Connect with us


Celebrating Pele, the greatest player in World Cup history – The Athletic


on – Watch FIFA 2022 World Cup Live Stream Online

It is a matter of opinion whether Edson Arantes do Nascimento was the greatest footballer in the history of the world, but there’s little doubt he was the greatest footballer in the history of the World Cup. One simple fact concisely demonstrates that: Pele won it three times. No one else in history, man or woman, can match that.

There was more to Pele than simply the World Cup. At club level, he won six Brazilian titles, two Copa Libertadores trophies and remains Santos’ all-time top goalscorer. He subsequently starred in the North American Soccer League for New York Cosmos. But no one has ever matched Pele’s World Cup record, achieved when international football, rather than club football, was unquestionably the most revered form of the game.

Pele was nine years old when Brazil suffered a shock loss to Uruguay at the Maracana in the 1950 final, surely the most devastating defeat any nation has suffered in a World Cup. In the days before television, Pele’s family listened to the game on the radio, while Pele ran in and out of the house, playing football while periodically checking the scoreline.

At full-time, Pele saw his father — himself a renowned footballer — cry for the first time. He says he promised he would bring the Jules Rimet trophy back to Brazil one day.

But even Pele himself couldn’t have imagined it would be only eight years before he fulfilled his promise — and he remains the youngest ever World Cup winner, at 17 years and 249 days. When the Brazil side departed for Sweden, it was the first time Pele had been on a plane.

He nearly didn’t make it. The 17-year-old, who only had a year’s experience of professional football, was a highly controversial pick ahead of Corinthians legend Luizinho. Before departing for Sweden, one of Brazil’s warm-up matches was against Corinthians — and, with tremendous predictability, Pele was hacked to the ground by a defender, which threatened his participation in the tournament — and briefly re-opened the door for Luizinho.

Pele missed Brazil’s subsequent warm-up games and the first two games of the tournament, before making his World Cup debut, still far from 100% fit, in a comfortable 2-0 win over USSR. Pele didn’t score, although he was confident enough to try an audacious chip over Lev Yashin, still widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper ever.

Pele scored six goals at his first World Cup, and all came in the knockout stage. His first came in a 1-0 victory over Wales, a tight game settled by a moment of brilliance that was typical Pele. It consisted of three touches, all of which would become familiar across subsequent tournaments.

The first touch was with his chest, which Pele used more successfully than any player in football history.

The second touch allowed him to turn past the defender in a typically smooth way. This was Pele’s real speciality, his ability to beat players on the spin. “[You have to] know how to receive a pass, to touch the ball onto wherever you want it to go,” he later explained. “Many of my team-mates could run well with the ball, tackle well and perform tricks, but not all of them knew how to receive the ball. They didn’t have this extra vision that I seemed to have. Maybe it’s something you can’t teach.”

The third touch was also classic Pele — although two-footed, he would shoot with his right foot when possible, even if the ball was slightly awkward to reach. He always got his head over a bouncing ball, keeping the shot down.

Pele’s only World Cup hat-trick came in the semi-final, a 5-2 win over France. The first was an open goal after the goalkeeper had spilled it into his path.

The second came when Pele produced another of his signature moves, receiving the ball and trying to tee himself up for a mid-air shot. However, he then selflessly attempted to pass to Vava, and when the shot was blocked, he pounced. Again, Pele decided to shoot with his right foot, cutting across the ball with the outside of his boot, when others might have swung their left leg at it.

The third, once again, came when Pele received a bouncing ball and set himself for a mid-air shot — this time, a dipping effort dispatched perfectly.

A freeze frame just before he takes the shot shows what a beautifully elegant player Pele was. This feels almost like a cartoon, a textbook diagram of a perfect volleyed effort.

The final pitched Brazil against hosts Sweden, who took an early 1-0 lead. But Brazil stormed back with two goals from Pele’s strike partner Vava, both close-range finishes after the sublime Garrincha had made inroads down the right.

In between, Vava set up Pele for what was nearly his greatest moment. Brazil’s No 10 received the ball 25 yards out with his left foot, did his usual thing of knocking it up for a mid-air smash with his right, but then touched the ball back onto his left foot, let it drop, and crashed a remarkable half-volley against the top of the far post. It would have been the greatest World Cup final goal of all time.

Pele shakes hands with Gustaf VI Adolf, king of Sweden, before the final (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

But Pele still earned that honour later in the same game.

Towards the end of the first half, he received a long cross from left-back Nilton Santos with his chest, controlled with his thigh, then knocked the ball past a defender and, with everyone waiting to see the net ripple… he scuffed a shot wide with his left foot.

