Zico spraying passes in midfield, Pele's lethal finishing and Cafu's marauding runs from right back… ahead of England v Brazil, Sportsmail recalls the greatest Samba stars
13:14 GMT, 5 February 2013
16:04 GMT, 5 February 2013
As the next generation of Brazilian players prepare to take on England at Wembley tomorrow night. Sportsmail's writers reveal their favourite Samba stars.
From Pele to Zico; from Ronaldo to Neymar, the South American country has delivered world class players for decades.
Do you agree with our experts Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
JEFF POWELL: Garrincha
is the player who most Brazilians regard as being their greatest,
greater than Pele. They have a point. Pele was dynamic but Garrincha was
beautiful to behold, the most exquisite player on the ball and a
goalscorer with flourish as well as power. He was almost impossible to
read on the dribble as a consequence of the rickets which afflicted him
in his impoverished youth and made him virtually double jointed at the
knee. A bon viveur, he used to go back to his home town after Brazil
matches at the Maracana to drink with the boys and kickabout with the
kids. A genius and a true man of the people.
Born crippled and left with one crooked leg even after restorative
surgery, the little winger looked as if he was forever swaying in a
strong breeze. The little footage that survives shows, however, that he
most often left opponents twisting in the wind. Oh, and he was Pele’s
hero. Enough said.
MARK ALFORD: What a name, what a player. He floated around the pitch in his sweat-stained golden shirt, socks rolled down to his ankles, spraying passes about like a Latino Glenn Hoddle. He scored 52 goals in 72 international appearances… FROM MIDFIELD! It wouldn’t have been the same if they’d called him by his real name, Arthur. Gooooooooooooal Ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiico.
Main man: Zico ran the show from midfield, scoring 52 goals in just 72 internationals for Brazil
LEE CLAYTON: My PE teacher at school – the brilliant and inspiring Phil Rider –
was nicknamed after him (well, he nicknamed himself!). He’d sign the
team sheet ‘Zico’ and seeing as I was usually sub, I was closest to the
‘sign-off’. It was the closest I got to being near Zico. That midfield
of Zico, Socrates and Falcao in 1982 was something magnificent. Roberto
Carlos is another sensation. He redefined playing at left back. I
interviewed Pele once and he was funny, charming and classy. And of the
modern team I like David Luiz. Can I keep going Sorry, I was only meant
to say one: so it’s Zico.
MATT BARLOW: Star of the first Brazilian team to come into my orbit and the
very essence of what Brazilian football seemed to be about: making
passes with the outside of the boot, bending the ball and scoring
sensational free-kicks with a No.10 on his back. That said, my abiding
memory of him is the penalty miss against France in Mexico 86.
MATT LAWLESS: His four goals at the tail end of 2009-10 season helped West Ham survive in the Premier League but no, Ilan is NOT my all-time favourite Brazilian. That honour goes to the unrivalled legend, Pele. Sadly, I never saw him play in the flesh yet his overhead kick goal in Escape to Victory will live long in my memory. Absolutely Brazil-liant!
JOHN EDWARDS: Ronaldinho, at his peak, was virtually unstoppable, but, overall, it has
to be Pele. Brazil circa 1970 boasted the greatest array of attacking
talent ever assembled, yet they all looked up to him. He was player of
the tournament in that year’s World Cup in Mexico, and he launched an
unsurpassable display of Brazilian brilliance with the opening goal in a
4-1 final win over Italy. As well as being the youngest player to
appear in a World Cup final, when he scored twice in a 5-2 win over
hosts Sweden in 1958 aged 17, he is the only holder of three World Cup
winner’s medals. Immense in every way.
STEVE CURRY: Pele stands out for me as a complete footballer who combined all the
natural gifts that have become associated with Brazilian footballers,
skill, grace, pace, freedom of expression and the ability to score great
goals. He was a wonderful player to watch live with his lithe movement -
a true match winner.
MIKE ANSTEAD: Now this guy could finish. Toe pokes, curlers, dinks – Romario could do it all. And the ball usually ended up in the back of the net.
At the 1994 World Cup, he was unstoppable. Ronaldo, then a relatively-unknown 17-year-old with a goofy smile, was stuck on the bench watching the master in action as Brazil won the tournament for the first time since 1970.
