- Brazil sunk Chile in a thrilling semi-final on 12 June 1962
- ‘Garrincha, what planet is he from?’ summarised a Chilean newspaper
- Despite being sent off the winger was permitted to play in the Final
Brazil versus Chile has perpetually been billed as a colossal mismatch. A pleasant winter’s day in Santiago – and a 1962 FIFA World Cup™ semi-final – provided the setting for a rare exception.
A Seleção had stuttered rather than steamrolled through the group stage, and eliminated England with another performance that failed to justify their status as pre-tournament favourites; La Roja had outstripped a star-stacked Italy side to a quarter-final place, before beating Soviet Union, the reigning European champions, to ride a carriage of confidence into the last four. Aymore Moreira had to plot victory without the injured Pele; Chile’s own talisman, left-winger Leonel Sanchez, was fit and firing on all cylinders. Moreover, Goliath had to enter battle in David’s backyard, preoccupied by the omen that four host teams had reached the World Cup Final in its six previous editions, and with 77,000 fans cheering the underdog’s every move. There was, quite simply, no foregone conclusion.
After an unconvincing 2-0 reverse of Mexico and a tepid goalless draw with Czechoslovakia, Brazil required two goals in the last 20 minutes from Amarildo to complete a 2-1 comeback victory over Spain that made sure of their berth in the last eight. Garrincha then inspired a 3-1 defeat of England to leave them on the verge of their third FIFA World Cup decider, but while the exhilarating winger was exempt from criticism, his team-mates were not. The pressure was on to win and to excite their supporters in the process.
Chile, for their part, beat Switzerland 3-1 and Italy 2-0 to make sure of a place in the knockout phase with a game to spare. A quarter-final upset of the Lev Yashin-captained, Igor Chislenko-spearheaded Soviets then raised expectations that Fernando Riera’s charges could reach their maiden Final.
Brazil kicked off a game which immediately exploded into life. Didi’s vicious strike from distance flashed narrowly over the Chilean bar, before Sanchez’s firm shot from the edge of the box came back off the post. Garrincha then broke the deadlock open on nine minutes, when a left-wing cross by Zagallo was deflected into his path, just outside the hosts’ penalty area. Although on his weaker left foot, the No7 rocketed the ball into the top corner of Escuti’s net. The Botafogo winger was in the mood to torment and after he had one penalty appeal turned down, his cross from the right flank was just inches away from presenting Amarildo with a tap-in. Garrincha doubled Brazil’s advantage just after the half-hour mark, this time with a thumping header from Zagallo’s corner. Many a team would have crumbled. Not Chile, who halved the deficit through Jorge Toro’s sumptuous free-kick just before half-time.
Brazil’s two-goal cushion was, however, restored within minutes of the restart. Garrincha, hogging the right touchline, deceived his marker with an hypersonic, trademark body swerve, before earning a corner, which he looped into the vicinity of Vava. The Palmeiras striker still had work to do, given that he was surrounded by red jerseys, nine yards out, and had to beat the goalkeeper and a defender positioned on the line, but his firm, clever downward header bounced into the back of the net. Chile, again, refused to concede defeat, and just after the hour mark were awarded a penalty following an intricate passing move. Sanchez took it, arrowing the ball into the bottom-left corner of Gilmar’s net to reduce his side’s deficit to just one.
Thereafter, the game flowed from end to end. Ramirez’s through-ball would have sent Tobar in on goal had it not been for an alert interception from Nilton Santos, while Garrincha forced Escuti into a save after tricking his way past two adversaries. Rojas then came desperately close to equalising, but his well-struck shot hit the post before Landa sent the rebound wide. Brazil finally put the game out of their rivals’ reach on 78 minutes, when a long ball looped into the Chile box and the hungry Vava outjumped two opponents to head it home. There was still time for Landa to receive his marching orders and Garrincha to follow suit. It mattered not, the damage was already done: A Alegria do Povo (The Joy of the People) had already inflicted misery on the masses inside the Estadio Nacional.
Chile had put up a formidable challenge. They had, nevertheless, encountered a supernatural talent in the mood to devastate. A headline from Chilean newspaper El Mercurio summarised it fittingly: ‘Garrincha, what planet is he from?’
What they said
“In 400 years from now, every time people speak about football they’ll have to speak about Mané Garrincha.”
Joao Saldanha, journalist and future Brazil coach
“I scored a decisive goal against the Soviet Union and had the chance to do the same against Brazil. We were trailing 3-2 and I remember shooting from just inside the penalty box. It looked like a perfect shot. It went past Gilmar but the ball hit the right post and remained inches from crossing the line. We could have won the match if that had gone in. Ultimately, these little things can make a world of difference in decisive matches.”
Eladio Rojas, Chile midfielder
“We always knew it was going to be a difficult game. Chile were a good side with two or three excellent players, plus they had the crowd behind them. But fortunately Garrincha was unstoppable that day.”
Mauro, Brazil defender
“Garrincha, what planet are you from?”
El Mercurio, Chilean newspaper
What happened next…
Three days later, an 11th-hour Rojas strike snatched Chile a 1-0 win over Yugoslavia in the play-off for third place. It remains the country’s best finish at a World Cup.
Garrincha’s red card left him suspended for the Final. Amazingly, so besotted had the Chilean public become with the winger that they, along with Chile president Jorge Alessandri, successfully led a petition to allow him to perform in the fixture. Consequently, Brazil retained their World Cup crown with a convincing 3-1 victory over Czechoslovakia. A Seleção’s man of the match on that occasion? Yup, you’ve guessed it…