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Brazil in the World Cup 1978 - Argentina

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Matches and Players

Brazil 1978 Argentina World Cup

The line-up against Italy:
Nelinho, Leão, Oscar, Amaral, Batista and Rodrigues Neto;
Gil, Cerezzo, Jorge Mendonça Mendonça, Roberto and Dirceu.

The team:
Leão (C), Toninho, Oscar, Amaral and Edinho; Batista, Toninho Cerezzo and Zico; Gil, Roberto Dinamite and Dirceu.
Reserves: Carlos (G), Valdir Peres (G), Nelinho, Abel, Polozzi, Rodrigues Neto, Zé Sérgio, Reinaldo, Rivelino, Jorge Mendonça and Chicão.
Coach: Cláudio Coutinho.

The Matches:
»Brazil 1 x 1 Sweden.
»Brazil 0 x 0 Spain.
»Brazil 1 x 0 Austria.
»Brazil 3 x 0 Peru.
»Brazil 0 x 0 Argentina.
»Brazil 3 x 1 Poland.
»Brazil 2 x 1 Italy.

The Preparation

Brazil played the qualifyings against Paraguay and Colombia; Brazil had a win and a tie against each adversary.
The team qualified to the finals, but Brazilian fans were not happy with that performance.
See all matches of the South America Qualifyings of the 1978 World Cup

After the fiasco in the World Cup 1974, Zagallo, the coach, was dismissed.
The Brazilian Federation hited Oswaldo Brandão for the position. Brandão, then one of the most experienced Brazilian coaches (he had coached Brazil for a brief period during the preparation for the World Cup of 1958), had several titles in his resumee, including the Brazilian championships of 1972 and 1973; he commanded the Brazilian team only until the first match of the Qualifyings, in February of 1977, Brazil 0 x 0 Colombia.

1978 World Cup
Poster 1978

To replace Brandão, the Brazilian Federation invited Cláudio Coutinho.
Coutinho had been a nearly anonymous member of the crew which went to the World Cup of 1970, in Mexico (he had been assistant of physical instructor Carlos Alberto Parreira).

Coutinho had hardly any experience as coach of football teams.
How come, then, he became coach of the Brazilian National Team? In 1975, by political reasons (Brazil was still under Military regime), the President of the Brazilian Football Confederation was an Admiral, Heleno Nunes. Nunes was personal friend of Coutinho, who was Captain of the Brazilian Army. Nunes hired Coutinho.

Coutinho was a theorical of the football.
Man of culture, multilingual, he had studied the History and tactics of football. He introduced new words into the rudimentary language of Brazilian soccer; expressions like "overlapping", "future point", "clear space" became common in sports news, even if few people could understand them.

The team of 1978 was almost completely renovated, compared to the team of 1974.
Only Leão, the goalkeeper, and Rivelino remained; Rivelino (then aged 32) was still one of the best Brazilian players, but he arrived to Argentina recovering from an injury and stayed on the bench most of the time.

1978 World Cup - Gauchito
1978 Mascot

Other players were starting their career in the National team, such as Oscar, Zico and Cerezzo.
Brazil had much hope on Reinaldo, a center-forward who combined talent to a high intelligence; Reinaldo was the striker with the highest average goals per match in the History of Brazilian championships: 28 goals in 21 matches in 1977; Reinaldo, however, didn't deliver.

Most journalists claimed that the best player in Brazil in 1978 was Falcão, who had been the leader of the Internacional team which became bi-champion in 1975 and 1976, and would later be be the best Brazilian player in the 1982 World Cup. Coutinho admitted to being in doubt between Falcão and Chicão, a player of little talent and plenty of force; Coutinho chose the latter.

The Matches

Coutinho still hadn't found the best formation, in Argentina.
He experimented several substitutions in the first two matches: Brazil 1 x 1 Sweden and Brazil 0 x 0 Spain. Brazil managed to tie these two matches thanks to the solid defense: Amaral saved two goals on the line, when goalkeeper Leão was already out of the play.

For the third match, against Austria, Coutinho made another two substitutions: Gil and Reinaldo left, Roberto and Dirceu entered. Brazil won Austria by 1 x 0, goal by Roberto.

Roberto and Dirceu started the World Cup without much attention from media and fans, but ended up being the two most important Brazilian players.
Contrary to cerebral Reinaldo, Roberto's main skill was finding a good positioning. Greatest idol in the history of Vasco da Gama (even more than Romário), Roberto Dinamite is the greatest scorer of the Brazilian Championships ever; Roberto scored a grand total of 190 goals, against 135 by Zico, second placed; after retiring from football, he became a councilman in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

In the second stage, Brazil would play against Peru (which had finished first of the group in the first round), Argentina (the host of the Cup) and Poland (which had beaten Brazil in 1974). No easy match in sight.

