Pele, The Greatest Player Ever Or The Most Overrated Player Of All Time?

Published: 11th May 2011
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An article about how in my opinion Pele is the most overrated player ever to play the sport of football.





Many will say Pele (also known as Edison "Edson" Arantes do Nascimento) is the greatest football player of all time yet I ask myself on what are those who claim this basing their opinion on? Goals, yes it is true that Pele scored more goals than any other player in history. As he scored 1281 goals in 1363 games yet when we consider this statistic which does not tell us the whole story; we must consider several factors. First one being that this figure includes about 200 or perhaps even more goals which Pele scored in both exhibition games (some of which against amateur teams) as well as the ones he scored while serving in the Brazilian military. Second one being that Pele played most of his career in the Brazilian league and though few, if any would say that this is not a very competitive league; it is one in which defense is almost completely ignored in favor of attack.





This naturally making it much easier for a player to score goals in Brazil than it would be in Italy, for instance where teams focus more on defensive play; specially in those days. A third factor would be that Pele also played in a time when the game of football, in general was more open; as teams played with as many as five forwards going up against two defenders. We could also take in to account that Eusťbio scored 733 goals in 745 games which is also an incredible feat while Gerdhard (Gerd) Muller scored 68 goals in 62 games for West Germany and 498 goals in 565 games for the three clubs he played for. Naturally taking in to consideration that goals scored in military duty and exhibition matches were not added to either Mullerís nor Eusebioís tally.





I for my part would like to ask the question if we can truly base the quality of a player on goals alone? For example in basketball, both Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone scored more points than Michael Jordan but does this mean they were necessarily better than he was just because of this statistic? Of course I am not claiming that goals scored has no meaning yet can we say that it is the only factor which should determine who was the best? Naturally if such a thing can ever really be completely established.





Another factor which in my opinion can not be ignored when taking in to consideration where Pele stands amongst the greatest players of all time, is that he played at a time when the game was definitely and clearly a lot slower. It even seeming as if games played back in the late 50s and 60s (Peleís era) were played in slow motion, specially in comparison to todayís game.





Of course technique being another aspect which has also developed beyond all comparison. It being a case that in Peleís time, the ability to bounce the ball several times on oneís knees, chest, head, shoulders and feet was considered extraordinary while today; it is something which can be done by any professional player in any league and even several of the women players. This being sort of like Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics, who in his day could dribble the ball between his legs and pass the ball behind his back which at the time was considered revolutionary yet now a days in the NBA has become standard.





Another factor to be considered in all this is that in those days, teams for the most part did not have much in the way of strategy. As teams went out on the field in the hope that their talent or that of their individual players would suffice to win. This meaning that they basically did not make plans on how to stop a particular player like they would do many years later in the case of Maradona. Maradona being in fact a player whom coaches and players a like would watch video tapes of in the hope of spotting a weakness which could be exploited during the match. This being unheard of in Peleís time.





Another factor with regards to Pele which many will often refer to is that he won three world cups and in fact is the only player till this day to have done so yet I ask "what does it really mean to win a world cup in team sports?". Does it merely mean to be on the team which ends up winning the title? This though one was not one of the main contributors to the team or did not even actually get to play? Again I say that this to a large extent depends on the individualís point of view who is answering the question yet the situation was as follows.





In 1962 Brazil won the world cup in Chile yet Pele only played in Brazilís first two games and did not return for the rest of the tournament. This meaning that he not only missed the final but he also missed the semifinal, quarterfinals and Brazilís last game in the first round. Pele as a matter of fact not even completing Brazilís second game in which he left injured. This in spite of not being fouled or touched in any way by the opposing team which on that occasion was Czechoslovakia.





I however in all this believe that one of the reasons Pele is considered by many to have been the greatest players of all time is that if one thinks over the matter carefully; he was one of the first players many people actually saw play in a world cup. Of course the first world cup was played in Uruguay in 1930 but lets be honest about this. How many people actually saw this world cup? It being a case that in those days due to slow transportation and cost of traveling, people did not travel by the thousands to see a world cup like they do today. Of course also taking in to account that even many European countries such as Germany and Italy did not make the trip; claiming travel costs as part of their reason. All of which meaning that the first world cup was seen by relatively few live spectators at a time when the games were not televised all over the world like the are today and the only footage we have of the matches is so unclear (black and white) that it is hard to even see anything let alone appreciate the action. Of course there were great players in that world cup like Castro, Cea Stabile and others but how many people really got to see them play? Naturally, we can read the statistics along with what they did in the matches they played in but that hardly tells us how good they were or allow us to appreciate their true skills.





In 34 the world cup was played in Italy with almost none of the players who played in Uruguay coming back. This meaning that they did not get a chance to show their talents a second time. It being a case that Uruguay chose not to play in Italy because Italy did not play in Uruguay and Argentina having problems with their players from 1930; was forced to use completely new players who were eliminated in the first game.





The world cup in 34 however like the one in 30 also had great players and plays yet again very few people saw them given that this was before such matches were televised all over the world. This meaning that very few got a chance to actually see the great players of that era play and were limited to just reading about them in newspapers and again with footage being most unclear. The world cup France 38 was not all that much different. Once again South American teams did not participate (Brazil being the sole exception) and again the games only being seen by those who actually attended them with footage being such that one could barely see anything but the ball ending up in the net and little else that occurred before. All of which meaning that great performances or what must have been such were basically lost and will probably never be seen.





It was at this point that World War II interrupted the world cups which were not held again till 1950 yet again the same thing occurred that the world was looking at completely knew players. As 12 years had gone by since the last world cup. Uruguay went on to win the world cup in 1950 by defeating Brazil in the last game. This game not really being a final.


