Thursday, 22 April 2010


What can be said about Brazil that hasn't already been said? All football fans know the stats: they are the only nation to have played in every single World Cup and have the best record of any nation, winning the holy grail of international football on no less than five occasions. They are invariably the favourites, and even a 'poor' Brazilian side can never be written off. Traditionally Brazil play the 'beautiful game', and do so better than anyone else. Undoubtedly their commitment to flamboyant, all-out attacking football has cost them two or three World Cups (1950, 1982 and 1986 spring to mind), but it has also created an expectation amongst all football fans to be entertained when watching the brilliant Samba Stars. The simple 'stats' of the matter are that Brazil win one in every three-and-a-half World Cups, and if they don't win it, they tend to get pretty close. Since Mexico 86, (with the exception of a non-decisive group match defeat to Norway in 1998) only France and Argentina have beaten Brazil at the World Cup. Is it their time again?

World Cup Pedigree:

Brazil lost their first ever World Cup match against Yugoslavia in 1930, and in spite of beating Bolivia a few days later failed to qualify for the semi-finals. In 1934 they were also eliminated in the first round, this time in a straight knock-out match against Spain. In 1938 they made it to the semi-finals but were beaten by the defending champions Italy who retained the trophy with victory against Hungary in the Final.

Following the 12-year World Cup absense caused by the war, the Brazilians hosted the fourth World Cup tournament and came very close to winning it. They were denied by Uruguay in the final match of a 'final' four-team group who all had to play each other to determine who would become World Champions. Brazil only had to draw to claim the Title, and when they took the lead early in the second half it seemed that glory was beckoning. But they were denied by a spirited Uruguayan revival, and their failure was a bitter pill to swallow for an expectant nation. In 1954 they were beaten 4-2 in the quarter-finals by the great Hungarian side of Puskas & co, but this was a prelude to Brazil's most successful era, as three of the next four World Cups would be won by the South American giants.

In 1958 in Sweden Brazil won the trophy for the first time, with a certain 17-year old wonder called Pele - up to this point unknown - taking centre stage by scoring one goal in the quarter-final, a hat-trick in the the semi-final and two more in the Final. Pele scored again in Brazil's opening match of the 1962 World Cup, but was injured in the second group game against Czechoslovakia and missed the rest of the tournament. Even without him Brazil were still the team to beat and were too good for England (quarter-final) and Chile (semi-final) to set up a rematch with the Czechs in the Final. Despite going behind, Brazil recovered to win 3-1 and emulate Italy's achievement in the 1930s of retaining the World Cup.

Brazil's reign as World Champions came to a surprising end in the group stages of the 1966 World Cup in England, as defeats to Hungary and Portugal put them on an early plane home. In Mexico four years later Brazil coasted to a third World Cup triumph in what was undoubtedly their finest hour. They won all six of their matches, scoring 19 goals in the process and playing a brand of attacking football not seen before or since. In both 1974 and 1978 Brazil made it through to the Second Round - which was another group stage - but missed out on a place in the Final; in '74 following a key defeat against Holland and in '78 only on goal difference.

This format was changed by the time Espana 82 came around as the Finals now accomodated 24 teams. Brazil had their best team since 1970, and this was undoubtedly a World Cup they should have won. Only needing to draw to reach the semi-finals, in their final second round group match they were beaten 3-2 by Italy in a classic encounter in Barcelona. Four years later in Mexico Brazil sought to combine youth with experience and looked a class act again, but came unstuck in another memorable game against France in the quarter-finals. Since then France have been Brazil's World Cup bogey team, beating them in the Final in 1998 and again four years ago, once again in the last eight.

Brazil were knocked out of Italia 90 by fierce rivals Argentina in the second round. Sometimes you just have one of those days when the ball just will not go in the net - no matter how many times you shoot at the goal. Brazil had one of those days, totally outplaying Argentina and creating chance after chance, only to be caught out by a late stike by Claudio Caniggia.

At USA 94 and Korea/Japan 2002 Brazil won their fourth and fifth World Titles respectively, on both occasions with teams that were inferior to the Brazilian sides that graced the two World Cups in the 1980s.

Greatest Moment:

The 4-1 destruction of Italy in the 1970 World Cup Final in Mexico - Pele, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino and Jairzinho the key members of the greatest team in history.

Biggest Heartbreak:

Failure to win the World Cup on home soil in 1950 - Uruguay snatched victory with two second half goals to defy the odds, stunning the Maracana and the whole of Brazil.

At South Africa 2010 Brazil be competing in their nineteenth World Cup.

No comments:

Post a Comment