• Friday, March 06, 2015

Sweden 1958

Brazil join the party

The iconic photo of a 17-year-old Pele during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Photo: Daily Star Archive
The iconic photo of a 17-year-old Pele during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Photo: Daily Star Archive

Pele was just a 17-year-old boy and practically unknown when he arrived in Sweden in 1958 for the sixth World Cup. However, Brazil's convincing 5-2 win over the hosts in the final and Pele's outstanding performance playing alongside another football genius, Garrincha, were enough to draw the world's attention to the player that would later be crowned the 'King of football'.
A novel aspect of the tournament was that for the first time, the World Cup would have international television coverage. It was also the first time at the World Cup for three countries: the Soviet Union, Wales and Northern Ireland. The last two, together with England and Scotland, meant that the four British nations played at the same FIFA World Cup for the first and only time to date.
The English did not get very far and ended up being knocked out by the Soviets despite taking part in the first goalless draw in the history of World Cups, against Brazil. Wales and Northern Ireland won their respective play-off matches in the first phase against Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In the quarterfinal the Welsh faced Brazil. Result: Brazil 1-0, with Pele scoring the first from a total of 12 goals he would score in four different editions of the World Cup.
Hosts Sweden had allowed professional players to play for their national team and thus had fielded a stronger team. As a result, although they were not favourites, they sent the Soviets home and then beat West Germany to make it to the final.

Managed by Vicente Feola, Brazil trained intensively for three months and went on a tour of Europe before arriving in Sweden. The tactical innovation of the 4-2-4 system was the manager's idea and bet, but the team did not start playing well until their last group stage match, when Pele and Garrincha were in the starting line-up and Brazil beat the Soviet Union 2-0.
In the semifinal, Brazil had a hard match against France. Vava opened the score and Fontaine equalised, but thanks to Didi, Brazil was in the lead before the break. In the second half, Brazil made the most of the fact that France was a man down due to injury to defender Bob Jonquet, and Pele's hattrick sealed their 5-2 win.
In the final, playing in blue as the Swedes played in yellow, another convincing Brazilian win. The home team took the lead in the fourth minute with Liedholm. But Vava and Pele both scored twice and Zagallo once. At the end of the match, as a way of thanking their hosts for the welcome they had gotten, the Brazilians went on a victory lap around the Rasunda Stadium carrying the Swedish flag.


Published: 12:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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