Brazil does 3 x 0 on Peru. Dirceu scores twice in the first halt. In the second, Roberto is fouled in the penalty area, Zico kicks and scores.

Brazil had the chance to win the 1978 World Cup in the match against Argentina.
Poland had already lost to Argentina, and a victory over Argentina would put Brazil very close to the finals (of course, an Argentinian victory would put them on the finals).
Argentina didn't have any player who stood out; the star of the team was Mário Kempes, helped by average players like Ardiles, Passarella and Luque.

Claudio Coutinho, however, cowarded. Instead of playing forward, he played defensively. He put Chicão in the midfield, instead of Zico, to give more physical force to the team (and so doing, he cut the talent). Argentina, conscious of their limitations, dared not being too offensive, either.
The match ended with the only result possible: 0 x 0.

The winner of the group would be decided in a pair of matches: Brazil x Poland and Argentina x Peru. In a controversial decision, the World Cup Comission decided that, instead of simultaneous matches, the second one would start after the end of the first one. Argentina, so, would have the advantage of knowing which result would make them to the final.

In their best performance in that Cup, Brazil beat Poland by 3 x 1. Nelinho scored one, and Dirceu scored twice.

Then, came the most controversial match of the Cup.
Argentina would have to beat Peru by a lead of at least four goals. Some of the best Peruvian players of all times were there in 1978: Cubillas and Oblitas. Peru's campaign in the first stage had been respectable: Peru 3 x 1 Scotland; Peru 0 x 0 Netherlands. In the second stage, Peru lost to Brazil by 3 x 1 and to Poland by 1 x 0.
Could Argentina beat such a good team by 4 x 0?
They did, and easily. Three goals in the first half, three goals in the second half. Argentina qualified to the final match, against Holland.

Brazil played the third place match, against Italy.
The Italians scored first, with Causio, in the first half.
Brazil's first goal was scored by Nelinho, right-defense; Nelinho had an impressive ability in kicking the ball very strongly; in the goal against Italy, the ball was so strong that it did a very visible curve; a few years later, Nelinho, before the TV cameras, accepted and won a challenge: he kicked a ball over the rings of Mineirão, one of the biggest Brazilian stadia.
Dirceu scored the second Brazilian goal.

Brazil finished the 1978 World Cup in third place, and Italy in fourth. A few Brazilians (Oscar and Cerezzo) and several Italians (Zoff, Cabrini, Gentile, Scirea, Antognoni, Paolo Rossi) who played that match in 1978 would meet again in the World Cup of 1982, in Spain.

In the final match, Argentina won Holland by 3 x 1, two goals in the extension time. The main stars of Argentina were Mario Kempes and the coach, Cesar Luiz Menotti. Holland had Neeskens and Rensenbrink, but most players of the team which enchanted the world in the 1974 World Cup had retired.
Argentina was World Champion for the first time.

World Cup 1978 - Other Info

»FIFA Archives of the 1978 World Cup.
»Photos of the 1978 World Cup. By BBC. In Portuguese only.

»In 1978, Argentina was living under a strong military dictatorship. The Military had interest in a victory of the National Football Team, to dodge attention from atrocities commited by the armed forces of government.
Because of the dictatorship in Argentina, many countries threatened not to go to the Cup. Holland was one such country; the Dutch eventually went to Argentina, but Cruijff, their most important player, didn't go, in protest against the regime.
Dutch players could not sleep on the eve of the final match. Argentinians stayed all night long in front of the hotel making loud noise, to prevent the players from sleeping. In a democratic country, the police would certainly have intervened.

Claudio Coutinho
Cláudio Coutinho

»Strong rumours say that the Peruvian team accepted bribes to lose the match against Argentina. On return to Peru, as players were disembarking the plane, Peruvian citizens were throwing coins towards them.

»Cláudio Coutinho proclaimed Brazil as the "Moral Champion" of the World Cup 1978. He alleged, correctly, that Brazil was the only team which did not lose any match (Argentina lost to Italy in the first round). For a while, he became a laughing stock in Brazil.
However, Coutinho managed to regain a good reputation. He was coach of Flamengo, when the team became Brazilian champion in 1980. Coutinho was the mentor of that team, which had Zico, Adílio, Andrade, Nunes and other Flamengo idols, which conquered the world title in Tokyo in 1981. Coutinho wasn't there, as he died while practicing scuba dive, in 1981. Today, Claudio Coutinho is the name of a trail along the Sugar Loaf hill, near the place where he died.