The Brazil side of the 1970 World Cup remains one of the greatest to play the game. Debates will rage on as to whether the team of 1958 or 1970 was the best in the history of Brazilian football, but none in the selecao’s illustrious history matches the latter for star power. For all the international attention still handed to the likes of Socrates and Zico in 1982, they were not champions and Brazilian football only cares for winners.
The team of 1970 is special in that, more so than their predecessors in 1958 and 1962, they were able to take their abilities to a worldwide audience.
People across the globe were able to appreciate the talents of Pele, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivellino and Tostao—names that still role off the tongue of an entire generation of football fans.
In a tournament that set an unmatched benchmark of 2.97 goals per game, with attacking and skilful football to the forefront, Brazil were the biggest entertainers.
They won all six games, scoring three or more goals in all their matches except a hard-fought 1-0 victory over reigning champions England. Over the course of the tournament, they would fall behind just twice and respond with at least three unmatched goals on both occasions. Their success was emphatic.
In 1970, we were still in the era of relative blackouts between tournaments. South American players in Europe were still few and far between, with the consequence that most across the Atlantic only bore witness to the talents of Brazil, Argentina and other such nations on a once every four year basis.
While modern stars are able to prove themselves outside of World Cup competition, it was in World Cup competitions that legends were formerly made.
While Felix in goal and the defence of Carlos Alberto, Brito, Wilson Piazza and Everaldo are all excellent players in their own right, but even their reputations pale in favour of their attacking colleagues.
Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele and Rivellino—it was an offensive unit that has seldom if ever been replicated in footballing history. Each player holds their own in terms of ability and each name continues to hold weight in the annals of history.
However, to compare them to those currently playing is an impossible task. Football has changed dramatically over the past 44 years, with games now played at a tempo that would have been deemed unattainable in 1970.
Even the likes of Pele and Jairzinho, two of the great athletes of their era, would have struggled if directly transplanted into a match in 2013.
For their era, they were well ahead of the curve but that standard has risen dramatically. Football may have lost the romance of the "beautiful game" that Brazil sides propagated in years gone past, but it is simply because such a languid, elegant style would by nigh-on impossible to achieve in the modern game.
There are big caveats in such arguments. For instance, were the 1970 side to play the game now they would also have at their disposal the nutrition advice and sports science advances that today's benefit from.
Besides those physical change, the improvements in the quality of pitches and the flight of footballs would also aid them in their quest to match the modern day sides.
However, such theories are of course subjective and the challenge of comparing sides across eras is therefore far from straightforward.
For that reason, then, we can only base a comparison on the evidence available and that, sadly, favours the sides of today who play a game both tactically and physically advanced from that of 1970.
Teams would now be much better prepared for what to expect from the Brazilian side, with detailed tactical plans having been formulated before each game. At the time, they were somewhat of an unknown coming into each tournament—with the exception of those who had previously featured.
I wouldn't mind betting, though, that if such players had been born today, many would have still developed into some of the world's best footballers and athletes.
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