For 250 million soccer players throughout the world, and for millions of fans, the World Cup is the World Series, the Olympic games and the Davis Cup all rolled into one. Once every four years the 16 best national teams, survivors of a worldwide elimination tournament, meet to decide which country really does play the best soccer football.
Last Sunday afternoon in Santiago, Chile they found out. With the great snowcapped peaks of the Andes peering over the rim of National Stadium, and 75,000 spectators jammed inside, the answer turned out to be the same that it had been at Stockholm in 1958: Brazil.
The Brazilians, a bubbling band of assassins, beat stubborn Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final game and won not only the World Cup once again but a victory for the slashing South American style of play as well. Czechoslovakia played as Europeans have been playing in recent years—methodically, carefully, concentrating on ball control and defense. For three weeks the Czech defense had been like a great pane of shatterproof glass thrown up before the goal, and perhaps no one in the tournament had performed with quite the diligence of the Czech goalkeeper, a stubby, balding little acrobat named Vilian Schroif. In an early-round game Schroif had stopped the Brazilians. But this time they assaulted his back line until it crumbled. Then they swarmed over Schroif.
Czechoslovakia actually scored first, moving the ball into Brazil's territory with precise, short passes to set up a close-in shot by Josef Masopust after 14 minutes of play. It took Brazil less than two minutes to tie the game. The Brazilians all have names, but they are very long ones, so they go by nicknames instead: Vavà, Didi, Zito, Lobo. The name that the Czechs feared most was Garrincha. Garrincha is a bow-legged little bullet of a man who had turned England upside down in the quarterfinals and repeated the operation against Chile in the semifinal round. By putting two and three and sometimes four men on Garrincha, the Czechs stopped him. But the strategy weakened them elsewhere and Zito, Amarildo, Tavares and Vavà poured through.
June 24, 1962
Amarildo scored first, on a vicious leftfooted kick from a difficult angle 30 yards out, and the score stood at 1-1 until 24 minutes of the second half. Then Amarildo sent a soft, arching pass across the face of the Czech goal. Schroif came out to intercept, missed, and Zito thumped the ball in with his head. The final Brazilian goal was scored by Vavà 10 minutes later. A long shot bounced off Schroif's hands and Vavà kicked it in. By the time the game ended, Schroif's tongue was hanging out so far that it looked like his necktie.
The championship match was along classic lines. To 7 million Chileans, however, this was not really the championship game at all. That had occurred four days earlier, when Chile met Brazil. In fact, the real story of the 1962 World Cup was the amazing march of little Chile to the semifinal round.
Chile was in the World Cup final group of 16 almost by chance. Always a contestant, never a contender, the pencil-thin nation furrowed between the Andes and the Pacific had been awarded the big tournament for good behavior and, as host team, did not have to qualify. The selection of Chile, said the F.I.F.A., governing body of world soccer, was in recognition of the small countries. It was not really expected that Chile would gain much recognition on the soccer field itself.
The 16 national teams in Chile were first divided into four-team groups to play a round-robin schedule within each group. The four winners and the four runners-up would then advance to the quarter-finals. There were clear favorites in each group. At Arica, a small town of tumbledown shacks surrounding a magnificent new soccer stadium, neither Russia nor Yugoslavia anticipated much trouble from Colombia or Uruguay. In Vina del Mar, a breathtaking seaside suburb of Valparaiso, Brazil and Czechoslovakia were the class, with Spain given a chance. Mexico did not count. At Rancagua, an agricultural town 62 miles south of Santiago, Hungary and England were clearly superior to Argentina and Bulgaria. Only in Santiago itself was there doubt. West Germany was good, Switzerland was nothing. But in between stood Italy and Chile, and who would advance?
For a while, during the first week of competition, it seemed that no one would advance. The U.S.S.R. arrived in Arica fresh from a Russian winter and discovered that Arica was located 1,000 miles north of Santiago, almost in the tropics along the Peruvian border. For days the Russians were so tired that they could hardly walk to the practice field. They were also having trouble with the eight-hour time change between Arica and Moscow. They slept most of the day and stayed awake all night. Finally the Russian coach, Gavril Kachalin, came up with a solution. "Go to bed," he commanded his players, "and sleep for 14 hours."
