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Brazil milestone evokes memories of Pele and Moore

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Tim Vickery | 09:23 UK time, Monday, 12 November 2012

“One of the biggest blasts of hot air, which I’ve been hearing ever since I was an adolescent, is the idea that top level sport is a good place to learn and develop ethical and moral values.

"It never was. Ambition, the desire to be a hero and to make lots of money are usually much stronger.”

So wrote 1970 Brazil great Tostao in Sunday’s version of his always interesting column, a twice weekly space where football is analysed by someone of great knowledge and intelligence who loves the game but is even more fascinated by the subtleties and contradictions of the human being.

“There are exceptions,” he continues, before plunging into depressing accounts of athletes doping themselves to gain an illegal advantage.


Brazilian midfielder Oscar has been in impressive form for club and country. Photo: Getty

One of those exceptions – a moment when high level sport both teaches and disseminates a powerful ethical message – took place just a few yards away from him.

I refer to the post-match embrace between Pele and Bobby Moore after Brazil had beaten England 1-0 in the 1970 World Cup.

It is a wonderful image, and a highly fitting front cover for one of the all time great football books, ‘The Ball is Round,’ by David Goldblatt.

On one level, the photo stands as a symbol for the hundreds of thousands of cross-border friendships which have been nurtured by the global game.

On another, it shows how the previous 90 minutes had strengthened the bond of mutual respect between two of the giants of the game, a recognition that the skill of one had brought the very best out of the other.

My thoughts turned to that classic photo because this is a time for reflection. On Wednesday Brazil play what by their account is their 1,000th senior international match. A local journalist phoned me in the week asking me to choose a favourite – and that meeting with England in 1970 instantly came to mind.

On a baking afternoon in Guadalajara, it was not only Pele and Moore who re-enforced a mutual respect. The same thing happened between the two teams. England travelled to Mexico with their status as world champions called into question by many in Latin America.

The match against Brazil showed everyone that Alf Ramsey’s team had many virtues – not only in defence but also in mature, composed possession. Brazil were pinned back for long periods. Their players and coach are quick to acknowledge that the game could easily have ended in a draw, or even a win for England.

Brazil, meanwhile, gave definitive proof that they had overcome the hiccup of first round elimination in 1966, and that they had a generation worthy of comparison with their 1958 side. Their opening game in the 1970 campaign, a 4-1 win over Czechoslovakia, was a bit more shaky than the scoreline might suggest. Beating England showed they meant business.

Although it was only a group game, and both sides made it through to the quarter-finals, the outcome was also of great significance. Jairzinho, who scored the goal, is adamant that this was the moment when Brazil won the World Cup.

Topping the group meant that Brazil stayed in Guadalajara, where they polished off Peru and Uruguay on their way to the final. England, meanwhile, fell to West Germany – but only after taking them into extra time and tiring them.

The Germans then did the same thing to Italy in the semi-final – it was another extra-time thriller. So when Brazil met Italy in the final they were well aware that their opponents were likely to fade before the end of the game. Italy actually had more shots in the first half, which finished level at 1-1.

Brazil turned the screw after the interval and strolled home by a 4-1 margin to win the World Cup for the third time. But the key moment in the campaign came two weeks earlier with the victory over England.

For its significance, its quality and the unforgettable image of Pele and Bobby Moore at the end, that match is my personal pick from the treasure trove of almost a century of Brazil games. Readers are invited to use the comments section to write about their own choices.

It might be more fitting if the 1,000-game milestone was reached in an official competition. But in the circumstances Wednesday’s friendly against Colombia in New Jersey is interesting enough.

The Colombians have been looking very good in World Cup qualification. With attacking midfielder James Rodriguez flowering and Macnelly Torres a good, old fashioned playmaker, Jose Pekerman’s side are at last getting full value from centre forward Radamel Falcao Garcia. And the bench is full of dangerous attacking options.

The defence is more of a worry, with a generation of centre-backs growing old together. It will be fascinating to see how they stand up to the test of facing Neymar, Lucas, Kaka and Oscar.

And on the Brazil side, will the idea of playing without a centre-forward be maintained, and if so will it work as well as in last month’s matches? In a tight game, do the central midfield duo of Ramires and Paulinho have the range of passing to match their lung power?

And might centre-back Leandro Castan prove more than just an improvisation at left back, shoring up the weak side of Brazil’s defence?

Wednesday’s game is unlikely to hit the heights of Guadalajara in 1970. But for Brazil it is a potentially interesting step towards hosting the next World Cup, when hopefully their participation will once again send some unforgettable images around the globe.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I’ll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week’s postbag;

Q. I’m a Sao Paulo fan - despite the glorious past the team seems to have had mostly ups and downs the past two seasons. I’m not really looking forward to seeing Lucas depart for France and I am not at all sure that new signing Paulo Henrique Ganso will be able to provide the star power. What are your thoughts regarding the long term possibilities for this once "future super star" who has struggled with his form and with his emotional motivation?
Carlos Wysling

A. I’m also disappointed that Lucas is going. I suppose the money from PSG was too good to turn down, but I would have preferred to see him stay another year and play the Libertadores. Ganso is by no means a straight replacement, and, as you say, is now something of an enigma, wandering around on dodgy knees. But even if he struggles, Sao Paulo can still can count on the excellent and underrated Jadson.

But the big improvement in the second half of the season has been in defence. Two players are key in this – new signing Rafael Toloi, a no nonsense centre back who really should have gone to the Olympics. And the return from injury of central midfielder Wellington, whose dynamism is important. If the defensive unit keeps working well then it will be far easier to slot Ganso into the side. 

Tim Vickery is a regular guest on BBC Radio 5 live’s World Football Phone-in, which is available to download as a podcast.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Tim, good to see you on Michael Palin's thing last week. Why though was he doing the commentary in a dark studio somewhere? Can't the BBC afford to send him to an actual game these days? I was looking forward to seeing rows of Brazilian commentators goooooooooooooooling their lungs out.
    Fluminense's stadium looks amazing, kind of annoyed I didn't check it out when I was in Rio earlier this year.

    I'll be interested to see how far James Rodriguez can go, I saw Colombia play Peru earlier this year and Rodriguez was easily the best player on the pitch. Methinks we will hear plenty more from him in the years to come, if that game was any indication.

  • Comment number 2.

    About time that Brazil started to play some decent opposition, after the likes of China, Iraq and Japan, no disrespect to them, but they are hardly world beaters.
    I also think that Meneses needs to start using the Shakhtar 4, Willian, Adriano, Fernandinho, and Teixeira. They are quite e revelation and need to be given a chance to show what they can do for the Selecao.
    By the way the Pele-Moore incident was matched by Roberto Carlos and Beckham after Brazil beat England in Japan/South Korea WC 2002.

  • Comment number 3.

    @2 - Pele and Moore were two greats of the game and at the height of their powers in a hugely competitive match. I don't think you can compare Carlos and Beckham to that moment, Beckham is not one of the world greats......Carlos.....perhaps.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's sad that the 1000th match is being played in USA. It would have been better to play the match in Brazil, so the locals can join in. Tim, what're your views on this?

    I hope there are no serious injuries to Oscar, Luiz or Ramires. Would be a major blow to Chelsea.

  • Comment number 5.

    2.At 13:08 12th Nov 2012, Dave wrote:

    I'd say Beckham is recognised more worldwide than Bobby Moore ever was...........

  • Comment number 6.

    Good stuff Tim, like the sound of Tostao's column. He should know a thing or two about football! 1970 was before my time but I've watched the highlights and I think it's fair to say all agree it was an absolute classic.

    Probably my favourite game involving Brazil, although one that didn't end well for them - was the 1986 quarter-final against France. I can still see Joel Bats saving the Socrates (top corner - TM) penalty now. That was always coming sooner or later, the way he took them, but so stylish just like the rest of his game - just brilliant to watch.

    Zico's miss in normal time wasn't a fitting WC finale for the great man, but at least he scored in the shoot-out. A fantastic game, full of truly brilliant players, in a great tournament.

  • Comment number 7.

    3.At 13:21 12th Nov 2012, Davie Joe wrote:
    @2 - Pele and Moore were two greats of the game and at the height of their powers in a hugely competitive match. I don't think you can compare Carlos and Beckham to that moment, Beckham is not one of the world greats......Carlos.....perhaps

    I'm not a Beckham fanboy but in his prime he was undoubtedly a world great. He was one of the best right midfielders in the world, along with Figo in that era, and Real Madrid signed both - it's a shame that the perception of his celebrity appeal often obscures this.

