FIFA.com: You kept goal for Brazil at three FIFA World Cups. What did each of them mean to you as a professional?
Claudio Taffarel: When I started playing football, I often heard great champions, like Maradona and others, say in interviews that they'd wanted to play for the national team and be world champions ever since they were children. For me it wasn't like that. My dream was just to become a professional footballer and then see what happened. My life has always been like that. I began playing in 1984 at the age of 18 and participated in my first World Cup in 1990 at 24. Although all these things happened very quickly, I was never over-awed by them. I just let things happen naturally.
I played at the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups, but I felt the most prepared for the 1990 one. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was because it was my first.
*Can you tell us what you remember most about each of them? * As I've said before, I was better prepared, more sure of myself, at the 1990 World Cup. However, I had the feeling that the rest of the group weren't as mentally prepared as I was. There were a lot of problems within the group during the tournament, and beforehand, about team selections and in our day-to-day dealings. The atmosphere was not conducive to playing in a World Cup. Even so, Brazil were in the best position to win because we had a better team than Germany, who ended up winning. Therefore we felt that we were capable of winning, but the atmosphere in the camp wasn't helpful.
The game against Argentina was very unfortunate, and we were knocked out. Throughout that game we had a lot of scoring opportunities, but we couldn't put the ball away. That tournament stands out for the way we missed out on the World Cup through our misguided behaviour. That served as a lesson to us ahead of the 1994 World Cup.
When we headed to the 1994 World Cup the team was well-prepared, very compact, very united. We were aware that, after 24 years, the moment had arrived and we had to win. Once the first game kicked off, we already knew that that was our chance - our chance to win. So, the group grew even more tightly knit and we managed to achieve that success.
We were not as well prepared for the 1998 World Cup, but I think that even so we managed to go really far, given the team that we had at that time and everything that happened during the competition. I think that the World Cup is a very short competition and you can't afford the slightest error or problem, because when these arise they end up destroying the good atmosphere in the camp - which is vital. Everything needs to go well. There are seven games and every one of them needs to be good. In 1998, the team was inconsistent, with a lot of ups and downs. We were getting closer and closer to the Final and we knew that there were other teams that were better than us. France proved that to be the case in the Final with their 3-0 victory, which shocked a lot of people, who thought that maybe Brazil had wanted to make life easy for France. That wasn't what happened at all. Nobody wanted to help France. They were simply better than we were.
What do you recall about that game?
After our great victory in 1994, during and after the game, we were celebrating out on the pitch and I saw friends of mine from Italy, Benarrivo, Apolloni, Minotti, guys I played with at Parma, and some other Italian players who I'd played against in the league. I could see how sad they were. There were people crying, people on their knees, people laying the ground. In 1998, when we lost, my thoughts went back to that moment.
That's what happens if you lose, so I simply accepted that defeat. We lost; that's part of football. Moreover, I realised that we'd lost to a better team. We didn't lose because we were terrible; we lost because France were better on the day. My memories that day are of defeat, no doubt about that, but a defeat where I could still hold my head up and not feel personally vanquished.
Bebeto has spoken about the problem with Ronaldo before the game. How did you see that?
It's a controversial issue. After the World Cup, all anyone was talking about was the problem with Ronaldo - how he'd fainted during the training camp. However, I don't believe that was the determining factor in our defeat. I think that with any team, especially a national one, you can have one or two players who are not performing well at a given moment, but the remainder of the side can compensate for that out on the field. That day, however, none of us performed well. We were all off our game, and that was the determining factor. It was a bad day for the Brazilian team, and that's why we lost.
*What memories do you have of the FIFA World Cup when you were a youngster? * My first memory... that's a tricky one! I think it was of 1970, I recall seeing pictures some years later of those Mexicans fans invading the pitch, embracing the Brazilian players, lifting up a shirtless Pele, and all the marvellous goals scored at that World Cup. That was as good as it gets. However, at the time it happened, I wouldn't have been watching it. I think I only saw those images later, and they were what motivated me to become a footballer. I thought it all looked so cool, but back then I felt a long way from that kind of life and my dream of being a footballer. There's no question though: those images made a big impression on me.
