Football

Is the current Brazil team the best of all-time?

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Can Neymar lead Brazil to World Cup success in 2014? (©GettyImages)
Can Neymar lead Brazil to World Cup success in 2014? (©GettyImages).

Is the current Brazil team the best ever? Several sparkling performances at this year's Confederations Cup would have many believe that the five-time world champions are close to being back to their best. 

With a new generation of young stars breaking on to the scene at just the right time, the hosts will undoubtedly be amongst the favourites for next summer's World Cup. 

But just how does the current crop compare to the legendary Brazilian teams of the past?

Here is a comparison of the current team with those that did successfully claim football's greatest prize:

Goalkeepers Compared:

The Brazilians have never been overburdened with great goalkeepers, the philosophy usually being that their forward players would outscore the opposition regardless of the ability of their defensive stalwarts. 

But in Gylmar dos Santos Neves, known simply as Gilmar, the Brazilians did have one of the greatest ever keepers. Part of the 1958 and 1962 World Cup winning teams he was elected the best Brazilian goalkeeper of the 20th century and one of the best in the world by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics). Remembered for his sober style on the pitch and his peaceful personality, Gilmar was capped 94 times by his country. 

Claudio Taffarel, who played 101 times for his national side, is the only other Brazilian stopper who you might rather have than current number one Julio Cesar. I'd even go as far to say that the 33-year-old, a Champions League winner with Inter Milan in 2010, would edge just ahead of the 1994 World Cup victor.  

Choice A - Gilmar - 1958 & 1962 World Cup winner 
Choice B - Julio Cesar - Current Brazil team
Choice C - Claudio Taffarel - 1994 World Cup winner   

Full-Backs Compared:

Brazil have undoubtedly been blessed with a selection of the greatest attacking full-backs the world has ever seen. It is a credit to how strong the Brazilians have always been in this department that current stars Dani Alves and Marcelo, both good players in their own right, don't even come close to making my top three. 

Cafu and Roberto Carlos are the pair I eventually felt obliged to go for. The tireless Cafu played in three World Cup finals - appearing as a substitute in 1994 before starting the games in 1998 and 2002. His glittering career came to an end at AC Milan, for whom he twice won the Champions League. He made a total of 142 appearances for his country. Carlos was appropriately nick-named 'el hombre bal' (or 'the bullet') for his speed and powerful free-kicks, he was an essential part of the Real Madrid 'Galacticos' era and was capped 125 times, scoring 11 goals. 

Like Gilmar, Djalma Santos and Nilton Santos were ever-presents in both the 1958 and 1962 World Cup winning teams, and both are ranked amongst the best ever players for their respective positions. Their presence leaves Carlos Alberto Torres, captain of arguably the greatest team ever to play the game, and defensive partner Everaldo, down in third place.

Choice A - Cafu & Roberto Carlos - 2002 World Cup winners 
Choice B - Djalma Santos & Nilton Santos - 1958 & 1962 World Cup winners
Choice C - Carlos Alberto & Everaldo - 1970 World Cup winners 

Centre Backs Compared:

The centre back pairing was an interesting decision, by the virtue that while each Brazilian era has seemed to have one world class player for the position, his defensive partner has often been something of a one-hit-wonder.

Take 2002 for example. Lucio was arguably one of the greatest centre backs in Brazil's history. To date the 35-year-old has appeared 105 times for his country, winning the 2002 World Cup as well as two Confederations Cup titles. His excellent club career included spells with Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Juventus. However his defensive partner for that World Cup success, one Roque Junior, has struggled ever since holding aloft the famous trophy: his unsuccessfull loan spell at Leeds United in 2003 the last time he was seen on the big stage. 

Controversial perhaps, but Thiago Silva and David Luiz get the nod. The former is widely regarded as one of the best defenders currently playing in world football. He signed for Paris Saint-Germain for a staggering €42 million last summer and helped guide the French giants to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  Not everyone's favourite player, but David Luiz has improved a remarkable amount during his time with Chelsea, and at the age of 26 he has still got his best years ahead of him. 

