Brazil had never won the World Cup before Pele made his international debut for the South American country. They had won three games by the time he retired, more than any other team.
Pele’s ability to elevate his underachieving country to the status of a football superpower is perhaps his greatest achievement to both soccer and Brazil.
According to David Tryhorn, co-director of the 2021 Netflix documentary “Pele,”
“Pre-1958 Brazil had a rich football tradition, but it was not the land of football.”
After 1970, football is the first thing that springs to mind when we think about Brazil. And while a double generation of players with extraordinary talent is to blame for it, Pele serves as the unifying force.
Despite his different tournament experiences, he is still the only player to have participated for three World Cup-winning squads.
He made his debut in 1958 at the age of 17. Scoring six goals in the knockout rounds, including two against Sweden in the championship game as Brazil won their first victory.
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Brazil was eliminated in the group stage of the 1966 World Cup in England, where Pele had wanted to make it three in a row.
He returned in time for Mexico 1970 after taking a two-year break from international football. Determined to take home the Jules Rimet trophy and end his career on a high note. His contributions to what is frequently referred to be the greatest team in history served to finish off his international career.
He had a cast of characters behind him. For a crowd seeing a World Cup broadcast live and in colour for the first time, Rivellino’s bending free kicks, Jairzinho’s record of scoring in all seven games of the finals, and captain Carlos Alberto’s stunning fourth goal in the final versus Italy were all remarkable.
But Pele, who was already universally regarded as the greatest player of all time. He was the one who really captivated people’s attention.
The astonishing trick that fooled the Uruguayan goalie. The bold shot from the halfway line against Czechoslovakia. And Gordon Banks’ incredible header that he turned around the post all made history.
Brazil’s performance in the 1970 World Cup final, according to the late England goalie Banks, was “a masterclass.” All other teams must strive to reach Brazil’s pinnacle. Where they firmly put their flag on the highest point in international football that day.