  • Comment number 8.


    Agreed! There is only one fitting venue for this game and that is surely the Maracana,with Argentina as the opposition.

    Is the Maracana currently being refurbished?

  • Comment number 9.


    I don't think Bobby Moore had or would have wanted Beckham's PR machine.

  • Comment number 10.

    Um, this 1000th game nonsense. Brazil have played between circa 880-890 games (my own tally is 885). The CBF have added games against clubs and state selections to come up with their 1,000. Going back to 1970, I think as big a relief was overcoming Uruguay in view of what happended in 1950 and going down 1-0 before Clodoaldo scored his only goal for Brazil. To modern day stuff.....I watched Leandro Castan's debut and he is NOT a left back - our full backs are traditionally pacy and/or clever in possession and he is neither. So it is central defence or nothing for him me thinks.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great shout for the photograph Tim - forgot about this one.

    I think this moment was not only respect but the forming of a close bond that would eventually transpire onto the pitch - it's easy to forget what a formidable attacking force they were together in Escape to Victory!

    Skip to 2 minutes 50 seconds

  • Comment number 12.

    My favourite Brazil game was the 1994 world cup semi-final 1-0 win over Sweden. It was not a classic by any means and there have been far more entertaining games featuring brazil prior to and since that game, in fact the 3-2 win over Holland in the quarter final prior to this game would have been a more obvious pick. However, this was my 1st world cup (i was 8 years old and too young to remember the 1990 world cup) and this is the game that really sticks out in my memory. This is the tournament where i fell in love with football and i pretended to be Romario whenever i was in posession of a football for the rest of my childhood and for some reason, this is the game that sticks out in that tournament. Strange choice maybe but this is my personal favourite.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm really pleased that you've brought up the 1970 World Cup game between England and Brazil because it gives me the opportunity to set the record straight from a comment that was made a couple of weeks ago. Someone posted:-

    “1966 was an anomaly that will probably not happen again!!! Sir Alf Ramsey was a pragmatist who understood the limitations of his players and devised a wingless system which made his team difficult to beat and compensated for Moore's lack of pace.”

    First let me say that 1966 was no anomaly – in that era hosting the tournament gave that country a huge advantage (much more so than in the modern era) and so it was no surprise that England won the tournament on their own soil. There can also be little doubt that the England team of that era was one of the best in the world and would have been a contender no matter where the tournament was played. Most serious neutral commentators of the time (and many since) argue that the 1970 England team was better than the ‘66 one and would have been a real challenge to Brazil in that World Cup too if it hadn’t been played at altitude. An often repeated Pele quote said to Bobby Moore (that complements the picture) at the end of the group game between England and Brazil is “see you in the final”.

    Sir Alf Ramsey was a pragmatist but he didn’t devise the wingless system to make England difficult to beat or to compensate for Bobby Moore’s lack of pace. The game was different then and Moore’s lack of pace wouldn’t have been an issue – and I would also argue that his lack of pace wouldn’t have been an issue in the modern game either as his speed of thought and peerless anticipation would have more than compensated. If Bobby Moore had played in the same era as David Beckham he would have been twice the star both on and off the pitch.

    The real reason Ramsey constructed a formation without wingers was to get the best out of Bobby Charlton. I sometimes get the sense that people who never saw Bobby Charlton play don’t understand how good he was and how dependent England were on him to supply the creativity needed to win big games (and I say this as someone who has a lifelong distaste for Man Utd). In more recent years England have relied on the likes of Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard to provide the creative spark – in my opinion none of those players can hold a candle to Bobby Charlton at his peak.

    So if we're talking about anomalies I would suggest either Denmark winning the 1992 Euro Championships or Greece winning the 2004 Euro Championships would be a better place to start.

  • Comment number 14.

    9.At 13:51 12th Nov 2012, Frank Black wrote:

    I don't think Bobby Moore had or would have wanted Beckham's PR machine.

    I actually got the post # wrong, it should have been directed to #4.

    However the fact remains, Beckham was acclaimed as "world class" and was England captain. It was every bit as iconic as that picture with Moore & Pele.

  • Comment number 15.

    At 13:30 12th Nov 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:

    2.At 13:08 12th Nov 2012, Dave wrote:

    I'd say Beckham is recognised more worldwide than Bobby Moore ever was...........

    Probably - doesn't mean he was as good a player though.

  • Comment number 16.

    Is this blog really going to turn into a David Beckham debate. Not really the place

  • Comment number 17.

    @eduard streltsov

    This is not the place for you to troll and push your likeness for everything ManU.

  • Comment number 18.

    13 - agree totally about most people missing the point about Ramsey's midfield - the versatility of Ball and Peters (a homage to Zagallo of Brazil) gave a platform to the side's leading attacking talent, Bobby Charlton.

    England in 70 better than 66? A good debate - I wonder about Labone - not sure he was as good in the air as Jack Charlton, which may have had an effect on the outcome v West Germany.

    One fascinating aspect of England 70 is how far Ramsey had gone down the road of attacking full backs. Keith Newton and Terry Cooper were bombing forward all the time - against Brazil Newton missed out through injury and Cooper had to watch out for Jairzinho, but it's amazing how far England had advanced with this tactic - Newton set up both goals v Germany, and never played for England again.

    of course, with the full backs bombing forward, someone has to cover. Against Brazil the performances of Banks and Moore are often highlighted - another who was superb was Alan Mullery, who did a pretty good marking job on Pele and was also constructive.

  • Comment number 19.

    Baggio's Ponytail, also there are difficulties in comparing two players who played entirely different positions, and played in different positions. Although I agree that a blog on South American football shouldn't turn into a Beckham debate, I do think people are letting their distaste of Beckham's 'PR machine' distort their opinion of Beckham as a player in his prime.

  • Comment number 20.

    to me brazil are overated.....against really good footballing sides they have sometimes come short....the french in particular have always given brazil a tough game...the 1970 side were good and the 82 side...but they have had some really ordinary sides as well.

  • Comment number 21.

    *19 doh!, should say played different positions and different eras.

  • Comment number 22.

    15.At 14:16 12th Nov 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    At 13:30 12th Nov 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:

    Probably - doesn't mean he was as good a player though.

    Well that's debateable anyway. He's worn the colours of 3 of the best sides in the world.

    The point remains, in terms of an iconic picture, Becks & Robbie Carlos is every bit as iconic as Pele & Moore.

  • Comment number 23.


    On a slightly unrelated topic. Seeing Mexico triumph in the Olympics I've started to follow their progress a bit more in preparation for WC 2014. How do you rate their chances?

    And what do you think of 3 of the stars of the Olympics, Javier Aquino, Jorge Enriquez and Hector Herrera? Are these players good enough for the highest level given they made the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Romulo and co look ordinary?

    I've heard Herrera being linked with Barca, Man Utd etc would they suit a particular league?

  • Comment number 24.

    13 - agree with some of what you're said but whatever the reason for losing in Mexico, I don't think altitude can legitimately be claimed as a factor. It isn't that extreme.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ 6 Stevie_Bhoy
    Agree with you mate, that was one hell of a match in the heat of Guadalajara. I think if Brazil had beaten France, they could have met Argentina in the final, once they overcame a dour West germany. What a game that would have been?
    Brazil had a good team, their players, namely Careca, Junior, Socrates, Alemao, Elzo, Josimar to name a few were quite electric under Santana. But France also had a good side.
    Another match that lives in the memory is Brazil vs Italy 1982..

    @12 John Jensen.
    1994 Brazil had a good team then, yes watched that match, Brazil missed chance after chance with very good play. Especially Zinho, Mazinho and Romario. Sweden were defensive. The swedish goalkeeper was having a storming match. Romario scored in the 80th minute and the rest is history as they say.

  • Comment number 26.

    Since Yakubusdiet isn't here I would just like to say that Europe is over rated and gets too many places in the WC finals. I suggest that the WC be shrunk to 12 places with all of South America qualifying and have 2 play off places for the rest of the world.

    This blog doesn't seem quite right without a post like this.

  • Comment number 27.

    @26 Drastic

    I'd just like to add that the current Belgian team is one of the best i've ever seen ;-)

    Have we missed anything?

  • Comment number 28.

    27 Baggio

    Yes - Ecuador and Venezuela would easily beat Holland and Portugal every time.

  • Comment number 29.

