1994 FIFA World Cup USA™

1994 FIFA World Cup USA™

17 June - 17 July

1994 FIFA World Cup™

Mario Zagallo: The trophy is still ours

Mario Zagallo
© FIFA.com

FIFA.com: As this programme deals mainly with the FIFA World Cups since 1974, could you tell us a bit about your experiences during that period, in particular at USA 94. You had won other titles with Brazil, so what was different about the 1994 tournament? Mario Zagallo: The difference had nothing to do with us. The Brazilian press thought we weren't playing our traditional style of football. That's because it was a very competitive period and we had a good team, technically. It was a competitive side. Before the World Cup began, a lot of people said the teams who were playing Brazilian football were in fact Argentina and Colombia. Nevertheless, we had our own ideas about what constituted modern football, but, contrary to what everybody thought at the time, preventing other teams from playing was not one of them. In fact, that's a sentence I'd rather not hear.
We used zonal marking and we had top-quality players: Romario, Bebeto, Leonardo, Cafu, Branco. Our team was technically excellent, but that didn't pass muster with the press, who, at that point, weren't impressed by the Brazilian team. However, we proved we were right in the end. We followed the right path and ended up winning the 1994 World Cup.

*Carlos Parreira said that the two pivotal games in that campaign were those against the USA and the Netherlands. Would you go along with that? * It's true. It's also interesting that whenever we played the USA back then, the results between the two sides were always close, even though our team was much better than theirs. I couldn't tell you why that was. But, in that 1994 World Cup game in particular, we went down to ten men when Leonardo was sent off for an elbow. This made things more difficult for us. However, the team didn't lose its shape, which is important. There are sides that suffer the consequences of having a player sent off and react badly. Brazil reacted differently, as if they were still playing with all eleven players, and we pulled off a brilliant victory.

*Can you describe the classic quarter-final against Holland? * The game against Holland was important - A difficult game, in which we made it 1-0, then 2-0. I was genuinely able to relax in the dugout. I thought at 2-0, we've got nothing to worry about. But from two dead-balls, one from a corner and the other a throw-in, we ended up conceding the two goals. It was 2-2 and anything could have happened. However, we were fortunate enough to earn a free kick from some way out that Branco struck perfectly. Romario dodged out of the way, the ball flew behind him, hit the post and we'd made it 3-2. I repeat, it was a difficult game. Whoever scored a third goal would have won and it was us that got it. We played a great match but were also given a massive scare.

*Going on to reach the Final after a game like that obviously boosted your team's confidence, but was the whole 24-year curse still in the back of your minds? * No doubt about it. However, Brazil also had chances to win the Final. We were a more complete side than Italy. I sensed that while watching the game at close quarters. We wanted to win in 90 minutes, and we could have won, but it ended up going to extra time and penalties, which ended in victory for us and another title.

*What was the reaction on the bench when Pagliuca fumbled that ball only for it to come back off the post into his arms? * We were disappointed because we thought it was going in. When the ball hit the post and bounced back into his arms, I said: "Lady Luck isn't with us today." You need luck on your side as well as ability, but fortunately we had both in the end.

*Parreira told us that when it came to choosing the penalty takers in the Final, he was a player short. He said after looking round a couple of times, Romario volunteered. What is your recollection of that? * An interesting fact is that we practised penalties because we knew we could end up being in a Final decided by penalties. That's why we worked on them constantly. Romario didn't like taking penalties and didn't practise them because he didn't want to. When the time came he clearly volunteered to take one and Parreira put him on the list. He ended up taking a penalty, the ball hit the bar, bounced and went in. It feels as if I'm seeing all this happen again right now.

*What was it like getting your hands on the new FIFA World Cup Trophy? * I felt blessed, and for that I have God to thank. I've been part of some outstanding Brazilian victories and conquests at the World Cup, but this time something interesting happened. As I joined the rest of the coaching staff and players to receive this Cup on the pitch, we embraced each other and began to pray, like we always did in the locker room, but this time in front of everyone. It's important to understand that this wasn't planned beforehand but completely spontaneous.

*What was it like holding the Trophy during the presentation, and do you remember how heavy it was? * That's important, because we were looking at it from afar and then, in no time, it was really close. It's the moment of triumph. So you touch it, look at it, admire it and say to yourself: now it's mine. We're able to say that the Jules Rimet Trophy stayed here, because this new Trophy will go with whoever wins, every four years, so that every country has the chance to have it.
This thing here is worth so much! I always say that this is about blood, sweat and tears. Blood because of the all the wounds you get out on the pitch. Sweat because you sweat for the whole 90 minutes, and even more if there's extra time. And tears, which are tears of joy, not sadness.

*When you look at the Trophy now, regardless of what it represents for football, do you also see it as a work of art? * I've no doubt about that. It's lovely. I know that it's still ours and we hope that continues... And it will continue. We will become six-time winners. You don't say anything, you just listen, because we've got everything it takes to keep it for another four years. And you're going to be with us.

*What is the significance of the FIFA World Cup to your overall career? * In the world of sport, everyone strives to win. I had the good fortune to be a world champion four times with Brazil [twice as a player], wearing the green and yellow I love so much. So it's brought me happiness and tears, and means everything to me.

*The roles were reversed in 1998, when you had the disappointment of being the coach of the losing side. What was that like? * In 1998 my team and I were runners-up at the World Cup. France won their first world title, and deservedly so. I congratulate them and applaud their title win. Of course our team had a big problem, which was Ronaldo's fitness, but even so he ended up playing. And that doesn't take anything at all away from a magnificent victory by France coach Aime Jacquet. This has been a good opportunity for me to speak directly, and congratulate that great French team.

*What would you like to say to Aime Jacquet? * This is a great opportunity for me to talk about Aime Jacquet, the coach who won the World Cup against my team in 1998. I know about everything that went on. Aime Jacquet was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from the press, but he was dignified, he was honest. He bore that burden and showed that he really knew what he wanted, which was the team he had put together and which was successful in the Final. They had a huge star of world football on the bench, him, and an even greater one on the pitch in Zidane.