Uruguay having great players at the time like Varella, Schiaffino, Ghiggia and Miguez. Brazilís Ademir being the high goal scorer of that particular world cup yet again the games were not televised and footage of the games or what little of it is available, is unclear; not even taken from good angles which allow one to see what really happened.





The world cup in 54 was pretty much the same and once again, very few players actually got to play more than one world cup for many reasons. These ranging from World War II to their countries not participating in the world cup for reasons not even connected to football. This being the case with European teams not choosing to play in Uruguay 30 while South American teams chose not to play in Italy 34 and France 38. European teams naturally in this period of time had been weakened by World War II as it had cost them at least a whole generation of those who might have been great football players. This applying specially to those countries which had been more heavily involved in the war and by virtue of which had lost more men such as Britain, Germany, Italy, Soviet Union along with many others. Naturally with regards to South America, World War II did not play such a factor as South American nations for the most part either did not participate in the war and those that did had but very limited roles.





By the time the world cup came in 1958 which was hosted in Sweden, football had become a game of almost total offense in which teams could almost score at will. It perhaps seeming unbelievable to some now a days, how in the previous world cup (Switzerland 54) 140 goals were scored; out of which only seven were from the penalty spot. The record of 140 goals in a world cup would eventually be broken in Spain 82 yet the goals per match is one I honestly believe never will be. It being a truly amazing 5.38 goals per game which were scored in what I can only imagine must have been a festival of goals in which teams must have completely ignored defensive concepts.





During this world cup, Hungary despite not winning the tournament scored an incredible 27 goals in 5 games. This a record which I truly doubt will ever be broken and this in spite of teams now a days playing seven games or at least those that get as far as the semifinal. Hungaryís "Kocsis" with 11 goals also setting the record for most goals scored by a single player in a world cup and this again despite only playing 5 games. This record however would be broken in Sweden 58 by Franceís Fontaine, who scored 13 goals yet his came in 6 matches. Another record which was set in Switzerland 54 was for most goals in a single game which came when Austria defeated Switzerland by 7-5 which in and of itself is amazing yet what is perhaps more incredible was that Austria even missed a penalty during the match.





It is easy or at least it is in my opinion, to see why back then the game was almost completely different than it is today. It being a time when teams had no fear of loosing and defensive play was basically ignored; as teams played with four or five forwards going up against two defenders. In all this another factor is important that prior to Sweden 58 games were not really televised yet it was in this particular world cup that games started being shown on television through out the world or at least in those countries that followed football.





Of course in all this, it is also significant to point out that till the late 50s many people through out the world could not afford a television set yet it was at about this time that their prices dropped to where many who were not necessarily affluent could at least own a set. This naturally making it possible for many to see the great games and players of the time. This as opposed to simply reading about them in the newspapers or seeing them in film clips which were not only short but unclear and taken from angles from which very little could really be appreciated.





Brazil in Sweden 58 truly presented an extraordinaire team with players the likes of Vava, Didi (known for his unique style of curling free kicks), Zagalo, Nilton Santos and Mazola (named after the Italian player of the time). Of course, Brazil also had Pele and Garrincha on this team yet they were not starters or at least not at the start of the tournament. It being Pele who was considered too young while Garrincha was thought to be not serious enough as a player. Many having the impression that he did not take the field to win but simply to enjoy himself with his dribbling skills.





As for the rest of the teams, Hungary had been great in the previous world cup yet due to the failed uprising of 56, many of their greatest players such as Puskas, Kocsis and Toth defected to the west and were not eligible to return to their own country; much less play for it in a world cup. This meaning that Hungary basically was forced to play with a completely new set of players who did not posses any where near the talent as those greats of the 54 team.





Germany had won the previous world cup yet were basically less motivated after having become champions and older. Fritz Walter having gone in to retirement yet was asked to come back and play despite being 38 years old at the time. Rahn had been crucial in their winning campaign of 54 yet was like many of the players on Germanyís 58 squad; past his prime.





Argentina had a great team at the start of the 50s which had given them several wins in the Copa America (South Americaís version of the European Cup Of Nations) yet many of their players were basically old. Uruguay, for its part failed to even qualify and this in spite of having won two world cups and having reached the semifinal in another of the five world cups which had been played up and till that point. This being more remarkable considering that they had only participated in three of those five world cups.





The tournament started with Brazil wining their first match by a comfortable 3-0 margin over Austria, who in fact had come in third in the previous world cup yet this for some reason failed to impress the fans back home. Mazola for his part scored two of Brazilís three goals while the third was scored by Nilton Santos yet despite scoring two goals; Mazola according to many was not living up to expectations. All of which leading me to ask how much does a player have to do to please people in Brazil?





Brazilís next match came against England which ended in a 0-0 draw. This as a matter of fact, being the first match in world cup history to end in a goalless draw. It being this poor result or that which was seen as such at the time which led to changes being made in Brazilís lineup by their coach. It being the players who basically took matters in their own hands and insisted that Pele and Garrincha be placed on the starting team. This meaning that Mazola (who strangely enough only spelt his name with one z as opposed to the Italian way which is with two) was left out of the team for reasons which in my opinion are strange; specially since he was Brazilís top scorer at the time. Mazola however would go on to score 216 goals in Italyís "Seria A". This a total which till this day leaves him tied for third place with Giuseppe Meazza on the all time scoring list in the Serie A . Furthermore Mazola would go to play for Italy in the 1962 world cup in Chile.





Brazilís next game was against the Soviet Union whom they defeated by 2-0 with both goals being scored by Vava. This being a player who in my opinion does not always get the credit he earned for being a truly gifted striker; who in two world cups scored 9 goals. Vava even being the first player to score in two world cup finals. In this game neither Pele nor Garrincha scored yet both made a favorable impression which allowed them to keep their starting places for Brazilís quarterfinal encounter with Wales. Peleís playing being considered perhaps more impressive given that he was only 17 years of age at the time and the youngest ever to have played in a world cup up and till that point. This something unheard of at the time for somebody that young to even be on a national team playing in the world cup much less to actually get to go on the field and play.