That was a warning sign. Ten minutes into the second half, he again received a deep cross from Santos, again controlled the ball with his chest, again flicked the ball over a defender — who desperately tried to bring him down…

… before producing another of his classic finishes, again with his head over the ball, dipping the shot down underneath the goalkeeper.

After Mario Zagallo added the fourth and Sweden got one back, Pele completed the scoring in stoppage time with a header.

Pele was outstanding in the air, primarily because he boasted such an impressive leap. He was only 5ft 8in, yet would score a huge number of headers throughout his career, particularly for someone who played as a No 10 rather than a No 9. Almost all his headed contributions came when hanging wide at the far post on the right and receiving a cross from the left.

But footage from the final often only shows the finish itself. That, sadly, omits what Pele did beforehand. Yet again he received the ball with his chest, glanced over his shoulder to check the position of the defender, before bringing his right foot in front of his left and backheeling the ball through to Zagallo, who provided the cross.

That backheel was, in the context of 1950s football, in the context of a World Cup final, a wondrous piece of skill that even Pele often forgot about when later recalling the goal.

Sigge Parling, the defender who had marked Pele in the final, said, “After the fifth goal, even I wanted to cheer for him.” The Brazilian side lifted the trophy and then conducted a lap of honour — not with their own flag, but with that of the host nation, thanking the Swedes for their generosity and sportsmanship.

This was a marked contrast to the scenes after the previous two finals. The 1950 final was treated as a national disaster in Brazil, while the 1954 final, an ugly game where West Germany defeated Hungary in atrocious weather conditions, was dominated by controversy about refereeing decisions, and the fact Ferenc Puskas was still suffering from an ankle injury sustained by a German defender earlier in the competition.

In 1958, though, the world fell in love with Pele.

An unknown in 1958, by the 1962 World Cup he was a global superstar. That status wasn’t enough to get him out of doing military service, however, and therefore in a period of a few months Pele represented five teams: Brazil, Santos, a representative state side, the army national team and his barracks team. Unsurprisingly, this caused physical issues, and Pele developed a persistent groin strain that he attributed to playing too many games.

Brazil started the 1962 World Cup with a battling 2-0 win over Mexico, with Pele assisting Mario Zagallo for a headed opener and then scoring his most underrated World Cup goal, when he essentially outwitted five opponents.

Receiving the ball on the right flank, he knocked the ball past one defender and ran around a second to reach the ball before a third defender, before simply surging past another opponent and belting the ball home with his left foot before a fifth defender could intervene.

It’s a clip barely ever shown on television, which only underlines quite how many remarkable World Cup moments Pele contributed.

In Brazil’s second game, a 0-0 draw with Czechoslovakia, Pele struck a dipping left-footed strike from range, which the goalkeeper parried — and as Pele attempted to get on the end of the rebound, he pulled his groin. With no substitutes allowed in those days, he was forced to soldier on.

At this point, the standard procedure in 1960s football would be for the opposition to kick Pele out of the game. Notably, they didn’t — and in much the same manner that modern-day defenders seem genuinely apologetic when fouling Lionel Messi, the Czechs didn’t go in for the kill.

“I felt as though I was handed a lifeline by the generosity and spirit of the Czech players,” Pele later said. “They could see I was suffering, but rather than exploiting that weakness and seeing me off the pitch for the rest of the game, perhaps even permanently, they chose to gently neutralise me. That’s the definition of fair play… that experience with the Czech players was really moving.”

But that was the end of Pele’s tournament. He sat out the next three games, intending to return for the final, before pulling up in a training session just beforehand. A distraught Pele wanted to return to Brazil, but the management convinced him to stay to make Brazil’s starting XI less predictable for their opponents — who, once again, were Czechoslovakia.

Brazil retained the World Cup, with Amarildo as Pele’s replacement, Vava becoming the first man to score in two World Cup finals, but right-winger Garrincha the true star. Pele had earned a second World Cup winners’ medal.

Pele hugs a team-mate after missing the final through injury (Photo: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Despite two World Cup successes, in some ways Pele’s life had barely changed — he still lived with his brother, briefly of Santos, and several other team-mates in a shared house in Sao Paulo.

Brazil went into the 1966 World Cup in England as overwhelming favourites, but complacency and poor preparation hampered their performance and they dramatically exited in the group stage.

Brazil arrived in England as the favourites (Photo: Len Trievnor/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Pele did score in their opener against Bulgaria, a blasted free-kick — although it wasn’t even the best Brazilian free-kick of that game, as the wonderful Garrincha scored a memorable outside-of-the-boot swerving effort into the top corner. It was the last time the two legendary attackers would play together.

Pele’s World Cup, though, is remembered primarily for the physical treatment he suffered, and Bulgarian defender Dobromir Zhechev was particularly aggressive. “He seemed to mistake my ankles for the ball,” Pele wryly observed.

