To put it simply, there is none better. Five titles, more than any other nation, between 1958 and 2002, has firmly established Brazil as football’s world super-power. As well as this, Brazil are the only nation to qualify for every tournament.
But it’s not just about the success. The swagger and style with which Brazil has sauntered to these victories has bewitched the rest of the watching world speechless for more than a decade.
The World had to wait
The start of Brazil’s world cup adventure didn’t show this promise however – they were knocked out in the first stage of the first ever tournament in Uruguay despite battering Bolivia 4-0. A 2-1 loss to Yugoslavia ultimately knocking them out.. The same fate was also suffered four years later in Italy, as Brazil fell in the first round 3-1 to Spain.
A change in fortunes began in France in 1938, as Brazil, with stars such as defender Domingos da Guia and talented forward Leonidas da Silva, reached the semi-final stage, where they were beaten by eventual champions and holders Italy.
1950 was to be, some experts say, the most important World Cup in the country’s history. Hosting it, the nation felt that this was their identity, and football could show the world what they could accomplish. They reached the final with a swagger, brushing aside teams like Mexico, Sweden and Spain 4-0, 7-1 and 6-1. They were saying they were world champions before the final. The 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the final was such a huge shock to the country, that everybody began a period of soul-searching, and, some say, shaped Brazil for years to come.
There was no joy in 1954 also, losing during the ‘Battle of Berne’ to a talented by gritty Hungary in the quarter-finals, but 1958 saw a new dawn for Brazil. Winners of the tournament, stars were also born such as Zagalo, Vava, but most particularly, Garrincha and Pele. A hat trick against France and a brace in the final established Pele’s remarkable rise to stardom.
The 60s, the 70s, Pele and Garrincha
This success was repeated in 1962, although Pele missed most of the tournament through injury. Fortunately, Garrincha stepped up, and won the tournament in a single-handed manner that only since has been done by Diego Maradona. The world now saw Brazil as the outright best, and they also saw themselves this way.
This is why being knocked out in the first round in 1966 was so devastating for them, the worst result in three decades. When Garrincha was finished, and Pele was kicked out of the competition by a brutish Portugal, Brazil lacked the spark which brought them their success.
They recovered it in 1970 though, when they swept all challengers aside gloriously, and with a team which boasted Pele, Gerson, Zairzinho, Tostao and Carlos Alberto, it was a claim to be the greatest team the world as ever seen.
Barren spells and 90s recovery
Their greatest success was followed by twenty-four barren years however, filled with disappointments, and rough teams which didn’t show the verve previous sides had. Even the immensely talented 1982 side with Zico and Socrates couldn’t win the ultimate prize.
In order to return to winning ways, Brazil abandoned their samba style, and resorted to win-at-all-costs tactics, as they strong-armed their way to the 1994 cup in the USA.
This fantasy football returned in 1998, as wonderkid Ronaldo blew teams away with pace, power and ability, but Brazil could only manage second place, losing to France in an odd final, 3-0, as Ronaldo reportedly had a fit the night before the match and looked distant throughout the match.
The Ronaldo years
Ronaldo returned in Japan/Korea 2002 along with Ronaldinho and Rivaldo to show the world that they can still win in style. Ronaldo was named player of the tournament and top scorer with 7 goals, proving himself to be the finest player in the world despite an horrific knee injury that could have ended his career.
Germany 2006 proved to be a disappointment however, as Brazil were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals, they never really got going, despite having a front four boasting Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka, with wonderkid Robinho in reserve,
With these five titles, as well as the style most of them were won with, nobody can doubt Brazil’s place at the summit of world football, with so many greats of the game through the years throughout all their teams.
The future in South Africa
Will Brazil be engraving their name in even more history this summer? They face stronger tests then previous years. The might of Italy in 2006 has been replaced by a glorious Spanish side keen for World Cup glory. The French side isn’t at the same level that beat Brazil in ’98, while South American neighbours Argentina boast the talent, but perhaps not the structure. No Rivaldo, no Ronaldo, and no Ronaldinho – the darlings of 2002. But the present stars of Kaka, Maicon and Julio César will be building towards greatness.