Brazil 1970: The great Tostao

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Brazil 1970: The great Tostao




In a recent interview which saw two football greats together, England great Sir Bobby Moore and German great Franz 'Kaiser' Beckenbauer both agreed that the Brazilian team of 1970 was the greatest the world has ever seen.

Just naming the players of this great team feels like writing poetry: Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Tostao, Carlos Alberto, Gerson, Clodoaldo,...The forward lineup consisted of Jairzinho on the right flank, Rivelino on the left, and Pele and Tostao up front as center forwards. These four players were so great that no one could counter this attack according to Pele. All four of these forwards were among the all time greats of football and each deserves to be written about in detail. Here i focus on Tostao.

Tostao was perhaps the most cerebral player in the 1970 brazil team. In 1969 he had suffered from a detached retina after a soccer ball struck him straight on his eye. He was able to continue playing after receiving treatment but in 1973 he suffered another injury on the eye after which he retired at the age of 26. He then studied medicine and became a doctor. After practicing medicine full time for almost two decades he returned to football as a highly respected pundit and commentator.

A bbc sports article reads as follows:

“One of the biggest blasts of hot air, which I’ve been hearing ever since I was an adolescent, is the idea that top level sport is a good place to learn and develop ethical and moral values.

"It never was. Ambition, the desire to be a hero and to make lots of money are usually much stronger.”

So wrote 1970 Brazil great Tostao in Sunday’s version of his always interesting column, a twice weekly space where football is analysed by someone of great knowledge and intelligence who loves the game but is even more fascinated by the subtleties and contradictions of the human being.

“There are exceptions,” he continues, before plunging into depressing accounts of athletes doping themselves to gain an illegal advantage.


When i first read this i was reminded of 'A Mathematician's Apology' by G.H. Hardy. In this book too, Hardy had stated that the motivations driving a professional mathematician at a young age are far from noble and that ambition was the driving force.

In the 1970 world cup Tostao scored only two goals, but his contribution as a playmaker was immense. In the game against England which Brazil won 1-0, the solitary Brazil goal was scored after Tostao dribbled past three defenders on the right and then gave a pinpoint cross to Pele who did not have to move but just had to tap the ball and hit it gently to Jairzinho on his right who put the ball into the net. That goal was immense.

The pass to Pele near the end of the game against Uruguay was also superb as were several other of his passes.

But there was one move which  i must describe in some detail. The final goal of the 4-1 Brazilian victory over Italy in the 1970 finals is widely regarded as the finest team goal in the history of world cup football and perhaps all football. 9 brazilian players had touched the ball en route to the italian goal with no italian boot touching the ball. The move had started after Tostao had gone back as a defender and had taken possession of the ball from an Italian forward. Then the pass to Piazza who passed it to another player and then the ball had come to Clodoaldo who dribbled four italian players before passing the ball to Rivelino on the brazilian left flank who who gave a long pass to Jairzinho who was playing forward on the left at this time who passed the ball to his right to Pele who then waited with the ball, kissed and gently teased the ball and the italians, and then at the right time passed the ball on his right to a charging Carlos Alberto who slapped the ball into the net.

At the time the ball was with Tostao Carlos Alberto was on the right deep in the Brazilian half since he was a defender. He had run all the way up to be able to get the chance to shoot the ball and score.

One other player who had run all the way up was Tostao. He is the first person seeing hugging Carlos Alberto after Carlos had scored the goal. After running all the way up with his back to the Italian goal he had told Pele (in their native Portugese) to give the ball to Carlos Alberto who was coming up on his right.

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