Zagallo and football perfection, a World Cup figure unique

Mario Zagallo is one of those few who have won the World Cup both as player and coach, and his knowledge of the game is often overlooked in the presentation of the greatest men in the game.

As a player he represented the Rio clubs Flamengo and Botagfogo, in a career lasting 15 years from 1951 to 1965. During these years he also became a full international and World Cup player adding up 33 caps in which he scored 5 goals.

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Brazil won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962 and in the team you found Mario Zagallo alongside legends Pelè and Garrincha, who was the great men of those two special tournaments. But Zagallo’s name is a bit forgotten, though he shined and was selected for the 1962 World Cup All Star Team.

His name today is mostly known for his coaching role as Brazilian manager both in the 1970 and 1998 World Cup’s, being winners and runners-up in the tournaments. He also coached the team in the 1974 World Cup, ending 4th, and assistent and part of the coaching staff in 1994 when Brazil again lifted the World Cup as winners.

Mario Zagallo (89) is still around us, and should be fondly remembered for all his merits and some of his team selection is to perfection, as the 1970 World Cup team was build around players that originally played club football in the same position. Pelè was of course handed the number 10 role, as others had to fill up other positions, but in the end it’s all about football skills and they all managed to play themselves into the World Cup hall of fame.

Just a month before the 1958 World Cup, Mario Zagallo had never appeared in the Brazil national team (Celecao), but he was integral setting up the wins and fantastic final display in Sweden. He was a natural number 10, but switched to a wingers position to be able to attract interest and become an international, that also probably influenced his way of selecting players and see that great footballers could contribute playing in different roles than in their club teams.

England had this problem and still have as they tend to think football in positions and probably overlooking great players in their selection process and great skill and talent might not be recognized as well as it should, fielding Glenn Hoddle in a sweeper role and Tony Currie as a full back, or even play Kevin Keegan as a winger, something that would be seen as totally ridiculous, but seen working for Brazil.

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To field a gifted midfielder as a central defender is something done also by other nations and Franz Beckenbauer and Javier Macerano are two great examples of players who have dropped down into the central defence and played with perfection in a role, giving the defense a new and fantastic dimension especially as passing skills are often getting to a level that you seldom see from classical central defenders.

Zagallo’s eye for football is one you should respect with great admiration and the “Old Wolf” is one of those people that you should be looking for when thinking football, trying to find the perfect selection and really watching his tactical movements as he moved his “chess pieces” into the right positions.

His team in 1970 is the classical one, probably the finest team ever to win a World Cup, but also have great admiration for his team of 1974 that included some fantastic footballers and “icons” that probably never reached the same level of admiration. Roberto Rivelino and Jairzinho were both playing important roles in both teams, but besides those two most of the key players of the 1970 team were not in the squad, of course also Pelè no longer part of the national team.

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The gap was almost filled as Brazil reached the World Cup ended up 2nd in their finals group, defeated 2-0 by Netherlands in that last vital game, and also losing to Poland in the bronze final, but it was a close race and the team had a lot of talent, though often seen as a “flop” and “dirty” team, as they never played with the same flair as the 1970 outfit, but again showed that Mario Zagallo had the coaching skills of bringing a team together that could end as the final four, wich in it self for Brazil might be a disappointment, but for others would have been fantastic.

Zagallo reappeared as a Brazilian coach and later chief of the team two decades later, and again the team performed to become World Cup winners (1994) and silver medalists (1998) as Brazil for always and since 1958 have shown the World what a fantastic footballing nation they are. Mario Zagallo has been in and around that happenings during all those years and the respect and admiration will for always be with such a fantastic footballing man, and his presence and knowledge of the game should be looked at analyzed by the people who loves football and coaching.

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