Twenty years later Maradona would be left out Argentinaís world cup winning team by their coach Menotti, who felt that 17 was simply too young to be on a world cup team. Of course even if Maradona had been on the team it is doubtful that he would have played yet could have at least claimed to be on the team that won that world cup. This being what later on would be the case with Ronaldo, who in USA 94 was also just 17 years of age yet despite this; was on Brazilís world cup winning team though he did not get to play in any of their matches.





Brazilís next match came against Wales, whom they were heavily favorites to beat yet despite being the clear underdogs the Welch played well. Brazil only being able to defeat them by 1-0 with a goal by Pele which did not come till the 66th minute mark of the game. This making Pele, the youngest player to ever score a goal in world cup history. It is hard to say that this was a brilliant performance by Brazil and Pele against a team as weak as Wales yet despite what could be considered a lack luster performance; Brazil made its way in to their third semifinal in six world cups.





Brazilís next rival would be France, whose Just Fontaine had scored 8 goals in only four games. This was seen by many as the final or at least the match which should have been the final. The game started as it promised with Vava scoring first for Brazil just 2 minutes in to the game only to see Fontaine level matters for France at one a piece just 7 minutes later. The game was definitely shaping up to be a classic yet it was sometime after Franceís equalizing goal that disaster struck for France. This in the form of one of their defenders having to be taken off the field due to injury. Of course in analyzing this we must not forget that in those days teams were not allowed to substitute players and that they only played with two defenders.





It did not take long for France, who was playing with 10 men and without one of their two defenders to go down in the score board once again. Brazilís goal coming at the 39 minute mark of the game when Didi found the back of the French net to give Brazil a lead which they would not relinquish through out the remainder of the match. Brazil at this point was winning and clearly dominating with France struggling to compensate for their numerical disadvantage.





The second half got underway with Brazil clearly in command and looking to increase their lead which they did when Pele scored at the 52 minute mark; to make the score 3-1 which pretty much settled things in Brazilís favor. Pele however would score again at the 64 and 75 minute mark of the game to raise his total to three goals for the match and four for the tournament; thus also becoming the youngest player ever to score a hat trick in a world cup. This to a certain extent being impressive with regards to statistics. I however believe that numbers do not always tell us the whole story. It being that one of these goals was basically an easy tap in from a cross by Garrincha which the French goalkeeper dove for yet only managed to slow down just so that Pele was left with but the task of putting the ball in to an open net from literally tree meters from the goal line. Of course, it also being against a team which was all too well aware of the fact that chances were that they were not going to win this game.





Naturally, one could say Pele did score three goals in one game yet this was in a world cup in which many players managed to score two or three goals in a game. Fontaine, even managing four against Germany in the match for third place. It perhaps being impressive not so much that Pele scored three goals in a game but that he did it so at such a young age. This sort of being like Mozart, whose compositions as a child were not exceptional in any way apart from having been composed by somebody so young.





Brazil went on to play the final against Sweden, in a match in which very few gave the host nation any real chance of being able to defeat Brazil yet it would not have been the first time that Brazil lost a final in which it was heavily favorite to win. Many Brazilians still remembering what happened in the Maracana in 1950 yet this was highly unlikely to happen again though it was always a possibility.





Sweden, for its part had gotten to the final by beating Germany by 3-1 in a highly controversial game in which several bad calls by the Hungarian referee; Zsolt went their way. Zsolt perhaps getting a bit of revenge for Hungary on Germany for Puskasís goal in the final of Switzerland 54 which was unjustly ruled to have been on off sides. Despite or perhaps because of this factor however Sweden went on to defeat Germany in a game also noted for a most vicious foul on F. Walter which effectively took him out of the game.





The final between Brazil and Sweden got underway surprisingly enough with Sweden drawing first blood when just four minutes in the match, Liedholm gave them the lead. As a footnote, I would like to add that Liedholm at the age of 35 became and still is the oldest player ever to score a goal in a final. At this point perhaps some of the doubts might have crept back in to the minds of several Brazilians along with memories of past world cup failures yet this was a team which was solid through and through. It being such that in my opinion Pele was but another great player on this formidable team.





Brazil however did not take long in putting matters level at 1 a piece. Brazilís equalizer coming at the 9 minute mark of the game when Vava once again scored for Brazil. The game was tied at one a piece and ten minutes had not even gone by. This game being similar to their previous match with France. Brazil at this point was clearly dominating and showing that Swedenís early goal had been but a fluke which had only managed to momentarily catch them of their guard.





Naturally with such domination Brazil was bound to take the lead which they did and did not relinquish through out the rest of the match. It coming when once again Vava scored 32 minutes in to the match. At half time Brazil was up by 2-1 yet the only thing that was surprising about this score was that Brazil had not scored more goals and that Sweden was still in the match.





It was at the 55 minute mark however that Pele made history by increasing the score in Brazilís favor to 3-1 as well as both becoming the youngest player ever to score in a world cup final along with putting the competitive part of this match to an end. Peleís goal in my opinion had nothing sensational about it yet in the minds of many, it was seen as a superb goal perhaps because it had been the work of a 17 year old. I, for my part can only imagine what Maradona would have done had he been allowed to play for Argentina in 78 yet it was not to be. As for the goal itself, Pele found himself in the penalty box where he spent most of his time in a similar way to Ronaldo many years later. It being there were he received a pass and ran into Swedenís Gustavsson. This making the ball go straight up in the air and fall just right (in what I would consider to be a fortunate bounce) for Pele to hit in for a goal just four meters from the Swedish goal line. It was to a certain extent a spectacular goal yet I hardly consider it one which required great skill. As the ball, as it tends to do in football bounced Peleís way and just as easily as it bounced that way; it might have done so in another.