Pele after being fouled by Bulgaria (Photo: PA Images via Getty Images)

But this was relatively common practice. “I think every team will take care of him in the same manner,” offered Hungary boss Lajos Baroti by way of defence. That proved prescient.

A hobbling Pele was rested for the second group game against Hungary. Brazil lost — and then, in the final group game against a Portugal side coached by the legendary Brazilian Otto Gloria, Brazil lost again. Pele was back in the side but clearly well short of full fitness, exacerbated by the fact that he was again kicked out of the game, particularly by Joao Morais, who hacked him down twice in one move.

Pele had to be carried from the pitch — again, no substitutes were permitted — and returned to limp around for the final hour, still surprisingly effective despite his obvious limitations.

(Photo: PA Images via Getty Images)

Brazil were eliminated and Pele was so furious by the failure of referees to penalise foul play that he announced his international retirement. “The games were a revelation to me in their unsportsmanlike conduct and weak refereeing,” he later explained. He suggested there was a conspiracy from FIFA president Stanley Rous to have Brazil eliminated from the tournament, to the benefit of Rous’ home country, England.

It was certainly true that the 1966 World Cup was dominated by physicality and strength rather than finesse and technique. That wasn’t for Pele.

For two years Pele kept his word and stayed away from the national side. He focused on Santos, whom he believes peaked in 1968 — they were renowned for their attacking football and their spirit of fair play, in stark contrast with the physical football which was increasingly dominating both the club and international game.

But then Pele had a change of heart, frustrated he’d played in three World Cups without being able to complete them because of physical issues. He’d missed the first two matches in 1958 through injury, the final four matches in 1962 because of injury, and was kicked out of the game in both matches he played in 1966. He’d won two winners’ medals and had scored in all three tournaments. But he was determined to truly dominate a World Cup.

So in 1970, that’s what he did.

Brazil’s preparation for the tournament was, by 1970 standards, extremely advanced. They stayed in Mexico for three weeks before the tournament to adjust to the altitude and manufactured revolutionary kits that didn’t accumulate sweat. Mario Zagallo, with whom Pele had combined excellently in his first two World Cups, was now the manager.

And Pele’s opening goal of the tournament against Czechoslovakia was a throwback to the legendary one Zagallo had assisted for him in the 1958 final — a deep left-footed cross towards the right of the box, which Pele typically brought down with an outstanding leap and perfect chest control, before lashing it home.

(Photo: Allan Olley & Monte Fresco/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

He had now scored in four World Cups, a feat that West Germany’s Uwe Seeler also achieved on the same day when he scored against Morocco.

But Pele’s historic goal was actually overshadowed by one he didn’t score — when he famously shot from inside his own half, only for the ball to drop inches wide of the goal.

This was not an entirely improvised move — Pele had previously noticed that Ivo Viktor, the impressive goalkeeper who would later finish third in the Ballon d’Or voting in 1976, had a tendency to position himself a long way off his line. Pele had looked up and checked his positioning a couple of times beforehand and turned down the opportunity to shoot.

This time he went for it and was inches away from the most famous World Cup goal of all. In a post-Beckham world, and with the internet offering us thousands of goals every weekend, we’ve become a little blase about goals from the halfway line.

But this would have been the first time anyone watching had ever seen anything like this, which is why that near-miss remained such a major part of Pele’s legacy.

Amazingly, it arguably wasn’t even Pele’s most famous near-miss of the tournament. And that’s not even a reference to Gordon Banks’ famous save from Pele’s header in the next group game — another reminder of how Pele was such a tremendous aerial force despite his slight stature. Brazil defeated England, the world champions, 1-0.

Brazil then confidently defeated Romania 3-2 to top the group with eight goals. Pele scored twice in that game, in completely different situations. The first was another blasted free-kick, reminiscent of his sole goal from the 1966 tournament, and the second a good poacher’s effort.

Next came two knockout victories over fellow South American opponents, 4-2 against Peru and then 3-1 against Uruguay. They couldn’t have been more different in style: the quarter-final was a thrilling end-to-end contest. Pele didn’t score, but he hit the post twice (the first time after having yet again brought down a long pass with wonderful chest control) and later produced a wonderful side-footed chip that dropped just wide. He also created a goal for Tostao.

The semi-final was as expected: Brazilian flair against Uruguayan physicality, with the favourites running out 3-1 winners. Pele played a lovely disguised backheel in the build-up to the second, scored by Jairzinho, and then assisted Rivelino for the third.

Then came Pele’s second — or third, if you count the Banks save — legendary miss of this tournament.

As the game went into stoppage time, Brazil charged forward and Tostao played the ball in behind for Pele — perhaps slightly overhit — which invited Pele to throw an outrageous dummy to take Ladislao Mazurkiewicz out of the equation, before running past him, putting the brakes on and turning to collect the ball, before dragging a shot just wide of the far post, with the goal gaping.