    The progress of Brazil is interesting, they undoubtably have talent coming through, however the vibe doesnt seem the same as before, the group of Rivaldo,Carlos, Ronaldo etc etc had a real team vibe a real spirit about them, something that you cant buy and its a huge key to success in my opinion.

    Neymar, Oscar and co look good but ultimately seem lacking the balance of the older Brazil with the Ronaldinho's Cafu's of this world.

    Im so undecided on Neymar as at times the lad looks unstopable and some of the things the lad does is almost un-real, hopefully he can mature a bit and then make his way to Spain undoubtably to one of the 2 big clubs.

    I think 2014 may come at perfect timing for Brazil as these players coming throygh will really have settled in and matured.

  • Comment number 30.

    @ I'd like to add that since there are some South America v europe contests that should prove the superiority of the latin teams.

    I'd like to add that Panama should routinely thrash an overrated Spain side.

    USA should also hammer Russia who are no better than El Salvador & Turkmenistan.

  • Comment number 31.

    31 ESG

    You have strayed north of the border with those mate. Keep to Paraguay beating an always awful Germany.

  • Comment number 32.

    There have been some HUGELY disappointing England defeats over the years but the one against West Germany in 1970 still rankles - 2-0 up at half-time and cruising. I do think that England had a stronger overall team than in 1966 and one always has to wonder about the outcome if Banks hadn't been laid low before the game.
    The match against Brazil was a true classic, played in a great spirit and England certainly deserved the draw; Jeff Astle, who would normally have buried that last-gasp chance, fluffed his lines and skewed the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
    Funny, now I live in Guadalajara.

  • Comment number 33.

    Nice article Tim, but it's a shame that on the front of BBC football web page the picture shows Pele embracing Brazilian goalkeeper Ado and not, as the title suggests, the Pele - Moore embrace.

  • Comment number 34.

    Of course Beckham is recognised more worldwide than Moore; Beckham lives in the age of the Internet, satellite TV and hard marketing.
    In my opinion he is a triumph of PR style over substance, and has used said pr to boost his profile. How can a player with no pace, a poor tackle and the ability to swing a ball left-to-right only, be compared to Moore?
    The 1970 Workd Cup was the first I watched, aged 7 1/2; at school it was so exciting to hear if exotic places like "gwader le jar er", and I remember vividly playing football at school, every single one of us wanting to be Pele, Jairzinho or Rivelinho (come on, nobody 'wanted' to be Bobby Charlton, did they?)
    Best game?
    Without doubt 1982, Brazil vs Italy. If you have to ask, you'll never understand....

  • Comment number 35.

    Just a few comments to augment rather than differ from what Almostajoker wrote at 13.Without refeering to google, I do not think a home team won the World Cup from 1938 to 1962 and then not in 1970 and then from 1982 to 1994.

    What set Ramsey apart from his successors was that he was willing to go against what just about everyone thought and play who he thought were the best. He did not select Greaves in the final despite what many (not all) demanded. I just got the feeling that Erickson (sic), Capello and even Hodgson were or are frightened to drop at least one of Gerrard, Beckham,Lampard, Scholes, Rooney but daren't because they were frightened of the backlash from the media and fans.

  • Comment number 36.

    I was at the game in Guadalajara in 1970 and it was a wonderful experience. I was a huge Pele fan and it was a thrill to see him in the flesh. After seeing the game the most outstanding player that day for me was Bobby Moore. I had never been a big admirer until that day. He was immense. Was a proud England fan in defeat.

  • Comment number 37.

    Mexico 70 was a magical tournament and I seem to remember watching extended highlights early in the morning before school (does anyone else recall that scheduling ?). Moore's imperious performance against Brazil was even more creditable when you consider that he had been held in Bogota on a charge (later dropped) of stealing a bracelet from a jeweller's, something that caused him to miss several days of training. If you watch a re-run of Brazil's goal on the BBC you can hear David Coleman say in the buildup "Moore beaten for once, but back again": he was playing so well that the incomparable Coleman instantly sensed "danger".

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    @20 Ronnieboy: so Brazil is overated because they have sometimes lost to the best teams. Uh, whats the logic in that? By your reasoning, Brazil would only not be overated if it had NEVER lost a World Cup match and had won every single World Cup.

    And by your logic, EVERY team in the world that was World Champion is overated because every team has lost to other big teams.

    England lost to Brazil, Italy lost to Brazil, Germany lost to Brazil. ALL OVERATED TEAMS!

    @Tim: of course, its end of the year and 90% of brazilian commentators are saying that, IF Mano Menezes decides on playing with a classic centro-avante, he should call Fred instead of Damião. Whats your position Tim? Do you think Fred can still deliver on the international side or only in the brazilian league? Maybe his many goals are only a result of a good team where it all fit (including him) and in the Seleção he would not fit so well?

  • Comment number 40.

    Firstly, agree with post 2 - Dave.

    Secondly, my favourite Brazil match would be the 2002 World Cup final against Germany. This is because it cemented Ronaldo as one the greatest ever and it was a good game worth watching, even just to catch the great man and his emotions. He deserved it. That whole tournament was a good one for Brazil, they beat everyone, even sometimes coming from behind, and they played well and as a team but not without individual flourish. They deserved it too.

  • Comment number 41.

    "the key moment in the campaign" ... Two rival "key moments': 1. The world's best goalkeeper, Gordon Banks, going down with "Montezuma's Revenge" just before the game against Germany. 2. With England leading 2-0, Lee running in on goal thought that Hurst's shot was going in, and threw his arms up in celebration rather than giving the ball the touch needed to cross the line. At 3-0, there would surely have been an England win in normal time and a Brazil-England final. Bonetti, a 'keeper I never rated, then let two shots under his body for 2-2 and a West German extra time win.

    I believe that this result, late on Sunday night, changed the government in England. There were no major issues in the UK election, held four days later. The euphoria of England beating Germany would probably have carried the Labour government over the line. Instead, they lost by four seats. I still call it "the Bonetti election."

  • Comment number 42.

    For me the iconic moment was, some what ironically or tragically, the image of Roberto Baggio standing with his hands on his hips after the penalty miss WC 1994 final. I was 7 then, but he's the one who actually made me watch football ever since. Yes, he missed the penalty, but he had the courage to take it, despite the injured leg. It's amazing how pathetic Football coaches can be, as Italian coaches always neglected Roberto as he couldn't achieve greatest heights in his international career.

  • Comment number 43.

    To me the most memorable Brazil match I've seen was the one against Costa Rica in the WC 2002. It was such an end-to-end affair, and Costa Rica exposed their defence in a way where they could've easily scored 4 or 5 times. Unfortunately that wasn't to be and the final 5-2 score meant Turkey advanced to the 2nd round on goal difference. Tim can further comment on this subject, but I think that was a turning point for Brazil in that World Cup; from that match onwards they only conceded once against England.

  • Comment number 44.

    1000 Brazil games, all started by a Southampton player (Charles Miller).

    Shame Southampton FC don't make more of this historical connection and persuade Brazil to play a friendly at St Mary's.

  • Comment number 45.

    Bobby Moore, besides being a real gentleman, was also a great player, one of the best defenders that ever played the game.

    I remember him, playing for England against Brazil , in the 1964 match for Taça das Nações tournament, at Maracanã.

    Brazil won that match 5-1.

    England had a good team with Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves; but that night Pelé was unstoppable. He scored 1 goal and created 3 more, one of them after dribbling 3 or 4 english defenders.

    Good memories.....

  • Comment number 46.

    # 13 & #18 - I posted the comment about 1966 being an anomaly. If you read my comments again you will note my point that Ramsey built his side to allow his exceptional players to thrive. #18 correctly observes that Peters and Ball both protected and freed up Charlton. They also formed a shield in front of Moore and provided cover for a very average J. Charlton. You both corroborate my point that it will be very difficult for England to get the mix of home advantage (which you admit was crucial in that era), a pragmatic manager brave enough to go against conventional wisdom, a familiar climate, familiar/reliable turf, fervent national support, and friendly referees etc. For these reasons, I maintain that 1966 was an anomaly.

    No doubt B. Moore was a classy, intelligent defender but he had no pace, much like Ronald Koeman and John Terry both of whom have been embarrassed at international level when exposed to pacey forwards.

    I'm glad #45 mentioned the oft forgotten Brazil 5 v 1 England game in '64 because the English press always use the Guadalajara '70 game as a benchmark to elevate England to Brazil's high level. Most encounters between the two sides were dominated by Brazil !!!

  • Comment number 47.