Peleís goal however did pretty much settle matters as to who would be world champion as even the Swedish crowd gave up hope. It was then that Zagalo added a fourth for Brazil at 68 minute mark of the game which made matters even more evident as to who was going to win the game. Sweden however made the score a bit more respectable when Simonsson scored 12 minutes after Zagaloís goal yet this did little to change anything. The game at that point was clearly over with Brazil leading by 4-2 and though Sweden had just gotten one back. I donít think anybody was of such an optimistic mind in Sweden as to believe that in the remaining 10 minutes; they might score the two goals which would have tied the game and sent it in to overtime.





Brazil was clearly the champ and it was just as the match was about to be concluded by the referee that Pele scored one more goal in what in fact was the 90th minute of the match; to make the final score 5-2. This coming off a perfect center which Pele had to but tap the ball in with his head over Swedenís goalkeeper; who was caught between coming out and meeting the cross or staying in his goal.





Brazil did win the world cup, this there were no doubts about and Pele did win it with them and all at the tender age of 17 yet to a large extent, he had been but a part of a great team which was definitely one of the best ever to play in a world cup. Of course, Pele did score six goals in four games but this again was nothing all that spectacular considering that Fontaine with just two more games ended up with 13 goals (a record which still stands) for the tournament. All in a tournament in which 126 goals were scored in only 35 matches and though neither the amount of goals nor the average were as high as they had been in 54; it was still a very offense minded world cup. I believing that the reason the amount of overall goals went down being not so much because play became more defensive in any way but because of the decline in Hungaryís ability to score goals as well as there not being such a high scoring match as was Austria Vs Switzerland. As proof of this, we could mention the scoring records which were set in this world cup from Fontaineís 13 goals in one single world cup to the seven goals scored in the final. The game for third place also setting a record for such a match with 9 goals which yielded a score of 6-3 in Franceís favor against Germany.








Peleís first world cup undoubtedly was a great success. As how else can one describe being second in goals scored (tied with Germanyís Rahn) with six and having been on the team which won the world cup and all at the age of 17 yet to a large extent; he had been an unknown when the world cup began. Pele not even having started in a game till Brazilís third match. All of which leading me to believe that perhaps other teams did not consider him to be such a threat and focused more on stopping Brazilís more established players like Didi,Santos,Vava and Zagalo. Pele also having Garrincha who seemed to have an ability to set up goals as if they were gifts just wrapped for the taking.





Pele as can be expected came back to play with Brazil in the 1962 World Cup which was played in Chile. This time however Pele was much more known to the fans as well as opposing players; who were not really all that eager to see him score another six goals or perhaps more in this world cup. Brazil were defending champions with basically the same players which won the world cup in 58 and who despite the passage of four years were still relatively young. All of which making it easy to see why a second world cup for Brazil in as many tournaments was not out of the realms of realistic possibilities. Specially since there were no other teams which were really strong enough to challenge them. Germany going through a rebuilding period while Italy still did not have the sort of team which could aspire to recapture their glory days of the 30s. Uruguay pretty much being but a shadow of their former selves.





The world cup known as Chile 62 however become a very defensive affair as teams were no longer willing to score as many as three goals or more in loosing efforts as had been the case in Switzerland 54 and Sweden 58. Teams became more eager to hold on to their leads once they had them and not risk them by going forward for more goals. This making most teams play with four defenders and only three forwards where before it had been with two defenders and five forwards.





Brazil for its part got off to what looking back might have been considered a good start in beating Mexico by 2-0 with Pele scoring Brazilís first goal yet despite this victory; Brazil was severely criticized with much of the blame falling not only on their performance but on Pele. This despite Peleís having scored one of Brazilís two goals. This perhaps allowing Pele to see for himself what Mazola had experienced four years earlier when despite having scored two goals in Brazilís first match; still had people saying he should not be on Brazilís team. It being a case that Brazilian fans in those days were used to seeing Brazil beat Mexico by much more goals than only two. Brazil, after all had beaten Mexico by 5-0 in Brazil 50 and by 4-0 in Switzerland 54. All of which standing to their reason that a defending world champion should be able to beat Mexico, once again by at least as wide a margin as their teams in the past had done if not by a wider one.





Brazilís next game came against Czechoslovakia. This a match which ended in a 0-0 draw and with even more criticism aimed at Brazil by their fans and media back home. It was also in this match that Pele left the field injured not to return for the rest of the tournament. Pele had not even been touched by any of Czechoslovakiaís players yet despite this managed to do damage on himself which would take him out of the remainder of the world cup.





For my part, I being skeptical about almost everything, wonder if Peleís injury was such that he could not have played Brazilís next game against Spain. Pele after all had not broken anything and had not even been fouled. Was it perhaps an attempt to try another player? Pele had not really played all that well in Brazilís first two matches or such it was perceived by the fans and the media back home. So I often wonder if perhaps Brazilís trainer did not exaggerate the gravity of Peleís injury in order to try another player in his place like he had done with Pele in Mazolaís place four years earlier. It being Amarildo who took Peleís place against Spain in a game which though not an absolute must win game for Brazil; was one in which they would have to do better than they had in their first two matches. This if perhaps not to qualify, at least to demonstrate to their fans that they were still a team capable of producing great football.





The game started with Spain taking a 1-0 lead when Adelardo scored 35 minutes in to the game. Spain would even take a 1-0 lead in to the second half. This something which had not happened in a very long that that Brazil ended the first half behind on the scoreboard. Brazil at this point even finding themselves in danger of being eliminated in the first round. This being the case that Spain with a win would have had four points which would have put them first in the group. Brazil with a loss would have had three points which would leave them depending on what Mexico (who was already out of the competition) could do against Czechoslovakia. Naturally a Czech victory or even a tie would have left Brazil out had they lost.





