October 28, 2020

The story behind Brazil’s 1962 World Cup win

Diego Maradona’s 1986 campaign probably stands as the greatest individual contribution to a World Cup win. But what Garrincha did in 1962 is not far behind. Had he not stepped up, Brazil would have found it much more difficult to retain the title they had won in Sweden.

Brazil went to Chile in 1962 having lost the element of surprise they had in 1958. Their 4-2-4 system was now well known. But they were confident and consolidated. They had lost just twice in their reign as world champions, both times fielding experimental sides. Essentially they were going for a repeat performance, with as few changes as possible.

On health grounds Vicente Feola had stepped down as coach, replaced by Aymore Moreira. He was forced to make one change from the 1958 line-up; outstanding centre-back Orlando Pecanha had moved to Boca Juniors. At the time Brazil did not pick players based abroad, and so Zozimo came in. 

Moreira also changed the other centre-back. Mauro Ramos had been cut from the 1950 squad, and had spent 1954 and 1958 on the bench. He made it clear he was not prepared to do the same in 1962, and Moreira brought him in for Bellini, who he also replaced as captain.

It was a wise choice. Mauro was the classier defender – and the 1962 side came under much more pressure than their predecessors from four years earlier. It was just as well that Mario Zagallo on the left wing carried out so much defensive work – in defiance of the original instructions from Moreira. They were a very experienced side – which might be a polite way to say that they were ageing.

Nilton Santos, the left-back Zagallo was protecting, was 37. The second youngest player in the team was centre-forward Vava, at 27. Most of the hopes were placed on the shoulders of the youngest – Pele, who at 21 was at the peak of his powers. He had thickened out from the skinny teenager of 1958 into a magnificent athlete who dominated every aspect of the game. 

In Brazil’s opening game against Mexico he scored what may even have been the finest goal of his World Cup career, charging his way through the entire defence with pace, power, close skills and deadly clarity. It looked as if Chile 1962 might be Pele’s definitive statement as a player.

And then, in the second game against Czechoslovakia he went for a shot and pulled up with a groin injury. There were no substitutions in those days, so he completed the match hobbling on the wing. As soon as the whistle sounded on a goalless he was given intense treatment, always in the hope that he might recover in time to return to the field during the tournament. But Pele would play no further part in the World Cup. How could Brazil be champions without him?

It helped enormously that his replacement hit the ground running. Young, talented but untried, Amarildo rose to the occasion with both goals in the next game, a 2-1 win over Spain. The second was the most important, and not just because it sealed Brazil’s place in the quarter-finals. It was the moment that Garrincha found his form. Unusually quiet for two and a half games, he came up with a typically spell-bending piece of wing play, outflanking the defence and crossing to set up the chance.

Morale restored, Garrincha hit new heights. In the quarter- and semi-finals, against England and hosts Chile, he stopped playing on the right wing. Instead, he played from the right wing, popping up everywhere and doing things that no one could recall being part of his repertoire. He opened the scoring against England, heading home from a corner. At 1-1 Brazil had a free-kick on the edge of the area – a speciality of playmaker Didi. In charged Garrincha with a viciously swerving shot, blocked by the keeper and turned in by Vava. And he completed the 3-1 scoreline with a long-range special.

Then he did it all again in the semi-final in front of a packed, partisan Chilean crowd. Garrincha put Brazil two up – the first with his left foot, the second another header. Chile fought bravely and threated a comeback. But at the start of the second half Garrincha helped restore the two-goal lead, sending in a well-struck corner for Vava to head home. Brazil ran out comfortable 4-2 winners. But there was a problem at the end. Off the ball, Garrincha flicked out a knee at a defender and was sent off.

Already missing Pele, Brazil now looked to be going into the final against Czechoslovakia without the suspended Garrincha as well. Strangely, FIFA gave him the all-clear to play. In the event, the final was not his game. He was struggling with a high temperature and made little impression.

It was probably just as well, then, that Czech goalkeeper Schroiff had a bad day. He had been one of the stars of the tournament, but he quickly lost his side’s early lead when Amarildo beat him at the near post.

An even match started to go Brazil’s way midway through the second half, with a goal from Zito, the holding midfielder who was the team’s unsung hero. He began the move on the edge of his own area and rounded it off with a close range header from Amarildo’s cross. And any Czech hopes of a comeback were put to bed when Schroiff blundered, dropping a cross at the grateful feet of Vava who sealed Brazil’s 3-1 win.

And so, just over four years after Brazil were not seen among the favourites as they made their way to Sweden, they were now world champions twice over. Traditionally ranked behind Uruguay and Argentina in the South American pecking order, Brazil had become the kings of the global game.

Tim Vickery

Tim Vickery

Tim Vickery is a football writer based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He covers the South American game for ESPN, the BBC, World Soccer and others.

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