Mike Gibbons is an aspiring young journalist
from the UK who has followed the World Cup with passion from an early age. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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Gone but not forgotten
As Iím sure most are aware, the most eye-catching tie of the forthcoming World Cup quarterfinals is the almighty clash of
Brazil and England. Historically, both are great nations in world football. Both current incarnations have a great chance of
winning the tournament, giving an extra edge to what is already a potentially explosive encounter. They have clashed
previously, often memorably, before in the World Cup, and one particular moment sticks out in my mind. It was many World
Cups ago that an England versus Brazil world cup match was defined by one piece of supersonic genius. That tackle by
Bobby Moore, or the save by Gordon Banks? No, it wasnít an England player. This player first came to world attention in
1958, coming into the Brazil side to play the USSR at the demand of his fellow players, and playing an integral part in winning
Brazilís first World Cup. So was it Pele? No it was not. It was not even the Brazil Ė England game of 1970. Iím talking about
the 1962 Wor! ld Cup, and Iím talking about the "little bird", Garrincha.
Here was a remarkable player. Born a virtual cripple he had operations on his legs in order to walk, which had the side effect
of leaving him with bizarre curves in his legs. He would later use these to his advantage on the football pitch, snaking his way
in from the touchline, twisting and turning defenders this way and that, before crossing for a colleague or having a shot. This is
best illustrated by Brazilís first two goals in the 1958 final, served up on a plate for Vava by the brilliant Botofogo winger. No
wonder the Brazilians petitioned the coach to put him in the team. According to legend, after he had given them the runaround
the Russians visited Brazilís training camp the next day, sneaked up on Garrincha and grabbed hold of him shouting, "At last,
we have him!"
After Pele hobbled out of the 1962 tournament in Chile, Garrincha picked up the mantle of national saviour. With his six goals
in Sweden in 1958 the young Pele had stolen the show, which had overshadowed the vital contribution made by Garrincha
and many others. Now Garrincha would show that he had the ability to take over a World Cup as well. In the quarterfinal
against England he often freed himself from the shackles of the touchline to come infield and direct the play, to inspire his
He opened the scoring early on with a thumping header from a Mario Zagallo corner, later cancelled out by a strike from
Gerry Hitchens for England. In the second half, Garrincha took the game over. First, he fired in a free kick from 25 yards so
hard that goalkeeper Ron Springett could only parry it, and Vava pounced to put Brazil into the lead. The defending
champions were in touching distance of the semi-final but England, with Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves up front, were
Garrincha then settled the argument with the moment to which I referred at the outset. It began when Didi hit one of those
perfect passes he did so well forty yards to the feet of Amarildo. He took a touch before laying it off to Garrincha, who had
wandered infield again, some thirty yards out from the goal. The English defenders, including a young Bobby Moore, backed
off, probably terrified of being tied into knots. Garrincha moved the ball to his right and unleashed an unstoppable shot that
flew into the top corner. Ron Springett threw himself at it, but it was useless. The bewitching winger had just hit the goal of the
tournament, and England were out.
With another two in the semi-final against Chile (in which he was sent off, but through various political pressures allowed to
play in the final), he put Brazil in the final where they retained the trophy. He was mobbed at the airport in Rio de Janeiro on
his return. For perhaps the one time in his career, he was out of the shadow of the great Pele.
After a brief appearance in England in 1966, in which he scored a stunning Ďfading leafí free kick, his career, indeed his whole
life, went quickly into decline. Career threatening injuries and yet more operations removed the initial burst of pace so vital to
his game, and age began to erode his reflexes and skills, just as it does to them all. His life became embroiled in national
scandal when he left his wife and children for another woman. Bankrupt and an alcoholic, he died in January 1983, not even
fifty years old.
When Brazil won and kept forever the Jules Rimet trophy in 1970, it was seen as Peleís triumph, and Brazilís greatest. It
glosses over the period of 1958-70, Peleís World Cup years, and makes them his own. History neglects not just the brilliant
and terminally underrated Garrincha, but also other great players like Didi. Garrincha should not be in Peleís shadow, or
beneath him, he should be shoulder to shoulder alongside him as one of the greatest players in World Cup history.
He is also possibly the greatest winger the game has ever known. Some may say George Best, or Stanley Matthews, or
Francisco Gento, and maybe itís a pointless debate. At the World Cup, the very highest level, he certainly has no equal as a
wide player, and that is unlikely to ever change. Why? Hardly any teams play with wingers anymore. In all good teams at the
present time, formations are just for defending in. The position has pretty much been put out to grass in an attacking sense,
just like the inside forward. More often than not a central midfielder plays in a wide position, and that gives plenty of scope to
come infield, like David Beckham. Even his Manchester United colleague Ryan Giggs, who started out as a mesmeric left
winger, does all of his best work infield these days. Garrincha, like all great players, was ahead of his time in this.
Last Saturday Denmark tried to attack with out an out wingers Rommedahl and GrÝnkjaer, but all it took was a little bit of
homework from England to force them infield where either Nicky Butt or Paul Scholes were waiting to take the ball from
them, and the game was lost. Denilson makes cameo appearances for Brazil, but defenders these days just wait for him to
finish his seven, eight or nine stepovers before poking the ball off his toes. Garrincha was often double-marked, even
treble-marked on occasions, and he still made fools of them all.
Tonight on television in England they are showing the 1970 Brazil-England match in full. As part of the build up, they will
marvel at Bobby Mooreís overrated tackle on Jairzinho, at Peleís header and Banksí great save, at the passing and
movement of Rivelino and Tostao. They will not mention 1962, and the little genius that destroyed England.
They never do.
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