Czechoslovakia, without a surplus of funds for preliminary research, had dropped its housing problem in the lap of a Czech national living in Valparaiso. The man did a good job of finding a hotel but, unhappily, he was not a soccer buff. He forgot to arrange for a practice field. So the Czechs worked out daily in what amounted to a clearing in the jungle. Perhaps that is why Czechoslovakia played so well on defense.
The English came to Chile at the end of an eight-month season and they were tired when they landed. At Rancagua they found the weather gloomy and cold. "Now I've seen Chile," said one of the players on the second day, "and now I'm ready to go home." Alfredo di Stefano, the famous Argentine-born Spanish star, generally considered the game's best player until Brazil's Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, came along, developed a virus that was to keep him out of action altogether. The 16 coaches were so secretive that they would not appear on radio or television and would not allow their players to be interviewed by the press. Helenio Herrcra, the Spanish coach, actually showed up alone at a party given by the mayor of Vi√±a del Mar in honor of the Spanish players. Herrera admitted that he had been censoring the mail his players received from home. "Spaniards only write letters," he explained, "when the news is bad."
But, finally, the action began—if action is the word. The play was cautious to an extreme, the games generally low-scoring affairs. The trouble, it seems, stemmed from the goal-average system to be used in deciding who would advance to the quarter-finals in the event of a tie at the end of group play. Because the figure was arrived at by dividing the goals a team scored by the goals scored against it, everyone sat back to play defense. Everyone, that is, but Chile.
Chile went right to work on Switzerland, winning its first game 3-1. Schools closed for the occasion, shops and offices shut tight, a general meeting of the central committee of the local Communist party was called off, and by nightfall, records featuring a play-by-play broadcast of the match were selling in the music shops. The Chilean heroes went off into the seclusion of a private estate to prepare for Italy.
Soccer football is a wonderful game, partly because it is basically a very simple game. In two 45-minute periods, seldom broken by a time out, one team of 11 players attempts to kick a ball into the other team's goal, meanwhile protecting its own. It is a game that requires developed skills of a remarkably high order on the part of the individual, at least at this level of international competition. It also requires great speed and timing and almost unbelievable endurance, since substitutions are not allowed. But sometimes, in all the excitement, soccer teams forget the primary purpose of the game, and this is what happened to Italy. Having played a scoreless tie with West Germany in their opening game, the Italians set out to eliminate Chile from the World Cup altogether.
After only eight minutes, Giorgio Ferrini, the Italian inside left, was thrown out of the game for fighting. A few minutes later Ferrini was joined by Mario David, the right halfback, who had been found guilty by English referee Ken Aston of kicking Chilean players instead of the soccer ball. "The Italians were very rude," said Santiago papers next day. Rudeness, in South American soccer, seems to include anything up to and including carrying blackjacks concealed in one's trunks. In any event, rudeness got the Italians nowhere. Forced to play two men short for most of the game, they went down under the enthusiastic if not very expert Chilean attack, 2-0. It was the most exciting moment in Chile since Arturo Prat leaped onto the deck of the Peruvian flagship off Iquique in 1879, in a heroic solo attempt to spike the invader's guns. Today the Peruvians insist that Arturo Prat didn't really jump, that he was pushed, and after the soccer match the Italians felt a bit the same way. "The Chilean players," claimed the Italians, "were doped."
Chile could afford to ignore such accusations. With four points, two for each victory, Chile was assured a place in the quarter-finals, as either winner or runner-up of the group, the first team of all 16 to achieve guaranteed survival. So, relaxing, the Chileans lost to Germany 2-0 in the last game of group play and headed for Arica to meet the Russians.
If Chile's advance had been unexpectedly easy, that of most other quarter-finalists had been unexpectedly hard. Not one team survived the opening round with a perfect record. At Rancagua, Hungary showed a brief return to its pre-revolutionary form, defeating England 2-1 in a fine match, then smashing Bulgaria 6-1, only to be tied 0-0 by Argentina. England managed to advance with Hungary, but only by the narrowest of margins after a victory, a loss and a tie. Jimmy Greaves, the well-traveled little man who last year defected to Milan for ¬£90,000, then defected back to Tottenham Hotspur for ¬£99,999 a few months later, was playing like a tiger but seemed to have lost his famed scoring punch. Also he didn't have much help. The English really were tired.