All however proved to be academic, as Brazil came back in the second half to win the game by two goals to one with both goals being scored by Amarildo; who just happened to be the man playing in Peleís place. Obviously Peleís replacement was doing his duty so I wonder if Pele would have been able to return to the starting team even if he had been healthy or if his injury was such that it was the real reason he was kept out of the starting lineup.





Amarildo had played well against Spain, this there was no doubts about and specially in a world cup in which defensive play was the order of the day unlike it had been in the last two previous world cups. Spain, in fact having a strong team back then which two years later went on to win the European nations cup.





Brazil went on to win their next two matches with relative ease. First against England by 3-1. This in a game which Garrincha scored two truly amazing goals. First one off a header and the next one of a free kick which could not have been better placed. Brazilís other goal being scored by Vava, who continued where he left off in Sweden 58. Brazilís next win came in the semifinals against the home team, Chile whom they defeated by a score of 4-2 with once again; Garrincha and Vava doing the scoring for Brazil. It being Garrincha who scored Brazilís first two while Vava scored Brazilís third and fourth.





Brazil was clearly playing well and was in top form and all without Pele. It was a case of this team being of such a high quality that even the absence of Pele did not disturb anything. Apparently Amarildo had been more than capable of filling the void left by Pele while the rest by just keeping up their level allowed Brazil to easily get in to the final. Of course, one could always say that this world cup did not really have very strong teams and those which were in fact solid such as the Soviet Union (winner of the 1960 European Championship) and Hungary did not really live up to expectations; apart the fact that Brazil did not have to face them anyway. Brazil was in the finals however and to their credit deservedly so and all without the man who many would later call the best player of all time.





In the finals Brazil met Czechoslovakia for the second time in the tournament yet unlike in their first match; this one could not end in a draw. Czechoslovakia, for its part like Sweden four years earlier also scored the first goal though not as early in the match as Sweden. Czechoslovakia in fact having to wait till the 15th minute of the game when Masopust slipped past Brazilís defense to give his team a 1-0 lead. Brazil however being the solid team they were did not take long to reply. Brazil in fact having to wait but two minutes till Amarildo (Peleís replacement) scored to level matters at one a piece. Amarildo, scoring a brilliant goal from a very tight angle which perhaps Czechoslovakiaís goalkeeper; Schroijf should have saved yet the score none the less was tied at one all.





Czechoslovakia for what concerned them, were playing well and went in to the half time break tied at one though it is my opinion that they perhaps celebrated too much after scoring. This allowing Brazil to get back in to the game after only two minutes of having gone down by a goal to nil. Czechoslovakia had its chances in the first period and had it not been for their lack of concentration after scoring and Schroijfís error perhaps would have gone in to the half time break with a one goal lead or perhaps a two goal lead. This if they had continued with the solid play which had gotten them to the final in the first place.





Brazil however regrouped at the half and came out strong with Zito scoring his first world cup goal and Brazilís second in the final to put them up by 2-1. Brazil perhaps was not dominating as strongly as they had in 58 yet were definitely in the drivers seat. It being in the 78th minute of the game that Garrincha sent up a high ball which in all honesty should not have given Czech goalkeeper, Schroijf any problems what so ever yet he somehow managed to drop it. The ball falling straight in to the path of the ever opportunistic Vava, who scored his first goal of the match and Brazilís third to make the score 3-1; which is how it would end.





This last goal making Vava the first player to score in two finals. Brazil had won the world cup and became just the second team, after Italy to win two in a row and to a certain extent Pele had picked up his second world cup win though in all truth, as I have clearly pointed out; he hardly played. Naturally, to many at the time this did not really matter as Pele was a man who at the age of 21 had already won two world cups even if the second one was just for being on the team and little else. This perhaps making it possible for Argentina to say that Pasarella won two world cups with Argentina, who as a matter of fact only played in their first game against South Korea but I ask is this enough to say he is a double world champion? I would go one step further and ask if Brazil had beaten France in 98 then could Ronaldo claim to have won three world cups as well since he was on their world cup winning team in 94 though did not play at all? This being a matter of interpretation of course.





As an added comment, I would like to say that I feel it is sad that Amarildo did not really get the credit he earned for his performance in Chile 62. It being Amarildo, who to a certain extent with his two goals against Spain saved Brazil from the humiliation of being eliminated in the first round. Amarildo even scoring in the final when Brazil was loosing by 1-0 yet despite his efforts which were important in Brazilís second world cup win, is rarely if ever mentioned amongst the great players of all time though he undoubtedly was.





The next world cup after Chile 62 was England 66 which Brazil entered as the two time defending champion however many of Brazilís great players had retired by the start of the tournament. Amongst these players being Didi, Vava, Zagalo though Pele and Garrincha were still in the team that made the trip to the world cup in England. Pele being 25 at the time and in the what is generally considered the best time in a football playerís career. This being an age in which the player in question still has his physical abilities yet has obtained the experience which only comes from years of playing. Garrincha for his part at 32 was still in good shape yet it was clear to see that this would be his last world cup. Brazil however being the great footballing nation it is had other younger players to fill in the gaps left by those who retired such as Jairzinho, Tostao and Gerson.





Brazil started off well in England 66 which turned out to be an equally defensive affair as Chile 62, by defeating Bulgaria by 2-0 with Pele getting the first of Brazilís goals while the second was scored by Garrincha. Pele in this game did not really play all that well and though he did score off a free kick; his was a shot which the Bulgarian goalkeeper really should have been able to save. Garrinchaís goal and Brazilís second also came off a free kick yet one which was placed in an angle where it would be unfair to blame the goalkeeper. It is also said that Pele was fouled viciously in this game yet after seeing it or part of the game on youtube. I do not see where the fouls committed against Pele were any where near as bad as those commited against Maradona several years later in Spain 82 by Italy or in Italia 90 by Brazil.





