History class: Brasil in the World Cup
the history of World Cup football,
Brasilhas been participating in all the editions, the only team that did so. Holding five titles, it is also the most successful country in soccer.
Leônidas da Silva - Master of the 'Bicycle Kick'
|However, in 1930 the
Brazilian soccer teamlost its first ever World Cup match against Yugoslavia: 1-2.
The first two editions are best forgotten entirely, but in the third and last edition before WWII in 1938, Brasil made it to the semi-finals.
'A Seleção' lost against eventual World champion Italy: 1-2.
In this soccer match top goalscorer Leônidas da Silva, Brasil’s biggest prewar star, was left on the bench. Nevertheless, from now on Brasil would be taken seriously by the rest of the soccer world.
World Cup 1950
The 1950 edition, the first one after WWII, was a feast and disaster at the same time for Brazilian fans.
|Brazil proudly hosted the event. The format was different to the previous tournaments, with a first round group stage and a final round group stage. Brasil was unstoppable in the first round. In the final round, consisting also of Uruguay, Sweden and Spain, they whacked Sweden and Spain by 7-1 and 6-1 victories respectively.
Stars like Zizinho and Ademir put hope in the hearts of all Brazilians: everyone was convinced the match against the ramshackle team of Uruguay would be a formality and Brasil would lift the cup for the first time.
The 'Maracanazo': Uruguay scores in the 1950 final, leaving an entire Brazilian nation in distress
But… it did not happen. In the de facto final Uruguay left the packed Maracanã stadium and an entire nation silent after a 1-2 victory. Brazil suffered a national tragedy, which is commemorated, even until today, as the maracanazo (the ‘Maracana Knockout’).
Pelé, first World Cup 1958
|In 1954 the mission was to bring the cup home from Europe, but favourites Hungary defeated Brasil in the quarter-finals: 0-2. But at last, from 1958 things changed: Brasil won three of the next four editions of the World Cup. Under the guidance of the exceptionally talented duo Pelé and Garrincha, Brasil became an almost unbeatable team: the glory years of
samba footballhad emerged.
In 1958, Brasil won their first cup against host country Sweden by 5-2, starring the then 17 years old prodigy Pelé, who scored twice in the final.
The lineup of the 1962 team was almost the same as the one of the champions of 1958, with the exception that Pelé got injured in the second game of the tournament. It did not stop the Yellow Canaries: in the final Czechoslovakia was beaten by 3-1 and Brasil remained the best team in the world.
Unrealistic high expectations, chaotic preparations and a squad coming of age were the main reasons the 1966 edition in England was not successful; the World Champions had to leave the tournament already after the first round.
In 1970 however, Brasil got its sweet revenge in Mexico. Pelé, in the prime of his football life, led his team to the third World Cup victory. Garrincha and other anchors had been retired, but Pelé found new lieutenants in stars like Carlos Alberto, Rivellino and Jairzinho. In the final the Dream Team of 1970 defeated tough defence team Italy easily by 4-1. The Brasil 1970 squad is considered as one of the best football teams of all time.
|What the euphoric Brazilians did not know at the time was that the triumph in Mexico marked the end of an era: a new type of football was arising and it took over two decades before the swinging samba football became successful again.
In 1974 the Total Football of Holland surprised Brasil and the rest of the world and sent the reigning champions back home in the semi-finals.
Brasil, the Dream Team of 1970
During the next edition, in 1978, Brasil did not lose any match, but because of the format of two group stages leading directly to the final, Brasil became second in its group after arch rival and host Argentina (which had a better goal average).
The 1980s were also not the decade of Brazilian football prosperity. However, more than ever the Brasil play was beloved around the world for its excitement and technical skill. The 1982 edition was adorned by the frivolous play of Zico, Socrates, Falcão and the likes. Brasil did not make it to the semi-finals only after losing one of the World Cup’s most epic games ever against Italy (2-3), the subsequent winner of the tournament.
Although having a new star striker in their midst, Careca, in 1986 the team of four years earlier could not impress as much and went home after a penalty shootout against France in the quarter-finals.
1990 became a low in Brazilian World Cup history; despite having acknowledged goalscorers like Romario, Careca and Bebeto available, the team was rather bland and went home after losing against Argentina in the second round.
In 1994, 'A Seleção' are World Champions for the 4th time in history
|Things turned for the better though and a Brazilian team reigning international football once more was in the making.
Although not as swinging as during the 1960s, the team became more efficient instead and thus winning prizes again.
In 1994, Brasil won the cup at the hand of striking partners Romario and Bebeto and captain Dunga.
In the final Italy was defeated by penalty kicks, the first time in World Cup history: in an unbrazilian style the Yellow Canaries could lift the trophy again after 24 years.
In 1998 Brasil reached the finals again, after being lucky in a penalty shootout against the better Holland team. Nevertheless, host country France was too strong for the Brazilian squad in the final. Despite having the new prodigy Ronaldo in the team (who became the best player of the tournament), France spanked Brasil with a 0-3 victory.
In 2002 Ronaldo could have his vengeance. Although the team had nearly failed to qualify, Brasil became World Champion for the fifth time in a rather sovereign way. Ronaldo became top goalscorer of the tournament with eight goals. Until today he is also the top goalscorer of all time with 15 World Cup goals (1994: 0, 1998: 4, 2002: 8, 2006: 3).
The 2006 edition became a disappointment. Being many people’s favourite, the Brazilian squad could live up to the high expectations in the first and second round, although they were never really dominating. However, in the quarter-finals France showed in a rather embarrassing way this Brazilian team was over the hill.
While the 2006 team still had many big names who were not performing as expected, in 2010 Brasil did not have really outstanding stars who already proved themselves in the past. Brasil rather easily marched through the first round and had beaten Chile in the second round, but the strong collective of Holland appeared to be too strong in the quarter-finals.
|Are the disappointing performances in 2006 and 2010 signs of enduring dark times or will Brasil be able to turn things for the better and become victorious again?
Let’s find out at the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup finals 2014 in... Brazil!
More on World Cup history: Best Brazilian football players of all time