    First saw Brazil as a very young kid in 74 and being not very impressed at all: for me the Dutch team that year left the more abiding affectionate memory. For me it took until 82 to enjoy Brazil and the 2-3 game with Italy still rates as one of my favourites.

    Moore's positional sense overcame the lack of pace. Not as classy as Beckenbaur but a great player who was I believe one of the 'celebrity' players of his era (model wife, media exposure). That however, is where the comparison with Becks ends, Moore was the real footballing deal not an over-hyped shirt-seller.

  • Comment number 48.

    Oscar reminds me of a very young Zico or Jean Tigana. Slight of frame, sure footed, strong in possession, intelligent, creative, and full of energy. He is quickly turning out to be the brain-box of the current Brazil side.

    1,000 games? Like Romario's 1,000 goals ?. It's hard to pick a game because so many of them stand out. Beating Holland 3-2 in the sweltering heat of Dallas (WC Q/F 1994) gave a disjointed team the confidence to win the tournament, likewise coming from behind and a man down to outplay and beat England 2-1 in Shizuoka (WC Q/F 2002) was probably the watershed moment for that winning team.

    The most pleasurable by a mile was the 3-1 defeat of Argentina in Barcelona (WC 1982 Rd 2). Having endured the daylight robbery of 1978 (Argentina 6 v 0 Peru) and the elevation of Kempes, Ardiles and Passarella (and later Maradona and Ramon Diaz) as South America's leading icons, this game was laden with significance, symbolism, skill. For ten minutes Argentina swarmed all over Brazil with breath taking verve in a game they had to win to stay in the competition. In the end, Brazil's magical sextet tore Argentina apart. Never before or since have I seen such an audacious display of artistry by so many players, on both sides, in one game. If you were too young to remember this game please find the DVD.

  • Comment number 49.

    # 47 - Please leave D. Beckham out of this. He performed well at the highest levels for country and clubs. I don't care much for Man U, Madrid or England but Beckham has my respect for the number of times he pulled chestnuts out of the fire for country and various clubs.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ChocolateBoxKid: Charles Miller (who was brazilian btw, although of english/scottish descent) also played for Corinthian in England. It was he who years later suggested the name Corinthian to the now famous brazilian club, who will be playing this years Club World Cup, probably a final against Chelsea.

    the germans however also had a big influence in the founding and dissimination of football in Brazil.

  • Comment number 51.

    England should have reached the WC final in 1970 and repeated that showdown with Brazil. The England team of 1970 was better than in 1966 in my opinion. Other han 1970 my favourite Brazil team was the 1982 side (Socrates, Zico et al). The fact that Itay beat them in the QFs with that Rossi hattrick means that they weren't remembered as much.

  • Comment number 52.


    Moore is like a lot of players of yesteryear - viewed through the prism of nostalgia - and he will never be matched or surpassed because of that, ie, he will not be allowed to.

    The reality is that if the Bobby Moore of 1966 played under the current fitness/coaching/dietary regimes, then he may have been an outstanding Premiership player. But I think it is also fair to speculate that he may have been average amongst current players.

    Neither of these eventualities is beyond doubt, but the nostalgia prism will always preclude the latter being the case.

  • Comment number 53.

    "He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head the ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's alright" George Best, on David Beckham

  • Comment number 54.


    Is that the opinion of a legend of the game or an embittered alcoholic has-been? Either way, what is it worth?

  • Comment number 55.

    Brazil wonderful in '58, superb in '70, fantastic and so unlucky in '82. Brazil '70 and Holland '74 the most exciting sides ever. Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Moore, Bobby Charlton, Platini, Maradona, Ronaldo, Socrates, Gert Muller perhaps stand out among many memorable world cup players. Agree that '82 Brazil-Italy game in that tiny stadium the most exciting as it had everything - Brazil could have done with Moore in defence to put a hold on Rossi that day!

  • Comment number 56.

    My first World Cup was 1978, so my favourite Brazil matches are all since that time.

    I'm not intending to suck up to ESG, but my favourite Brazil match was the 1982 2-1 victory over the USSR. The Soviet Union had a magnificent team in both 1982 and 1986, and it took two extraordinary late goals by Brazil to come back from 1-0 down to a USSR team which was inspired by a former European Footballer of the Year in Oleg Blokhin.

    The most depressing but still wonderful match was watching Italy beat - and eliminate - Brazil a fortnight later, with three goals from a player who had been found guilty of matchfixing. (For the benefit of the moderators, this is not a controversial statement or a defamatory one - if you look up Paulo Rossi you will see that this was the case). In effect, the most spectacular team I've ever seen in my life (Brazil'82) was dispatched by a combination of "rugged" defending combined with the goals of a convicted match-fixer.

    The other team in that group - Argentina - is now forgotten, but they were an astonishing team too, much better than their compatriots 4 years earlier and 4 years later who both won the World Cup.

    The 1982 Falklands conflict was a footnote of history to the England team and fans, but Argentina were clearly affected going into the tournament, and they lost the opening match to Belgium the evening before Argentina surrendered to British forces in Port Stanley.

    They come back strongly to defeat a very good Hungarian side 4-1, with the greatest Maradona performance I ever saw. But the defeat to Belgium meant that instead of a second round group of three with Poland and the USSR they instead got Italy (who were the best team in 1978 when Argentina won the World Cup) and the incomparable 1982 Brazilians.

    And this was in the days when Claudio Gentile (and anyone else) could do things on a football pitch in the name of "defending" which nowadays would attract a custodial sentence. If the 1982 World Cup had been played under modern refereeing guidelines we can assume that Brazil, Argentina and the USSR would have progressed further than Poland, West Germany and Italy actually did. Mind you, if midfielders had been expected to cover the ground they do nowadays Socrates might have passed away 29 years sooner than he actually did!

  • Comment number 57.

    @54 BJ

    George Best's comments about Beckham are highly significant because he was a Man United legend who actually loved Beckham - but could see his flaws.

    Best knew that Beckham had a sublime right foot which bore comparison to Johnny Haynes or Bobby Charlton, but that the rest of the package was flawed. At his best, Beckham was probably the second best right-sided midfielder on earth behind Finidi George (no quips please about the faded Finidi who went to Ipswich).

    I grew up on the blue side of Manchester, and we're a funny lot. I acknowledge that Best actually loved Beckham, regardless of that comment. And like any City fan of the seventies, my affection for Best is almost as strong as a United fan's would be.

  • Comment number 58.


    Fair points, although Finidi George trumps Figo?! Not sure about that. But I refer you to my comment @52 . Best, Charlton, Bell (in your case), etc will never be allowed to be lesser players than whatever the current crop is.

    It's a generational thing isn't it. Thinking back to when we were kids, the summers were always longer and sunnier than they are now weren't they. Ditto football players - always better and more exciting.

    When my kids are my age, they won't know anything about Best, Pele, and so on, their reference points will be Messi, Ronaldo, etc.

    I just try and inject some realism through all the hype and mysticism. Would Brazil 1970 beat Brazil 2012? Can't see it to be honest. Netherlands 1974 vs Netherlands 2012? Turkey shoot for van Persie and his mates.

    There is of course the coaching and training thing to factor in, but given standards and techniques improve in every 'measured' sport, how can it be assumed that the old-time football legends would automatically be present-day legends.

  • Comment number 59.

    @ 57 - Finidi George ? Are you serious ? I watched him as a kid playing for Sharks of Port Harcourt and for Nigeria. His situational awareness was superb as was his first touch, but he was no genius. At Ajax he was a disciplined, reliable, tricky winger much like Antonio Valencia today. There were much better wingers in that era ('92 - '02) - Overmars, Figo, Nedved, Folha, Ginola, to name a few.

  • Comment number 60.

    Luis Figo, point taken. Don't agree with @59 about Overmars et al though.

    I don't believe that standards do increase with each generation in ball sports. I accept that athletisism improves (in football, although I believe that in track and field the improvements of the last four decades are generally down to undetectable drugs).

    To give you an example outside football, bowling in cricket is manifestly grossly inferior to the period 1955-1995, especially fast bowling. Improving batting averages are down to flat, covered wickets and enormous cricket bats.

    In football, I can't see how Netherlands 2012 are anywhere close to Netherlands 1974. They are fitter, but so would the 1974 team be with modern training and diet regimes. But Van Persie and Huntelaar are an unfunny joke beside Cruyff, Rep, Rensenbrink and Van Hanegem.

