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Football News: Great Teams Part 4 Joga Bonito: The 1970 Brazil World Cup Team

Great Teams Part 4 Joga Bonito: The 1970 Brazil World Cup Team
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1970 Brazil World Cup Team


I have no idea what it is like for the generation who actually got to live through the 1970 World Cup, but, for me, it feels like it must have been magical to see the Brazil side at the time. Even watching the footage is like being transported to a magical time when football was all flair and fun. When 'joga bonito' (beautiful game) was truly meaningful in Brazilian football. It was also the first time the tournament was screened worldwide in colour, which all adds to the mystique.

Undoubtedly though, this team was amongst the greatest ever, the last pure footballing side, rather than being encumbered by tactical limitations on their play. The last team to just go out and play with complete flair and enjoyment and it was beautiful to watch. They were truly the last team to play the beautiful game to its most beautiful extent.

However, for all the football was simple and flowing, building the team was far from simple, as Brazil were in turmoil after the 1966 World Cup, where they were ruthlessly battered into submission by the opposition. They were also hit by the decision of Pele, after the way he was kicked from pillar to post at Goodison Park, to retire from international football in protest at the way he was treated.

The first order of business was convincing Pele to go back on his word and to play for his country again, which was done in time for the start of qualification. Though not everyone believed he was still up to the task as he was no longer as quick as he once was at the age of 30. However that was not the only problem as Brazil itself had undergone a military coup and were now led by a military junta headed by General Emilio Garrastazu Medici. Medici saw football as a way of soothing unrest.

The civil unrest was responsible for the rise of 'joga bonito' that Brazil have become associated with, based as it was on the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. That art was developed by slaves, who were forbidden by their overlords to practice martial arts, to masquerade as a dance as a gesture of defiance against those slavemasters. It became an expression of resistance to oppression in Brazil, so it was natural that it rose to prominence once more and even took its place in the world of football. As Brazil's head coach, Jose Saldanha said, "Brazilian football is a thing played to music."

There were also problems with the coach Saldanha, who did not get on with the national dictator, Medici, who had been part of a military junta which overthrew the previous president because he was a communist. Saldanha was an affiliate member of the Brazilian Communist Party. To make matters worse, Saldanha was a belligerent manager, who would butt heads with people constantly and refuse to compromise. There are claims that he even aimed a revolver at Flamengo coach Dorival Yustrich after he had publicly questioned Saldanha.

Saldanha also seemed determined to antagonise Medici, leaving out Medici's favourite player Dario, refusing to start Pele and Tostao together and also leaving out Rivellino. Brazil went out and won all 6 of their qualifying games scoring 23 and conceding just 2 but Saldanha was never popular, criticising the legendary Pele for not doing enough defensively did not help his cause. Then the team lost to Argentina and Saldanha made another outburst against Pele, claiming he had sight problems and should not be in the squad. It was to be the final straw and Medici sacked him.

Medici turned to former player and World Cup winner Mario Zagallo and then stepped back and left it to Zagallo to work. Zagallo sat down and talked it over with experienced squad members Gerson, Carlos Alberto, Brito and Pele to figure out a tactical plan and a way of squeezing their surplus of attackers into the team. There were a number of, for the time, radical choices made, though the first one was a switch back to the 4-2-4 formation that had served Brazil so well back in 1962. "What this team needs are great players, players who are intelligent. Let's go with that and see where it takes us," Zagallo said.

The team had 6 months together to prepare for the first ever World Cup to take place outside of Europe or South America, though Mexico was not a popular choice due to the altitude and heat. It also did not help that FIFA pandered to TV and set a number of games to kick off in the heat of midday. The 6 months were spent developing the 'joga bonito' way put in place by Saldanha to the players Brazil had.

