September 19, 1993. 15 years ago.
Brazil vs Uruguay at MaracanÃÂ£, the last game of the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.
Bolivia and Uruguay led the group with 10 points. Brazil had 9. A draw would kiss the then three-time World Champions' chances of reaching the United States goodbye. It would be the first time Brazil failed to qualify for footballÃ¢ÂÂs top prize.
National shame, of course.
Carlos Alberto ParreiraÃ¢ÂÂs team were struggling in the tournament. They had lost for the first time ever in a WC Qualifier match Ã¢ÂÂ 2-0 to high-flyer Bolivia in La Paz. More than that, it was a dull, predictable, defensive-minded squad led by captain Dunga.
There was a solution, though... RomÃÂ¡rio.
The prolific Shorty had just signed for Barcelona from PSV, and kept scoring in Spain as if he was playing in a pelada in Vila da Penha. Definitely, the worldÃ¢ÂÂs best striker in his prime.
But Parreira insisted in not calling him up. For reasons only he knew.
With a World Cup spot on the line, and the whole country clamouring for RomÃÂ¡rio, finally Parreira gave in. (RomÃÂ¡rio said later that his call came only after CBF president Ricardo TeixeiraÃ¢ÂÂs pressure. Parreira denies it.)
And the rest is history.
Wearing the number 11 shirt on that sunny afternoon in MaracanÃÂ£, RomÃÂ¡rio did it all Ã¢ÂÂ except make it rain. Brazil won 2-0, with two beauties from Shorty, of course. Ã¢ÂÂThe saviourÃ¢ÂÂs second coming,Ã¢ÂÂ as the press tagged him the following morning.
It was the first step towards the ultimate triumph in the United States the following year, the fourth World Cup crown for the SeleÃÂ§ÃÂ£o.
We owe it, letÃ¢ÂÂs say 80%, to RomÃÂ¡rio. At least.
Relive RomÃÂ¡rioÃ¢ÂÂs stellar performance against Uruguay Ã¢ÂÂ the game Shorty himself recalls as one of his best Ã¢ÂÂ here.
Too bad we canÃ¢ÂÂt call upon him again for the next qualifying round. IÃ¢ÂÂm sure he would be up to it Ã¢ÂÂ thing is RomÃÂ¡rio just left hospital following a minor leg surgery, to correct his Ã¢ÂÂcowboy legs,Ã¢ÂÂ as the doctor put it.
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs a new one on me.
If RomÃÂ¡rioÃ¢ÂÂs legs are defective, what does that say of todayÃ¢ÂÂs SeleÃÂ§ÃÂ£o forwards?