*You mentioned the 1970 FIFA World Cup. In 1994 Brazil had gone 24 years without a world title. Did that put a lot of pressure on the group? * There was a very big weight on our shoulders. In 1990 we'd felt that weight, because nobody could accept the fact that Brazil had gone so long without winning the World Cup. Since 1970 we'd had teams like the 1982 side, which had been hailed as world champions-elect as soon as they took to the field. When that didn't happen it caused the pressure to grow and people to ask, "Would Brazil ever win the Cup again?" and "What's going on with Brazil?" Then came our generation of players including the likes of Dunga, Romario and Bebeto, who knew about that responsibility and knew how to play accordingly. There was a lot of expectation, because when people talked about the Brazilian national team they talked about the 1970 side and also the 1982 team, which didn't win but had Zico, Falcao, Cerezo and other great players. I think that we knew how to handle that pressure well and harness it in our favour, so that we could use it to grow stronger. I believe that was crucial in our victory.
Your position in the goal lets you see the whole team. In your opinion, what should Brazil have done to win that 1994 Final in regulation time?
In 1990, there was a general lack of dedication, and I don't think anyone was willing to go all out. In 1994 perhaps Romario, a guy with a unique personality, wanted to be the standout player. In the end, however, he wasn't able to because it was a victory for the team as a whole. And it had to be, because that World Cup showed that Brazil had to play differently. We had to put spectacular play to one side and be objective. Parreira was very intelligent in this sense, as he put together a team where nine players had defensive responsibilities, leaving just the front two, Bebeto and Romario, to secure victory. Our play revolved around those two, who were to take care of everything up front, and that's how it transpired in all our games.
I didn't have a huge amount to do during that World Cup as I was so well protected. Everyone was picking up players and shutting down our opponents' moves. Sometimes I wondered if I'd ever see the ball. I think the fact that the players refrained from trying to show off their individual talents and left the football to the front two was very important, because ultimately the strikers did what was asked of them.
*Some people say that job of keeping goal for Brazil is the most demanding, given the enormous responsibility placed on the keeper. Would you go along with that? * Are you talking about how much is expected of the keeper? Yes, that's exactly it. But this has always been the case here in Brazil, proof of which is the fact that people maintain we didn't win in 1982 because we didn't have a good enough goalkeeper. It's always been like that, in 1986 as well. I think that for the last few World Cups, Brazil began to concern itself more with defence, because football is not only about attacking and scoring goals. Back in 1970, or thereabouts, Brazil used to concede goals, but they would score five or six too. Football has changed a lot and scoring is now very difficult. So, first and foremost, you have to defend. I think certain coaches and keepers were instrumental in bringing this about, and made it more difficult to score against Brazil.
Which was your finest save?
My best save came against Italy, from Massaro's first shot. I think that was his first attacking burst, right at the start of the game. It even took me by surprise to see how Italy had taken the field and in no time were taking shots at goal. It wasn't a very spectacular or difficult save, but it was a vital one. If we'd conceded a goal at that point, it would have made things very difficult for us.
In your opinion, which was the best game of USA 1994?
I'd have to say the Final, because of how I felt inside. A lot of people asked me if I was nervous during the World Cup and I tell them that, when I took to the field, it felt like a friendly game because I was so calm. That calmness gave me a sense of security. I was calm when I was making saves, but I started to panic a bit when the penalties came around, which is to be expected. But I was very relaxed during that game because I knew that whatever shot came my way I'd be ready to deal with it. That's why it was the best game.
At what point in that tournament did you become convinced that Brazil would win the title?
As early as the first game. Before we played our opening match of that World Cup, one of the coaching staff wrote up Match One, Match Two...etc all the way to Match Seven on a blackboard at the entrance to our restaurant. After our first game he crossed off Number One, and, as I looked at it, I could imagine them all crossed off down to seven. We were that confident we would win. So, yes, I had that feeling right from the first game, and I believe that the other players did too.
What did Parreira say to you all before the Final?
That's hard to remember exactly, because when Parreira spoke to us beforehand, I think we just wanted to get out there. It was a very nerve-wracking moment. However, I think he told us to stay calm and spoke about the hot conditions. It was extremely warm that day, which made it hard for both teams, although I think it affected Italy more. He reminded us to let the ball do the work so as not to exhaust ourselves and end up conceding a goal. We had to make sure the Italian players got tired before we did. Those were his instructions.
The match ended 0-0, but would you say it was a good game?
The World Cup Final is never an excellent match, because everybody wants to win and there comes a time when nobody wants to make a mistake. And when you don't want to make a mistake, you become less daring, you play things simpler and you hold back. But I still think that Brazil had quite a few chances during that game. There were a number of occasions during the 90 minutes when Brazil could have scored. In my opinion, that wasn't a spectacular game, but nor was it an ugly encounter. It was a game that eased its way inexorably towards penalties. It was exciting and extremely nerve-wracking for everybody watching the game, whether in the stadium itself or at home on TV. It was a very nervy game.