    The players of the sixties and seventies and eighties were all smokers and were unlucky if they had to run 5 km during a match.

    I think a better way to put it would be to ask how Van Persie et al would have coped against the 1974 West Germans in a World Cup Final if they had smoked 40 cigarettes per day for the last 15 years, had never seen a gym, ran 5 miles per week, drank heavily and had had a big night of partying with the local lovelies the night before?

  • Comment number 61.

    @56 - The game against the USSR in '82 was a real classic. It is easy to forget how hard the Brazilians worked to overcome a very fit, well drilled and hugely talented Soviet team which had three of the top 20 players in World football at the time - Blokhin, Shengelia, and Dasayev. Nice pick. A few years ago Falcao stated that this was their toughest game because the Soviets were the best team they faced in the tournament. He felt they lost to Italy because of elementary mistakes and because Cerezo fell apart after his error gifted Rossi a goal. Boosting him proved such a distraction that Junior requested a substitution.

  • Comment number 62.

    @52 and 58
    Just because people remember more recent things better doesn't mean that they are better than older ones. Recent polling might suggest that "The Vicar of Dibley" was better than "Fawlty Towers", but that only shows that there are an awful lot of forgetful people and youngsters being sampled.

    I was born in 1969, but if I had to acknowledge the greatest footballers of all time I'd nominate:

    Top drawer: Pele + Maradona + di Stefano
    Next level: Messi (but rising close to the very top level), Cruyff, Puskas, Yashin, Beckenbauer, Garrincha, M Laudrup, Zidane
    Third tier: Moore, Banks, Charlton, Muller, Platini, Ronaldo, C Ronaldo et al.

    The reason why I only have two contemporary greats listed is because Messi and Ronaldo are so far superior to everyone else.

    And by the way, I acknowledge that Colin Bell was a very good midfielder, but that he'd struggle to get into the current England team. English football is the exception to my "modern football is rubbish" beliefs because the buying power of the Premier League has brought in such wonderful players.

    But I feel like bursting into tears every time I see Michael Laudrup in the Swansea dugout. I don't think English football fans understand how great he was, because he played in Spain before La Liga was widely watched in the UK. So to see him as a coach but not a player just gives me a huge sense of loss. Seriously, the level he played at from 1986-1998 was just astonishing.

  • Comment number 63.

    I sometimes feel, whilst Brazil's rich history of footballing success is rightly celebrated and well documented, there is a subconscious attitude in Europe that goes on like Brazilian football didn't exist before Pele and the 1958 Finals.

    I would very much recommend the multi-episode documentary 'The Beautiful Game', narrated by Terrence Stamp. There is an episode dedicated to the emergence of the game in South America and it frankly put me, a man who thought he was quite knowledgeable about the history of football, firmly in my place

    I'll have to be honest and say I just haven't seen enough Brazil games to say what 'the best' one was, but as for my favourite? I think Brazil vs Scotland in the '82 finals was a great exhibition, against a relatively strong Scottish team by a team that I felt should have won the title.

    I'll never forget Gordon Strachan recounting the moment that Scotland took the lead. The scorer was ecstatic and turned to his team mates to share his joy. However his team-mates were hesitant and looked almost worried by what he had done. As Strachan put it "we knew we'd scored too early, now they'd be angry with us."

    How right he was!

  • Comment number 64.

    @56 @61 Couldn't agree more with you both. My favourite game ever was Brazil v USSR 1982 - technically brilliant, gripping, 3 great great goals of which Eder's is my all-time favourite - he was an absolute genius of a player with the purest left foot I've ever seen. The game had a thrilling finale virtually no cynicism and was all about the football - I was mesmerised and didn't want anyone to win that night. Sadly both teams were eliminated by more cynical teams. This one is closely followed by Romania 3 Argentina 2 USA 1994 (the game of the tournament by a million miles and the game that signified the end of Diego Maradona as a player). To all of you that haven't seen these two games I urge you to find them somewhere and watch them - it will be time well spent!

  • Comment number 65.


    But are you saying that those on your list could take their place as they were in today's game and dominate like they did in theirs? For example, would the Pele of 1970 be as dominant a player in today's game? Because if you are, I simply disagree.

    I've seen both Fawlty Towers and Vicar of Dibley and would say that both have their moments. I would add that Fawlty Towers sticks in our minds because, like you describe Messi and Ronaldo, it was so obviously stand-out for its time.

  • Comment number 66.

    @62 You three tier list of greats is like flying a kite in the wind ... you have no idea what you are doing or where it will end up. How are you able to pass judgement on players from the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's if you were born in 1969, lived in Manchester, and probably had access to only radio and BBC 1 / BBC 2 in your formative years?

    Zidane better than Platini? Are you kidding me? Platini virtually carried the French team to their first ever international title in 1984, scoring in every game, including two hat-tricks, and finishing the highest ever scorer in the Euros (9 goals). This in addition to leading France to two WC semis in 82 and 86 in the absence of a renowned striker. For all his sublime skills, Zidane was blessed to be surrounded by a generation of exceptional players in every position. Even so, he sometimes proved a disruptive presence through his lack of discipline, missing crucial games due to red cards. In three Euros (96, 00, 04) he was no more than an important cog in a talented team. They could play without him, but France of 78 - 86 could not function well without Platini.

    Having watched live football in four continents since the 60's your ranking is a bit of an unfunny joke. Di Stefano, for all the encomiums, did not achieve what Pele, Maradona, Charlton, Garrincha and Muller did i.e. play against the best defenders of his era and win the WC.

    A more realistic ranking may look like this:

    Genius: Pele, Garrincha and Maradona

    Great: Didi, Vava, Platini, Charlton, Banks, Moore, Maeir, Muller, Beckenbauer, Ronaldo, Romario, Zidane, Cruiff, Cafu, Di Stefano, Cruiff, Rivaldo

    Excellent: Eusebio, Leonidas, Puskas, Van Basten, Gullitt, Thuram, Figo, M Laudrup, Ronaldinho, JJ Okocha, Hagi, Stoichkov, Savicevic, Desailly, Rijkaard and nearly 30 other players from across the globe.

    M. Laudrup is probably still a better player than his entire Swansea team put together and I will be surprised if he lasts long. It is always easier too transmit

  • Comment number 67.

    Gotta agree with BJ.

    I wasn't around when Fawlty Towers was originally airing, but I've watched it when it's been repeated over the years. I appreciate it but modern comedy is more sophisticated and as such, is a lot funnier. I say that without rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.

    (Yes, I am still applying this analogy to football)

  • Comment number 68.


    Are contemporary players not allowed, or are the rose-tinted spectacles in play?

    Fred Trueman was once described as becoming a much better bowler after he retired than when he was playing. That's what happens with football players of yesteryear. In the meantime, we have a list which puts JJ Okocha ahead of Messi and C. Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 69.

    At 10:25 13th Nov 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    I don't believe that standards do increase with each generation in ball sports.

    I have tended to disagree with a lot of what you post but I agree with that statement.

  • Comment number 70.

    The mark of the great player is just how much he stands out ahead of his peers.

    Messi has Aguero, Tevez, Higuain and di Maria as compatriots, but is miles ahead of any of them. And at club level he outshines terrific players like Xavi, Iniesta and Villa just the same.

    Pele was similarly head and shoulders above his peers, and so yes, I do believe that he would assert himself ahead of all of today's players, with only Messi coming close.

    As for @66, I married into a French family, and until 2006 I would swear blind that Platini was better than Zidane, although the years 2002-2005 had made me waver somewhat.

    2006 changed that. Platini in 1982 and 1986 had had Tigana, Giresse and Luis Fernandez as the greatest midfield I'd ever seen. And at Juventus he had the core of Italy's 1982 world champions, plus Boniek.

    In 1998 Zidane's only world class team-mates were Thuram at right-back, Lizerazu at left-back and Desailly. Vieira was still a work in progress and their strikers - such as Guivarch - belonged in League Two.

    But that was still a strong accompaniment compared with 2006, when most of the team were has-beens or never wases, and only Ribery consistently performed at a very high level.

    In fact, returning to Tim's original challenge, Brazil 0 France 1 at the 2006 World Cup would be my other favourite Brazil match. Not for Brazil, who lost their crown that day. But for how Zidane showed Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo et al just what the difference is between a very good player and a very great one.

    On YouTube there is a montage of Zidane's ball control from that match, accompanied by the music of the "Blue Danube". It's the closest thing I've ever seen to ballet on a football pitch, and I remember thinking that as I watched that masterclass by a slow, sweaty 34 year old chainsmoker.

