2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Ademir, Brazil's first attacking legend

Although not exactly a household name these days, Ademir de Menezes Marques, alias Queixada ('The chin') was a truly extraordinary footballer.

Top scorer at the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, he is said to have been one of the great Pele's role models. One thing is for sure: this out-and-out attacker with an unusual appearance was perhaps the earliest example of a 'Samba-style' artist capable of incredible feats of agility.

A slightly built, even fragile figure with a prominent chin, meticulously slicked back hair and dandy little moustache, he hardly seemed cut out for the world of football. But when he stepped onto the pitch, as if by the wave of a magic wand, he was transformed into a magnificent marksman, an elegant performer capable of mind-blowing skill, surging runs and equipped with a formidably powerful and accurate shot.

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By dint of the imagination and poise he displayed on the pitch, Ademir was one of the earliest exponents of the now legendary Brazilian attacking flair. In 1950, he occupied, on paper at least, the position of inside-right in the Seleção's fantastic forward quintet (Maneca, Ademir, Zizinho, Jair, Chico) but he could pop up in any attacking position to equally devastating effect. This ability to appear from nowhere and rip holes in the tightest rearguards forced opposing coaches to develop new defensive combinations in their efforts to thwart him.

Born on 8 November 1922 at Vila de Bico do Motocolombo in Recife in the Pernambuco province in north-eastern Brazil, Ademir's first club was Sport Clube Recife, where his father, Antonio Rodrigues Menezes, was president. But before long, the most powerful Brazilian clubs were queuing up to secure the services of Ademir, who had made his first-team debut at the age of 18.

By 1945, he was a prominent member of Vasco da Gama's fabled five-pronged attack comprising Djalma, Lele, Ademir, Jair and Chico. In 497 official matches for Vasco and Fluminense, he found the back of the net no fewer than 396 times and won five titles (1945, '47, '49, '50 and '52). Going into the 1950 FIFA World Cup - a tournament that appeared to have Brazil's name on it, his awesome strike power was regarded as a godsend by an expectant nation.

Such was Ademir's popularity that an inhabitant of Recife made the long trip to Boa Vista, where the Seleção were based, to ask coach Flavio Costa to allow Ademir to attend the delicate surgical operation due to be undergone by his son, who was refusing to go under the knife without the presence of his idol. After Flavio Costa gave him the green light, Ademir accompanied the adolescent into the operating theatre and then awaited the surgeon's reassuring diagnosis before returning to the national team camp.

Read about the 1950 FIFA World Cup

This unusual episode clearly did not disturb his preparations for he claimed two goals in Brazil's first game of the tournament, a 4-0 win against Mexico on 24 June, and another in the 2-0 victory over Yugoslavia when he struck with only four minutes on the clock as the hosts claimed first place in their group. In the second round, watched by 160,000 spectators at the Maracana stadium on 9 July, Brazil handed out a remarkable 7-1 thrashing to Sweden, the reigning Olympic champions.

During this encounter, Ademir claimed four goals before maintaining his dazzling scoring form with a further double in a 6-1 rout of Spain four days later to bring his running total to nine. At that point, no one in Brazil had the slightest doubt that he was going to become the first player in FIFA World Cup history to reach double figures.

But during the decisive match with Uruguay, equivalent to the modern-day Final, he drew a blank against the imperious Roque Maspoli. Although he did set up Friaca for Brazil's goal, it was not sufficient to prevent the national disaster of an unthinkable 2-1 defeat that Brazil has never forgotten.

When he eventually retired in 1956, he had clocked up 31 goals in 39 internationals. "I prefer to quit football before it leaves me by the wayside," he said. "It's very difficult to stop when you love the game as much as I do. No one plays merely for the money. Every player with football in his blood feels a massive void after retiring."

Ademir died on 11 May 1996, after a long period working as a commentator, although, as he was fond of remarking, "the soul of a player never leaves the field".