Remembering Tele Santana's immortal Brazilian team of 1982

Zico exluts after scoring a goal against Argentina in the 1982 World Cup. File photo: AFP

The Middle East's maiden World Cup kicks off in Qatar on November 20. The Brazilian football team is synonymous with the World Cup. The Selecao are the only team to have competed in the 21 previous editions. They have won the most number of titles – five – and have triumphed in Europe (Sweden, 1958), South America (Chile, 1962), North America (Mexico, 1970), North America (USA, 1994) and Asia (Korea-Japan, 2002).

The Brazilians are loved by fans all over the world for their beautiful game. They generally play not just to win but to entertain the fans as well. The surprising fact is that despite all their achievements on the world stage, arguably the most popular Brazilian team of all time did not win the World Cup. In fact they did not even qualify for the semifinals!

Tele Santana's 1982 Selecao mesmerised one and all and played such an attractive brand of football that they are rated higher than Ferenc Puskas' Magical Magyars of 1954 and Johan Cruyff's Total Football side of 1974. Hungary and the Netherlands fell at the final hurdle, while Brazil were knocked out in the second group round by Paolo Rossi's Italy. Needing only a draw to advance to the semifinals, Brazil lost 2-3 with Rossi netting a hat-trick in a classic. The Azzurri emerged champions, while the Brazilians attained immortality.

The team consisting of midfeild maestros Socrates, Zico, Falcao and Eder pumped in 15 goals in five matches, while conceding six. They began with a 2-1 win over the Soviet Union, with Eder netting the winner in the 88th minute. Scotland were swept aside 4-1 and New Zealand were blanked 4-0.

Brazil got the better of Argentina 3-1 in their opening match of the second group round. This was also the game in which a young Diego Maradona was infamously sent off for kicking Joao Batista.

The Brazilians were flying high, but Rossi and Italy dashed their hopes. Rossi gave them an early lead, while captain Socrates drew level soon. Italy regained the lead in the 25th minute, but Brazil restored parity through Falcao in the 68th. Six minutes later, Rossi completed his hat-trick and with it went Brazil's hopes. “The whole world has been enchanted by you. Be aware of that,” were Santana's comforting words to his crestfallen players.

Socrates mentions in his biography 'Doctor Socrates: Footballer, Philosopher, Legend' that he had a strange feeling it was going to be his final goal of the campaign when he netted the equaliser against Italy. The 'Doctor' and Zico returned for another shot at glory in Mexico under Santana four years later. But they were denied by Michel Platini's France on penalties in the quarterfinals. Zico missed a penalty in regular time while Socrates was thwarted by French goalkeeper Joel Bats in the shootout and Brazil paid the price.

Socrates misses his penalty in the shootout loss to France in the 1986 World Cup. File photo: AFP

Brazil ended a long wait for a fourth World Cup with the mercurial Romario leading the way at USA 94. The trio of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho led them to a record fifth world title in 2002. Brazil under Luiz Felipe Scolari produced a superb display, but they were no match for Santana's class of 1982 as far as style and grace were concerned. Santana passed away in 2006 and Socrates breathed his last in 2011. But they will be remembered as long as the beautiful game is played.

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