Friday, October 23, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: Sweden-Brazil (1958)

Brazil didn’t start the sixth World Cup in Sweden very well: on their first two matches they had defeated Austria 3-0 and tied 0-0 against England (this was the first goalless draw in a World Cup), and it came down to their last first round match where they were facing a strong USSR side that still had a chance at the quarterfinals.
Since the Brazilians had looked too convincing in the first two matches, the Brazilian coach put two new players that had not played the first matches on the team: the Botafogo striker Garrincha, who was already known for his incredible dribbling abilities, as well as a 17-year old striker from Santos, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or rather, Pelé.
Although neither of the players scored, they were instrumental in giving Brazil a 2-0 victory against a stunned USSR team, where the captain, Igor Netto, later said that he was stunned at the Brazilians beautiful game.
And this match set the stage for what became a Brazilian theater of beautiful football, where players such as Garrincha, Vavá and most of all Pelé quickly became idols in Sweden. In the quarterfinals Brazil defeated Wales 1-0 on a lone goal by Pelé, and in the semi-final they trashed one of the best French sides in history (with thelegendary Just Fonaine, who became the most scoring player of the tournament, and until 2002 was still the most scoring player in history) 5-2, and again the 17-year old Pelé scored three goals.
Brazil was ready for the final where the entire world was eager to see this marvelous team!
In the meantime, the hosting Swedes had played well in solid victories against Mexico and Hungary and a tie against Wales in the first round. In the quarterfinal they defeated the USSR 2-0.
Not only benefitting from the home-advantage, Sweden also had a team of outstanding players, revolving around the AC Milan captain Nils Liedholm, the Roma striker Gunnar Nordahl (who had played in AC Milan for seven years, scoring 221 goals, and is still the second most scoring player in the history of AC Milan), as well as the ageing but legendary Gunnar Gren, who had played many years in Italy.
In spite of this, Sweden had during the tournament had some problems mobilizing its fans, who seemed to be rather indifferent to the home side’s results.
In the semi-final the Swedes played the defending world champions of West Germany. Finally the Swedish fans managed to get excited about their team, which played one of the most legendary matches in Sweden’s football history. Leading 2-1 Kurt Hamrin cemented the victory by scoring an extraordinary last goal in the 3-1 victory that took Sweden to the final (Kurt Hamrin, who the same year had changed from Padova to Fiorentina, and became one of the most scoring players in the history of the Serie A).
Sweden was excited to be playing the entertaining and popular Brazilians in the final!
It was the first World Cup final to be transmitted live on television, so millions were watching the match which started on a pitch that was wet from an entire day of rain, something that seemed to favour the home team. And when Nils Liedholm passsed through two weak Brazilian defenders after only four minutes, he seemed to confirm this as he brought Sweden ahead 1-0.
This was the first time that Brazil was losing during the entire tournament, and some people were wondering whether this would cause the South Americans to crash. But this didn’t prove the case, as the Brazilians were overly confident of their abilities. Garrincha seemed unstoppable on the Swedish left-hand defence: within half an hour Brazil went ahead 2-1 on two almost identical goals by Vavá, where he only had to push the ball in after flat crossing from Garrincha on the right.
Brazil was ahead by half-time, and second half was the moment of glory for the young wonder Pelé. Ten minutes into the second half he scored one of the most beautiful goals in a world cup final, when he received a high ball in the Swedish area, stopped it with his chest, and while rounding the Swedish defender, tipped the ball over the defender and smashing the ball into the net with a perfect volley.
Only thirteen minutes later, as the Brazilians were showing off their marvelous footballing skills, the legendary Mario Zagallo took advantage of a Swedish defensive mistake to make it 4-1 (Zagallo was in 1970 the first man ever to win the World Cup both as a player and a manager).
Sweden had been defeated, and it made no difference that Agne Simonsson scored for Sweden ten minutes before the end.
Only one minute from time, Pelé sealed his great performance to become a legend of football, by scoring the last goal of the final.
Brazil had won their first World Cup, in Europe, and to this day it is the only time a non-European side has won in Europe.
The World Cup in Sweden was surely the friendliest world cup, and the one that has been played with the best sportmanship. This was amply symbolized by the Swedish fans celebrating the Brazilian victory, and the Brazilian players thanking them by running a victory round with a giant Swedish flag.

Match Stats:
  • 29th June, 1958 Råsunda Stadion, Stockholm
  • Attendance: 49,737
  • Referee: Maurice Gigue (France)
Brazil-Sweden 5-2
: 0-1 Liedholm (4), 1-1 Vavá (9), 2-1 Vavá (30), 3-1 Pelé (55), 4-1 Zagallo (68), 4-2 Simonsson (80), 5-2 Pelé (89)

Brazil: Gilmar, D. Santos, N. Santos, Zito, Bellini, Orlando, Garrincha, Didí, Vavá, Pelé, Zagallo
Sweden: Svensson, Begmark, Axbom, Börjesson, Gustavsson, Parling, Hamrin, Gren, Simonson, Liedholm, Skoglund


Anonymous said...

"Not only benefitting from the home-advantage, Sweden also had a team of outstanding players, revolving around the AC Milan captain Nils Liedholm, the Roma striker Gunnar Nordahl (who had played in AC Milan for seven years, scoring 221 goals, and is still the second most scoring player in the history of AC Milan), as well as the ageing but legendary Gunnar Gren, who had played many years in Italy."

