- Garrincha enjoyed one of the greatest individual World Cups ever
- Took on the star role for Brazil at Chile 1962 after Pele's injury
- Won successive World Cups with his country
Born into dire poverty with a deformed spine, warped knees and one leg six centimetres shorter than the other, Garrincha was just about the least likely FIFA World Cup™ star imaginable. Yet in the history of this great tournament, few players have dominated and illuminated a single edition like Brazil’s ‘Little Bird’ in 1962.
Pele, his old partner in crime, said of Garrincha: “He was an incredible player - one of the best there has ever been. He could do things with the ball that no other player could do. Without him, I would have never been a three-time world champion.”
Famously, when these very different Brazilian icons played alongside each other – as they did on 40 occasions – A Seleção never lost. But what helped make 1962 Garrincha’s tournament was the fact that Pele was forced out with a thigh injury as early as the team’s second match.
That left the elusive winger to carry the holders’ hopes and, initially, there were doubts as to whether such a volatile, spontaneous player could bear such a burden. "Garrincha was too unpredictable, even for us, his team-mates," acknowledged Mario Zagallo, another former team-mate. “But there was no doubt he was the key to winning games for us. Of course he had a great team around him, but you simply can't ignore his incredible talent."
By the time Brazil faced England in the quarter-finals, that talent had marked out Garrincha as the tournament’s star man, and Three Lions manager Walter Winterbottom stressed to his players that stopping him was the key to victory. "How do you set about stopping the unstoppable?" was the question later posed by one of Winterbottom’s players, Johnny Haynes, after seeing his team undone by yet another virtuoso performance.
Fresh from scoring a brilliant brace against the English, Garrincha then repeated the feat in the semi-final against the hosts, leaving Chilean newspaper Mercurio to ask simply: "What planet is Garrincha from?" France’s L’Equipe were quick to lend their voices to the chorus of adulation, hailing Brazil’s No7 as “the most extraordinary right winger football has known" after the South Americans’ 3-1 Final win over Czechoslovakia.
But no-one loved Garrincha like his own people. The hero’s welcome home captured in this image spoke for the affection commanded by a man known by such nicknames as ‘O Anjo de Pernas Tortas’, (‘The Angel with Bent Legs’) and, most fittingly of all, ‘Alegria do Povo’ (‘The Joy of the People’).
Did you know?
One of Garrincha’s original match-worn shirts features in the 1962 World Cup showcase at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.