Carlos Alberto was akin to a modern day wing-back, who bombed down the right flank as soon as Brazil got the ball. Rivellino was a skilful dribbler with a powerhouse left foot. Jairzinho was a dribbler, but he was pace and skill allied to strength to take him past opponents. Gerson was a pinpoint passer and there were Pele and Tostao to blend into the mix as well. Zagallo played with a front two of Tostao with Pele behind, though Tostao would often drop off dragging defenders with him and Pele, or sometimes Jairzinho, would take advantage of the space.

The defence was almost a back 3, with Piazza at left back, who was really a centreback playing on the left, would stay back and allow Carlos Alberto the freedom to roam down the right. Clodoaldo and Gerson provided a midfield pivot, while Jairzinho was on the right and Rivellino on the left. Jairzinho was more like a modern day wide forward, often rampaging through the centre, while Rivellino would stay deeper and often drift inside creating a midfield 3. These were revolutionary tactics for the time, though you can see, in the midfielder playing at the back and flying wing back, a very similar system to the modern day game.

There were issues with the squad, mostly in the shape of Felix, their goalkeeper from Fluminense, who was probably the reason for the old adage about Brazilian keepers being awful. He had been heavily criticised heading into the tournament and looked far from secure, giving opponents hope of scoring. Everaldo was on the bench during the build up, but became a first choice player after replacing Marco Antonio, who had been dropped due to off-field antics.

Tostao was somewhat of a miracle return to the team, after suffering a detached retina the year before when he was hit in the face by a ball. Recovering to even play again was doubtful initially, but he was able to regain a place in the team, where he formed what can only be described as a great partnership with Pele. It was a Brazilian opthalmologist based in Miami, Roberto Moura, who saved his sight with two operations, an unsung hero of the Brazilian victory as Tostao's vision was a key part of the way they played.

Zagallo's squad:
1. Felix (GK) Fluminense
2. Brito (DF) Flamengo
3. Piazza (MF) Cruzeiro
4. Carlos Alberto (DF) Santos - captain
5. Clodoaldo (MF) Santos
6. Marco Antonio (DF) Fluminense
7. Jairzinho (MF) Botafogo
8. Gerson (MF) Sao Paulo
9. Tostao (FW) Cruzeiro
10. Pele (FW) Santos
11. Rivellino (MF) Corinthians
12. Ado (GK) Corinthians
13. Roberto (FW) Botafogo
14. Baldocchi (DF) Palmeiras
15. Fontana (DF) Cruzeiro
16. Evaraldo (DF) Gremio
17. Joel (DF) Santos
18. Paulo Cezar (MF) Botafogo
19. Edu (FW) Santos
20. Dario (FW) Atletic Mineiro
21. Ze Maria (DF) Portugesa
22. Leao (GK) Palmeiras

This was Brazil's 9th World Cup and the first one to be broadcast in colour around the world, giving an almost magical feel to the tournament, which added to the gloss it obtained for those looking back on it later. Brazil did not enter it as a favourite, they had suffered badly in the previous edition against the physicality of European teams, who had pretty much kicked them out of the 1966 edition, Portugal delivering the death blow and the brutal treatment he received saw Pele announce his retirement from World Cups. This time around the Brazilians were prepared for it.

What did not help the nation back home's confidence was that Brazil were drawn in a tough group with three major European teams. They had the new, rising Romania, who were growing as a force in the game. Then there were the reigning European champions Czechoslovakia. Just to top it all off with a cherry the reigning world champions England were also in the group and were thought to be a stronger side than the one which lifted the World Cup four years previously. Brazil were not going to have an easy ride!

The Selecao kicked off their campaign on the 3rd of June in Guadalajara against Czechoslovakia, with Pele kicking off and Brazil dazzling with their speed and fast-moving, attacking football. Despite that, the Czechs opened the scoring, as Brazil's defensive frailties were shown up. Brazil went straight back on the attack, looking to get the ball up field quickly, with Pele often dropping off only to dummy the ball to allow it to run on to Tostao while he spun in behind and raced into the box.