This is wrong regarding Gunnar Nordahl. He did not at all play in 1958. He wasn't even in the squad. In fact, he never played in any WC. One of the greatest players ever to not have played in a WC.

Anonymous said...

Brazil’58 could have been an ever better squad.

As we know, every 4 years there is a list of players of amazing talent that, for some reason or another, end up missing the World Cup. This factor – especially in previous decades – is quite often responsible for making players that have legendary status in their countries to miss the chance of gaining the same recognition worldwide; such is the power of a World Cup participation.

This list of “injustices” grows every 4 years, but no country has a longer list than Brazil. No other country in the world has had such an amount of football talent, so naturally the amount of great players who did not get called-up to perform at the World Cup is proportionally bigger. But some absences are so absurd that make you realise that being the best player at your position is simply not enough to guarantee you a spot in the final group chosen by the manager to perform at football’s biggest competition.

The latest Brazilian victim of these injustices was Atletico’s defender Miranda, who was left out of the current Brazil squad in favour of the average Henrique - even though this time is hasn’t been a major issue in Brazil, because there are other players of the same caliber in the same position, unlike previous cases.

Brazil’58 is widely regarded as the greatest Brazilian side, in terms of individual talent. Man for man, it is an even better squad than Brazil’70, with top world-class players in practically every position.

This is what the famous and renowned Brazil’58 looked like at the final against Sweden: Gilmar; Djalma Santos, Bellini, Orlando & Nilton Santos; Zito & Didi; Garrincha, Pelé, Vavá & Zagallo.

What not that many people know is that that team could have looked different, if some injustices hadn’t been made during the call-up for that World Cup. That Brazil could have looked even better.

There isn’t much dispute when it comes to the defense and midfield lines. From Gilmar to Didi, all players are legendary (even though Zito started as a sub and took Dino Sani’s spot during the competition and Djalma Santos took De Sordi’s spot at the final). The players were so good that even most of the substitutes have legendary status in their own right and some would even shine in the following World Cup as starters.

The injustices appear in the attack line. In the right-wing, Joel was the starter (Garrincha was on the bench – the “Garricnha” we know today would appear later on in the same competition). Joel was part of a legendary Flamengo team in the mid-to-late 50’s.
But even he was not the best right-winger Brazil had at that point. That title belonged to a man called Julinho Botelho, who had been a starter for the Brazilian squad at WC’54 and had been transferred to Fiorentina in 1955 (later on being named the greatest player in the history of that club). In those days, it was not common in Brazil to call-up players that played abroad to join the National Team and, for that reason, Julinho didn’t have the chance of being world champion. He is still hailed today by sports critics and journalists as one the best Brazilian right-wingers ever, up there with the likes of Garrincha and Jairzinho.

Anonymous said...

In one of the forward positions, Dida was the starter. He was another part of the great Flamengo team of those days, being the top scorer for that club before the Zico-era of the 80’s, with 257 goals. He lost his spot on the team after getting injured during the competition, giving his place to a certain 17-year-old boy named Pelé, who started to show his assets.
But as good as Dida was, there was another player in Brazil at the time who could have very well be the starter in the same position. His name was Luizinho, one of the greatest players in Corinthians history (performed alongside other legends such as Claudio, victim of injustice himself at WC’50, and Baltazar, who was present in the 2 previous World Cup editions). Luizinho had a bit of a “bad boy” image and for that reason, ended being ignored for the World Cup.

In the other forward position, the spot was disputed between two legends named Altafini and Vavá. Both are amongst the greatest Brazilian strikers of all time in their own right. Altafini started the competition, but lost his spot to Vavá in the later stages.
But there was another player who very probably would have been the starter if he hadn’t made a move from Flamengo to Barcelona the previous year: Evaristo de Macedo.
Evaristo was already a starter for Brazil during the matches before he went was transferred to Spain, where he is still idolised and considered one of the greatest players in the history of both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Also ranks amongst the greatest Brazilian forward players ever.

Finally, at the left-wing, there was Zagallo. As a player, Zagallo was never the most gifted. He is probably the only player on that squad that won the World Cup who is not considered top world-class. He made up for it with a lot of effort and tactical obedience, which pleased the managers, and played as a false left-wing, defending most of the time Nilton Santos would advance on the left to support the attack. He was the typical good all-around player, but not an exceptional talent.
However, his presence at the World Cp was not because Brazil did not have top players in the left-wing position. Quite the opposite. The starter in that position before the World Cup took place had always been Canhoteiro. He played for Sao Paulo and was one young Pelé’s greatest idols (together with Zizinho). You can have an idea of how good he was by taking a look at his nickname: “the Garrincha of the left”. He was cut from the team because, like Luizinho, he also had an attitude problem and was also afraid of flying.
But Zagallo was not even the second option. Pepe was. Pelé’s partner in the legendary Santos, Pepe is the second highest-scorer for Santos (behind Pele), with 405 goals. He did go to WC’58, but had to sit on the bench after being injured in a friendly against Italy, prior to the World Cup.

So this is what Brazil would have looked like at the start of WC’58, if the actual best players per position had been called-up:
Gilmar; Djalma Santos, Bellini, Orlando & Nilton Santos; Zito & Didi; Julinho(Joel/Garrincha), Luizinho(Dida/Pelé), Evaristo(Altafini/Vavá) & Canhoteiro(Pepe/Zagallo).

Doke said...


Doke said...

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Waiting for your detailed analysis. I can even pay you money for it?