    And from that day onwards (1 July 2006) I realised that I'd never fully appreciated the genius that was Zinedine Zidane. And I've never forgiven myself for considering Platini to be the greater of the two until I only had two matches left ever to watch Zidane.

  • Comment number 71.

    56.At 08:52 13th Nov 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    My first World Cup was 1978, so my favourite Brazil matches are all since that time.

    I'm not intending to suck up to ESG, but my favourite Brazil match was the 1982 2-1 victory over the USSR.

    I don't agree with a lot of what you say, but I was nodding my head to a lot of this. Not just because you appreciated the USSR team as well! ;)

    Unfortunately I am too young to have witnessed those games, but they looked very open when watching them on a replay (or the highlights at least). You are right that the side we had was a magnificent one. And I think they don't get the acclaims they should because they failed to win a major tournament. My personal favourite were the battles with the Netherlands. Particularly in 1988. I think it produced the best football matches ever. Essentially two teams principled under "total football" going at it hammer and tongs. Haven't seen anything like that since.

  • Comment number 72.

    @70 yakubusdiet

    I recognised Zidane's brilliance much sooner than you - some of his performances in Euro 2000 were mesmeric.

    I have to agree with you though that his performances at the World Cup in 2006 demonstrated what a great player he was. He dragged that French team to the final. Unfortunately for some his sending off will obscure his brilliant performances earlier in the tournament but they shouldn't.

  • Comment number 73.

    66.At 11:52 13th Nov 2012, Falcaocerezo wrote:
    Having watched live football in four continents since the 60's your ranking is a bit of an unfunny joke. Di Stefano, for all the encomiums, did not achieve what Pele, Maradona, Charlton, Garrincha and Muller did i.e. play against the best defenders of his era and win the WC.

    But that's a bit of a silly yardstick to use isn't it? I mean you're not going to honestly suggest that Kleberson was a better player than Stoichkov, Di Stefano, Best etc just because he won a WC?

    If Messi breaks all records possible but fails to win WC does that mean he's not the best of his generation?

    It's all down to opinion surely? I'd have to go with Yakubu's interpretation, and for me, it's players that standout from their counterparts. The best of their generation. Plus a few genii.

    Genius: Pele, Maradona, Eusebio, Best, Cruyff, Zidane, Di Stefano, Ronaldo

    Great: Garrincha, Messi, Puskas, Meisl, Charlton, C. Ronaldo, Romario, Muller, Blokhin, Streltsov, Van Basten, Platini etc

    Excellent: Nedved, Del Piero, Keegan, Law, Matthews, Rossi, Henry, Laudrup, Stoichkov, Hagi, Figo etc

    Plus you'd have to include DMs, DCs and GKs and full backs who all get a raw deal in these lists.

    I mean for me Yashin and Buffon have been two of the greatest ever players. Maldini is probably the most complete defender I have ever seen, Cafu the best full back. Then the likes of DMs such as Stiles who was such a key figure to Utd's & England's success.

  • Comment number 74.

    @71 Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    Ah Euro 88 - some of my earliest football memories. Putting aside the woeful England performances there were some great games in that tournament.

  • Comment number 75.

    74.At 12:38 13th Nov 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    @71 Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    Ah Euro 88 - some of my earliest football memories. Putting aside the woeful England performances there were some great games in that tournament.

    I couldn't understand how it went from great football in 88 to dour football in 92. It was only 4 years!!!! OR 2 if you count WC 1990.

  • Comment number 76.

    I love "footy" always have, always will. HOWEVER football palyers today are absolute morons. I love the game, but LOATH the players. Learn morals and values, what a load of tosh, quite the opposite actually.

  • Comment number 77.

    At 12:45 13th Nov 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:

    74.At 12:38 13th Nov 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    @71 Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost

    Ah Euro 88 - some of my earliest football memories. Putting aside the woeful England performances there were some great games in that tournament.

    I couldn't understand how it went from great football in 88 to dour football in 92. It was only 4 years!!!! OR 2 if you count WC 1990.

    It's odd. On paper Italia 90 had all the makings of a great tournament. Lots of top players at their peak and some exciting emerging teams (remember that Yugoslavia team?)

    There was far too much cynical tackling, diving and general negativity. Argentina were probably the worst but Germany and Netherlands were not far behind. I still have good memories of Cameroon and Colombia though.

  • Comment number 78.

    All this talk about the greatest players of all time is very hard to follow as , to be honest, how many of these great players have we actually seen play "in real life". For example,Maradonna had been at Wembley a few years prior but all we had ever seen were selected highlights on On The Ball or Football Focus. He played for Spurs in the Ardilles testimonial and I remember the comments mainly about his stature, he was relatively small and stocky (Keegan but with skill??) BUT it was only when you saw him play that it was this stature which gave him a low centre of gravity that gave him his tremendous balance. The only truly "great" over the past 40 years or so that I never saw in the flesh was Pele. You could tell by watching them that Best, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Maradonna were special and stood out amongst the rest of the players. But there was another side when seeing players too often. Gordon Banks may have been the greatest goalkeeper ever but I saw him make howlers when playing for Stoke. Bobby Moore was a colossus for England but saw him taken to the cleaners sometimes at West Ham! So perhaps what makes the truly great is not just the talent but also the occasion. The greatest is a purely personal view. My first hero was Jimmy Greaves but his record in World Cups was pretty average but to me he is still the greatest.

  • Comment number 79.


    You don't believe skills increase in ball sports generation by generation?

    Just watch the things Ronaldo does with the ball compared with what a 70s Brazilian did. Miles ahead. The 'Cruyff turn' is apparent at most U12 games nowadays isn't it.

    But we should expect that - it would be shameful if each subsequent generation did not learn from the previous and build on it. All aspects of life evolve, be that sport, thinking, technology.

    Changing sport, do you really think Fred Perry could handle Djokovic? I think even someone as recent as McEnroe would be murdered by any of today's top 10 - one match with a wooden racquet, one with a modern one. No contest.

  • Comment number 80.

    79.At 13:02 13th Nov 2012, BJ wrote:

    You don't believe skills increase in ball sports generation by generation?

    I think it's true with certain things, but the point is more akin to the fact that the top players would stand out regardless where they played.

    Eursebio is a good example. In 60s he ran 100m in about 10-11 seconds. He was strong as a bull and agile like a cat, he was two footed and had a shot as powerful as ronaldo, riise etc. If he had the benefits of today's modern footballers he'd completely eclipse Ronaldo in every aspect.

  • Comment number 81.

    @ 5: so is Britney Spears, but it doesn't make her a better singer than Shirley Bassey, Eduard. I do think Davie was a bit harsh on Becks tho'. Were they already RM team-mates by that time - that would certainly make it much less symbolic if so.
    @ 6: Tostão is a truly lovely person and his opinions on football are always worth hearing or reading, as he has an intelligence, sensitivity and perceptiveness that extend way beyond the bounds of the game, Stevie.
    @ 8: yes, for the 2014 WC.
    @ 13: I still haven't got over the way England squandered a 2-0 lead and total domination against Germany (foolish English substitutions and a smart German one turned it). Italy would have been a big challenge in the semis, but undoubtedly England had the team to go all the way to the final (and have several times since, but always falter). I am one of those who believes it was a stronger side than the 1966 one, the one weakness being at CF (like Brazil in 1982). Brazilians all tell me England was the only team they feared in 1970 (and again in 2002).
    @ 20: fair enough, but Brazilian 'ordinary' is a level many other nations can only dream of!
    @ 24: agreed, but I think the point being made is that, by topping the group, Brazil were able to stay at sea level, whereas England had to move to altitude (didn't stop Brazil in the final tho').
    @ 32: we seem to share the same feelings, although not about the cause. I know a lot of people blame Bonetti (an excellent keeper for Chelsea but a disaster for England), but do you know who I blame more - Hunt. Do you remember at 2-0 up he allowed the ball to pass between him and the post and excused himself for not blasting it into the gaping net because he thought it was going in anyway. This is the same player who, the closest to Hurst's controversial 1966 final shot, instead of following it up and removing any possible doubt, instead threw his hands in the air and turned away to celebrate. He might have been a lethal striker for Liverpool, but he was another disaster for England!
    @ 34: not for Brazilians it isn't - too many painful memories, like the 1950 WC final!
    @ 35: on the button. Ramsey put together the best TEAM, which experience shows is frequently not a collection of the best individuals. I agree with you that subsequent managers have laboured under that burden. Most notably in 1982, when, just needing to beat a weak Spain side they'd demolished weeks earlier in a friendly (and with the way to the title clear after the elimination of clear favourites Brazil), the injured Keegan and Brooking were preferred to a Hoddle and Francis pairing that was working well together and desperate to have a crack.

