The 1958 FIFA World Cup finally saw Brazil win the trophy - with a little help from a mercurial 17-year-old striker.
1958: Boy genius boosts Brazil
In many ways the 1958 FIFA World Cup represented a high point in the competition's history. The beautiful game really was beautiful and as the teams assembled in Sweden it was about to get even more so - thanks to a 17-year-old genius who was to announce his arrival on the world stage.
Another new format
Of course, this being the World Cup there was yet another change in format - the fifth in six tournaments. This time teams in each of the four groups of four had to play all the other teams in their group with the top two making the quarter-finals. Second-placed teams equal on points had to play-off in order to advance.
There were naturally unexpected casualties in qualifying. Spain, despite being home to the Real Madrid CF side which had won three European Champion Clubs’ Cups in succession, once again failed to qualify, as did Italy, a shadow of their former selves. More surprising was the failure of Uruguay, two-time winners and semi-finalists in 1954, who were sensationally thrashed 5-0 by Paraguay. Another surprise was Argentina's inclusion for the first time since 1934.
Back in Europe, the British championship no longer doubled as a qualifying group - after complaints to FIFA - but, ironically, all four home nations qualified. England, tragically without Manchester United FC's Roger Byrne, Tommy Taylor and Duncan Edwards, who all perished in the Munich air disaster, again disappointed. After three draws - including the World Cup's first goalless draw, against Brazil - and a 1-0 play-off defeat by the Soviet Union they were on their way home. Scotland, as so often, disappeared without trace but both Wales and Northern Ireland, in their first finals, made it to the last eight.
But these were just bit-part actors. The main drama was dominated by a 17-year-old boy named Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Pelé. Injured for Brazil's first match - a 3-0 win against Austria - and left out by Brazil coach Vicente Feola for the draw with England, Pelé made his World Cup debut in a 2-0 win against the Soviet Union. However, it was another legendary name, Garrincha - also making a World Cup debut - who made the bigger initial impact, hitting the post twice in the first two minutes before setting up Vavá for the opening goal a minute later.
Pelé's moment came in the quarter-final against Wales. The unfancied Welsh were proving a tough - if unspectacular - nut to crack and in the end the match was won by Pelé's first World Cup goal - a lucky mis-hit which was deflected past the goalkeeper.
Brazil's semi-final against France was the game most wanted as the final. France - inspired by 'le tandem terrible' of Juste Fontaine and Raymond Kopa - had bounced back impressively after losing 3-2 to Yugoslavia in a group match. Indeed, when Fontaine lined up against Brazil he already had eight goals under his belt - including two in the 4-0 quarter-final win against Northern Ireland.
The match was a classic although the bad luck that plagues France's World Cup history struck when their centre-half Robert Jonquet was injured. The score was 1-1 at the time, Fontaine having equalised Vavá's first-minute goal but with Jonquet temporarily off the pitch Didi immediately put Brazil ahead and then, with the hapless Jonquet limping on the wing, a thrilling second-half hat-trick in 19 minutes by Pelé won the match for Brazil. France's consolation was a 6-3 victory against West Germany in the third/fourth place play-off, Fontaine's four goals taking his tally to 13 - still a record for the World Cup finals.
In the final Brazil faced Sweden, whose progress had been inspired by their tricky winger Kurt Hamrin. The Swedes had followed up victories against Mexico (3-0) and Hungary (2-1) and a goalless draw against Wales in the group stage with a 2-0 quarter-final win against the Soviet Union.
West Germany stumble
Then, in the semi-final against the holders, West Germany, they rode their luck after being under the cosh. The match turned their way in the 59th minute when the German defender Erich Juskowiak was sent off. Minutes later Fritz Walter was injured and the Swedes were able to take advantage, Hamrin sealing a 3-1 win after a superb run two minutes from time.
Rain and an early goal
With the previous two finals having gone to the underdogs the Swedes fancied their chances at AIK Solna’s Råsunda stadium in Stockholm. On the eve of the game, their English coach, George Raynor, wished for rain and an early goal. On the day - 29 June - he got both but that was about as good as it got for the hosts as, in a display of breathless artistry, the Brazilians proved irresistible.
Sweden's fourth-minute opener, scored by Nils Liedholm, was cancelled out five minutes later by Vavá, who finished from Garrincha's driven cross. Then Pelé hit a post before Vavá scored an almost identical goal to make it 2-1 at half-time. Pelé, with an audacious and spectacular piece of skill, and then Mario Zagalo put Brazil 4-1 up. Agne Simonsson then scored a late consolation for Sweden before Pelé sealed Brazil's 5-2 victory by heading his second goal of the game in the last minute.
So Brazil, who could have won the World Cup in 1938 and who should have won it in 1950, had finally fulfilled their destiny, much to the delight of the thousands partying on the Copacabana and, in the process, became the first team to win the World Cup away from their own continent.