World Cup scandal! The unbelievable plot to eliminate Brazil

By Piers Edwards, CNN
June 18, 2014 — Updated 1042 GMT (1842 HKT)

It’s a story of brazen deceit and shameless subterfuge and had it not been for the photographic skills of just one man, Brazil’s unimpeachable record of being the only side to have competed at every tournament would have been put into serious jeopardy.

Victory for either Brazil or Chile in their final qualifier at the Maracana Stadium would have taken them to the 1990 World Cup. With 20 minutes left, Brazil were 1-0 up and looking good for qualification, especially since a draw would also take them through.

Then, their world suddenly fell apart.

In the Chile penalty area, goalkeeper Roberto Rojas was prostrate on the floor, seemingly hit by a flare that was still fizzing and pumping smoke into the sky just inches from him.

As legendary Brazilians Bebeto, Dunga and Careca looked on, Chile’s players rushed towards Rojas — furiously beckoning the medical staff once they had reached him.

With the blood leaking from his head turning his jersey crimson, Rojas was soon carried off the pitch and, as booing filled a bewildered Maracana, the match officials soon abandoned the game.

With the flare having been thrown from a Brazilian section of the stadium, football’s greatest superpower — Brazil has won the World Cup five times — was facing an unprecedented elimination.

“I was terrorized,” Ricardo Gomes, Brazil captain on the day, told CNN. “I thought immediately of losing the chance to go to the World Cup. It was something really bad.”

Now a football agent, Paulo Teixeira was working as a pitch-side photographer that day.

“Amazing as it may sound, no TV camera caught the moment the flare flew over and supposedly hit the goalkeeper,” he told CNN.

“We photographers were sitting along the side line and saw the flare come over. I was amazed to see Rojas rolling over and bleeding from an eye, as the device had hit the ground about a meter from him.”

With neither TV nor photographic evidence to prove otherwise, Brazil were in deep trouble but, wholly unbeknown to them, they were on the wrong side of an enormous hoax.

In a planned incident, Rojas — a highly-respected goalkeeper who was playing for Brazilian side Sao Paulo at the time — had used a razor blade hidden in his gloves to cut his own head while lying on the floor.

It was the most Machiavellian play to ensure Brazil’s elimination, but no one in Brazil had any hope of proving that.

Unless evidence could be found.

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