But most of the interest, aside from Santiago, was focused on the groups at Vi√±a and Arica. At Vi√±a, the heavily favored Brazilians were hardly impressive while beating Mexico 2-0, even with their star, Pelé, playing and scoring a goal. Then, in a long-range preview of what was to be the championship match, Brazil was held to a scoreless tie by the Czechs. The Czech strategy was simple: render Pelé horizontal as soon as possible and get on with the match. At one time there were eight Czech players encircling "The Black Pearl" of Brazil, but finally Pelé did himself in. Getting off a particularly vicious shot at the Czech goal, Pelé severely strained a muscle in his groin, a muscle that had been first injured during the Brazilian season. He was carried off the field after only 24 minutes of play and, though he returned shortly, he was generally ineffective. His teammates, perhaps shocked by his loss, perhaps simply unable to penetrate the devilish Czech defense while one man short, were lucky to escape with a tie.
"There are two Brazilian teams," said Alberto Cassorla, president of the Chilean Football Coaches Association. "One with Pelé, one without Pelé. They do not resemble each other at all. The second one may not be good enough to win."
Now Brazil faced the necessity of gaining at least a tie with Spain in order to advance. At half time Spain led 1-0, and it was a very terrible moment back home in Brazil, where half the population was in danger of dropping dead in clusters around their radios. It was also a sad moment in Chile, for the Brazilians had become great favorites. Even the manager of the O'Higgins Hotel, where the Brazilian players were wont to practice kicking a soccer ball around the ballroom at 3 o'clock in the morning, was there to root for his tenants.
Perhaps Brazil felt this. Or maybe the players were spurred on by the crazy Brazilian band that sat high up in the stands, pounding out a rhythmic, infuriating clatter on an assortment of oilcans, apple boxes and tin rattles. Anyway, Brazil scored 27 minutes deep in the second half to tie up the game, and again with just four minutes remaining to win it. Later the Brazilians celebrated, not in the O'Higgins but in the Miramar, where Spain was staying. While the Spaniards huddled in their rooms, the Brazilians threw furniture all over the lobby, pounded on doors and kept everyone awake most of the night.
Meanwhile, at Arica, the Russians beat Yugoslavia, their toughest competition according to forecasts, by a 2-0 score in the opening game. But later, while Yugoslavia breezed ahead, the Russians began to flounder. Leading poor little Colombia 4-1, the Russian defense collapsed. So did the famed goalkeeper, Lev Yashin. Colombian kicks began to whistle past his ears as the South Americans scored three goals in eight minutes. At this point someone yelled Stalingrad and the Russians held. Three days later they reached the quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory over Uruguay on a goal scored in the last minute of play.
Somehow all the favorites had advanced, if Chile could be counted in this group, but it was hard to see how Chile could hope to go further. "Football is not very logical," hopefully reported El Mercurio, The New York Times of Chile, "and maybe a miracle will occur against Russia." Said El Siglo, the Communist sheet: "We have a chance." No one was exactly sure which team El Siglo was talking about.
But Chile beat Russia 2-1. "We decided on two tactics," said the Chilean coach, Fernando Riera. "To go all out on the attack, immediately. Then if we could score, we would drop back and try to protect that one goal." The Chileans also thought that they had detected a flaw in Lev Yashin's supposedly flawless goalkeeping technique. "You cannot beat him up high," said Riera. "He catches everything. We decided to keep all shots as low as possible, hopefully along the ground."
So the Chileans attacked, furiously. And at 11 minutes Leonel Sànchez, the outside left, kicked a ball from 40 yards into the Russian goal so hard that it parted two strands of the net. Bombs went off in the stands and a roar went up that could have been heard in Lima. The only trouble was that Chile could not hold the lead. Russia scored at 27 minutes. So back Chile went on the attack as if the players really had been doped. Led by Eladio Rojas, they swept onto the Russian goal and in one minute had scored again. Rojas joined Leonel Sànchez and Arturo Prat as a name for the ages in Chile by booting in the goal. Then all 11 men went on defense, and did stop Russia the rest of the way.