  • Comment number 82.


    I simply disagree. I don't think top players could stand out regardless of when they played - see my tennis example. Try watching some 60s basketball. Wilt Chamberlain dominated the sport for the Lakers, but he wouldn't get on the bench for an NBA franchise now.

    I think if today's Ronaldo had played in the 60s, he would now be considered to be the greatest player ever, by a long way. But of course because he plays now, he is not allowed to be considered that.

    Skills and techniques evolve and create better players. In 20 years there will be a bunch of us getting all wistful about Messi while a player better than Messi dominates world football.

  • Comment number 83.

    82.At 13:20 13th Nov 2012, BJ wrote:

    This is why I rarely try to compare two players from two different eras. You step into the hypothetical world.

    Things you have to consider about Ronaldo playing in 1960s:

    1. The poor standard of the pitch
    2. The boots (much heavier)
    3. THe ball (much heavier)
    4. Poor diet
    5. Poor physios
    6. Lack of training / professionalism (eg see George Best)
    7. Strength of tackling (Navarro's elbow may have got a yellow card if lucky)

    Plus others I can't think from the top of my head. All these factors would have had a great impact on his playing ability.

  • Comment number 84.

    Good points and I agree.

    But we still regularly hear that 1970s Brazil was the greatest team ever. Well, with your very valid points 1-7, how on earth could they be, or, more to the point, be expected to be?

    Greatest team of their era, of course. Greatest team ever? No chance, and they shouldn't be expected to be. And the same applies to individual players.

    I actually think if you neutralise your points 1-7 and bring 70s Brazil up to today, so the contest is about skill, technique and system, they couldn't begin to live with 2012 Brazil. But that is, as you say, entirely hypothetical.

  • Comment number 85.

    @66 Falcaocerezo

    Before you discount Zidane, consider this.

    In the 2006 World Cup, four days after his 34th birthday, he inspired France to a 3-1 victory over Spain.

    But not just any Spain team. This one had Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Puyol, Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Torres, Raul and Villa in the starting line-up.

    It was the same Spain team which they still use today, which hasn't lost a knockout match at a major tournament since that day.

    That is the mark of Zidane's greatness.

    @ 80 ESG
    I like your comparison of Eusebio and Cristiano Ronaldo, because I've always viewed Ronaldo as a sort of self-manufactured imitation of Eusebio. I think that Ronaldo has eked out every drop of his potential simply by being more dedicated to his training than anyone else, but I certainly don't think of him as even one of the best 50 players of the 36 years that I've been watching football.

    @79 BJ
    I really don't think that skill has improved at all in those same 35 years. I can't think of anyone English who can do what I saw Trevor Brooking do at the Nep Stadium in Budapest thirty years ago to get England to Spain'82 - none of the current English players can actually pass or even dribble. Rodney Marsh could. Stan Bowles could. Tony Currie could.

    To be honest, I think that ball control has slightly worsened in Europe and South America since the seventies, in part due to a greater emphasis on strength and especially stamina and endurance.

    If I had to pick 3 EPL players to retain the ball for me I think I'd choose Paul Scholes, John Obi Mikel and Joe Allen. None of whom are exactly the Platini, Giresse, Tigana and Fernandez of three decades ago.

  • Comment number 86.

    Where do you think ball skills come from?

    The answer is practice. The players of yesteryear had spent hours and hours and hours since a tender age kicking a ball around in rough conditions, whereas few of today's youths do.

    But professional footballers train for a couple of hours per day, and much of that is physical preparation . I accept that Cristiano Ronaldo puts in more hours of skill work than anyone else, but he still doesn't do more than Pele or Maradona did during their careers, although his body is clearly the result of more hours in the gym. Just watch the YouTube footage of Maradona scoring more free-kicks in training in South Africa with the Jabulani ball than Messi or Veron could (or than Ronaldo did).

    Messi reminds me of Maradona, although I'm still unconvinced that he has hit quite the same level. But Ronaldo? I don't even think he's as good as the last Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 87.

    84.At 13:39 13th Nov 2012, BJ wrote:

    Which is why I hate the term "Greatest ever" or "greatest of all time".

    For me it's simply best of their generation. For example there have been great national sides of the past starting with Austria in 1930s, Hungary in 1950s, Brazil 1970s, France 1990/00s, Spain (now). Where would you begin comparing them though? The spain of today would get kicked off the park by the Uruguayans or Argentinians in the 60s.

    Could the Brazil of 1970s out pass the current Spanish crop? Who knows!! Who cares!! Enjoy the football they played at that time!

  • Comment number 88.

    85.At 13:39 13th Nov 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "Before you discount Zidane, consider this." - Another one is Eusebio. Compare Portugal before him, during his time and then after him. That says it all about how good he was. The nearest you can come to single handedly carrying a team.

    "@ 80 ESG
    I like your comparison of Eusebio and Cristiano Ronaldo, because I've always viewed Ronaldo as a sort of self-manufactured imitation of Eusebio." - There's a few comparisons like that. To me the other Ronaldo was similar to Puskas. Strong, quick, deadly finish, got fat near the end.

    "I really don't think that skill has improved at all in those same 35 years. I can't think of anyone English who can do what I saw Trevor Brooking do at the Nep Stadium in Budapest thirty years ago to get England to Spain'82 " - You're comparing two slightly different things here. I'd say the skills of players in general has improved. However english players is a differnt thing altogether. I'd say tactically and technically they've been fairly stagnant for the past 20-30 years.

  • Comment number 89.


    So 35 years ago, you saw someone do what Ronaldo does now did you? I doubt it.

    In terms of continuously improving, I don't get why football would be any different from any other ball sport? I know ball juggling is an imperfect indicator, but it tells us something about the development of grass-roots skill levels. And surely if someone had to juggle a ball for your life, you'd be praying you had Cristiano's mobile and not Pele's.

  • Comment number 90.

    89.At 13:57 13th Nov 2012, BJ wrote:

    So 35 years ago, you saw someone do what Ronaldo does now did you? I

    To be fair I've seen videos of Eusebio and he was immense! Ronaldo is probably the nearest thing to him I've seen in football. And Ronaldo's is through hard work and dedication, Eusebio's was all natural ability and raw talent.

    You have to remember they used a much heavier ball, had heavier boots, worse pitch etc. It's not inconceivable that they didn't have as good ball skills as the players do now. In fact Eusebio grew up playing football with his bare feet. Give him a ball and he probably could dribble as good as the stars of today.

    I'd like to see Messi, Ronaldo & co play a game in 60s boots, on a muddy, shoddy pitch with a 60s football. I doubt it would be the same as it is now.

  • Comment number 91.

    @89 BJ

    I can see the point you are making but I just don't believe the best players of today are any more skilled than those in previous generations. Fitter certainly but that is the case in all sports thanks to better nutrition/excercise techniques etc.

    I'll give you an example from another sport. The West Indies bowling attack in the 70s and 80s would be as frightening and effective today as it was back then.

  • Comment number 92.

    Another issue of course in all this is that when you see videos of Eusebio, you see his highlights - of the good stuff of course, not the cold rainy away game on a Wednesday night in front of a 2500 crowd where he couldn't be bothered.

    I often think a montage of Gascoigne's best bits would sit very adequately alongside the stuff we always see of Best. But we grew up with Gazza and we saw both sides, so we discount him as imperfect and he never figures. Ditto Pele - we all know the final goals, the halfway line shot (that missed), the dummy round the keeper and so on. But is that a fair basis on which to make a rounded judgement on The Greatest Player of All Time.

  • Comment number 93.


    I just don't understand why football would be any different from any other sport where skill levels are continuously improving. No one has yet put forward a sport where that is not happening - except football apparently.

    And, at the risk of being accused of being deliberately iconoclastic, I don't actually think the West Indies attack of the 80s is that great an example. That bowling attack was devastating because it never stopped coming at you and, to that extent, the Windies were lucky they had them all at the same time. Individually would they have carried the same threat as they did collectively? Nope. We could piece together as scary an attack from today's bowlers, they just wouldn't all play for the same team!

  • Comment number 94.

