Soccer

Brazil were almost scammed out of World Cup spot by ‘razor blade’ stunt

Five-time winners Brazil have dominated the World Cup – but they nearly didn't make it to the 1990 tournament.

Heading into their last qualifier against Chile at the Maracana in September 1989, they needed to simply avoid defeat to reach the finals in Italy the following year. And it was all going to plan – until the controversy now known as El Maracanazo unfolded while they were 1-0 up.

In the 67th minute of the match, Chile goalkeeper and captain Roberto Rojas went down injured after a flare had been thrown onto the pitch. Once the smoke had cleared, he could be seen with blood streaming down his face.

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Rojas claimed his injuries were caused by the foreign object, and the game was abandoned after he was stretchered off. Brazilians feared they would be punished with a loss, which would cost them a place at Italia '90.

Their captain, Ricardo Gomes, later told CNN: "I was terrorized. I thought immediately of losing the chance to go to the World Cup. It was something really bad."

But it soon emerged that the flare had never touched Rojas, who had actually used a razor blade which had been concealed in his gloves to cut his own forehead.

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The skipper confessed to the cunning plan, with manager Orlando Aravena in on it too. They'd hoped to force another match on neutral soil or have Brazil disqualified.

However, they were rumbled by one quick-fingered photographer who had captured the flare landing a metre away from Rojas. After the snaps were processed, the scam was undone and Brazil were awarded a 2-0 walkover victory.

Chile, meanwhile, were heavily punished as a result. They were barred from qualifying for the 1994 World Cup and Rojas was banned from football for life, although that was lifted in 2001.

Brazil were ultimately knocked out in the round of 16 at Italia '90 by another South American rival, Argentina. They'll be looking to do much better than that in Qatar as they kick off their campaign against Serbia today (November 24).

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