Jairzinho's direct running and Rivellino's trickery became the stuff of legends as Brazil took the game to the Czechs. Rivellino smashed home a free kick equaliser, just before half-time Pele famously shot from the centre circle in an audacious attempt to score but the two teams went in level. After the break Brazil stepped up a gear and a lovely team move was finished off by Pele to give them the lead. Gerson lifted a ball over the top of the defence for Jairzinho to make it 3-1 and then Jairzinho scored his second to complete a 4-1 win for Brazil.

However it was not all good for the South Americans as their playmaker, the man who ran the game in midfield, Gerson, picked up a knock and was ruled out of the next game against the ruling champions England. The 7th June clash was dubbed, by the Daily Express, as "Magic v Method", while The Times called it a match between "a better team, England, and better creative artists, Brazil". It was the game most had hoped would be the final and Carlos Alberto later called it the toughest game of the tournament.

While England were stronger than before, Brazil were without the 'conductor of their orchestra' and his 'golden left foot' in Gerson and his absence told as they struggled to take charge of the game. It was a game of vital importance, winning the group meant that the team would play the rest of their games in Guadalajara, a venue that was not as high altitude as the rest. The game itself was one that is still talked about today, Bobby Moore's tackle and Gordon Banks' wonderful save (possibly the greatest ever?) from a Pele header were not without answer at the other end.

In fact in one attack by England, Brazil's keeper Felix was knocked unconscious by Francis Lee in the first half. Felix had saved a diving header from Lee and then beaten him to the rebound, only to be kicked in the head by Lee's attempt to win it. Brazil's lightning fast attacks were too much for England in the end, the move which ended in Banks' save, for instance, saw Brazil go from their defensive third to the 6 yard box in just 2 passes and 4 touches. Jairzinho managed to score the only goal from a Pele lay off to give Brazil a 1-0 victory.

Three days later Brazil played their last group match against Romania, still without Gerson and with Rivellino rested. Despite missing those two key players, they tore into the Romanians from the start and were 2-0 up within half an hour thanks to goals from Pele and Jairzinho. The usual lax defending allowed the Romanians to pull one back, but they were still so concerned that they subbed their goalkeeper! In the second half a clever flick from Tostao played Pele in for his second to make it a comfortable 3-1 lead. While Romania pulled one back, again due to Brazil's sloppy defending, the result was never in doubt, Brazil were just far too good for them.

The quarter finals drew the Brazilians against Peru, who had beaten Argentina in the qualifiers. Brazil had Rivellino back from his rest and the 'golden left foot' of Gerson was back from injury to conduct the choir. It showed. Brazil ran riot, tearing through Peru again and again. Rivellino opened the scoring with a well struck shot from the edge of the box, Tostao added a second following a one-two with Rivellino, Tostao added his second, Brazil's third, with a tap-in to an empty net after Pele chipped the keeper and Jairzinho rounded the keeper for a fourth. Peru did manage to score a couple themselves due to Brazil once again making defensive errors, but they were just too good for the Peruvians.

The semi-finals saw them face a team that had caused a deep wound on the national psyche the last time they met. It was Uruguay, who beat them in the final of the 1950 World Cup at Brazil's Maracana Stadium. Uruguay tweaked their system and set out to man-mark Pele and Gerson, which worked initially as, though Pele could find space with his clever movement, Gerson's role meant he was to sit in midfield and so was unable to move around and find space. With Gerson closely marked, Brazil struggled to get their passing game going and Uruguay opened the scoring with the ball trickling past a Felix who seemed rooted to the spot.

Brazil began to grow into the game but struggled to break Uruguay down at first so, with half-time nearing, Gerson told Everaldo to get forward from left-back, the way Carlos Alberto did on the right. It quickly paid dividends as Everaldo raced into the box and volleyed home a cross from Tostao to send the two teams in at the break on equal terms. Brazil were now in the ascendancy and came out for the second half fired up and took the game to the Uruguayans.