Parreira told us that before the penalty shoot-out, you told him you'd save them. Why were you so confident?
As I said before, I was sure we'd be champions from the very first game. In other words, I knew the shoot-out would go our way. We talked to each other a lot, telling each other we all had to play our part. That's not to say keepers nowadays don't face extra responsibility during penalty shoot-outs, they do, just like all the other players. So I said to the coach: "I'm going to stop these shots, OK." And he must have remembered what I said.
*What was the key to saving those penalty kicks in that Final? * I felt a great deal of responsibility when it came to saving those penalty kicks. I felt that pressure of it being the Final and saw how worried the Brazilian players were when they went to take their penalties. I think that they were amazing, because leaving the centre circle to take a kick is a huge weight for a player to bear. It's a big responsibility. That's why the players who took kicks, like Dunga, Branco, Romario, and Marcio, who ended up missing, had a huge weight on their shoulders.
I also felt that weight of responsibility, and I felt drained. I realised that for the first two penalties, before they'd even been taken, I was already heading to where I thought the ball was going. I wanted to settle the match straight away. The third penalty, by Massaro, which I stopped, was the moment when I looked at the scoreboard and thought to myself: "It's 2-2... I'm going to have to stop this next one. I need to calm down." So I managed to calm myself down and make that save. I don't think it was a matter of great technique, I think I was just lucky. God smiled on me at that moment. That said, I knew that it was time to do something, to stop panicking, stay cool and make the save. It wasn't a difficult save, I simply guessed the right way - the way the ball was headed. And I ended up saving it.
*Did any special preparation go into making that save? * No. I hadn't prepared at all. The funny thing is that in the last game of the Italian championship in 1994, my team at the time, Reggina, had to face Milan at their ground. As fate would have it, I made a vital save from Massaro, which ended up keeping us in Serie A. So, I think I had a certain bond at that moment with Massaro... It was a very important save.
Has Massaro ever talked to you about that penalty kick?
No. We didn't speak afterwards, and I haven't had the chance to talk to him since.
What was your initial reaction when you stopped that penalty kick?
I thanked God, because I felt He was with me at that moment. Throughout the World Cup, we were certain God was on our side, that He was lighting the way for us. We had a prayer group, a group of us that were firm believers, and we asked God for His help, because we thought that if we worked hard, showed our faith and beseeched Him, that He would help us if He could. But, you know, we also prayed in 1998 and He didn't grant us our request. Nevertheless, we believed that this could be the moment. That's why I was so confident throughout the entire competition, and proof of this came when Baggio took their last penalty. As he made his run-up, I was sure that I'd save it or he would hit it wide.
When Baggio shot over, I was sure God wanted that World Cup to end that way. It wasn't meant to end with a Romario goal, so that everyone could say he was the best in the world and had single-handedly won us the World Cup. Nor was it meant to end with a save of mine and for me to return home the hero and best player. It was won by the entire group and was a victory for all of Brazil. A victory for those that believed and trusted in God. That's what it was.
Were you surprised that both Baggio and Baresi missed their penalty kicks?
Baresi's miss didn't surprise me, which is not to say he wasn't a good player. In my opinion, he was one of the best defenders in the history of football, but I'd never seen Baresi take a penalty kick before. I'd played in Italy for many years and had never seen him take one there either.
At that moment, Sacchi called on his most experienced players, the ones he thought would cope better with the pressure of taking a kick. That said; I don't know if Baresi had been practising, because he struck his shot very poorly and very high. For me, Baggio missing was the biggest surprise, as he took free kicks and penalties for Juventus. But as I've already said, I was convinced it would turn out that way: either that I'd save it or he'd miss it. So at the time it wasn't a huge shock. That came afterwards when we watched the video and saw just how Baggio had struck it.
*Did you have faith in all of Brazil's penalty-takers? * Funny you should ask that. In the days before the Final, we practiced penalties a lot. Ironically, Marcio Santos, who missed on the day, was the most consistent. I don't think he missed a single penalty in all the practice sessions. We had one exercise we did every day in which our designated kickers took five penalties each, and Marcio was the only one who never missed. The other keepers and I never managed to keep one of his out, but he still missed in the Final.
There were others in the side like Branco, a great player who had immense experience and his own unique style - he'd even scored in a shoot-out eight years earlier at the 1986 World Cup. We also had Romario, who needs no introduction. He's a goal scorer and is used to that type of pressure situation and so was very well prepared for it. Then, of course, there was Dunga, our captain. So I had confidence in all the players, even though I knew that a miss could occur, as it did with Marcio. At the end of the day you can only miss if you're brave enough to take one.