“I sometimes dream about both of them hitting the net,” Pele later admitted. “I didn’t attempt those shots thinking about how they would look, though.” Like all the greats, Pele’s trickery was for a purpose.

Speaking to The Athletic last year, the former Brazil centre-back Roque Junior said: “He scored so many goals, but I will always remember that famous one he didn’t score, when he let the ball run past the goalkeeper (against Czechoslovakia in 1970 World Cup.) That was emblematic of his genius. He’s the best player in the history of football. He set a standard that no one has matched since. The fact he was Brazilian was just a bonus.”

And then came the 1970 final for Pele and Brazil, surely still the most celebrated team display of all time. Brazil destroyed a defensive, physical Italian side, with Pele at the heart of everything.

He opened the scoring with another trademark header, beating the ultra-physical Tarcisio Burgnich in the air courtesy of his wonderful spring, and powering a header home.

Rosana, a left-back who made 112 appearances for Brazil women’s team, told The Athletic: “I always think about his goal against Italy in 1970, when a cross came in and he jumped up to an absurd height to head it. It was fantastic, so athletic, and the technique was perfect. That was Pele.”

Pele beat the same defender Burgnich to put the ball in the net a second time, although the referee had adjudged him to have fouled Burgnich. Considering how often the reverse was true throughout this game, it felt somewhat ironic.

(Photo: Mario De Biasi/Mondadori via Getty Images)

After Italy equalized, Gerson scored a long-range thunderbolt to restore Brazil’s lead. Then Pele rounded things off with two assists. The second is more famous, but the first was arguably more stereotypical — yet again, it came from a high ball to the far post, where Pele had pulled off Burgnich to nod the ball across for Jairzinho to bundle the ball home.

Then came the crowning glory, a goal that looks — in isolation — like a fairly standard team move played at walking pace, but in the context of the match overall is the epitome of icing on the cake. Brazil played wonderful football throughout that final, their elegant passing leaving Italy exhausted in the Mexico City heat — the game, incredibly, kicked off at midday. It was, as Brian Glanville wrote, “a marvellous affirmation of what could still be done with attacking football, a splendid reassurance that cynicism, caution and negativity had not, after all, gained a stranglehold on football”.

The fourth goal, like much of Brazil’s fantastic football at this World Cup, wasn’t based upon spontaneity but upon a pre-decided tactical plan. Brazil knew that Italy captain Giacinto Facchetti, the outstanding left-back of his generation, would man-mark right-winger Jairzinho, and therefore tasked him with drifting inside and opening up space on the outside for the onrushing Carlos Alberto. Brazil would switch the play to him making late runs.

In fact, go back to the quarter-final and Brazil nearly scored the same goal against Peru. On that occasion, the shot was blocked.

This time around it worked perfectly. Note that when Pele receives the ball, Tostao, the centre-forward, is directing the play and pointing to the space Alberto is about to sprint into.

(Photo: Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images)

In truth, Pele probably knew what to do anyway. Not that anyone officially recorded assists back in 1970 but that was Pele’s sixth of the tournament — a record that stands today.

More importantly, in terms of the record books, Brazil became the first nation to win the tournament for a third time — and therefore they were allowed to keep the original Jules Rimet trophy forever, as had been stipulated in 1930 by Rimet, the competition’s originator. A new trophy was commissioned by FIFA ahead of the 1974 World Cup.

If the nation that won the World Cup three times were allowed to keep the trophy, surely the only man to have won the World Cup three times deserves something comparable. The new trophy remains known as the rather bland “FIFA World Cup Trophy”. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to rename it after the greatest World Cup player of all, Pele.

(Additional contributor: Jack Lang)

(Top photos: Getty Images/Design: Sam Richardson)

FIFA World Cup 2022 Live Stream –


Julian Nagelsmann set to be sacked as Bayern Munich head coach with Thomas Tuchel to be appointed – Sky Sports




Continue Reading


Arsenal v United: Kit details confirmed – Man Utd




Aesport.TV – Live Football Streaming HD

Football News – Man United News Highlights

source – Watch Man United F.C Live Match News

<p>The post Arsenal v United: Kit details confirmed – Man Utd first appeared on GoroLive.</p>

Aesport.TV – Watch Live Matches Today

Continue Reading


Who won the 2022 FIFA World Cup? Final score, result and highlights from Qatar title decider – Sporting News



By – Watch FIFA 2022 World Cup Live Stream Online

Who won the 2022 FIFA World Cup? Final score, result and highlights from Qatar title decider  Sporting News
FIFA World Cup 2022 Live Stream –

Continue Reading