    BLR Brazil at 81, 1 question. Are you my long lost brother? I could not agree with you more on just about everything you write. I try not to get on my favorite subject that being whilst England continue to prefer Hunt over Greaves, McDermott over Hoddle, Gerry Francis over Hudson, Currie, Bowles and even more recently Ince over Le Tissier then we have no chance of winning anything. 2 exceptions being 1966 when we had "world class" players like Banks, Moore and Charlton and exceptional players like Ball, Wilson then we could compensate for not having Greaves. The 2nd exception was after Ramsey was sacked, Joe Mercer was in temporary charge and he did not play a "destroyer in midfield but played Weller, Worthington, Brooking, Martin Dobson, Bell, Bowles. They played wonderful, entertaining football and then the FA replaced him with Revie ,,,nuff said!

  • Comment number 95.

    @ 39: Fred is a great striker and has shown over the last few years that with him Flu are great, without him they're not. On ability alone, he would deserve a call up. However, Mano is preparing for the 2014 WC, and logic suggests fielding players who will be in strong contention in 2 years' time, so they can learn to gel together. And I'm not sure that Fred will still be at the top of his game by then.
    @ 41: I stand corrected re my previous post - having carried 2 grudges against Roger Hunt for all these years I see it should only have been one and the other should have been carried by the man who popularised diving. Brazilians, who love a conspiracy theory, have suggested to me that both Moore's tussle with the law in Colombia and Banks' dodgy tummy were set up by rivals. We've certainly paid a heavy price against the Germans for that 1966 win, haven't we!
    @ 44. Great idea, and quite possibly one Brazil would accept.
    @ 45 & 46: my favourite Brazil v England game was also at the Maracanã, when an England side captained by Brian Robson and with 2 talented wingers (Barnes and Chamberlain) brazilianized the local team, who went into shock they were so surprised to be beaten 2-0 in such style. People make such a big thing of Moore's lack of pace, but he had such incredible reading of the game he was always in the right place at the right time anyway. It was only shown up right at the end of his England career. And Koeman and Terry aren't such bad company, tho' I'd rank Moore ahead of both, personally.
    @ 48 & 55: that game was unfortunately significant in another way, since Maradona's petulant karate kick on Batista put that influential defensive midfielder out of the game against Italy. His replacement, Cerezo, had an awful match and that may well have been the deciding factor in Brazil's defeat and elimination (they only needed a draw to go through!).
    @ 49: seconded!
    @ 57: nice (apart from the Finidi George - who? - bit)
    @ 60: :o)
    @ 62: I wouldn't take issue with your rankings (I'd add Best to level 2 and Garrincha to Level 1, while Ronaldo was a 2 that could have been a 1 without those almost career ending injuries)
    @ 63: nice anecdote! Brazil were confident they'd be a shoe-in for the title in 1950 and underestimated the Uruguayans. The defeat is still viewed as a national tragedy; hence the unfair pressure on Mano Menezes and the lads to win in 2014. The likes of Friedenreich, Domingos and Leônidas, Jair and Ademir were big stars long before Pele arrived on the scene.
    @ 75: which was also dour, if you remember, so just in 2 years really!
    @ 78: I'm a huge Greaves fan too. And while it was disappointing not to see him shine at the 1966 WC, In the event I'd say the result justified the decision to leave him out even after recovering from injury. Some of his goals for Spurs and Chelsea have to be seen to be believed.
    @ 79: I entirely agree with you about evolution being a matter of building on the lessons from previous generations (shame we don't do that more often in other aspects of life) and that it isn't only the physical preparation that has developed. I see long passes being sprayed around in the EPL every week, and deftly brought down with a single touch. Nevertheless, I have to agree that the first yardstick of greatness has to be how much one stands out from one's peers of the time. In this respect, I am sure Messi will, over the next few years, have elevated himself into the exclusive group of all-time geniuses of the game. But to reasonably compare different generations one must give the players the conditions available at the time, and I have no doubt that players who were great at reading the game and played with skill and intelligence would stand out in any era.

  • Comment number 96.

    In fact, I cannot think of ANY ball sport where "skill levels are constantly improving".

    Golf? Nope.

    Tennis? Nope, they just have more powerful rackets.

    Cricket? Nope. Bowling is at its lowest ebb for decades and heavier bats and dead wickets encourage flat-track bullies to fill their boots. I can't think of any of the ten Test nations whose current eleven would get more than three players into their 1982 eleven.

    Football? Today's midfielders and attackers thrive because referees give out cards like confetti and defenders don't dare to defend. If they had to play the hard men of yesterday their superior fitness would be little comfort in a duel with Gentile, Norman Hunter or Graeme Souness.

  • Comment number 97.

    93.At 14:26 13th Nov 2012, BJ wrote:

    I don't think skill levels have improved anywhere. Just more science to it. Carl Lewis has said before he doesn't believe there has been much improvement in the actual technique of spriniting, long jump etc, just better equipment and diet etc.

    I'd say the same about rugby, football, cricket etc as well.

    With football and skills. Imagine it this way.

    Stick some 60s boots on Messi, stick him on a muddy, shoddy pitch and give him a dull, heavy ball to dribble with. Stick 2-3 bruisers that will simply flatten him at any opportunity and not be reprimanded by the referee, and you will see his "dribbling ability" diminish rapidly.

  • Comment number 98.

    @ 85: 3 great English players, but interestingly distrusted and generally overlooked by the England management. I don't know if it's true that dribbling skill has deteriorated, but if that is so I would attribute it to lack of practice. Even back then, those players were often criticised for holding onto the ball for too long, and in the fast modern game one gets even less chance to do so. To cite just one example, I find myself crying out for Aaron Lennon to take on defences more often, as I believe he has the ability to do so, but he seems reluctant. I am sure that is due to fear of criticism if it doesn't work out (look at how he was marginalised in SA 2010, despite being among the better players in a very poor squad - on the pitch, not on paper; Rooney couldn't even control the ball!), allied to another fear - of injury - because the longer you are on the ball, and especially running with it, the more you are exposed to the sort of tackles that can put you out of the game for a while.
    @ 87: that's such an important statement! Enjoy it for what it is and be grateful to be present. And the difficulty of enjoying past performances today shows just how important it is to preserve all those old recordings of the greats who have illuminated the game over the decades.
    @ 94: Ah, I remember Joe Mercer's England taking a good Scottish side apart in a wonderful display. There were calls for him to be kept on, but I don't even know if he wanted to, or was merely helping out temporarily. Maybe English football would have taken a different path with him at the helm. But we can say that about Venables and Hoddle teams too. At least they seem to be building with the long term in mind now, but it's all so defensive. The premium players today are the ones who can unlock a defence with a dribble and/or perceptive pass, but hasn't it always been about that really?
    As for the family relationship, who knows??? :o)

  • Comment number 99.

    95.At 14:56 13th Nov 2012, BLRBrazil wrote:

    Hahaha I had to look up the numbers to see who you were replying to........

    "@ 75: which was also dour, if you remember, so just in 2 years really!" - yeah like I said, I couldn't understand how it could go from excellent matches to poor, boring foul, foul, dive games.

    "But to reasonably compare different generations one must give the players the conditions available at the time, and I have no doubt that players who were great at reading the game and played with skill and intelligence would stand out in any era." - As I've said in #97, would messi be as good in the 60s? I wonder.......

  • Comment number 100.

    When it comes to the great sides and players i think your opinion is coloured by your own experiences.

    I wasn't born until 76 so all my greatest memories are really of Maradonna in 86 and Gullit/Van Basten in 88 and all the tournaments thereafter.

    I think UK/English journalists (and as a result the general populace) look upon Brazil 70 with rose-tinted glasses. Mainly because it was England's only World Cup in the 1970's (Bobby Moore factor), it was the colour televised WC and it had a great final.

    My opinion of Pele is somewhat coloured by the personality of the man. I tire of seeing him hawk visa cards/banks/viagra at every World Cup and his incessant blowing of his own trumpet.

    He always has to ramble on about his 1,000 goals for Santos, NY Cosmos but how much are these goals really worth in comparison to Europe at the time.

    Maradonna was as mad as a bag of badgers, like to dabble in drugs and prone to the odd gaffe, but if I was to judge him and others on this basis I probably have no friends at all. I admire the honesty of the man (yeah, yeah.hand of god, drugs etc) and i rate him far above Pele as a person and player.

    Tim, do you know much about Gustavo Luis Soler or Ruben Insua, two Argentinian coaches currently at El Nacional and Deportivo Quito respectively


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