The birth of a revolution
© AFP

'The English invented it, the Brazilians perfected it.'

It is peculiar to think how indebted the above adage is to a tepid 0-0 draw between football's founders and its self-proclaimed kings. Curiously, however, the meeting between the Three Lions and the Seleção at the 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™ provoked a revolution that transformed Brazil into the footballing empire it is today.

Until then, Brazil had been considered a team designed to sparkle rather than succeed. This theory was handsomely supported by their failure to triumph after dazzling early at the 1938, 1950 and 1954 FIFA World Cups.

A point against England had left Vicente Feola's side needing a result in their final group game against Soviet Union to be sure of a place in the knockout phase, and prompted the coach to hand starts to two players who would go on to change the face of the sport. Winger Garrincha and forward Pele, then only 17, inspired a 2-0 win over the Soviets and following defeats of Wales and France, they beat hosts Sweden 5-2 in an unforgettable Final.

Brazil would, in fact, never lose with Garrincha and Pele on the pitch together, and by the time the latter had joined the former in retirement, CBF headquarters proudly showcased the Jules Rimet Trophy as theirs to keep. Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the Sweden 1958 decider; a day which transformed Brazil into a country that has produced more of football's all-time greats than any other, enthralled supporters the world over with its inimitable futebol-arte, uniquely qualified for every FIFA World Cup, and won the tournament a record five times.

I am always saying that we are only five-time world champions because of this first title. It changed everything
Pele on why Brazil's 1958 triumph paved the way for them to become the footballing force they are today.

"I am always saying that we are only five-time world champions
because of this first title. It changed everything,"
explained Pele. "Beforehand there was a consensus among
Brazilians that the team would choke in a decisive game, and a
consensus among foreigners that Brazil consisted only of Amazonia.
The conquest in Sweden laid the foundations for Brazil to become
football's most dominant team and it brought attention to our
country."

Right-back Djalma Santos concurred: "We were not the favourites. There was (West) Germany, England, France... Sweden had a very strong team with several players based in Italy," he said. "Brazil was not very well-known but this title changed everything. It gained us international respect, instilled us with confidence and opened the doors of the world to Brazilians."

Feola decision
Such was the beauty of Brazil's performance in the Final that they were cheered enthusiastically by the Swedish fans. The two players who contributed most to this seduction would not have even been playing, however, had Feola listened to the squad's psychologist, Dr. Joao Carvalhaes, who had been brought in to advise the coach which players were up to selection.

"He said that I was too infantile and Garrincha was irresponsible, and concluded that we shouldn't play," said Pele. "But after the England game there was a lot of pressure on the team and fortunuately Feola was always guided by his instincts. He just nodded gravely at the psychologist and said: 'You may be right. The thing is, you don't know anything about football.' The rest is history."

Brazil's ground-breaking win owed much to goalkeeper Gilmar, left-back Nilton Santos, holding midfielder Zito, left-winger Zagallo, five-goal forward Vava and the outstanding playmaker Didi, among others, but even more to the breathtaking work of Garrincha down the right flank and Pele's irrepressibility in attack. So moved by the latter's two-goal display in the Final was Swedish King Gustav Adolf, who had cheered the Brazilians throughout, that he walked on to the pitch afterwards and embraced the teenager.

Another king, one named Edson Arantes do Nascimento, had been born in the Rasunda stadium on 29 June 1958. So too had a Brazilian revolution.