Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winners

By Henry Church Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/27 0:48:40

Pele of Brazil celebrates with teammate Jairzinho at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. Photo: VCG

If you were to ask many people who were the greatest football team to play the game, there is one name that comes up even if it has been five decades this summer since their crowning achievement.

Many people were not around to see Brazil lift the 1970 FIFA World Cup but the legend lives on, perhaps reinvigorated by the half centenary of their triumph or as likely because FIFA has been raiding the archives during the coronavirus lockdown to relive classic World Cup matches.

For that 1970 team, that was arguably every single one of their matches in Mexico. Their 22-man squad were picked from domestic sides and contained some of the team who remembered their most first World Cup in Sweden in 1958 and then again in 1962 in Chile.

One of those was the coach Mario Zagallo, who had played in both tournaments as a left winger. 

He only played for Brazil 33 times but he won the World Cup twice during that. He scored the fourth and set up Pele for the fifth in the ­final against hosts Sweden in 1958, when Brazil came from behind to win their first World Cup.  

Iconic stars

Having hung up his boots, he was in already his second stint in charge of the national team by June 1970, even if he was only given the job 75 days before the World Cup kicked off.

Another was his star forward, Pele. The iconic No.10 had been a teenager in Sweden when he announced himself to the world and more than a decade later he was the biggest name in the game as the world focused on Mexico.

While 29-year-old Pele was the only one of the squad to wear the No.10 on the back of his famous yellow shirt at the tournament, the first time that many saw the World Cup on colored television, he was not the only No.10 in the squad.

Zagallo had five, and he played them all in the starting lineup. Perhaps a legacy of him is starting out as a No.10 himself before moving to the left wing after transferring to Rio giants Flamengo from the US in 1950.

"I started out as a No.10 at America. When I moved to Flamengo in 1950, thinking about playing in the World Cup one day, I decided to become a winger. That's when my career took off," Zagallo told on the anniversary of his side's greatest day - mentioning that he had watched the 1950 final at the Maracana when Brazil famously lost to Uruguay in a game that would become known as the "Marcanazao" working as security.

Zagallo stuck to his guns when they went to Mexico, both in terms of formation and in principles.

"I'd won two World Cups with a 4-3-3," Zagallo told "When I took over the Selecao, I had it in my head that's what I was going to do. The changes I made were moving Piazza to play as a center-back, bringing Clodoaldo into the team and managing to field all those No.10s: Rivellino, ­Tostao, Pele, Jairzinho and Gerson. They said it would be impossible, in such a short time, to make them all gel, but we won the World Cup."

Pele was the star of the show, involved in 14 of the team's 19 goals in Mexico and that started from their opener against Czechoslovakia in Guadalajara. He scored the team's second, putting them 2-1 ahead from a Gerson pass and then trying to score from halfway with the ball just missing Ivo Viktor's goal. The Selecao would go on to win 4-1 and move to the top of the group.

That iconic moment was overshadowed by another in the next game against world champions England. Gordon Banks made that save from a Pele header before the Santos player set up Jairzinho for the winner. Pele then scored twice against Romania in a 3-2 win before they moved on to the quarterfinals and neighbors Peru.

Pele set up Tostao for Brazil's third in a 4-2 win, with their old enemy Uruguay awaiting in the semifinal - the first time that the nations had met since Uruguay had won the World Cup in Rio some two decades earlier. 

Pele gave the ball to Rivelino to put Brazil 3-1 ahead and then nearly scored after rounding the keeper by stepping over the ball on a pass from ­Tostao - another of what seems like a career-defining moment from Pele that all came in a few weeks in Mexico.

He did not let up in the ­final either, where Brazil faced Italy. Pele scored the opener and then set up Jairzinho and defender Carlos Alberto for goals, the latter perhaps the one that lives longest in the memory with the captain firing the Adidas Telstar football in past Italian goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi.  

All seven of Brazil's scorers at the World Cup were involved in that final goal and five of them were Zagallo's No.10s.

While Germany's Gerd Mueller topscored at the tournament with 10 goals, Jairzinho scored seven goals, Pele scored four, Rivelino scored three, Tostao twice and Gerson once.

Best of the best    

So which of his 1970s stars did Zagallo rate as the best?

"Oooh, that's really difficult," he told "Jairzinho was exceptional at that World Cup. But you have to mention Pele, Tostao, Rivellino, Clodoaldo, Gerson. Gerson was the best No.10, the best midfielder I've seen in my life."

Only Clodoaldo, who scored the equalizer after Uruguay went 1-0 up in the semifinal, was not a natural No.10 - though he did show the skill to be one when he dribbled past four Italians in the build-up to Carlos Alberto's goal.

Neither the world nor the World Cup has seen anything like Zagallo's 1970 team. Not even the 1994 team, which Zagallo won his fourth World Cup at as assistant manager, nor the fifth triumph in Japan and South Korea in 2002.
Newspaper headline: The top 10s

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