Sportsnet commentator Craig Forrest calls it “one of the most memorable moments in Canadian soccer history.”
On June 5, 1994, Brazil came to Edmonton to play the Canadian men’s team in an international friendly as part of its preparation for the World Cup later that summer in the United States.
Brazil went on to defeat Italy in the World Cup final via penalty shootout, but Canada more than held its own against the soon-to-be crowned champions, fighting the Seleção to a 1-1 stalemate before 51,936 fans at Commonwealth Stadium.
Forrest was Canada’s starting goalkeeper at the time, and played a big role in helping the Reds, who just missed out on qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, earn a historic draw against the mighty Brazilians.
The Brazil match was one of five that Canada played that summer before the World Cup. Aside from drawing Morocco 1-1 in Montreal, Canada also lost to Germany and the Netherlands in Toronto, and Spain in Montreal.
More than 19 years after the Edmonton game, Brazil returns to Canada for the first time when it plays Chile in an international friendly at Toronto’s Rogers Centre on Tuesday. SPORTSNET.CA caught up with Craig Forrest to get his recollections of that historic contest.
What are your memories of the game in Edmonton?
I remember it very well because of the result, and because it was one of five games we played in 12 days. The Brazil game was the second one of the run, so we weren’t too tired at that stage. By the end of the 12 days, we were just wrecked.
The Brazil match was special. Brazil had their full team there, as they were preparing for the World Cup. They were seen as unbeatable at the time and were expected to win the World Cup. I remember after the game, there were dozens and dozens of Brazilian reporters there that were all over them. There really was a national outcry back in Brazil over this result and the coach (Carlos Alberto Parreira) was getting hammered, and there were calls for him to be fired. And then a month or so later they won the World Cup.
You’re in the tunnel before the game and you look across and see the likes of Romario, Bebeto, Dunga, Taffarel, Cafu, Aldair. What was going through your mind?
To be honest, I didn’t feel any pressure. None of us did because we weren’t expected to win. I was pretty young at that time and was feeling confident, and I was looking forward to it. I was just going to go out there and enjoy it as much as I could. And you have to remember too that we barely just missed qualifying for the World Cup that year, so we had a decent side and we didn’t feel overwhelmed at all.
At the same time, we knew this was so special, to play Brazil on home soil. It was an exciting time, and for us after not qualifying for the World Cup, to play against teams like Brazil, and Holland and Germany and Spain—teams that we otherwise would never have played—it was a real treat.
Playing in front of that many fans on home soil must have been exciting, too?
That was great. Obviously a lot of people came out to see Brazil, but the support we got from Canadian fans on that day was unbelievable. For that many people to show up, it gave us a massive boost and we needed it because we were chasing for most of the game. To have that many people at a game in Canada, it was a real highlight for me.
It looked as though you’d go into halftime tied 0-0, and then Romario scored on you in the 45th minute. Do you remember the goal?
I do, actually. I had made a couple of big saves before then so I was feeling pretty good and then he took his shot from the edge of the box but I got my right hand to it. The grass was actually a little bit long and I can recall my hand digging into the ground when I went down, and the ball came off the top of my hand and it beat me. So I remember thinking I had got there and done enough to stop it, but I was disappointed it got by me.
Bebeto was in on goal a few times, and I can recall getting my studs on one shot that was to my left. I nicked enough of the ball that it went by the post. When Romario scored, I was disappointed because I didn’t really think he should have beaten me with that shot.
Canada went into the break only down by a goal. What was said in the locker-room?
We were pretty pleased. We talked about keeping it tight in the second half and that maybe if an opportunity presented itself we could tie things up. Sure enough it came when we were being pressed at the halfway line. There was a ball played forward that beat the defence and Eddy Berdusco read the play, broke in on (Brazilian goalkeeper) Taffarel and finished it off. After he scored, we poured on the pressure and pressed them a bit in their half, and the crowd at that point was really urging us on thinking we had a chance to win in. We had some scoring chances to win it, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Berdusco’s goal was the product of a lovely passing sequence in midfield, and he took his chance quite well, finishing it off with aplomb. You’re at the other end of the field when you saw his shot go in. What was your reaction?
Oh man, I had goose bumps. It really was amazing to see Eddy score. I looked at the linesman to see if Eddy was offside. I saw that he kept his flag down and it was a good goal, so I couldn’t believe it. It really was amazing, and with the crowd erupting like it did, wow. Amazing. I never witnessed a Canadian crowd celebration like that ever again.
Where does that game rank among your highlights playing for the national team?
Oh, it’s right up there. Winning the 2000 Gold Cup was so special, obviously, but drawing Brazil on home soil—that’s a once in a lifetime result for Canada.
Did you end up swapping jerseys with a Brazilian player after the game?
Well, funny enough I was going to trade with Tafarrel but then Burdusco said he wanted to swap with him, so I let Eddy have it. So I didn’t get anybody’s jersey in that game. But I sort of made up for it with the next game in Toronto versus Germany because I traded with Rudi Voller.
Really? That’s unusual for an outfield player to trade with a goalkeeper.
Well, what happened was that Alex Bunbury didn’t play that game so I wore his shirt under my goalkeeper jersey the entire game. Voller looked at me weird after I asked to trade with him, and you could just tell he didn’t want a goalkeeper’s shirt. So I took it off, he saw Bunbury’s No. 10 jersey, and his face lit up, so I traded him Bunbury’s shirt.