A goal that defined Brazil’s footballing DNA to the rest of the world and discarded of false interpretation. Carlos Alberto’s strike lives on in infamy, not only in the minds of Brazilians but of those around the world who would witness their first taste of Brazilian football.
The 1970 World Cup was the first to be broadcast in colour to our television screens. Brazil’s historic yellow shirts could be seen draped over the shoulders of Pele, Tostao and Revelino to name just a few. The football on show was symbolic of this famous yellow, lighting up screens around the world with emotive and all-engrossing football.
Brazil had fought hard to reach the final against Italy, overcoming defending champions England along the way. The final pitted two footballing identities against one another. A disciplined Azzurri side against a Brazilian side who, to many, cared more about tricks and flicks than tactics. Despite this, ‘The Green and Yellow’ began to run away with the game in the second half and found themselves 3-1 up after 71 minutes when Jairzinho converted Pele’s headed pass.
However, the highlight of the game wouldn’t arrive until the 85th minute. Brazil won the ball in their own half and worked it to Clodoaldo who mesmerisingly dribbled around three Italian players before passing out left. The Italians began their tracking back process, a tireless task at this point of the game and one very much in vain considering the scoreline. This was the trigger signal for Alberto to begin his attacking run on the opposite side of the pitch from fullback.
By the time the ball had been put into the feet of none other than Pele, Alberto’s surge forward lay unchallenged and Pele’s perfectly rolled pass fell elegantly into the stride of an onrushing Alberto who dispatched a brilliant shot with the outside of his right foot low into the far corner. The Italian defence could only gaze on as a barrage of yellow shirts worked their magic.
The goal certainly lives on in a much more important standing than its basic brilliance. It helped characterise a nation’s footballing blueprint and finally drew appreciation from around the world for Brazil’s unrivalled ability.
This was no spontaneous attack, influenced by a comfortable lead and with the opposition flustered. No, this was a calculated attacking move that swept the Italian’s to one side before attacking their exposed flank, rehearsed many times in training prior to the match. Of course, the fluid nature of the build-up play and the exquisite end finish add to its greatness, but the fundamentals were as technically and tactically apt as any other top side.
Prior to 1970, despite previously being crowned world champions in 1958 and 1962, Brazil were still being unfairly dubbed a nation that didn’t take football seriously; a nation that childishly danced around the pitch reminiscent of a love for samba and showboating. Victory in Mexico portrayed a Brazil that could win tournaments and dispose of the best teams while playing their own unique brand of football; a showing that there was indeed a method to the madness.
During an interview in 2014, Alberto, referring to this myth, said: “That’s always been bullshit. Yes, we are a football nation with a huge population and we have a naturally beautiful way of playing, but don’t think we don’t take it deadly seriously.”
The awareness, tactical proficiency and pinpoint accuracy of Alberto’s goal awoke many football fans to the sheer brilliance of Brazilian football and their presence as a team to be reckoned with.
Alberto was both the captain of Brazil and Santos at the time. Despite the number of star players within the Brazil setup, nobody doubted Alberto’s right to the captaincy, so much so that he would be referred to as ‘capitano’ by his former teammates, close friends and adoring fans right up until his death in 2016.
Alberto represented everything great about that Brazil side, technically excellent but also very astute with when and when not to attack; a player that often sacrificed himself in favour of defensive stability and therefore someone who often went unnoticed as the attackers stole the show.
Carlos Alberto’s strike rightfully takes its place atop many a greatest goal poll, unique for its inclusive excellence. His goal helped the self-proclaimed ‘country of football’ gain the respect and admiration of its wider peers for its own sheer brilliance.
Brazil’s run to the Stadio Azteca in Mexico City was as convincing a World Cup campaign as any. However, prior to this, the general undercurrent of thought outside of Brazil and South America was adamant that Brazil were a fraudulent footballing nation. Amidst continuous lowballing and under-appreciation, Carlos Alberto’s strike quashed this baseless notion and with the famous yellow of his country being projected through television screens around the world, Brazil became rightfully respected, feared and adored.