The first chance came the way of Pele as a diagonal ball drew the keeper out but Pele cleverly dummied the ball, leaving the keeper in no man's land, reached the loose ball but missed the target with just a defender on the line to beat. It was a moment of magic that deserved a goal. It was only a matter of time now though, and Tostao dropped deep into midfield, picked out Jairzinho with a beautiful pass, who outpaced the defence and slotted the ball into the bottom corner to give Brazil the lead. As Uruguay found themselves overrun by the Selecao, Rivellino completed the scoring from the edge of the box to make it 3-1 and put Brazil into the final once more.

Brazil were to face Italy, who were known for dogged defending and counter attacking, with their free-flowing attack. Zagallo expected Italy to man-mark his players and, knowing they were tired from a tough semi-final that went to extra-time, asked his team to keep possession and move the ball around to wear down the Italians. Rivellino constantly moved central dragging his marker with him, as Brazil concentrated on getting a numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch to drag Italian defenders out of their defensive shape and leave spaces for them to exploit.

In the 19th minute the tactics paid off a short throw in to Rivellino who lofted the ball into the box, Pele outjumped the defence to head home Brazil's 100th goal in World Cup tournaments and give them a lead. Unfortunately for Brazil their error-prone defence once more cost them a goal as Clodoaldo misplaced a pass in the defensive third to allow Roberto Boninsegna to equalise in the 37th minute and the two teams headed in for the half-time break still locked at 1-1.

Brazil came out for the second half at a much higher tempo and began to look to create chances by moving the ball more quickly. The Italians were being run ragged but held out for the first quarter of an hour. Penned back in their box, just two markers would step out to close down any Brazilian attack making it difficult for the Brazilians to get any space in the box. In the 65th minute Jairzinho tried to dribble through the pack ranks but was tackled and the ball broke to Gerson, who shifted it to his left and shot from just outside the area to make it 2-1.

The Italians were no longer able to camp inside their own box and began to push higher up the pitch, chasing an equaliser. Brazil looked to take advantage of the space by looking for direct passes to the attackers. It paid off as a long ball from Gerson was headed down by Pele to Jairzinho to score Brazil's third of the match and Jairzinho's seventh of the tournament. Brazil were now in full control of the game and the tricks were coming out, Rivellino receiving the ball on the left corner of the box and being faced by two Italians. He stood his man up and performed an 'elastico', the first time it had been seen by most people and it brought the crowd to its feet to roar "Brazil! Brazil!"

The Selecao were not finished yet though when, with just a few minutes left to play, Tostao chased back to force a turnover. After a few short passes pinged around the ball ended up at the feet of Clodoaldo, who was faced by a defensive screen of four Italians. Stepovers galore enabled him to dribble past two before playing a pass to Rivellino on the left flank. Rivellino played it long to Jairzinho, who had wandered off the right side and drawn the defence with him. He played it to Pele who stood still waiting until, at just the right moment, he rolled it to his right, seemingly to no one, when up popped Carlos Alberto to rocket it home and make it 4-1.

Pele claimed later that it was a deliberate ploy: "We knew that Italy was marking man-to-man, and that Fachetti, the left back, was following Jairzinho. So whenever Jairzinho strayed from the right wing there was a space there - which we called 'the avenue'." It was Brazil's third World Cup win and Zagallo became the first man to win the tournament as a player and a manager. Brazil were the first nation to win all its games at a World Cup, the first to have a player, Jairzinho, to score in each game but they also conceded the most goals of any World Cup winner with 7 conceded.

Pele was named player of the tournament, which was no surprise to the man who had been tasked with man-marking him in the final, Tarcisio Burgnich. He said afterwards: "I told myself before the game that he's made of skin and bone like everyone else. But I was wrong."

When you watch the footage, and the marvellous way the team played, it is tempting to believe that none of them were made of mere flesh and bones like the rest of us. Despite that, they were human.

Felix, probably the weakest link in the team, retired from playing in 1977 with 5 Carioca titles as a goalkeeper with Fluminense. After his retirement he became a salesman, a lecturer and co-ordinated municipal football schools. A heavy smoker, he sadly passed away due to emphysema in 2012 aged 74.

