Greatest Games: World Cup favourites Brazil dumped out in five-goal thriller

Dino Zoff and a triumphant Italy lift the Jules Rimet trophy
Dino Zoff and a triumphant Italy lift the Jules Rimet trophy
Join today

Dave Tindall looks at the classic World Cup match from 1982 when hot favourites Brazil were dumped out by Italy in a five-goal thriller...

"The 1982 rematch had far more plot twists, with an obvious goodies v baddies narrative to go with it: Brazil, playing with the carefree attitude of 11 blokes plucked off the Copacabana beach, represented footballing fantasy while Italy were the pragmatists with a whiff of scandal still hanging over them."

It's easy to think that 'Greatest Games' all produce a Hollywood ending with the heroic victors galloping off into the sunset with the silverware held high.

But sometimes fate works in other ways.

The Brazil team of 1982 were simply destined to win the World Cup in Spain. They were a beguiling mix of flair and beauty; a sensational side with a 'we'll outscore' you swagger if you dared take the lead against them.

That had happened twice in the 1982 World Cup's first group stage. Russia went 1-0 up on Brazil in their opener before two stunning strikes from Socrates and Eder in the last quarter of the match turned the game around.

Scotland then took a shock lead against them via a memorable David Narey thunderbolt in Seville. That simply stirred the nest. A stunning Zico free-kick, a mesmeric floated lob from Eder and further goals from Oscar and Falcao blew the Scots away.

Another four goals against New Zealand saw Brazil breeze through the group with a 10-2 goal aggregate before they turned on the style again to brush aside South American neighbours Argentina 3-1 in the first match of the second group stage.

Italy also beat the Argentines but by a 2-1 scoreline, meaning Brazil only needed a draw against the Italians to continue their march to the semi-finals.

Brazil v Italy - July 5, 1982

And so to Sarria Stadium in Barcelona, the home of Espanyol.

This 1982 Brazilian side had started to draw comparisons with Pele's 1970 World Cup winners, a team still revered as the greatest in history.

As well as the dazzling football, the 1970 World Cup in Mexico also stirred the imagination due to the vivid colours on show. And that was the case again in 1982: glorious sunshine and a bright, buzzing atmosphere as the yellow of Brazil and blue of Italy did battle.

But, while memorable, the 1970 final was also one-sided as Brazil shook off the frustration of conceding a sloppy equaliser to win 4-1.

Different to 1970 final

By contrast, the 1982 rematch had far more plot twists, with an obvious goodies v baddies narrative to go with it: Brazil, playing with the carefree attitude of 11 blokes plucked off the Copacabana beach, represented footballing fantasy while Italy were the pragmatists with a whiff of scandal still hanging over them.

Striker Paulo Rossi had been banned for two years for his involvement in Italy's infamous betting scandal of 1980 and still looked rusty after failing to find the net in Italy's first four games of the 1982 finals.

But the poacher's instinct remained intact and, just five minutes in, the striker ghosted in at the far post to head home Antonio Cabrini's left-wing cross. So much for Italy going trying to thwart their opponents with all-out defence.

Brazil had been here before though and once more found a stunning response just seven minutes later. The elegant Socrates strode forward, Zico produced some wonderful skill to find space and pick him out with a return pass and the skipper beat Dino Zoff at his near post. Another beautiful goal to add to the samba star's growing collection in this World Cup.

Socrates Brazil 1982.jpg

Surely the world's best team would now go through the gears and stamp Italy out. The Azzurri hadn't read the script though and some lax Brazilian defending allowed Rossi to thump home from the edge of the area and restore Italy's lead. Three goals already and just 25 minutes gone. What was happening?

As it stood, Italy were heading to the semis but trying to keep Brazil out for another 65 minutes was surely an impossible task. And so it proved. With 68 minutes on the clock, Junior curled a pass with the outside of his boot to Falcao, who bided his time, allowed Cerezo's dummy run to move the Italian defence out of position before lashing a left-foot rocket past Zoff. The scorer was ecstatic. Pure joy for the man who played his football in Italy with Roma.

That was surely the hammer blow from which Italy would not recover but, maddeningly for the seas of yellow shirts in the stands and every neutral watching around the world, Brazil shot themselves in the foot once more.

Rossi completes stunning hat-trick

Six minutes after pulling level at 2-2, they switched off at a corner, allowing Rossi to turn in Marco Tardelli's shot. A hat-trick for the striker and the Italians went berserk. How on earth could Brazil leave him in so much space inside the six-yard box?

To allow Italy to go in front for a third time was both inconceivable and unforgivable but Brazil still had 14 minutes to rescue themselves and the dreams of every footballing romantic.

They had one last big chance as Oscar rose to send a powerful header towards the Italian goal with time nearly up. In one script, the ball goes in, Brazil have saved themselves at the death and the party goes on. But the script written for this one saw a 40-year-old goalkeeper throw himself to his left and stop the ball just in front of the line. And that was it. Italy, the bad guys, had gunned Brazil down.

This out-and-out classic was the pivotal match of 1982. Italy, riding the huge wave of momentum given them by knocking out the tournament favourites, would go on to lift the Jules Rimet trophy.

Brazil, meanwhile, had the dubious honour of being cast as the greatest team never to have won the World Cup.

The best matches spark the most extreme reactions and that was the case on this sunny Spanish afternoon. The carnival beat silenced by the ruthless men in blue. Tears of joy for Italy, tears of despair for Brazil. A truly memorable counter played out on the biggest stage of all.

Dave Tindall,

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles