Estadio Benito Villamarín, Seville
June 18, 1982
Scotland – 1 (Narey)
Brazil – 4 (Zico, Oscar, Éder, Falcão)
Netherlands’ “Total football” team became the third team in history to reach back to back World Cup finals. Ferenc Puscas’ Hungary had one of the longest unbeaten streaks in international football and an Olympic gold medal as well. However, Tele Santana’s supposedly great Brazil side of 1982 World Cup didn’t have such “success”. Forget reaching the final, they didn’t even make it to the last four. When compared to the Selecao’s illustrious history, this team achieved very little.
Yet, for many Brazilians and football fans in general, they were one of the greatest side of all time. Perhaps, the greatest to have not won anything. This came down solely to the type of effortless football they played. Brazil of 1982 World Cup was probably the last side to play football for the sheer enjoyment of it. Results were not important. Watching Brazil in Spain was watching football reach its purest aesthetic peak.
** Backdrop **
Going by what we see today, it is easy to dismiss the Scots against any Brazilian side as also-rans, but their 1982 side was probably their strongest in decades. To start off, they were under the great Jock Stein and had a clutch of players who did well in Europe with English clubs – Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Gordon Strachan among them. The Scots started strongly as well, thrashing debutants New Zealand 5-2.
On the other hand, Brazil, for the first time in 12 years, had entered a world cup as favourites. Sócrates and Co. were easily the most talented side in the tournament and they had made good accounts of themselves in a European tour before the world cup. They opened their tournament against USSR and conceded the first goal but eventually won 2-1.
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** The Match **
Brazil : Valdir Peres; Leandro, Oscar, Luizinho, Júnior; Toninho Cerezo, Falcão, Sócrates, Éder; Zico, Serginho
Scotland : Alan Rough; Frank Gray, Willie Miller, Alan Hansen, David Narey; John Wark, Graeme Souness, Gordon Strachan, Asa Hartford; John Robertson, Steve Archibald
As expected, it was Brazil who started the match in attacking mode. Waves of canary yellow shirt hit the Scottish penalty box as Brazil pumped in three to four players in goal scoring positions in early minutes. However, the Scots didn’t allow them a proper chance on goal evident by Cerezo’s long range effort which blazed way over the bar at the 10 minute mark. Brazil got their first real chance to score on the 13th minute mark as a swerving freekick from Zico was headed into side-netting by Sócrates.
Despite all of Brazil’s possession play, it was Scotland who took the lead on 17 minutes. Souness’ aerial ball from midfield was headed down by John Wark on to the path of David Narey, the right-back who had overlapped and then cut-back past Éder to meet the ball. With two Brazilian center backs closing down on him, Narey’s second touch was a delicious right footer into top right corner. Brazil o, Scotland 1.
Narey’s goal somewhat ruffled the Brazilians as next few minutes provided a mini-period of respite for the Scottish defence. However, this Brazil side would not be cowered into submission by one goal and they soon began to surge into Scottish penalty box again.
Their mentality to play attacking football was incredible, as was their off the ball movement. Few Brazilians stayed rooted to their spots after playing a pass which meant that there usually were about six to seven different directions to which a pass could be made. A Brazilian player rarely chose the option of playing a back-pass, often choosing to pick a team-mate who was closest to opening up opponent defence. They played patterns but rarely over-did it. Brazil’s main target was to score goals and they were willing to exploit all options, including crosses from wings and long balls.
A goal for Brazil was just a matter of time and it came eighteen minutes after they went down, albeit from a set piece. Zico curled in a perfect freekick from edge of the box into the top corner after it was awarded somewhat controversially.
Scotland though, had not given up as John Robertson continuously found free space on Brazil’s right-flank while John Wark tried to exploit Brazilian defenders’ weakness in dealing with aerial balls. Brazil dominated possession but scoreline read 1-1 at half time.
Careca’s injury before the world cup had dealt a blow to Brazil. Without him all their attacking moves didn’t have a reference point. Serginho, despite possessing characteristics of a target man was never fully in sync with attacking movement of rest of the team. A number of Brazil’s potent attacks fizzed out because the final pass was not played properly.
