In my earlier post I mentioned that Thiago Silva would be the only player in this current Brazilian side to grace an all-time XI. This sparked the idea in my head of drawing up a Brazilian starting XI of those players that have been the nation’s best at the World Cup. Clearly Thiago Silva features, not difficult considering some of the god awful defenders Brazil have produced over the years. So here it goes, as with any dream team, there is room for debate and argument. If I told you Zico doesn’t feature you would be forgiven for thinking I’ve lost my sanity. However when you get to the end it should become apparent that Brazil’s embarassment of riches just edges out the “White Pelé”.
Manager: Mário Zagallo (1970, 1974 & 1998)
GK: Gilmar (1958, 1962 & 1966)
Brazil’s number 1 in 1958 and 1962, Gilmar is by and far the best goalkeeper Brazil have produced, which tells you a lot about the dearth of quality in this position. That said he was a capable goalkeeper that produced some vital saves in big matches but when there were slip-ups, he could be safe in the knowledge that his attacking teammates would probably outscore the opposing team anyway.
RB: Cafu (1994, 1998, 2002 & 2006) [CAPTAIN]
The only player to appear in three World Cup finals, Cafu captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002. Brazil’s most capped player with 142, he also played a record 21 World Cup games for the Seleção.
Cafu’s relationship with Roberto Carlos was a driving force behind Brazilian success 12 years ago. Without doubt one of the best right-backs in the game.
CB: Lúcio (2002, 2006 & 2010)
A rarity among Brazilian defenders, both strong at the back and good in the air, Lúcio was a member of 2002 winning side. Despite making a mistake that led to Michael Owen scoring in the quarter-final, Lúcio was solid throughout, playing every minute of every game.
In 2006 he set a record, playing 386 successive minutes without committing a foul. He also played at the 2010 World Cup where Brazil exited at the quarter-finals to the Netherlands.
CB: Thiago Silva (2014)
Although he was included in Dunga’s 23-man squad for South Africa, Thiago Silva didn’t feature in any matches. Now team captain, Silva is probably second only to Neymar in terms of his importance to the Brazilian national side at this year’s World Cup.
A brilliant defender whose greatest strength is his consistency Thiago Silva already deserves a place in Brazil’s all-time World Cup XI, regardless of whether Brazil win the World Cup on home soil or not.
LB: Roberto Carlos (1998, 2002 & 2006)
No place for the great Nílton Santos as Roberto Carlos just pips him. Like Santos, Roberto Carlos enjoyed an almost telepathic understanding with his full-back partner, Cafu.
Roberto Carlos played all seven of Brazil’s games in France, including the 3-0 loss to France in the final. Four years later in recognition of his performances Carlos was included in the All-Star Team. 2006 was a different story for Roberto Carlos as he came under heavy criticism for failing to mark Thierry Henry on the free in that Henry found the end of to win the game.
CM: Sócrates (1982 & 1986)
Perhaps surprisingly, Sócrates is the only member of the 1982 vintage to make this starting XI, and as such is the only member of this side, alongside Thiago Silva for the moment, without a World Cup winner’s medal and, as urban legend would have it, to play for University College Dublin.
Despite his penchant for smoking, Sócrate’s athleticism never seemed to suffer as a result. His goal against Italy in the 1982 World Cup was just brilliant. The goal is made all the more aesthetically pleasing for the plume of chalk that rises behind Dino Zoff. He scored another two in 1986, the only goal against Spain in the group and a brilliant penalty against Poland in the round of 16, converting it without even running up to it.
CM: Gérson (1966 & 1970)
In the dazzling Brazilian side of 1970 Gérson was the mastermind in the midfield, a player in the same mould as Xavi Hernández of Spain. Like his counterpart in midfield, Sócrates, Gérson was a chain smoker but his passing ability would more than make up for this.
A poor World Cup in 1966 was followed by his finest hour in 1970. Pulling the strings in midfield, Brazil swept all before them. Despite the more obvious talents in the side such as Jairzinho and Tostão it was Gérson who was voted the 2nd best player of the tournament behind Pelé.
RW: Jairzinho (1966, 1970 & 1974)
On their way to winning the World Cup 1970, Jairzinho scored in every one of Brazil’s six matches, a record he shares with Uruguay’s Alcides Ghiggia (although Ghiggia only played four games). Despite his impressive seven-goal tally it wasn’t enough to secure the Golden Boot as Gerd Müller hit 10 in Mexico.
He made his debut at the 1966 World Cup but struggled to make an impression. 1970 would prove his finest hour as four years later in West Germany Brazil were outperformed by the Dutch, who consigned Brazil to the third/fourth-place play-off. A wonderfully athletic player, Jairzinho is fully deserving of his place in this side.
LW: Garrincha (1958, 1962 & 1966)
Nicknamed “little bird,” Garrincha is widely regarded as the finest dribbler of a ball there’s ever been. A member of Brazil’s World Cup winning side in 1958, it was the 1962 tournament where Garrincha stepped out from the limelight of Pelé and, in his absence through injury, guided Brazil to a second successive world title. As well as winning the award for best player, Garrincha was also joint top goalscorer.
1966 proved a bridge too far for the man who, when he and Pelé played alongside in a yellow shirt Brazil never lost a match. Jairzinho’s immediate predecessor on the wing, the pair of them would give any of the world’s greatest full-backs nightmares.
CF: Ronaldo (1998, 2002 & 2006)
The original and the best Ronaldo, in 98 games for Brazil “the phenomenon” scored 62 goals, making him the second highest goalscorer behind a certain someone. An unusued 17-year-old in USA ’94, he set the 1998 World Cup alight before succumbing to a mystery illness on the eve of the final.
Redemption came four years later though as Ronaldo scored eight times, including a brace in the final, as Brazil lifted their fifth World Cup. In 2006 he became the all-time leading goalscorer at the World Cup with 15. Often mocked for being overweight people are quick to forget that during the nineties and early 2000s there was no striker as complete, or fearsome, as Ronaldo.
CF: Pelé (1958, 1962, 1966 & 1970)
He had to feature, didn’t he? Brazil’s all-time highest goalscorer with 77, Pelé also holds the unique honour of being a member of three World Cup winning squads. For many, he is the greatest player that has ever played the game.
His status in the game is beyond legendary and even those who don’t follow football regardless of age have heard of Pelé. He’s basically transcended the sport. A partnership between him and Ronaldo at their respective peaks would have racked up cricket scores.
As this is Brazil and such is their embarrassment of riches that have graced the World Cup over the years I’ve featured a second XI. Looking at Brazil’s second string all-time XI any (dream) team would have a hard time against this magnificent lot, even if their central defence isn’t the strongest.
GK. Júlio César
RB. Djalma Santos; CB. Edinho; CB. Aldair; LB. Nílton Santos
CM. Roberto Rivelino; CM. Ronaldinho
RW. Leônidas; CF. Romário; CF. Zico; LW. Rivaldo
By Eoghan Wallace