Brazil’s 1958 win revisited

Brazil’s 1958 win revisited


Brazil’s 1958 win revisited


Brazil, having won five times, is the dominant nation in the history of the World Cup. However, it took them a long time to produce their very first World Cup success.

Having blown up at home in the 1950 World Cup final in front of an estimated crowd of 210 000,  and completely lost their heads in the 1954 quarter final, infamous named the Battle of Berne, many considered Brazil to be too brittle on the big occasion to ever become world champions.

Brazil went to the 1958 World Cup as interesting contenders, but far from favourites. They had lost to Argentina during the 1957 Copa America and while touring Europe in 1956 they were beaten 3-0 by Italy and 4-2 by England.

Utilizing the inventive 4-2-4 system, featuring a 17 year old Pele and Garrincha, Brazil played their way into the final of the tournament, where they would face the host country Sweden.

Final against Swedish outfit brimming with Serie A stars 

In front of King Gustaf VI Adolf and a raucous crowd of more than 50 000 it was the Swedes who grabbed the lead after only 4 minutes. A beautiful goal scored by their superstar and captain Nils Erik Liedholm. Aged 36 he is the oldest player to ever have scored during a World Cup final.

Having helped Sweden win the 1948 Olympic tournament, Liedholm made a transfer to A.C. Milan where he would stay twelve season, winning multiple Scudettos and scoring 81 goals in 359 appearances.

Liedholm was far from the only Swede making a living playing in the Italian Serie A. Four other members of the Swedish squad played for Serie A teams. 

The midfielder Kurt Hamrin played for several Italian clubs and won two Coppa Italia titles with Fiorentina.

Arne Selmosson, a striker, played for Lazio, the left winger Lennart “Nacka” Skoglund had transferred from Hammarby to Inter Milan and Bengt Gustavsson played for Atalanta.

A great resource if you want to keep track of today’s Italy Serie A transfer news is the website Dailyseriea.

Even as the Swedes struck first through Liedholm, the final would be dominated by the Brazilians. Vava scored twice to bring Brazil into the lead. Pele made it a 3-1 lead with his first goal of the final. Zagallo scored Brazil’s fourth goal and even as Simonsson scored for Sweden in the 80th minute, Brazil was firmly in control with Pele scored his second goal of the final, with the match ending 5-2 to Brazil.

During the next eight years, Brazil would not lose a single game while both Pele and Garrincha were on the field. Brazil and Pele would follow up the 1958 World Cup win by winning again in both 1962 and 1970 and the time for asking questions about Brazil’s brittleness would become an ancient memory.

Brazil won the World Cup again in 1994 and 2002. They have been considered one of the main favourites more or less every World Cup after their 1958 win.

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