the terms of ‘just leading the country through the qualification’. He would subsequently be dealt his ban, and only in 1996 would he briefly return to management, as he was placed in charge of Santiago club Palestino.

Sergio Stoppel, president of the Chilean FA, was an educated doctor. He received a lifetime ban for his role in the ‘Maracanazo de la selección chilena’. This ban was ultimately lifted in 2007. He never returned to football, and so he went on to perform in the field of his education. Señor Stoppel passed away in 2014, 79 years old.

Daniel Rodríguez, the leading team doctor, was another who received a lifetime ban from football. His punishment, too, was lifted in 2007, though he would not return to the world of sports. 

Alejandro Kock, a doctor working under Rodríguez, was given a one year ban as punishment. He would subsequently return to football with Colo Colo of Santiago.

Player ratings

1 Taffarel 6.8
had one, simple save to make all afternoon, and even in the brief spell of dominance by the visitors he was almost unworked. Difficult to judge
2 Jorginho 7.0
saw plenty of action initially, but as the game wore on, fewer attacks would have their origin from the right hand side. Timed some of his runs off the ball to perfection, and could’ve been utilised more
3 Aldair 6.8
displayed some hesitancy on a couple of occasions, and didn’t quite look his assured self, even if it led to nothing in terms of danger
4 Mauro Galvão 7.1
a focused and balanced display at the heart of the defence, which he marshalled well from his libero position. Made little attempt at coming forward. Unnecessarily saw yellow for clipping Yáñez’ feet after whistle had gone
5 Branco 7.3
seemed a little wary early on, but grew into the contest, and proved a constant thorn in the Chilean side with his trademark attacking contribution and crosses. Drew a parry from Rojas with a ‘banana’ effort
6 Ricardo Gomes 7.1
a tower of strength defensively, and through a solid team effort he faced no direct threat from Yáñez’ pace. Not quite the usual asset at attacking set-pieces this time around
7 Bebeto 6.9
got stamped on quite wickedly early on, and appeared somewhat reserved. Would again look to work in the channels, though he was not involved a lot. Masterfully worked to set Careca up for the goal
8 Dunga 7.2
kept the team tick through his swift and efficient distribution from his deep midfield position, though he would also occasionally make off the ball runs forward to decent effect
9 Careca 7.6
his off the ball work was pleasing, and he seemed to play with a high level of confidence after his recent four goal return. Arrived at a few opportunities, and vitally tucked away his second half chance having been set up by his front partner
10 Silas 7.3
combined well with several team mates, and came very close to opening the scoring with his effort from inside the area. Another player with such neat close control, and brought balls under control with such natural ease
11 Valdo 7.4
a midfield beacon of composure. Drew a save from the ‘keeper with his attempt from distance, though he had three other shots which were too high. Revelled in the interchanging of positions with Silas

1 Rojas 7.7
made two excellent saves from Careca headers, and also saved well from Valdo and Branco. Certainly kept Chile in the game through his first half performance. Got a hand to Careca’s finish for the goal, though his heroics would count for nothing once he went down claiming to have been injured by that firecracker
2 Hisis 6.6
aimed to halt the advance of the Brazilian inside midfielders, and stuck to his task in a plucky manner. Rarely able to maintain possession, and hit a few stray passes. Had Chile’s solitary effort on target. Went to right-back after the substitution
4 Puebla 6.8
a couple of early nasty incidents, though calmed down after his booking, and even displayed his engine in coming forward. This, however, was primarily a defensive display
5 Gonzáles 6.9
relished combat as always. Predominantly dealt with Bebeto, and won several challenges through his physicality. Less fruitful when up against Careca
6 Pizarro 6.8
went through plenty of off the ball work due to the nature of the game. More efficient than his ‘holding role’ partner Hisis, and seemed to enjoy the few moments he had in possession. A wasted free-kick attempt
7 Letelier 6.0
was far from replicating his performance from last week, and only got a few touches all match as he was well attended to by the home defence
8 Vera 6.2
seemed awkward all afternoon, and was marginalized in his attacking midfield role. Showed glimpses of his neat close control, but could not use it to the team’s advantage
10 Aravena 6.2
at times came very deep to pick the ball off his central defenders, though his long distribution remained ineffective. Rarely pleased due to the amount of off the ball work the Chilean players had to endure
11 Astengo 7.0
vital with his ability to intercept, and he’s a leading example in how to read the game from his libero position. Did not always have it his way in aerial challenges, but another confident display by the tidy defender
14 Yáñez 6.2
had preciously few balls to work with, and the visitors could not draw advantage from his pace. Enjoyed a fairly free attacking role, and seemed keen in the five minute spell of dominance which they enjoyed in the wake of the goal
18 Reyes 6.1
unable to stem the tide along his side defensively, as the hosts kept coming at him along their left. Not entirely his fault that several crosses found their way into the area, as Hisis could possibly have done more to assist
(9 Basay –
came on in a forward role, but had no time to make an impact as the game was brought to a halt shortly after he’d made his entrance)


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