Choice A - Thiago Silva & David Luiz - Current Brazil team
Choice B - Lucio & Roque Junior - 2002 World Cup winners
Choice C - Aldair & Marcio Santos - 1994 World Cup winners 

Midfield Compared:

Brazil have been blessed with some wonderful midfielders over the years. But it's worth remembering that some of their greatest stars: Zico, Socrates, and even Kaka, have never played in a World Cup final, although the latter was an unused substitute in 2002. 

Zito, Garrincha and Didi (all 1958 & 1962 World Cup winners) are the trio I would choose, narrowly ahead of the legendary 1970 set of Clodoaldo, Jairzinho and Gerson. It might surprise many to remember that Arsenal's Gilberto Silva and soon to be Manchester United flop Kleberson were part of the 2002 team. Paulinho, Lucas Moura and Oscar are all young and inexperienced, but their potential is tremendous, pushing them up into third place.   

Zito, who scored in the final of the 1962 World Cup, was the most defensive of Brazil's three-man midfield, but it was his hard work that allowed Brazil's flair players to express themselves. 

Garrincha is regarded by many as the best dribbler in football history. He was one of the most popular players ever to to play for Brazil - and was known as 'Alegria do Povo' ('Joy of the People'). When Garrincha sadly died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1983, thousands of fans flocked to his funeral, despite his widely criticised personal life. 

Didi was declared the World Cup's best player in 1958 and his range of passing, stamina and flawless technique have him ranked amongst the greatest midfielders in football history.    

Choice A - Zito, Garrincha & Didi - 1958 & 1962 World Cup winners
Choice B - Clodoaldo, Jairzinho & Gerson - 1970 World Cup winners
Choice C - Paulinho, Oscar & Lucas Moura - Current Brazil team

Wingers Compared:

It would be hard to overlook Pele for a place in any team of Brazilian legends. Although he was nearing the end of his career by the time he played in the 1970 tournament alongside Rivellino, it did not prevent him producing a series of sparkling performances.

Widely credited as the greatest player of all time, Pele scored 77 times in 92 international appearances, while he netted a total 1281 goals in 1361 games during his entire career. 

Rivellino was hardly a bad player himself. Five and a half years Pele's junior, the son of Italian immigrants was famous for his large moustache, thunderous long-range free kicks, excellent long passes, quick thinking and distinct way of controlling the ball. He also perfected a football move called the "flip flap", famously copied by Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years. 

Ronaldinho is in fact one half of my second choice duo, alongside fellow 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo. Between them the pair have amassed league titles in Spain, Italy, Greece, Brazil and even Uzbekistan. 

Neymar and Hulk, signed for a combined fee of nearly £100 million in the last twelve months by Barcelona and Zenit St. Petersburg respectively, currently sit third. It remains to be seen whether the pair, particularly Neymar, realise their full potential in the coming years and cement their places as national icons.   

Choice A - Pele & Rivellino - 1970 World Cup winners  
Choice B - Rivaldo & Ronaldinho - 2002 World Cup winners
Choice C - Neymar & Hulk - Current Brazil team

Strikers Compared:

The scorer of 62 goals in 98 games for Brazil, it's hard to look past Ronaldo for a centre forward. While many will remember him for the sad end to his career - doused in fitness and weight problems - in his prime he was near unstoppable. 

As well as being the highest goalscorer in World Cup history, with 15 goals, he is one of only three players to win the FIFA Player of the Year award three times, along with Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi. 

Successful throughout his career in terms of goalscoring, spells at Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan unfortunately brought him fewer major trophies than his ability deserved, with Ronaldo never winning the Champions League.

With Romario and Tostao making up the top three, lets just say Fred still has quite a way to go. 

Choice A - Ronaldo - 2002 World Cup winner
Choice B - Romario - 1994 World Cup winner
Choice C - Tostao - 1970 World Cup winner

Managers Compared: 

The winner of the 2002 World Cup, Luiz Felipe Scolari seems the ideal man to lead a similar charge next summer. The man for the big occasion, the former Chelsea boss has rarely failed on the international stage, and his experience and man management abilities will be vital in controlling such a young squad. 

