Pele – The Black Pearl

Burgnich, who marked Pele during the final of 1970, was quoted saying “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong”. Pele is the all-time leading scorer of the Brazil national football team and is the only footballer to be a part of three World Cup-winning squads. Pele’s technique and natural athleticism have been universally praised and during his playing years he was renowned for his excellent dribbling and passing, his pace, powerful shot, exceptional heading ability, and prolific goalscoring. During his career, he became known as “The Black Pearl” (Pérola Negra), “The King of Football” (O Rei do Futebol), “The King Pelé” (O Rei Pelé) or simply “The King” (O Rei).

It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pele began wearing a jersey with number 10 that immortalized him.Pele arrived in Sweden,1958 world cup, sidelined by a knee injury. His first match was against the USSR in the third match of the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where he gave the assist to Vavá’s second goal. He was the youngest player of that tournament, and at the time the youngest ever to play in the World Cup. He scored his first World Cup goal against Wales in quarterfinals,  while becoming the youngest ever World Cup goalscorer at 17 years and 239 days. Against France in the semifinal, Brazil was leading 2–1 at halftime, and then Pele scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest in World Cup history to do so. On 19 June 1958 Pele became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in the final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2. His first goal, a lob over a defender followed by a precise volley shot, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, and was named young player of the tournament.

1962 World Cup This was expected to be Pele‘s World Cup, as he was rated as the best player in the world at the time. In the first match of the 1962 World Cup, against Mexico, Pele assisted the first goal and then scored the second one. He injured himself while attempting a long-range shot against Czechoslovakia. This would keep him out of the rest of the tournament. The 1966 World Cup was marked, among other things, for the brutal fouling on Pele, by the Bulgarian and Portuguese defenders. Pele scored the first goal from a free kick against Bulgaria, becoming the first player to score in three successive FIFA World Cups.  João Morais brutally fouled Pele, but was not sent off by referee George McCabe, of whom it is acknowledged let “the Portuguese get away with murder”. Pele had to stay on the field limping for the rest of the game, since substitutes were not allowed at that time. After this game he vowed he would not play again in the World Cup, a decision he would later change.

The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was to be Pele’s last. Brazil’s squad for the tournament featured major changes in relation to the 1966 squad. The front five of Jairzinho, Pele, Gerson, Tostao and Rivelino were all No 10s in their own right and together they created an irresistible attacking momentum, with Pele having central role in Brazil’s way to the final, playing a part in 14 of Brazil’s 19 goals in the tournament. In the first match, against Czechoslovakia, Pele gave Brazil a 2–1 lead, by controlling Gerson’s long pass with his chest and then scoring. Brazil went on to win the match, 4–1. In the first half of the match against England, Pele nearly scored with a header that was spectacularly saved by Gordon Banks. That save is known as “Save Of Century”. In the second half, he assisted Jairzinho for the only goal of the match. Against Romania, Pele opened the score on a direct free kick goal, a strong strike with the outside of his right foot. Later on in the match he scored again to take the score to 3–1. Brazil won by a final score of 3–2. In the quarterfinals against Peru, Brazil won 4–2, with Pele assisting Tostão for Brazil’s third goal. In the semi-finals, Brazil faced Uruguay for the first time since the 1950 World Cup final round match. Jairzinho put Brazil ahead 2–1, and Pele assisted Rivelino for the 3–1. During that match, Pele made one of his most famous plays,Pele’s Dummy.  Brazil played Italy in the final, with Pele scoring the opener, with a header over Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich. He then made assists on Jairzinho’s and Carlos Alberto’s goals, the latter one coming after an impressive collective play. Brazil won the match 4–1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely, and Pele was named player of the tournament.

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