By 90Min
March 15, 2018

Edvaldo Isidio "Vava" Neto is a name seldom recognised in 2018, but one that every Brazilian will recognise. Vava, born in the coastal city of Recife, is arguably Brazil's greatest ever striker, a player with mesmerising feet who could change a game in an instant. 

Not too dissimilar in style from his compatriot Ronaldo, Vava's immense finishing ability coupled with fluid movement meant that he would score an incredible fifteen goals in just twenty caps for his country. 

Brazil's dynamic, goal scoring centre forward led the line for his country in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and four years later in Chile. In Stockholm, where Brazil would play the hosts in the final, after Brazil had fallen behind to an early Swedish goal, their star striker turned the tie on its head. 


Vava scored the equaliser five minutes after falling behind, and he then grabbed Brazil's second of the game in the 32nd minute which opened the floodgates for a tired Sweden. Vava had grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck and put in an inspiring performance which led his country to an enthralling 5-2 win. 


Thanks to the striker's heroics in the early stages of the match, Brazil had won their first ever World Cup. 

Agence France Presse/GettyImages

Four years later in Chile, Vava had led the South Americans to another World Cup final. The striker put in an incredible performance in the final against Czechoslovakia which secured Brazil their second World Cup in as many tournaments. 


In the match, Vava scored Brazil's third goal when the Brazilian right back Djalma Santos looped a ball high into the sun and the hapless Czech keeper, Schroiff, dropped it straight into the path of the lethal finisher. Making no mistake, Vava buried it. 


Brazil were champions once again. Vava himself had become the first ever player to score in two World Cup finals, a feat that has only been matched four times since 1962. 

Vava was always good for goals, whether they were gifts or snatched through brisk opportunism. In the 1962 quarter final against England in Vina del Mar, he pounced after Garrincha's long-range free kick bounced off the chest of the England goalkeeper, Ron Springett. 

In the semi final, Vava scored two against hosts Chile, putting Brazil through to another World Cup final. The Brazilian striker was making it look too easy,

At club level, Vava started off at the local club in his hometown of Recife. Two years later in 1951, he began a seven year spell with Rio's Vasco da Gama. Vava would leave the Rio club shortly after the 1958 World Cup final to try his luck for three years with Atletico Madrid. 

Over in Spain, Vava would play some of the best club football of his career, boasting a scoring ratio of a goal in every other game. After three years in the Spanish capital, Vava returned to Brazil, where he would join Palmeiras - a way of guaranteeing his spot in the World Cup team for 1962. 


Vava greatly enjoyed his years in Madrid, but preferred the flexibility of Brazilian coaches. He once stated:


"they have their theories, but they do not entrap their players with them. They recognise an established player is a man of accomplishment, fond of the game, and having the ability to change the course of a battle by his own initiative when necessary". 


Such high praise meant that Vava was a respected player within Brazilian football, every manager wanted the finisher in their ranks, as well his role as a welcoming voice in the changing rooms.

STAFF/GettyImages

Vava was a strong, brave, thrustful player with excellent technique. However, when the 1958 World Cup started, Vava was not Brazil's first choice centre forward. Instead, 19-year-old Mazzola was preferred to the seasoned striker, but Brazil's manager, Vicente Feola, would soon change his mind. 

Vava came in for the third game, and continuing his rich World Cup form which had defined his career, the Brazilian finisher put two past Russia in Gothenburg. If there was a man who Feola could rely on to perform, it was Vava.

He went on to Mexico and the United States, but ended the 1960s with Portuguesa in Rio, before going into management in Brazil, Mexico and Spain. A mesmerising forward who had it all, Vava was the complete forward. 

An idol for Ronaldo, Vava's legacy in Brazilian football is immense, and the striker is fondly remembered across all of the country as the player who always scored when it mattered. 

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