That night great masses of people paraded through downtown Santiago until 4 o'clock in the morning, dancing, cheering, screaming, waving flags and dumping paper streamers along Ahumada Street until the place looked like Pittsburgh the night after Bill Mazeroski hit his home run. In fact, it was so much fun that the Chileans returned the next night to do it all over again.
In somewhat less exciting circumstances, the other three semifinalists had been decided the same day. Yugoslavia beat Germany 1-0 at Santiago. In Rancagua, Czechoslovakia beat Hungary 1-0 by virtue of one sharp, well-executed offensive thrust, followed by the almost unbelievable goalkeeping of Schroif.
At Vi√±a, in place of Pelé, the Brazilians turned loose Manoel Francisco dos Santos, who is happily called Garrincha (after a small, swift Brazilian bird) and is perhaps the fastest soccer player in the world. Only 5 feet 6 inches tall, Garrincha has a right leg two inches shorter than his left. The latter, as if to compensate, is bowed like a hoop. At birth, it was said that Garrincha could never walk, but unfortunately for Brazil's foes, he somehow learned to run. Sometimes it seems that he runs in all directions at once. "He wobbles so much," said England's Jimmy Greaves, "that even when he comes at you to shake your hand, you don't know which way he's going." Garrincha is 27 years old, and his popularity in Brazil is equal even to that of Pelé. Among his fans are seven daughters. "I can outrun everyone but the stork," he says.
He certainly outran the English. He ran around them and under them and between them, dribbling the ball as if it was attached to his feet with adhesive tape. He scored twice, once with a header, once with a vicious kick past the fine English goalie, Ronald Springett. The Brazilians won 3-1, and far away, in a church in the nation's capital of Brasília, parishioners pulled their transistor radio plugs from their ears, smiled happily and turned their attention back to High Mass.
"Yes, Garrincha is a wonderful player," said the Brazilian coach, Aymore Moreira, after the game, "but we still miss Pelé. No one else is like him in the world. Garrincha plays only three notes, do, re, mi. He plays them well but Pelé plays the whole scale, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. And he plays each note better than anyone else."
"Pelé sounds like Willie Mays," suggested a visitor.
"Willie who?" said Moreira.
And so, for Chile, it came down to the big game against Brazil. The other semifinal passed almost unnoticed in Vi√±a, where the Czechs beat the Yugoslavs 3-1. The Czechs threw up their deadly defense once more, forced the Yugoslavs into numerous errors, then capitalized on the resulting confusion by scoring two quick, deciding goals in the last 10 minutes of play. The three goals were as many as Czechoslovakia had scored in its four previous games, and there were soccer experts who decided then that the Czechs were going to give Brazil all it could handle in the finals. Maybe more. And of course Brazil was going to be in the finals. Even the Chileans had to admit this.
For Chile, it was almost a shame that everyone was right.
Brazil won, and again Garrincha was the executioner. Fast as always, the little man scored after only nine minutes of play. Then he scored again at 32 minutes. The Chileans managed a goal just before half time but after only three minutes of the second half Brazil went ahead again by two. Garrincha sent a perfect corner kick sailing across the mouth of the Chilean goal and Vavà, leaping high into the air, headed the ball into the net. The final score was 4-2, and the people of Santiago did not parade down Ahumada Street that night. Not even the thrilling consolation victory over Yugoslavia three days later, when Rojas kicked the only goal with less than a minute to play, could quite console the Chileans for what might have been.
"When the sadness goes away," said Alberto Cassorla, "the people will begin to realize what a wonderful thing has happened. Chile would never have progressed so far if the championships had been played in Europe. But here, at home, the team received the great enthusiasm of the crowds and they began to play better than they are capable. We never really had a chance against Brazil," he admitted, "but then we never had a chance against Russia either. Actually maybe we should have lost to Italy. But if we had, the World Cup this year would not have been nearly so much fun, would it?"