When it comes to the World Cup, no group of players has a better record than Brazil.
One of the traditional powerhouses of the tournament, Brazil have won the tournament a record five times with their victories spanning across multiple eras. With no weaknesses in their squad, The Selecao can often be a safe bet to reach the latter stages of any tournament and be in contention for taking the biggest prize of all.
With so many legendary players having been in famous Brazil World Cup squads, it often sparks the debate of who would make the greatest Brazil squad of all. So who have we picked as Brazil’s greatest World Cup XI?
An XI of the best Brazil World Cup players ever
For Brazil’s first World Cup successes, the man in between the sticks was Gilmar. Taking his name by combining his parent’s first name, Gilmar was Brazil’s undisputed number one for almost the entire 1950’s and 1960s. Never one to crack under pressure, he often stood tall against the best of his era and used his quick reflexes to pull off multiple game winning saves at key moments of the game.
Crucially, Gilmar was the keeper that helped Brazil win both the 1958 and 1962 World Cup finals and is still the only goalkeeper in history to start and win consecutive World Cup finals.
Known just as much for his speedy runs as he was for his no-nonsense defending, Cafu redefined what it meant to be a full-back. He was the kind of player who would not stop running for the entire match causing problems for opponents at both ends of the pitch. With such a versatile range of skills and never-ending stamina, Cafu was a mainstay in the Brazil side from 1990 until 2006.
It is why he was one of the Brazil players who was part of two World Cup winning squads, having triumphed in both 1994 and 2002. A regular in the greatest ever lists, Cafu’s career is full of momentous highlights but having captained Brazil to their 2002 triumph as well as setting the record for all-time appearances for the Brazil team, he is proven himself to be one of the greatest defenders of all time.
LB: Roberto Carlos
If having Cafu on the right wasn’t terrifying enough, defenders had to cope with the flamboyant powerhouse Roberto Carlos on the left hand side. Roberto Carlos was not only one of the best defenders of his generations but also one of the great set-piece specialists too.
Set with a trademark 10-step run up, Carlos hit the ball with enough power and swerve that his shots appeared to defy the laws of physics. With Brazil, he would be a part of the 2002 Winning squad and also feature in the All-Star Team of the 1998 and 2002 tournaments. It’s that consistency that often makes Roberto Carlos one of the all-time great left-backs to play on the pitch.
Even though he may lack some of the technical abilities of his compatriots, Lucio was a sheer rock at the heart of defence. It was in 2002 where his defensive skills were first displayed with impeccable timing and heading skills that always nullified attacks in the penalty box.
It was a key element that helped guide Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title and ensured that Lucio would remain a mainstay in the Brazil squad for much of the 21st century. It proved to be a key feature that allowed him to be a part of no less than 4 World Cup teams and solidify himself as one of the best defenders of his era.
He may not have been the most famous Brazil World Cup players of all time but Bellini had one feat that no else could achieve: he was the first Brazilian to lift the Jules Rimet trophy. As captain of the 1958 side that was victorious in Sweden, Bellini brought a hard, physical approach that stopped opponents dead in their tracks.
Whilst he would lose the armband for their 1962 victory, he would regain in later in England for the 1966 tournament. His efforts in the 1958 tournament saw him feature in the All-Star team and lay down the foundations for many other legendary players to lift the trophy well after he had hung up his boots.
For just over a decade, Brazil would have one of the deadliest weapons in football to have existed, the unstoppable dribbling of Garrincha. Making it seem like the ball was connected to his foot, Garrincha danced around opponents and fashioned opportunities where only dead ends appeared. It was these mesmerizing skills in the 1958 and 1962 tournaments that made the world appreciate technical footwork and helped his side win consecutive tournaments.
It would be the 1962 tournament where he was in his prime as Garrincha won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards showcasing his status as the best in the world. A player whose like has not been since before or after his time.
When greats like Cristiano Ronaldo cite you an inspiration, then you know you had an influential presence. That was the mantra given to Didi whose technical abilities were light years ahead of his time. One of the original free-kick icons, Didi could strike a ball and make it dip as it was an effortless movement. Add to the fact that he was one of the best passers of his time and he was the blueprint for the complete midfielder.
One of the key players of the 1958 and 1962 World Cup winning Brazil sides, his efforts saw him take home the Golden Ball award at the 1958 tournament. His form served as inspiration for countless others to follow and ensure his place in the history books for generations to come.
For most of the 1970s, few players were as graceful and skilful to watch than Roberto Rivellino. The creative playmaker was the poster boy of Brazilian flair creating moves that left defenders staring into nothing.
Creating such iconic tricks such as the “flip flap”, both opponents and fans were always wondering what Rivellino would do next. These skills helped him shine as part of the iconic side that won the 1970 tournament in Mexico was included as a member of the tournament’s All-Star Team. It was a fitting achievement for one of the sport’s earliest elite showman.
There have been few greater finishers in the game than Romario. Whilst he wasn’t the quickest on the ball, Romario had the cunning and the skill to find space anywhere in the box and find the back of the net. A player who appeared for Brazil in no less than three decades, Romario was a key component that won the 1994 World Cup in the USA. It was in that tournament that he was crowned the Golden Ball winner and subsequently World Player of the Year in 1994. Injuries prevented him for showing off his skills in later tournaments but his skillset and goalscoring abilities remain talked about to this very day.
Whilst stories flourished about his off-field antics, nothing could stop Ronaldo from scoring when on it. Capable of producing surging runs at high speed as well as carving open defences to curl in a strike, Ronaldo was the striker of his generation. He was a key component of the 1994 and 2002 World Cup winning sides and was a member of two All-Star Teams in 1998 and 2002.
If that wasn’t enough, he would also claim the Golden Boot in the 2002 tournament and be the top assist provider in the 1998 tournament. It’s this form that led to becoming a 3xWorld Player of the Year winner and listed as one of the top strikers to ever play the beautiful game.
If there is one name that is synonymous with football, it is Pele. There is no need to describe just what Pele did rather than look at the records he set. A three-time World Cup winner, Pele is the only player to achieve such a feat. Furthermore, his 77 goals in 92 game remains a national record for Brazil and maintains one of the greatest goal: game ratios in international history.
In a career that saw him win the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball and Young Player of the Tournament award at least once, no one could stop Pele from achieving his dreams. It’s why he is almost always cited as the greatest footballer of all time. Regardless of whether you agree with that, he is unquestionably one of the finest Brazil World Cup players ever.
Very Honourable Mentions: Zico, Carlos Alberto, Nilton Santos, Jairzinho, Neymar, Thiago Silva, Taffarel, Dunga, Bebeto, Rivaldo
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