Mike Gibbons

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 this event.

Mail Mike

Read earlier columns

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 team.

    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 still dangerous.

    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.



Info on how the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
Detailed info on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
Every nation with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
Player profiles of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection of various statistics and records.
Every mascot since it was introduced in 1966.
Test your knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
Rankings of lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
Our collection of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
Some banners and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information on who keeps this site available.
| '30 | '34 | '38 | '50 | '54 | '58 | '62 | '66 | '70 | '74 | '78 | '82 | '86 | '90 | '94 | '98 | '02 | '06 | '10 | '14 |
Copyrights © 1998- - This website is created and maintained by Jan Alsos. It is an unofficial website not affiliated or connected in any way to FIFA. All rights reserved.