Choice A - Luiz Felipe Scolari - 2002 World Cup winner & current Brazil team
Choice B - Mario Zagallo - 1970 World Cup winner 
Choice C - Carlos Alberto Parreira - 1994 World Cup winner  

Here's a full look at the five World Cup winning Brazilian teams and the potential line-up for next summer's tournament. All teams have been adapted to fit a modernised 4-4-3 formation:

1958: Brazil 5-2 Sweden - Final Team:

GK - Gilmar, RB - Djalma Santos, LB - Nilton Santos, CB - Hilderaldo Bellini [c] & Orlando, CM - Zito, RCM - Garrincha, LCM - Didi, RW - Pele, LW - Mario Zagallo, CF - Vava, Manager - Vicente Feola. 

1962: Brazil 3-1 Czechoslovakia - Final Team: 

GK - Gilmar, RB - Djalma Santos, LB - Nilton Santos, CB - Mauro Ramos [c] & Zozimo, CM - Zito, RCM - Garrincha, LCM - Didi, RW - Amarildo, LW - Mario Zagallo, CF - Vava, Manager - Aymore Moreira.       

1970: Brazil 4-1 Italy - Final Team:

GK - Felix, RB - Carlos Alberto [c], LB - Everaldo, CB - Brito & Wilson Piazza, CM - Clodoaldo, RCM - Jairzinho, LCM - Gerson, RW - Pele, LW - Rivelino, CF - Tostao, Manager - Mario Zagallo.

1994: Brazil 0-0 Italy (Brazil win 3-2 on penalties) - Final Team:

GK - Claudio Taffarel, RB - Jorginho, LB - Branco, CB - Aldair & Marcio Santos, CM - Mauro Silva, RCM - Dunga [c], LCM - Mazinho, RW - Zinho, LW - Bebeto, CF - Romario, Manager - Carlos Alberto Parreira. 

2002: Brazil 2-0 Germany - Final Team:

GK - Marcos, RB - Cafu [c], LB - Roberto Carlos, CB - Lucio & Roque Junior, CM - Edmilson, RCM - Gilberto Silva, LCM - Kleberson, RW - Ronaldinho, LW - Rivaldo, CF - Ronaldo, Manager - Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Potential 2014 World Cup Team:

GK - Julio Cesar, RB - Dani Alves, LB - Marcelo, CB - Thiago Silva [c] & David Luiz, CM - Paulinho, RCM - Oscar, LCM - Lucas Moura, RW - Hulk, LW - Neymar, CF - Fred, Manager - Luiz Felipe Scolari.    

And finally, here's a look at my Brazil dream team:

Dream Team: GK - Gilmar, RB - Cafu [c], LB - Roberto Carlos, CB - Thiago Silva & David Luiz, CM - Zito, RCM - Garrincha, LCM - Didi, RW - Pele, LW - Rivelino, CF - Ronaldo, Manager - Luiz Felipe Scolari. Subs: Julio Cesar, Lucio, Jairzinho, Ronaldinho, Romario.  

So as you can see, Brazil's current side still have some way to go to be up there with the best of all time. Only Thiago Silva and David Luiz would of found themselves in any of the World Cup winning teams and while the likes of Neymar, Lucas Moura and Oscar have huge potential, only by winning Brazil their sixth World Cup, on home soil, can they truly become legends of the nations vast footballing folklore. 

The pressure will be on. The last time Brazil hosted the competition in 1950, they were stunned in the final by Uruguay - a result that still haunts many of those Brazilians old enough to remember it. With all the financial and political hardship currently troubling the South American giants, it is vital they achieve a positive result on the pitch. Anything less could be disastrous in more ways than one. 

Disagree? Post your own suggestions below! 

 

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Topics:
Brazil Football
World Cup
Football
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