Brazilís next match was played against Hungary, who in fact was the last team to defeat them in world cup competition back in Switzerland 54. Brazil went in to the game with Hungary without Pele yet it was not their first game in which Pele did not play for them. They after all, just four years ago had won the world cup almost entirely without Pele so I do not see that this would have made such a big difference had Brazil been playing up to the standards they set in Sweden and Chile. Brazil went on to loose this match to Hungary by a score of 3-1 in a game in which Brazilís lone goal came thanks to Tostao while Hungaryís came courtesy of Bene (just 2 minutes in to the game), Farkas and and Meszoly off a penalty kick. Brazil was out played on this day by a Hungarian team which despite not being what it had been in 54 was able to play very well on offense in a convincing victory over Brazil.





Brazilís lose to Hungary left them in a situation where they needed to win against Portugal to be sure of qualification. A draw not being a guarantee of anything as their fate would then depend on what Bulgaria; who was already out of the tournament could do against Hungary. Hungary in fact having defeated Bulgaria by 6-1 in the previous world cup.





Against Portugal, Brazil did not get off to such a good start as it was Simoes who gave Portugal the lead just 15 minutes in to the game off an Eusebio cross. This in a game which would have left them eliminated even if it had ended in a draw. As the following day Hungary would defeat Bulgaria by 3-1 which gave them four points to what would have been Brazilís 3 while Portugal would have finished the group with 5.





Portugal however had a very good team in 66 and wanted to let Brazil know that they were not going to let them get a draw much less a win even if Portugal had already qualified to the next round by virtue of having won their first two games. Portugal, in fact getting their second goal at the 27 minute mark of the game when Eusebio scored his second goal of the tournament. Brazil had been down before yet this was the first time they were down by two goals in a game in which they absolutely had to win. Brazil at that point with nothing left to loose went forward and in a play which is often replayed, Pele was fouled yet I would say not as badly as Maradona would be fouled several year later in Spain. Pele even having to limp off the field yet contrary to what is often said was able to return and run around the field like he had done before.





Brazil was able to make a game of it when Rildo scored with 20 minutes left in the match, to at least give them a glimmer of hope yet all came to an end when Eusebio; just five minutes from the end of the match scored his second to put Portugal up by 3-1. Brazil was beaten and justifiable so. As they had been clearly out played by Portugal while Pele went about making excuses for himself because he had been fouled once or twice in the match.





Pele even saying he would never again play in a world cup. I however would like to point out that if one looks at the game on youtube, one can see that the fouls against Pele were but a few and nowhere near as brutal as those committed against Maradona in Argentinaís match against Cameroon. This being a game which Argentina lost yet Maradona did not complain or use his being fouled to justify Argentinaís lose. This in contrast to Pele and Brazil, who used this one foul to justify, what had not been so much a weak performance on their part in this world but to hide the fact that they had been beaten by two teams (Hungary and Portugal) who had clearly out played them.





Brazil would go on to use the same strategy against France to justify their 3-0 defeat in the 98 final by claiming that Ronaldo was not fit. This in spite of his not showing any apparent injury during the match. It perhaps being a case of knowing before hand that they would loose and wanting to be ready with an excuse if they did loose. Of course in this we could also ask ourselves how often do teams play with all their players completely injury free with not a single player having any problems? Rarely, I would say yet many teams will not resort to using such tactics to justify loosing such as Italy, who in 94 did not use Baggioís injury against Bulgaria or Baresiís operation during the world cup as a way to justify their defeat to Brazil in the final.





The next world cup was in Mexico, four years later and contrary to his threats Pele returned along with another great team. It including Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson, Carlos Alberto and Rivelinho. Pele for his part was now 29 years old and not as fast as he once had been but yet still kept enough of his quality that he might be useful to his team.





As for Mexico 70, it was a world cup which saw changes being made in the game such as allowing teams to substitute up to two players during the match as well as the first use of yellow and red cards. Mexico 70, also saw the first use of instant replays during the game. This a feature which was not available during the matches which were televised from England 66. Of course to this we can add the fact that by 1970 most people through out the world could afford television sets; most of which by that time even being in color. All of which making Mexico 70 the first world cup which most people got to see live.





In Brazilís first game they defeated Czechoslovakia by a comfortable 4-1 with Pele scoring Brazilís second goal while the other three came courtesy of a Rivelihno free while Jairzinho added two of his own. Czechoslovakia had been clearly out classed in this game and were definitely not the same team which had gotten to the finals just 8 years prior to this world cup yet Brazil impressed many by beating them by three goals. Pele, for his part despite scoring in this game is mostly remembered for a long distance shot he made when Czechoslovakiaís goalkeeper, Viktor was slightly out of position. This long range effort missing the mark not by much yet I hardly see it as anything phenomenal. Specially since many players have scored from long distances against goalkeepers who were either slightly out position or playing too far off their line. This being the case with Romaniaís Haggi who scored a spectacular goal of this nature against Colombia in the 94 world cup.





Brazil next had a harder test against England, the reigning world champions at the time. Brazil and England played each other tightly yet in a match which in my opinion was more conservative. It being as if both teams were sure that it did not matter who won or less, for at the end of it all; they would both qualify to the next round. Brazil and England however despite being played at a leisurely pace and only offering one goal, proved to be entertaining with England hitting the post on one occasion while Brazilís goalkeeper Felix; made a good save off a Hurst header. This match however perhaps is mostly remembered for a save, Englandís Gordon Banks made off a powerful Pele header which he made off a perfect Jairzinho cross. Brazil however would go on to win the game with a second half goal, scored by Jairzinho who not only scored in all six of Brazilís games but was the only player to score off Banks in the whole of Mexico 70.





