Brazil: “..those talented men in yellow and blue”

Brazil: “..those talented men in yellow and blue”

..After the superb play of Brazil, there is still a sense of surprise that those talented men in yellow and blue haven’t made it. Instead, it is an all European affair. As the tension rises, as the supporters arrive in their thousands, Jimmy Hill reports from the stadium”.

That above was part of the BBC TV’s introduction to the 1982 World Cup final between Italy and West Germany. That was in the era in which Nigeria used to miss out regularly on the four yearly event with Nigerians generally adopting Brazil as our Nation.

After the Argentina ’78 World Cup and just before the 1982 World Cup ‘Brazilian Soccer’ was a regular programme on Nigerian TV at the weekend with a young Martin Tyler in commentary. Therefore, by the time Espana ’82 arrived we were quite familiar with some of the players the Selecao paraded.

1982 – The day Football died.

One of the most nonsensical statements people tend to parade is “no one remembers losers” or words to that effect. Hogwash. No one who ever had the privilege of watching the Brazil squad of 1982 play football will ever forget watching them.

Playing in a typically Brazilian 4-2-2-2 formation they brought beauty and art to soccer that I have not seen again at any world cup. Almost every goal they scored in that tournament was a work of art, every player – bar the lumbering unfortunate no 9 Serginho – an artist on the ball.

Their opening game was shown very late at night in Nigeria – Yinka Craig presenting and no studio of any kind. It was against USSR. The Europeans took the lead with a speculative shot from distance that the Brazil keeper Peres somehow let in. Now, in my years of watching the World Cup I do not think I ever saw a goalkeeper worse than Waldir Peres.

The two goals Brazil scored in overturning this deficit were stunning. The first had the elegant, long striding skipper Socrates evade three challenges as he darted across the penalty area from right to left looking for the angle to shoot. Found it and let fly a howitzer that crashed into the roof of Rinat Dassaev’s top left hand corner.

The winner still leaves me speechless when I see it today. With time running out, substitute Isidoro on the right plays a ball across the edge ostensibly to Socrates. The no 8 must have heard a shout cos he allowed the ball to run through his legs.

Haring in onto the ball was left winger Eder. That night all I remember seeing was Eder hitting the ball and it crashing into the net with the keeper rooted to the spot. It was days later that I noticed that Eder actually scooped the ball up, as he ran onto it, before smashing it in. Balletic. The start of an intoxicating run of matches and goals.

Brazil’s second round second group game was against Italy. A draw and they would be in the semi-final while the Italians had to win. One of the best world cup matches ever ensued.

Paolo Rossi gave Italy the lead. Great play by Bruno Conti on the right, a swerving ball across the pitch to the left found left back Antonio Cabrini free. The Juve defender wasted no time in delivering a delicious ball into the box for Rossi to head home.

“The Brazil that came from a goal behind to defeat the Soviet Union in their opening group game; that also came from behind to defeat Scotland after David Narey’s goal are being asked by their fans to do so again here this afternoon in Barcelona” – the voice of BBC’s John Motson in commentary after Rossi’s goal.

Brazil responded. And How. In a team of fantastic footballers, the no 10 Zico, still stood out. So in a game of this magnitude he was given special treatment by Italy. That in the form of being man-marked by Europe’s most feared man marker at the time, Claudio Gentile.

For Brazil’s first equaliser, Zico utterly destroyed him with a turn at the edge of the box that was so sensational Motson gasped in commentary. After losing Gentile, Zico played a pass so good that the long striding Socrates had to take only a touch lose the covering defender before shooting past Dino Zoff at his near post.

Socrates equalises for Brazil Vs Italy

The beauty of that goal. So much was involved. As soon as the ball was played into Zico, Socrates had started his run. Not for him waiting to see what Zico will do, he trusted that his mate will “do” Gentile anyway.

Italy and Paolo Rossi were gifted a second goal just before half time.

As is normal, Italy decided to defend that lead in the second half. Brazil’s second equaliser still gets me misty eyed. Zoff cleared the ball high and long and it was coming down with snow on it. As it dropped, Falcao turned his left foot to Persian rug so the ball dropped on it and rolled to his left for Junior his left back.

Junior picked it up and just hared off forward, brushing off Conti’s feeble challenge along the way. Falcao did not stay back to mind the shop as would certainly happen now, he went forward to join the attack.

Eventually the ball came to him just outside the Squadra Azzuri penalty area. He had been in this situation a few times earlier in the match and he had passed to his runners – Cerezo once and Zico another time. Cerezo again made the run on his outside. Zico and Serginho made runs to his left. The AS Roma of Italy midfielder feinted to pass to Cerezo, turned inside instead, before crashing a left foot drive beyond Zoff and into the net. 2-2

Italy and Rossi got a 3rd goal after slacking marking at a corner left the striker with space to turn and shoot home. Sadly, Brazil were not to find a third equaliser and therefore exited the tournament.

For many, the 1982 World Cup ended that afternoon. I still believe that had this Brazil side won the 1982 World Cup the pragmatic football that we see a lot these days will never have emerged in the form it has.

There are many reasons the FIFA World Cup is not as exciting as it used to be – football generally actually. One of them is the fact that many in the game have forgotten that it is entertainment afterall. That no one is coming to watch matches to see “the art of defensive football”. No one pays subscription TV to watch teams “drilled into defensive shapes”.

A better goalkeeper and Brazil would have won that world cup and the game would have been much better for it.

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