World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Sweden 1958

The first glimpse of genius

The World Cup is not only the place where dreams come true (unless your English), it is the place where stars are born.

Michael Owen came to the fore 1998, Roberto Baggio built his legend in 1994 but it was Pele in 1958 that had the most shine of all.

The Brazilian, just 17 at the time of the first round game against USSR in Sweden, became the youngest player to appear in the tournament.

And the teenager, instrumental in securing the World Cup for his country, produced an astonishing display showing maturity way beyond his years.

Pele scored a stunning hat-trick against France in the semi-final and scored the trademark goal of the tournament against Sweden in the final. The goal – a delicious lob over an onrushing defender followed by a thumping volley – was the first of two and helped Brazil to a 5-2 win.

And from there his stock continued to rise, the Brazilian going on to appear at a further three World Cups, perhaps saving his best for the 1970 tournament where his attempted lob against Czechoslovakia and the outrageous dummy against Uruguay are among two of the greatest goals never scored.

While it is open for debate whether he is the best player in the history of the game – Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradonna and Franz Beckenbauer could all stake thier claim for that mantle – his effect on football is unrivalled.

With Pele reaching his peak at the same time football became a television spectacle he became the game’s first true global superstar.

And his record of 77 goals in 92 games in the gold shirt certainly speaks for itself.


World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Mexico 1970

…by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen

Félix, Hércules Brito, Wilson Piazza, Carlos Alberto (c), Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Rivelino, Jairzinho. Tostão and Pelé.

Once in a generation a great team is assembled that sweeps aside all opposition, claiming awards, accolades and adulation … In 1970 that team was Brazil.

Not only is the team considered to be the best of its generation, it is often recalled as the best of all time.

And it is highly regarded, not for its success, but because of its magnificent, swashbuckling, attacking, football. The brilliant Austrians and Hungarians could not win beautiful before them and the Dutch and the 1982 Brazilians could not do it after them.

They won every single match on their way to the 1970 title beating World Champions England, Uruguay, Peru, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Italy in the final.

Besides the great Brazil side the World Cup win also produced a number of firsts in world football.

Brazil became the first three time winners of the tournament and were allowed to keep the Jules Rimet trophy (which was unfortunately stolen and melted down in 1983).

Pele, in his Brazil swansong playing in his last tournament, became the first player win the trophy three times – a feat yet to be matched – while coach Mario Zagallo became the first man to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager.

But Brazil’s 1970 side are most fondly remembered for some of the greatest moments in World Cup history.

Pele’s downward header from 10 yards tipped over the bar by England’s Gordon Banks is one of the best saves ever and still looks stunning by modern standards.

But it is captain Carlos Alberto’s goal to seal the World Cup victory which is the most special moment.

Clodoaldo beats four players before feeding Rivelinho who, in turn, sets Jairzinho racing down the wing. The ball is played square to Pele who senses the run of Carlos Alberto and tees it up for the skipper the slam home from 20 yards.

Brazil cement their place as the greatest team in the world by scoring the greatest ever team goal.

Football had not seen anything like it and has yet to witness anything similar since.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – France 1998

The Ronaldo Final

For mere mortals who can only dream of kicking the leather for a living, the life of a professional footballer seems like a cushy one.

Being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for international acclaim and all the celebrity trimmings are world’s apart from the drudgery of daily life.

But the pressure of the World Cup is like nothing else ever experienced. Case in pont – Ronaldo in 1998.

The Brazilian front man scored an astonishing 47 goals in 49 appearances for Barcelona before sealing a move to Inter Milan in 1997.

He was undoubtedly the best striker in the world the season before France ’98, leading the Nerazzuri to the Uefa Cup, hitting the net 34 times in all competitions.

In the run up to the final the all conquering Brazil squad entertained the world with impressive wins over Denmark and Chile, with Ronaldo, the eventual Golden Ball winner for player of the tournament, scoring four goals.

At times it seemed like the hosts France were destined to win the their first crown but a double from Zinedine Zidane and a third from Emmanuel Petit in a 3-0 victory over the reigning champions didn’t tell the whole story.

The night before the match, fraught with nerves, Ronaldo suffered a severe convulsive fit and almost swallowed his tongue.

Paul Chevalier the director of the Chateau de la Grande Romanie – the team hotel – told France Info radio station after the game that a number of the Brazil squad thought that the forward was dead.

Chevalier said: “For a time we heard people saying ‘he’s dead, dead, dead. It created a terrible atmosphere around the team which was clearly demonstrated later on the pitch.”

He added: “I suppose Ronaldo’s nerves broke. He has been under dreadful pressure and he is young,”

Initially Brazil coach Mario Zagallo left him out of the starting line-up, only reinstating the clearly unfit striker – then just 21 – to the side just an hour before the match.

In all the nationalist fervour it is easy to forget that footballers are not Gods but are still expected to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

And for one brief moment we were all reminded that Bill Shankly was wrong. Football is not more important than life and death.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Brazil 1950

The Maracanazo

Never count your chickens before they hatch – even if you’re the Brazilian national football team.

Brazil were the hosts of the 1950 World Cup and, after cruising through their group then hammering Spain and Sweden 6-1 and 7-1 respectively, looked like favourites to clinch the crown.

Uruguay, on the other hand, champions from the first world up in 1930, had battered the Bolivians 8-0 but could only scrape a draw with the Spanish.

Rather than a straight knock-out format following the first group stage, this tournament entered a second round robin phase and prior to the game Brazil were just one point ahead of Uruguay.

With that slender lead going into the all-important game at the Maracana, which had opened earlier that year, Brazil only needed a draw to claim their first title.

The hosts, intent on attacking, threw wave after wave of attacks at their opponents, which the Uruguayans managed to fend off. After Brazil managed to claw their way in front on 47 minutes, rather than powering on to victory, the momentum swung in favour of the visitors.

While Juan Alberto Schiaffino’s equaliser may not have dampened the crowd, one point being enough to hand the trophy to Brazil, the atmosphere changed 11 minutes before time when Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia struck the winner.

The extent of Brazilian over-confidence is still cringeworthy even 60 years on.

The host’s football federation had to bin a batch of engraved gold medals which would never be worn as well as ditching a Brazil victory song, which would never be heard.

Not even entertaining the belief that they may actually lose the game, the Brazilian crowd stood silently aghast believing Brazil’s name to be on the trophy.

The victory ceremony, one of the most bizarre and low-key in history, saw a stunned FIFA president Jules Rimet hand the trophy, without pomp and ceremony, to Uruguay captain Obdulia Varela.

What was the follow changed the face of Brazilian football forever, the white shirts with blue trim worn in the final were discarded, with Brazil adopting the famous yellow shirts worn today.

On a more sinister note, the brunt of the blame went on Brazil keeper Moacir Barbosa, with the national side not picking another black keeper until Nelson Dida, for fear they were bad luck.

The match hit the bewildered Brazilian public so hard it has been labelled the Maracanazo – roughly translated the Maracana Blow.