Brazilís next game came against Romania in a game Brazil did not really need to win in order to qualify and could even afford the luxury of losing yet despite this factor ended up wining by three goals to two. This despite a very gallant effort on Romaniaís part. Pele in this game seemed like the player of old, from Sweden 58 as he managed to score two goals while the other goal came thanks to Jairzinho. Romaniaís goals in this match being scored by Dumitrache and Dembrovschi. Brazil had qualified to the quarterfinals by winning all three of their first round matches. This being something they had never done before even when the world cup had been played in Brazil. It being Switzerland who managed to draw against them at two goals a piece yet this time they got all six points from the group.





As for Pele, he did manage to score three goals in Brazilís first three games. This to raise his overall total to 11 goals in the world cups and was enjoying a good tournament though in all truth, Brazil had not really faced a team of any real quality with the match against England; almost being played as a friendly. England, in my opinion being a team which won the world cup in 66 simply because they were given a non-existent goal in the final and had an Argentine player unjustly sent off in the quarterfinals. All in a game in which a German served as referee while an English referee worked the Germany-Uruguay game. This creating a situation or the appearance of one in which one hand was washing the other.





At this point it was easy to see that Mexico 70 was shaping up to be very good world cup with truly wonderful displays of football. This despite scoring not being any where near as high as it had been in Switzerland 54; it was still a tournament which was bringing back some of the lost quality from previous world cups. Brazil for its next match played against Peru, who was being led by players the likes of Cubillas, Gallardo, Chale and Sotil.





Cubillas, in fact having already scored four goals in the competition and a player who would go on to become the first and so far only midfielder to score ten goals or more in world cup history with only two being from the penalty spot. This while Sotil was the sort of player whose dribbling managed to set up goals for other players. The game looked to be an interesting one. As it presented two South American teams with very good attacking players yet not much in the way of defense along with goalkeepers who did not really provide all that much security. I, for my part have wondered how Peru would have done had they had Ramon Quiroga back in Mexico 70. Quiroga being an Argentine goalkeeper who took Peruvian citizenship and even managed to save a penalty for them against Scotland in Argentina 78. This being only speculation of course yet I do find it interesting.





Peru however had one big flaw and this being that they tended to start very slowly which had put them deep in a whole early in two of their first three matches. Peru having fallen behind by 2-0 to Bulgaria only to come back to win by 3-2 yet could not manage a similar come back against Germany; who took a 3-0 lead. It being Cubillas, who on that occasion scored Peruís only goal against Germany, whose three goals came courtesy of Gerhard Muller. As a footnote, I would like to point out that Muller and Cubillas went on to become teammates in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the now bankrupt NASL of the 70s and early 80s but that like they say is another story.





In this game, it was not so much that Brazil got off to such a great start but more that Peruís defense gave away too many advantages early by making too many mistakes. It being thanks to a big error by defender Campos that Rivelihno was able to score for Brazil just 11 minutes in to the match to give Brazil a 1-0 lead. Brazil would then only have to wait four minutes before Tostao thanks to a bad goalkeeping mistake by Rubinos increased his teamís lead to 2-0. Peru was down but had not much to their credit, conceded defeat or at least not just yet. It being a tremendous shot by Gallardo from a seemingly impossible angle which put them on the score board and within striking distance of Brazil at 2-1.





Brazil would score another goal when a pass by Pele was deflected off a Peruvian defender on to the oncoming Tostao who got his second of the game as well as of the tournament to give Brazil a 3-1 lead. Peru found themselves down by two goals one more time yet again did not desist from trying. It in fact being Sotil who set up Cubillas for his fifth goal of the tournament as well as the one which once again put Peru within striking distance at 2-3. It being as if Peru simply refused to be put away.





Brazil however would go on to get a fourth when Jairzinho scored his fifth of the tournament to keep his record in tact of having scored in each of his countryís matches. Brazil won the game by 4-2 in what truly was a lovely display of football by both teams and though Peru was eliminated; they did leave good memories of their football. Peru also becoming the first team in the history of the world cup to win "The Fair Play" trophy.





Brazil had made it through to the semifinal to face a Uruguayan team which even threatened to leave the tournament when they were told they would have to play Brazil in Guadalajara. This being where Brazil had played all of its world cup matches up and till that point. Uruguay eventually accepted to play the game in Guadalajaraís Jalisco Stadium yet not without protests.





Uruguay got off to a good start when Cubilla put them in the lead 19 minutes in to the match yet were to a certain extent unlucky when Clodoaldo scored for Brazil to level matters at 1 a piece with just 1 minute left in the half. Brazil and Uruguay were tied at half time yet it was clear that Brazil was the fresher of these two teams as Uruguay had been taken in to overtime by the Soviet Union while Brazil managed to win their quarterfinal match in regulation time. The second half would see Brazil score two goals. The first of which came courtesy of Jairzinho (76 minutes) while the second one came with one minute left in the game which pretty much booked Brazilís passage in to the finals and their third one in four world cups. Pele however had time for one last play which is another one for which he is mostly remembered for though he did not score. It being one in which he lets the ball go by Uruguayan goalkeeper Mazurkiewicz to pick it up on the other side only to miss a shot on an open goal. This play being one which for some reason still lives in the memory of many, though I personally see nothing about it to even compare it to some of the plays Maradona would perform just 16 years later in another world cup organized in Mexico. Of course also taking in to consideration that after Rivelinhoís goal, Uruguay was what could be hailed as a defeated team which was all too aware that the final was simply a game they were not going to be playing in or at least not in this world cup.





