Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 39-Brazil’s First World Cup (1958)

The 1958 World Cup in Sweden did have its moments as we have covered previously. There was Fontaine’s goals, the home countries like Northern Ireland and Wales making the last eight, the emergence of Pele and Brazil who got better as the tournament went on along with the general friendliness of the tournament. Brazil of course made the final beating a semi-decent French side in the semi finals 5-2 but who would face them?

The Hungarian side that was so brilliant (and unlucky) in 1954 had been decimated thanks to the invasion of the country by the Soviets and the defection of many of their best players including Puskas to pastures greener, they wouldn’t make it out of the first round. This left (ironically) the Soviet Union as one of the other stand out teams along with the defending champions West Germany but they would both fall to the same team.

That team would be the hosts Sweden who after topping their group did away with the Soviets 2-0 and then needed two late goals to knock out the champs 3-1 in the semi final. Featuring players like the flying winger Kurt Hamrin, AC Milan playmaker Nils Liedholm, veteran striker Gunnar Gren and tough defender Orvar Bergmark this team were no pushovers and a close game was expected, especially with the weather turning to decidedly un-Brazilian. Brazil finally had one of their better players in Djalma Santos back, Santos being one of only three players who were part of the doomed Brazil side of 1954.

Sweden went in with their tails up and playing in front of 50,000 Swedes in Rasunda Stadium. After only four minutes, a magnificently worked goal by Sweden’s “Italian connection” resulted in Liedholm scoring. This was the first time Brazil had been a goal behind and there were many who thought that, should this happen, then the ball-playing South Americans might crumble. But the goal only spurred the Brazilians on to greater things.

The Swedish joy was short-lived and five minutes later, Garrincha beat his marker to cross the ball around the back of the Swedish defence for Vava to level the scores. After half an hour, Brazil scored an almost identical goal. Garrincha went down the flank, crossed at the back of the defence, and there was Vava again! 2-1 at half time. The second half once more belonged to Pelé, just as it did in the semifinal. Ten minutes after the restart he scored a great goal when he trapped the ball with his chest, rounded his man, and volleyed the ball into the net.

Indecision in the Swedish defence after a Zagallo (yes, that Zagallo from 70 and 98) corner allowed the winger to follow up his own cross and ram home the fourth goal after 68 minutes. Ten minutes from time, Sweden scored a second goal when Simonsson finished off a move set up by Gunnar Gren. The match was well beyond Sweden’s grasp, when Pelé in the last minute scored his second goal. He started the move with a cheeky back-heel to Zagallo and then collected the winger’s cross to head home Brazil’s fifth. Brazil showed, even on slippery, wet surface more suited to European style of play that they were superior and now had a penalty to say so.

At the end Pelé was in tears. He had certainly enjoyed an outstanding competition and remains to this day the youngest ever winner of the World Cup. The Brazilians had finally won a trophy they had so dearly wanted since the inception of the competition. Pele bawled his eyes out over the win, probably remembering the promise he had made to his father that he would win the World Cup for Brazil when his father had cried after they had lost to Uruguay in the 1950 ‘final’.

As a mark of respect for the hosts the Brazilians carried around a huge Swedish flag on their lap honour to symbolize the friendliness of this tournament and given a warm cozy feeling that would soon disappear when Chile hosted four years later. The first World Cup win for Brazil and certainly not the last, this win was a nice way to start their massive legacy.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.


  1. Peter_B says

    Good stuff Dennis. I have seen the video of Pele’s 1958 goals in docos about his career.
    The closest thing I can think of to Pele in AFL is Gary Ablett Senior, because both were big men who had amazing coordination and skills, that are usually only found in much smaller men.
    Keep ’em coming. Thanks.

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