March 1, 2007

Boys and Girls for Pele

Let me open by saying, I self-identified as a nerd not a geek so you'll have to forgive me for dropping the blog ball. Somehow, as I flailed my way across the information superhighway like an angry bear, I set up comment moderation and possibly destroyed some comments people made. Sorry. On with the show.

Football is called the beautiful game all over the world. So, what's so great about it? Well, I submit Exhibit A:

Carlos Alberto's goal in the final of world cup 1970

If you are a fan of football, you may have a visceral reaction to the mere mention of this goal (I do even though it happened before I was born). You can click on the link to watch it. Let me set the stage then describe the goal. The '70 World Cup was the first one broadcast in color. This detail may seem minor but the fact that the eventual winners, Brazil, wore brilliant gold and blue to match their brilliant play made an unforgettable impression with the millions who watched the cup from their homes. The cup had already seen some astonishing play including Beckenbauer playing out the quarterfinal despite a broken clavicle. The final of the tournament (commonly regarded as "game of the century") saw the clash of two styles that couldn't be more different. The creative attacking style of Brazil met with the hard-nosed defensive counterattacks of Italy. Both nations had already won the cup twice and it was decided beforehand that the winners of this final would take the Jules Rimet trophy home to their nation where it would stay permanently. It was eventually stolen and melted down in 1983 but I digress.

The important point is two teams with vastly different styles playing for keeps and a whole lot of pride on the greatest stage in the world. On to the goal.

With five minutes left to play, the Brazilian forward, Tostao, gets control of the ball well into the Brazilian half. He passed it back quickly to Piazza who quickly scans the field before pushing the ball forward to Clodoaldo. A quick series of passes between Clodoaldo, Pele and Revelino shakes up play a little. When the ball returns to Clodoaldo, he drives forward turning, twisting and eventually dribbling past four Italian players. Once Clodoaldo gets into some space, he looks forward and spots Jairzinho on the wing. Clodoaldo doesn't pass directly to Jairzinhno though. The Brazilian style is more devious than that. He passes to Revelino to pull the Italians in a bit. Revelino holds the ball for a few seconds then, while Clodoaldo points and shouts to send the ball, he launches it forward to the sprinting Jairzinhno.

Jairzhino controls the ball beautifully and breaks across the front of the box. He gets two defenders on him then, just as they close him down, he sends the ball to Pele.

Pele collects the ball at the top of the box and turns to face down the last few defenders. I think that it is a testament to the Italian defense that even with all the twists and turns of the Brazilians that Pele is facing a rock solid defence. All eyes turn to Pele who simply stands and waits. His relaxed posture and intense gaze issue a challenge: Go ahead. Try and stop me.

The Italians are taking the precious few seconds that Pele seems to be squandering to shore up their defence. They are ready for the challenge. Then, instead of meeting the Italian defence head on, Pele nonchalantly passes the ball into a wide open space on his right. Carlos Alberto comes storming down the field and rockets the ball through the legs of a sliding defender and past the legendary goalkeeper Albertosi.

In that split second of great skill, Pele used a tactic practically straight out of "The Art of War". He drew all attention to himself and made the defenders view him as the only and greatest threat. He had spotted Carlos Alberto running down the flank before recieving the ball and in a moment of poise and tactical genius Pele simply waited. If an opportunity had arisen, he would have scored himself but I'm sure he knew that the Italians were too competent to leave an easy opening. When Pele finally passed that ball, you can almost see the shock in the defenders eyes. First, at why he would pass the ball into empty space and then that Carlos Alberto would soon be filling the empty space.

This is beauty. The ball moves down the field like water down a hill. Many people have called it the goal of the century.

Here are a few places to view that goal.

Brazil's journey to the final and the goal.

Carlos Alberto narrating the goal.

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