*How important was Dunga to the team? * He was very important, because apart from being our captain and our leader, the team really felt his presence out on the pitch. He had the vision to see what was happening across the field. He used to talk to us, and I think that having somebody who guides his teammates is important for the team, doing a coach's job out on the pitch. He was that man.
Parreira had a great deal of faith in his ability, because when he was on the pitch he solved everything. He'd be telling players, "You come over to this side, you go over to that side." And everybody did what he told them. Sometimes he'd get on your nerves a bit because he shouted a lot. But it's vital for a team to have a player like Dunga. He was incredibly important at that World Cup, and that's proved by the fact that he was one of Brazil's most-capped players.
Did he talk with the group before the penalty shoot-out?
It was a difficult moment for everyone, and we all supported and helped each other. I don't think we were calm exactly. When extra time ended, there was a lot more pressure on us, as we'd had many more chances during the game than Italy. At a time like that so many thoughts go running through your head - things like "Whoever doesn't score is going to pay for it." So it was a very tense time for all of us. There was that nagging fear that if we didn't win in normal or extra time that Italy could win on penalties. Nevertheless, we were very certain victory would be ours.
How did you feel when you raised the Trophy for the first time?
I felt a real sense of achievement, a sense of having made it. We knew that not many players had had the chance to raise that trophy, which is the ultimate representation of football. It's a real achievement. I felt complete at that moment and thanked God. Now, it's part of my life story.
Any interesting anecdotes from the post-match celebrations?
What was interesting was the tie I was wearing at the time. Just as I was heading over to where we would receive the Cup, I was approached by an official who was with the USA delegation. I think he wanted my shirt or maybe my gloves, and so he gave me his tie in exchange. I put it on and when I lifted the trophy, I was still wearing his tie. My first impression of the Trophy was how heavy it was for something so small.
*What did you all do when you brought the FIFA World Cup Trophy back to your dressing room? * We took loads of photos. At that point everybody wanted to embrace the Cup. I've got several photos where I'm just in my underwear, with no shirt on. Everybody wanted to touch it and record that moment, because we knew that we couldn't take that Trophy home with us. It would be given to the CBF and would be taken to a number of different places. During the flight back to Brazil, on the plane, we took loads of photos with our families. I was with my daughter, who was one at the time, and my wife. That was the time to record everybody with the Cup.
*Can you tell us a bit about the team's reception back in Brazil? * Our arrival was amazing and it made an enormous impression on me. Brazil is unique in this respect. It's not like say, the USA, where football is still not the number-one sport and people behave in an orderly manner even when their team wins. Here, it's much more than just clapping and taking pictures.
As a group we celebrated in our dressing room, then at our hotel and later on the plane. When we arrived back, Brasilia was our first stop. There were people everywhere trying to take our pictures, even from up trees, and countless others lining the streets with their families. That's when we realised the magnitude of what we'd done: we'd won something not only for ourselves, but for all our people. We were representing all of Brazil, and everyone had been rooting for us. It was akin to a national fan club, with everyone embracing us. It was fantastic and really made an impression on me. Many of the more emotional players cried when they saw how happy those people were. That was magnificent.
Which players were crying?
It's difficult to say exactly, but there were a lot of very emotional people shedding tears. I'm more reserved, but I saw in the eyes of some of the players just how much that reception had meant.
Is that the original? My God, what's this? Is this really it? It's really something! And it's really heavy. That's what I meant when I spoke to you about the weight you have to bear. It's not that big, but it's certainly heavy. This is crazy!
How does it feel now, holding the Trophy once again?
It reminds me that I was part of that victory. That I was there and lived those moments. It's not that I wake up everyday and tell myself that I won a World Cup that I'm a world champion. Nevertheless, occasionally when I'm out and about and someone tells me they'd seen me playing in the World Cup, all the memories come flooding back. Holding the Trophy again brings it all back, that feeling of warmth... It's very beautiful.
What do you think of it aesthetically?
Aesthetically it's beautiful. I can look at it more closely now, because the last time was very rushed. It was going from one side to another, being passed from hand to hand. I think that I've never held it for so long before, because there were so many people who wanted to take hold of it... To hold it in your hands like that, my God. I was a part of that. Fantastic. Great. I want to take a photo with it, since it's important to record this at another moment in time. I've got less hair now. This is fascinating. It'll be a great memory.