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Brazil 1970 - the greatest of all time

Published:Sunday | July 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Brazil's football maestro Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele) holding up the Key to the City which he received from the Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Emerson Barrett (left), before the start of an exhibition match between Santos of Brazil and a Cavalier Invitational team at the National Stadium in February 1971. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.-file

Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY

EURO 2012 has come and gone, it ended in far away Ukraine last Sunday, and as predicted by many football experts, Spain won it, and decisively at that.

In winning the tournament, Spain made it victory number three. They joined Germany at the top of the table for number of victories, they became the first team to successfully defend the title, and in defeating an Italy team reduced to 10-men by a margin of 4-0, Spain became the first team to score four goals in a final and to win by such a large margin.

And after winning the Cup in 2008, the World Cup in 2010, and the Cup this time around, Spain also became the first team to win three major titles in succession.

Spain were brilliant everywhere on the field, in attack as well as in defence where they conceded one goal throughout the tournament.

So good were Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Alonso, and David Silva in mid-field, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Juan Fran, and Jordi Alba in defence, and captain Iker Castilas in goal that many believe, truly believe, that regardless of the presence of 20-year-old Neymar of Brazil and Lionel Messi of Argentina at the World Cup in 2014, Spain will be the red-hot favourites to win.

And they were not at their best at EURO 2012 where they were without two of their best players in David Villa and Carlos Puyol due to injuries, one an ace marksman, the other a brilliant defender.

In fact, Spain were so good that although he was on the bench most of the time, Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot award for his goal-scoring ability.

More important than that, however, is the fact that after the tournament the fans of Spain, most of the match commentators, and almost all the post-match commentators, swore by the Bible that this Spanish team is the greatest football team to have ever played the game, not over the past four years, not over the past 20 years, nor over the past 50 years, but the greatest team of all time.

will never prove anything

Although I do so at times, I select all-time players and all-time teams only for the purposes of debate and to stimulate discussions. I do not like to compare teams or players of different eras much more of all time, and I do not like it for the simple reason that there are so many variables to take into consideration that you could talk, or write, till the cows come home, and you will never prove anything or convince anyone.

The commentators, on Sunday afternoon and afterwards, however, were adamant in their judgement, and it was mainly because of Spain's results, because they notched three major tournaments in succession and no other team has ever done that.

They rated them as the best, as the greatest, also because of their skill, because of how they play the game, because of their superb passing, because of how they finish moves by scoring goals, and because of their dominance of other teams.

When it comes to winning three major tournaments in succession, it must be remembered that the EURO started in 1960 and that up to that time the only tournament worth mentioning as "major" was the World Cup, and even then the Brazilian team which won the World Cup back-to-back in 1958 and 1962 could not participate in the EURO for one obvious reason.

Is Spain the greatest football team ever?

Although it is difficult to crown losers as the greatest, I say no, not when I remember what I read about the Hungarian team of the 1950s, of specifically 1954, the team which included the likes of Bozsik and Buzansky in defence, Czibor, Kocsis, Hidegkuti, and the master, Ferenc Puskas as forwards, and the team which lost a hotly disputed World Cup final 3-2 to West Germany.

I say no, not when I remember seeing the Netherlands in action in the World Cup of 1974 before going down to West Germany 2-1 in the final, not when I saw "total" football in action for the first time, and not when I saw Haan, Krol, Rijsbergen, and Jansen rolling the ball from man to man, and Neeskens, Van Hamegem, Rensembrink, Rep, and Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers ever, dancing all over the field.

And I say no, a resounding no, when I look back, not to 1958 and Brazil with Gilmar in goal, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos, Zito, and Bellini, Orlando, Garrincha, the one they called the "Little Bird", Didi, Vava, Pele, the 18-year-old maestro, and Zagalo, but to 1970 and when I remember the Brazilian team of Felix in goal, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Piazza, and Everaldo in defence, Clodoaido and Gerson in mid-field, and Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele - the greatest of them all, and Rivelino in attack.

Italy hammered

Italy, a full 11-man, defensive, and proud Italy, got hammered 4-1 in the final of the World Cup as none of the Italians, not Facchetti or Mazzola, not Rivera or Riva, could match the magic of Brazil.

For a start, but for Castilas none of the Spaniards in Ukraine last Sunday, not Ramos, not Pique, not Iniesta, not Xavi Alonso, and not Xavi Hernandez, not in my humble opinion, could match the skill, the dominance, of Carlos Alberto, Brito, and Everaldo, much less that of Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele, and Rivelino in Mexico 42 years ago, in 1970.

Those Brazilians were of a different time, but they were footballers, and ball artists, of the highest order, every one of them.