It was an ensemble so exhilarating that it converted foes into fans. King Gustaf VI Adolf led 50,000 Swedes to the Rasunda to boo Brazil’s every move. They ended up cheering Garrincha’s hypnotic body-swerves, Pele’s sombreros and some sumptuous A Seleção goals. Four years later, despite having seen Garrincha mercurially end their FIFA World Cup™ hopes – and get sent off for kicking one of their players – the Chilean public pleaded for him to be able to play in the Final. He did. Brazil wrote history. This is the tale of their back-to-back conquests – in a statistical font.
years and 67 days is what it took for a conversation between Gilmar and De Sordi, in the dressing room at the Ullevi stadium, to prove prophetic. The goalkeeper, wary of Wales in the quarter-finals, declared that he was willing to die for the Seleção. The right-back, without hesitation, responded, “If dying is what it takes, we’ll die together.” Gilmar and De Sordi passed away within 24 hours of one another in August 2013.
years was the staggering age difference between Brazil’s No10 and Sweden’s No8 when they met in the 1958 decider. At 17 years and 249 days, Pele remains the youngest player to have played in a World Cup Final, almost one year younger that nearest challenger Giuseppe Bergomi was when he lined up for Italy against West Germany in 1982. Gunnar Gren, at 37 years and 241 days, remains the oldest outfield player to have appeared in the fixture, seven months older than second-placed Nilton Santos was when he represented Brazil against Czechoslovakia in 1962.
successive matches scoring was the record run Brazil lost due to a goalless draw with England in Gothenburg – the first in the competition’s history. West Germany tied the record by finding the target in their last outing at Sweden 1958, but didn’t break it by failing to beat Italy’s Lorenzo Buffon in their Chile 1962 curtain-raiser. Germany again blew the chance to make it 19 consecutive games in which they scored in a 3-0 loss to Croatia in the 1998 quarter-finals.
days before Sweden 1958 kicked off, Zagallo, a soon-to-be 28-year-old with just three caps to his name, was not even expecting to make Feola’s squad – yet alone start every game. First-choice left-winger Canhoteiro was surprisingly dropped for two reasons: he had an intense fear of flying, and he was caught in a bar during Brazil’s final preparations before heading to Europe. Then, in A Seleção’s last warm-up before their tournament debut, Pepe suffered an ankle injury against Inter Milan, leaving Zagallo to start each of Brazil’s six matches. Four years later, Pepe was once again in pole position, but an ankle injury ruled him out and Zagallo was an ever-present in Chile.
was the shirt number Pele immortalised – but only by chance. Brazil forgot to submit their squad numbers to FIFA, so they got chosen randomly. Virtually all made no positional sense – goalkeeper Gilmar and centre-back Zozimo were allocated the No3 and No9 respectively – but Pele, who began as a reserve, somehow got the number he duly made the most famous in football.
goals in ten games is Vava’s admirable record in World Cups. Outside the competition, ‘Steel Chest’ netted just six goals in his nine-year international career.
Brazilians who didn’t start against Austria started against Sweden – the biggest difference between a World Cup-winning side’s XIs for their opening and concluding matches. The only other with more than three changes was Italy in 2006, with Alessandro Nesta, Cristian Zaccardo, Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Gilardino beginning that tournament and Marco Materazzi, Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso and Mauro Camoranesi starting in the decider. De Sordi, Dino Sani, Joel, Dida and Mazzola were the Brazilians who were demoted to reserves during the 1958 finals, with Djalma Santos, Zito, Garrincha, Pele and Vava the beneficiaries.
teams were favoured to win the 1958 World Cup over Brazil in a poll among media members covering the tournament. Soviet Union, the reigning Olympic champions and boasting Lev Yashin, came top, followed by Sweden, who had home advantage and five stars of the Italian Serie A. Defending champions West Germany and Yugoslavia also came before Brazil.
World Cup All-Star Teams is what Djalma Santos (1954, 1958 and 1962) is one of only two players to make. West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer is the other (1966, 1970 and 1974).
pets is what Garrincha returned home from Chile with. A stray dog twice interrupted the Brazil-England quarter-final, evading several players, including the animal-loving winger, as they attempted to grab it. Jimmy Greaves paid the price for eventually catching the mutt when it urinated on his shirt – he didn’t even have a spare to change into. Garrincha, impressed that the dog “could dribble like me”, adopted it. Upon their return to Rio de Janeiro from Santiago, the Brazil squad headed to Guanabara Palace, where governor Carlos Lacerda presented Garrincha with a mainá, a bird that could imitate humans and sung the Brazilian national anthem!