Brazilian forward Ronaldo celebrates after scoring
Brazilian forward Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the first goal for his team during the last 16 World Cup football match between Brazil and Ghana at Dortmund's World Cup Stadium, 27 June 2006. The winner of the match will play either Spain or France in the next round.
The Seleção throughout the years
Brazil played its 1000th international game Wednesday against Colombia in New Jersey. To honor the world's most succesful soccer nation, we take a look back at the heights and lows of the Seleção.
Heartbreak at home
Perhaps the Seleção's darkest hour occured in the 1950 World Cup on home soil. In the deciding match against Uruguay (there was no single-match final in 1950 for the only time in WC history) Juan Alberto Schiaffino (pictured) scores the crucial equalizer, sending Uruguay to its second World Cup and 200,000 fans at the Maracana stadium into dead silence.
Emergence of a new world power
Led by the brilliance of a green 17-year-old talent by the name of Pelé, Brazil announced its assault on the global game in the 1958 World Cup. Though at the time he was the youngest ever to feature at a World Cup, Pelé wasted no time making his mark, scoring the winner against Wales (pictured) in the quarterfinal, a hat-trick in the semifinals vs. France, and two more in a 5-2 rout over hosts Sweden in the final.
Garrincha dribbles past 'em all
Brazil's second World Cup title will forever be associated with the play of Pele's partner in crime Garrincha. The pairing of Pele and Garrincha was perhaps the most lethal ever; in fact, Brazil never lost a match with both stars in the starting 11. But when Pele went down with an injury after its group match with Czechoslovakia, the spotlight fell squarely on Garrincha, and he didn't dissapoint. Two goals each in the quarter- and semifinals set Brazil up with a rematch against the Czechs, where the Seleção won 3-1.
'The King of Football'
Pelé made himself invincible in 1970 after leading Brazil to its third World Cup in four tournaments, simultaneously becoming the only player ever to win three. Pelé only scored four goals in all, but his opening goal and two stunning assists in the final against Italy marked one of the greatest World Cup performances in history and secured his place in soccer lore.
The Sarria Disaster
After two dissapointing tournaments following Pelé's retirement, Brazil's 1982 squad had all the makings to be the best ever. Led by captain Socrates and superstars Zico, Elder and Falcao, Brazil entered the tournament heavy favorites, but fell in the second round at the hands of Italian Paolo Rossi's hat-trick in the deciding match played at Sarria Stadium. To this day, perhaps only the Dutch' 1974 squad of Total Football can approach Brazil's '82 squad as the greatest team to not win the World Cup.
Romário was the key figure in Brazil's return to World Cup glory in 1994. Partnered up front with Bebeto, Romário scored 5 goals and converted in the final's now iconic penalty shootout versus Italy to claim the Seleção's first World Cup in 24 years.
Brazil entered the 1998 World Cup with the greatest of expectations and the greatest player in the world in Ronaldo. But after pacing the Seleção with 4 goals and 3 assists, the two-time defending World Footballer of the Year suffered a seizure on the eve of the final. The next day Ronaldo was not on the team sheet, but in a dramatic turn of events started the game anyway. On the pitch, Ronaldo was a shell of his usual self, his key moment being a painful collision with Fabian Barthez. Not firing on all cylinders, Brazil lost 0-3 to hosts France.
Return of 'Il Fenomeno'
Ronaldo returned in a big way in 2002 to the tune of 8 goals, tying Pele's mark of 12 World Cup goals (he would break Gerd Mueller's all-time mark in 2006 with his 15th). Equally as memorable as his goals: his peculiar haricut.
Kahn't stop him
France '98 became a distant memory as Ronaldo exorcised his Paris demons by scoring two clinical goals in the 2002 final against the heretofore unbeatable German Oliver Kahn.
The Seleção's captain and most-capped player of all time (142 caps) Cafu hoists Brazil's fifth and most recent World Cup in the air. In the middle of the celebration: Pelé (can you spot him?)
Down to earth
2006 marked one of the Seleção's most dissapointing World Cup campaigns, as they lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals to France despite the "Magic Square" of Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho, and Kaka. Pictured here is Zinedine Zidane consoling Zé Roberto.
Just in time
Brazil currently sits 13th in the official FIFA rankings, almost a slap in the face to the team's proud past and ever lofty expectations. But out of the darkness comes a new wave of talent looking to bring the Seleção back to the zenith of international soccer, just in time for their home World Cup in 2014. With stars in the making such as Neymar and Oscar, it's a proposition not far-fetched.