After the break, Brazil were all over the European side from the outset.. On 48 minutes, Sócrates outfoxed his marker with a sumptuous piece of skill to drill a low ball into Scottish box, only to see Hansen clear it. Júnior whipped in the corner as central defender Oscar out jumped Souness to put Brazil ahead. The floodgates had been opened.
Zico could have scored a hattrick by the time Brazil’s third goal arrived but his finishing was poor. Brazil’s third though, was worth the wait just for the build-up. Peres started the move by throwing the ball to Falcão, whose long pass found Sócrates. Sócrates crossed the half line and found Serginho near the Scot penalty box. The striker had his back towards the goal when the pass was played and he didn’t receive it. Instead he let the ball pass him, turned back and his first touch opened up the goal for Éder. This move needed a finish with flourish and the Atlético Mineiro winger provided it, feigning a shot then chipping perfectly over Rough.
Stein tried to shake things up by bringing on Dalglish but Brazil was in full flow now. Scotland midfield was full of gaps and tired legs as Brazilians effortlessly launched one attack after another. Éder’s cross on 75th minute was narrowly missed by Luizinho as Scotland were getting overwhelmed by the triangles and little one-two Brazilians, who didn’t look tired at all, were playing.
Falcão, who had a comparatively quiet game, scored the fourth just before the final whistle. A triangle between Éder, Cerezo and Sócrates set up the Roma midfielder who bulleted the ball into Rough’s far corner. A well deserved finish for this match.
Most of the crucial players for Brazil delivered against the Scots. Sócrates was guilty of launching couple of misdirected crosses but he was played a big part in three of Brazil’s goals. Zico’s movement undid Scottish defence more than once and it was his freekick which brought Brazil’s equalizer. Éder was a constant threat on the wings while Cerezo and Falcão effortlessly dominated the midfield.
** Key Differentiators **
Brazil’s fluidity in attack was too much to handle in the end. None of the players had fixed position, not even the defenders. Zico, who started as a striker played as a sweeper, a deep lying playmaker and a winger at different periods of the match. This was best evident from a move on 57th minute which saw center-back Luizinho exchange passes with right-back Leandro inside the opponent penalty box with Zico tracking back from midfield. Scotland, who tried to use man-marking didn’t know who to mark for most of the match.
In the pre-match press conference before Celtic’s European Cup final against Inter, Jock Stein famously said “Inter will play it defensively. That’s their way and it’s their business. But we feel we have a duty to play the game our way, and our way is to attack. Win or lose, we want to make the game worth remembering“. Staying faithful to his philosophy Scotland played a clean game and tried to attack Brazil when they had a chance. They didn’t stay back in defence, adopted short passes and didn’t over-rely on long balls. Their mentality, despite being commendable, was partly responsible for final score-line.
Brazil’s pressing in this match was also a curious thing. They did most of their pressing in opponents’ half rather than their own. This high pressing eventually led to mistakes from Scottish defence and midfield. However, Brazil’s reluctance to squeeze space out in their own half would later cost them dearly against Italy.
** Man of the Match **
The toss-up was between him and Zico and in the end, the deciding factor was beautiful goal he scored. Éder had scored another beauty early on in the tournament, when he scored the match winner against USSR as he was at his peak in Spain. The left winger bombed up and down the flanks and his crossing was a threat to Scotland throughout the match. The Scots caused Brazil all sorts of problems on the right-flank but were pegged back on the left thanks to Éder’s movement. There were several magical moments from him in this match but two stand out among them, one of them being the “Éder chip” for Brazil’s third goal. The other came on 56th minute when he chipped entire Scottish defence with outside of his left boot to find Zico who was denied by an onrushing Rough.
** Aftermath **
Brazil beat New Zealand 4-0 in the last group match to qualify with a 100% record. They were overwhelming favourites to lift the title but their fragile defence, which was evident even against Scotland, failed to stop Paolo Rossi as they were knocked out in one of the most famous football matches in history. Scotland recovered from their thrashing and eked out a 2-2 draw against USSR. However, they failed to join the other two British teams for next round as they were knocked out on goal difference.
Next Edition: Roy Keane Inspires Manchester United to achieve the improbable in Turin.