Ronaldo would eventually take his crown as Brazil’s and Barcelona’s goal king. But Romario motored on, going on to score over 1,000 goals by the end of his career.
LUKE BENEDICT: Not because he is the most capped Brazilian of all time, or because he played such a significant role in putting two of the five stars on the iconic shirt, but simply because of the way he controlled a football. With a single shoelace he could stop a spinning bullet and land it on a 5p coin. It was mesmeric.
SAMI MOKBEL: Pioneer of the modern day right-back. As good in the attacking
third as he was in his own box. Changed the conception of what was
needed to be a top-level full-back. Brilliant player.
Marauding: Cafu is the most capped Brazilian of all time and appeared in three World Cup finals, winning two
PHIL GRADWELL: The original Ronaldo. The Nineties version was one of the best strikers of all time, combining frightening speed with a superb touch, immense power and the ability to score from all angles. This was best exemplified by his goal for Barcelona v Compostela in 1996, where he ran 60 yards, beat half the opposition and scored. The scorer of the most World Cup goals (15), even when his weight started becoming an issue he could still produce performances like the one for Real Madrid at Old Trafford in 2003. There’s only one Ronaldo…
ALEX HORLOCK: The first player who I was truly enamoured by as a child was a young striker who led the line for Barcelona back in 1996. Ronaldo was a colossus up front for a number of other clubs – and, of course, his country – but as an eight-year-old boy I was fascinated by the unstoppable striker who terrorised defences time and again. He was strong, quick, immensely skilful, a clinical finisher and his legs were the size of tree trunks. What more could you want
ADAM SHERGOLD: Everyone remembers the first time they saw that brilliant flash of Brazilian yellow – whether in person or on their TV screens. For me, it was that physics-defying free-kick of the millennium by Roberto Carlos against France at Le Tournoi in 1997.
Surely it was impossible to generate such a shot of such bend and strength to locate the net like a laser-guided missile – but Carlos managed it. He was also a player who redefined his role on the pitch – talk about defenders as frustrated strikers!
RIK SHARMA: Not as technically talented as some of the greatest Samba stars, but so unequivocally Brazilian in his willingness to attack. The former Real Madrid star was renowned for his thunderbolt shooting which, as well as worrying goalkeepers in real life, terrified my brother during countless football videogame sessions.
ANDREW MAGEE: Fewer tricks and flicks than your typical Brazilian but still immaculate on the ball. His destruction of Man Utd in the Champions League semi final in 2007 sticks out, a potent combination of lethal finishing and graceful playmaking. He doesn’t run, he glides. Don’t believe me See his wonderful solo goal against Argentina where he even outpaces the great Lionel Messi.
BRIAN LEE: It feels wrong going for any player other than Ronaldo but for me it’s Neymar. With his ridiculous hair and socks pulled up far too high it should be easy to dislike him but I’ve watched him live and have never seen quicker feet. There’s one goal on YouTube (against Flamengo and winner of the Puskas Award for 2011) that has everything. Pace, powerful running and a brilliant one-two. I’ve played it, slowed down, again and again and I’m still as confused as the defender he waltzed past before finishing.
JOSE LEANDRO FERREIRA
IAN LADYMAN: The team that Brazil took to the 1982 World Cup in Spain was the first that I really remember. I was 12 at the time and was captivated by the way they played the game. I was a right-back for my school team at the time – we won ONCE in five years – and decided I would model myself on the defender they called Leandro. Full of attacking intent, he spent more time in the opposition half than he did in his own and at times seemed to simply play as a second right winger. My PE teacher didn’t appreciate it when I tried to do the same. Leandro only played for one team – Flamengo – in a 12-year domestic career. I also only played for one team. For different reasons.
COLIN YOUNG: Having watched him transform a small town and club and establish himself as Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player I’m going to say Juninho. He was quite simply a genius and absolute joy to watch.
DOMINIC KING: The 1986 World Cup is the first major tournament I really remember vividly. Mexico may have ended up belonging to Diego Maradona but, before the World Cup began, my Dad told me to make sure I watched Brazil when I could. The first game was against Northern Ireland and Josimar, making his debut at right-back, scored with an outrageous strike against Northern Ireland. He was the first Brazilian to grab my attention, so gets the vote.