The captain and right-back, or should that be wing-back, Carlos Alberto Torres retired in 1982 and went into coaching, working in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia before he became an assistant with Nigeria's international side. In 2004 he was named as Azerbaijan's head coach, but he resigned the following year after he assaulted the 4th official during a loss to Poland. He has also passed away, in 2016.

Central defender Hercules Brito entered the World Cup with a reputation for having a short temper but managed to keep his temper in check for the tournament. After playing in Canada and Venezuela he retired in 1979 and kept himself out of the public eye.

Wilson Piazza also made it to the 1974 World Cup and played over 500 games for Cruzeiro before his retirement in 1979 and moving into the world of business. He owned a chain of petrol stations, as well as going in to local politics.

The left-back Everaldo, who changed the game in the semi-final, lost only once in his international career and retired in 1974 to move into politics. Sadly he was killed in a car crash in the October of that year.

Clodoaldo spent his entire club career with Santos and made it to the 1974 World Cup before his retirement in 1978. He became a director at Santos as well as owning an estate agency.

The brains of the team was Gerson, who was nicknamed 'The Parrot' as he talked non-stop on the pitch, as well as having 'The Golden Left Foot', which was also the name he gave to his charitable institute after retirement. He came from a football family, his father and uncle were both professional footballers, but he looked nothing like a footballer being short and slightly balding. He had been a part of the Brazil set up within a year of making his debut and went to the Olympics in 1960. Missed out on the 1962 World Cup after picking up a knee injury and then got kicked to pieces in 1966. After retirement he went into radio broadcasting.

Tostao sadly did not last much longer as a player due to damaging his eye once again in 1973 and he was forced to retire at the age of just 26 with 65 caps and 36 goals. He had turned pro at the age of just 15 and made himself a Brazil regular by the age of 20. After he retired he studied medicine and became a doctor before deciding to change his career in the 1990s and became a respected sports journalist.

Left winger Rivellino kept his place for two more World Cups after this one, going on to win 92 caps and score 26 goals. He eventually retired in 1981 after a spell in Saudi Arabian football before going into coaching in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse. After a short spell as a director at Corinthians he moved into broadcasting.

The first man to score a goal in every game at a World Cup, Jairzinho, retired in 1982 with 81 caps and 33 goals to become a coach and an agent. He coached the Gabon national team and stood for mayor, unsuccessfully, of Rio in 2008 but he did have one notable success. It is Jairzinho who is credited with discovering another legendary Brazilian goalscorer, Ronaldo.

There was also some guy named Pele, but not sure what happened to him, I think he faded back into obscurity or something!

After the tournament they returned home to a hero's welcome, and the Mayor of Sao Paulo, Paulo Maluf, awarded each player a VW Beetle for winning the trophy. Many years later he was tried, successfully, for the crime of using public funds to gift the Beetles and ordered to repay the money to the city.

Brazil were given the Jules Rimet trophy to keep, as it was their 3rd World Cup win. For safety the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) had a replica made, but then, bizarrely, stored the replica away safely while displaying the original in a bulletproof glass box nailed to the wall. In the classic tradition of a heist movie, three thieves planned the robbery in a bar before breaking into the CBF, overpowering the one security guard and stole the box. The 1.8kg of solid gold the trophy was made of was melted down and turned into gold bars, meaning the original trophy has been lost to us forever.

As for the team itself, nostalgia-tinted lenses make me believe this is the greatest football (soccer) team of all time. Growing up watching the documentaries of grainy, almost magical, colour footage of them sweeping over the opposition time and time again, producing unseen-before tricks and skill that stands comparison to anyone, makes you fall in love with the 'beautiful game'. They did more than any team before or since to make the game beautiful.


To read the previous episode in the Great Teams series click HERE to read Part 3 - Murderers Row: The 1927 New York Yankees Baseball Team.

Written by Tris Burke June 16 2019 11:23:19