Uruguayan soccer legend Alcides Ghiggia dies at 88
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia, who scored the winning goal in the final game of the 1950 World Cup to give Uruguay a stunning 2-1 victory over Brazil — still recalled as Brazil’s greatest defeat — died on Thursday. He was 88.
Ghiggia’s son, Arcadio, said his father died of a heart attack.
Ghiggia scored the deciding goal 10 minutes from time with the game tied 1-1. It gave Uruguay its second World Cup title in a match Brazilians fully expected to win before about 200,000 fans at Rio’s Maracana stadium. Even a draw would have given Brazil the title. The loss is still known in Brazil as the “Maracanazo.”
Ghiggia also set up the tying goal by Juan Schiaffino earlier in the second half.
“Only three people have silenced the Maracana,” Ghiggia once said of the goal. “The Pope, Frank Sinatra and me.”
He was the last surviving Uruguayan player from the match and, poignantly, he died on Thursday, the 65th anniversary of the game.
When he turned 80 he was honored by the Uruguayan congress, still a national hero a half decade later.
“It was a beautiful what happened” Ghiggia said. “It filled me with pride and was unforgettable. The biggest moment of my life was at the Maracana.”
President Tabare Vazquez mourned the soccer star’s passing in comments to local television station Canal 12, and offered his condolences to Ghiggia’s family and to “all of Uruguay’s people.”
Oscar Tabarez, the manager of Uruguay’s national team, said Ghiggia “meant a lot to Uruguayans.”
“It is impressive what that man did. What he did in his life, his leadership and his personality,” he said.
Though he was viewed as the nation’s top soccer idol, Ghiggia played only 12 times for the national team and scored only four goals — all in the 1950 World Cup.
Ghiggia was born Dec. 22, 1926, and quickly emerged as a right winger with pace who could out run defenses. He started his professional career with the famous Uruguayan club Penarol. He later played in Italy with Roma and AC Milan. Because of his Italian roots, he also played several matches with the Italian national team.
Ghiggia was visibly overwhelmed when he was honored in 2009 at the Maracana, placing his footprints in a plastic mold along with other greats of the game like Pele, Eusebio and Franz Beckenbauer.
He was outspoken to the end. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he criticized Uruguay forward Luis Suarez for biting a player during a World Cup match.
Suarez “plays well but he has done things that are not normal for a player, nor for a soccer game,” Ghiggia told The AP. “I think FIFA can sanction him.”
Associated Press writer Pablo Fernandez in Montevideo contributed to this report.