Brazil would be playing against Italy in the final. It being Italy who in a historic marathon of a seesaw match had managed to beat Germany by a score of 4-3 to make it to the final. Italy having a wonderful team that year which in 1968 had won the European Cup. This Italian team boasting a list of stars such as Riva, Rivera, Fachetti, Albertosi, Boninsegna and Mazzola. Looking back one could say that Italy was one of the few really good teams which Brazil played in their last four world cups along with Portugal and Hungary in 66 or perhaps France in 58 yet Italy was also a very tired outfit. Specially after their game against Germany took so much out of them. It being their trainer who even claimed that many of its players were urinating blood after the match.





Brazil, for its part was not short of great players yet to most of the public, their most recognizable player was still Pele. It being he who justly or perhaps not, was their only player who had already won the world cup and though he really did not play in 62; many accredited him with having won two titles. Brazil after all had new players on their team, none of which with the sole exception of Pele had been playing for Brazil when they won the world cup in 58 and 62. This making Pele, the symbol of this Brazilian team or at least to much of the public who were seeing him playing in his fourth world cup while players like Jairzinho, Tostao, and Rivelinho were just making their mark in the world cup.





Italy however despite the fatigue made a match of it as far as the first half was concerned. It being the first half which ended in a score of 1-1 with Brazilís only goal coming courtesy of a Pele header while Italyís goal came thanks to Boninsegna, who took advantage of a mix up between Felix and his defenders. Peleís goal also coming due to a mix up in the Italian team. It being Italyís coach who had sent Bertini to mark Pele yet realized that perhaps using a creative player to mark Pele one on one was a waste of good offensive player. This prompting his decision to change the man who would be marking Pele from Bertini to Rosato yet just as Italy was in the middle of doing this; Brazil had a throw in. It being Rivelinho, who got the ball which he immediately centered to a still unmarked Pele who had no trouble in beating his marker; who had yet to get to where he could cover him.





The second half saw the results of Italian fatigue as those were still not the days of such great conditioning by players and teams which could play a match which went 120 minutes to come back a few days later as if they had only played 90 minutes. This being what Italy did in 2006, where after having beaten Germany in a semifinal which went 120 minutes were able to come back a few days later and beat France in the final. This in another match which would go in to overtime and subsequently in to penalty kicks.





Brazil went on to score three goals in the second half and win the match by a convincing 4-1 score yet the truth was that Italy did not have the strength to play in the second half. Of course, in this I do not wish it to be understood that I believe Italy would have won the game had they not been so tired from their previous match yet it undoubtedly would have been harder for Brazil.





As for Brazilís goals in the second half, they were scored by Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto in that precise order. It is this last goal by Carlos Alberto which saw 8 Brazilian players touch the ball before it ended up in the net but the truth was that at that stage, Italy knew full well that the match was over or at least the competitive part of it. It being a similar situation when Petite scored for France against Brazil several years later when France was already winning by 2-0 with time running out and Brazil having fully realized that they simply were not going to win.





With this win Brazil became world champion for the third time and what was more impressive is that they had won 3 out of 4 world cups. Naturally Pele having been on all those teams yet it is my opinion that Brazil would have won those world cups even if Pele had not been on their team. As such was the strength of their players and teams in those days and also the weakness of the other teams. I also wish to make it clear in this that I am not saying by any stretch of the imagination that Brazil won despite having Pele on their team yet I feel that Brazil still would have been world champion in 70 and 58 even if Pele had not played. As the truth was that they basically won without him in 62. All of this in contrast to Maradona, without whom I am almost certain Argentina would not have won the title in Mexico 86 or even reached the final in Italia 90.





Pele would retire from the world cup competition after Mexico 70 and eventually from football in 77. This after a few years with the New York Cosmos where in a very weak league and despite his 30 years plus; was able to score many goals. Pele after retirement took to commentating matches and basically putting down anybody who was even compared him. Pele going to the extreme of trying to hurt Zicoís career in the early 80s when some were starting to call him the white Pele.





Pele however become specially hostile toward Maradona. This after having received him as a friend in the start of their relationship yet changed his attitude when some were claiming that Maradona was in fact even better than he had been. This a statement made not by Maradona, himself but by such greats of the game as Alfredo Di Stefano and others. I, for my part particularly remember some remarks made by Pele concerning Maradona after Spain 82 in which he claimed that all Maradona was capable of was falling on the ground and crying about being fouled. I, thinking to myself at the time and this from the man who said he would never play in a world cup at the age of 25 when he was fouled once or twice in a match against Portugal in which in all truth he really did not play that well in.





Pele would also claim after the 86 world cup that he was considering coming back to football because Brazil needed him. It being this particular comment which led to Maradona suggesting to Pele that perhaps it was psychiatric assistance that which he should seek instead of a new start in football at the age of 46. It even being Brazilís coach Parreira, who before winning the world cup in USA 94; claimed that he wanted no interference from Pele and even banned him from having contact with the players.





In my opinion, Pele was a great player yet nowhere near as good as he is generally believed to have been by those who only look at the statistics and not the stories behind them. Pele in a way being like Franceís Zidane, who managed to score two goals in a final of a world cup in which he did little else yet is for the most part considered one of the best players of all time.





In conclusion, I would say that in the wordís of Shakespeare "some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have it entrust upon them". Peleís case being one of having been born great as well as having achieved greatness but mostly from having had it entrust upon him. This by being at the right place in history and on the right teams which could make him seem even better than he really was. Pele to a large extent being like Mohamed Ali, Maria Callas, Zidane, Alexander (the great), Pope John Paul II, Shakespeare, Michael Jackson, Lawrence Olivier, Franklyn Roosevelt, J.F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior along with many others; whom I feel are also praised beyond the true value of their achievements.































































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