In 1962, one man stepped up in the absence of Pele to make the tournament all his own and he was the angel of Rio named Garrincha
Young fans rooting for Brazil because of Neymar, can rarely think of any other World Cup heroes from Brazil other than Pele, Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo or Ronaldinho.
But what about the bent-legged magician from Mage, Rio de Janerio, Manuel Francisco dos Santos aka Garrincha? Did he not make a World Cup all his own way back in 1962? Amid the names of Pele and Maradona, one man’s extraordinary exhibition in Chile is often overshadowed and it’s a pity how modern day Selecao fans don’t even know and remember Garrincha at all.
Brazil landed in Chile for the 1962 World Cup as the favourites along with Czechoslovakia, Spain, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Like in 1958, Brazil were again placed in the group of death along with two of the hot favourites – Czechoslovakia and Spain.
Brazil stuck to the team which won the tournament in Sweden. It was an aged side and many critics even weren’t ready to accept Brazil as favourites. Czechoslovakia, Spain, Yugoslavia and USSR were much more energetic than them and according to many, this Brazilian side would come under pressure not because they lacked skill and experience, but stamina, which is also required in big stages.
In their first group game against Mexico, Brazil started off with a dash and Pele’s goal was one of the best he scored in the greatest show on earth – dribbling past at least five Mexican defenders to script an astonishing strike. Pele hinted that Chile 1962 would be his World Cup, but tragedy struck in the next match against the Czechs. Pele was injured and was out for the rest of the tournament. Botafogo’s Amarildo was his replacement – an unknown figure even at his own club.
With the absence of Pele, Brazil thought they had lost the team’s dynamism. Tim Vickery wrote, “This was tough, because Brazil’s ‘62 side was aging. The old Brazilian love for hierarchy had reasserted itself; the class of 58 were world champions, therefore they would always be world champions. The mentality was present four years later, with disastrous results, when any of the 1958 team who could still stand were taken to the World Cup in England. Pele, at 21, and the slightly older Amarildo, who replaced him, were by some distance the youngest players in the team. Next came centre forward Vava, who was 27, Garrincha, 28, and central midfielder Zito, approaching 30”.
In such a critical situation, Garrincha decided to unleash his true colours. With his right leg pointing inwards and left leg pointing outwards, Garrincha played with a freedom of spirit and, at times, a reckless disregard for the “end product” that is difficult to fathom in a sport now dominated by results.
In the all-important match against Spain, the quarter-final clash against England and semi-final showdown against a notorious Chile side, it seemed that the gods created dribbling only for Garrincha – he started to run from the right, past defenders, continuing until he reached an acute angle near the goal post. Stopped, he would win the ball back and start dribbling again. This time, not on the right flank, but either in the attacking midfield position or centre forward spot. The rest of the players were witnessing a genius in action with sheer amazement.
Fredorraci described Garrincha this way: “There was no way around it: Garrincha was on the outside of everything. To those from Rio, he was a simple kid from the sticks (almost literally: his hometown was named Pau Grande, ‘big stick’, for a giant tree that once stood there). As much as he loved playing the game, he didn’t follow it very closely; he seemed unperturbed by the national team’s failure in 1950, unlike the rest of Brazil. He was largely unconcerned with the trappings of fame, even with being called up to the national team for the first time. (Not that he minded being doted on as everyone’s favourite player, until fame turned viciously against him).
Garrincha didn’t just slip in and out of the fissures in the match: he was playing his own game. It was more id than ego. He was so unorthodox that he should have been deemed faulty by the pro game’s industrial processes. Or he could have become a compliment, an ornament, a sideshow: the crooked-legged hick savant with the outrageous skills that make crowds of foreigners cry ‘olé!’ and keep the tours rolling along”.
Modern day media and fans cite the example of Maradona’s individual charisma against England and Belgium in Mexico 1986. But they have little idea about Garrincha’s mesmerizing skills against England and Chile in the quarter-finals and semi-final respectively. If Maradona won those two matches on his own, then Garrincha did the same. The difference was, he used his feet to score goals and not his fist. He not only scored goals, but created opportunities for Vava and Amarildo as well.
As Cris Freddi said in the Complete Book of the World Cup, “Only Maradona has ever left such a mark on a World Cup quarter-final and semi.” For the duration of those matches, he was reinventing football. This was the revenge of the “dribbler, pure and simple”.
In the final against Czechoslovakia, he was man-marked, but still, would prove hard to handle. When Zito scored the third goal, it was confirmed, Brazil would be the first team to win the World Cup two times in a row since Italy after the war and it would never have been possible without the angel from Rio, Garrincha, the joy of the people.