60 Players for 60 Years: The First Six

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of Brazil’s first World Cup triumph in 1958. Led by a 17-year old Pele, the Seleção buried the demons that had plagued them since their disastrous loss in 1950. In the six decades since that initial victory, Brazil have lifted the trophy another four times. In the process, they have established themselves in a class all their own in world football.

Their five World Cup titles are the most of any nation; they are the only country to have qualified for every World Cup; and they are the only national team to have won the World Cup on four continents. With Neymar helping Brazil earn their first Olympic gold medal at the Maracanã last summer, Brazil now join Argentina and France as the only nations to have won the World Cup, Confederations Cup, and the Olympic Tournament.

Their dominance and greatness transcends winning trophies, and includes serving as leaders in the reinvention of football on a decade-by-decade basis. The Seleção have inspired generation after generation with their beautiful playing style and a commitment to their unique footballing aesthetic. Several of their World Cup squads are included in the debate for greatest team ever – including 1962, 1970, and 1982. Many of the game’s greatest players wore canary and blue, and their names are synonymous with footballing glory: Pele Garrincha, Ronaldo, Zico, Ronaldinho, Socrates, and so many more.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of that first World Cup triumph, we will be releasing “60 Players for 60 Years”  – a tribute to the players, managers, and personalities who have most contributed to Brazil’s collection of continental and global trophies. The final list will include ten figures from each decade since 1958, with special attention given to the way their contributions have influenced Brazilian footballing history. Each month in the lead-up to the 2018 World Cup will see the release of six players, one from each decade, with each decade’s most influential player or personality being announced right before the start of this summer’s tournament.

For the Seleção, the past is always present: the ghosts of both victories and failures past have an indelible impact on the current crop of players. The Seleção have a unique footballing tradition – without Leonidas, there is no Pele; without Pele, there is no Jairzinho, without Jairzinho, there is no Zico; Zico led to Ronaldinho, and now Neymar and Coutinho seek to push forward Brazil’s incredible footballing tradition. Each decade receives an equal share of the sixty players because each decade has made an equal contribution to how we have come to understand the Brazilian national team, and left a powerful mark on fans across the globe.

Brazil remains the most dominant country in footballing history. An assessment of their statistical dominance, their influence on the development of the modern game, as well as their aesthetic contribution to football history are unsurpassed over the past sixty years. Brazilian fans will hope that Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho and others will help the Seleção earn a sixth star on their crest this summer. For this summer’s squad, their performance in Russia will be the continuation of a footballing tradition, a lineage that has included many of the world’s greatest and most entertaining players. History is never forgotten for Brazil, and in preparation for this summer’s World Cup, please enjoy our “60 for 60” series – a celebration of the Seleção’s past, present, and future.

1958-1968: The Roots of Dominance

With a win in the 1958 World Cup, Brazil captured their first world title, and buried the demons that had haunted them since their loss in 1950. 1958 was the beginning of a footballing arc that would run through 1970 and include three World Cup titles and would place Brazil at the top of the footballing world. The decade includes Brazil’s only World Cup trophy on European soil, and wins at consecutive World Cups in 1958 and 1962 make the Seleção one of only two nations to have won back to back titles. For many fans of the canary and blue, this decade represents the golden years, where Brazil breezed past opponents playing football that was decades ahead of its time. Their training, tactics, management, and style were precursors for football. For most scholars, 1958 and 1962 mark the beginning of modern football.

Manuel “Mane” Francisco Dos Santos a.k.a. “Garrincha”

Many of the greatest players in the modern era have had the assistance of technological advancements in medicine, nutrition, and sports science. For Lionel Messi, it is rumors of growth hormones that turned him into a competitive Barcelona academy product. David Villa attributed his legendary “two-footedness” to recovering from breaking his right leg at a young age. Cristiano Ronaldo had impeccable dental work done to make him the global superstar of today. One of the greatest players in the history of the Seleção had none of those medical miracles – he was born with a deformed spine and a left leg two inches shorter than his right.

Pele said of the boy from outside Rio: “[in that position he was] the greatest player I’ve ever seen.” Garrincha, known by fans as The Wren, was one of the most influential Brazilian players ever, and his style of play is visible in the stepovers of Robinho, the flicks of Neymar, and the freekicks of Roberto Carlos. Neymar sums it up best: ”It is good to be compared with the best player (Pele), but my dad told me about Garrincha’s style as he moved forward, went up, attacked and dribbled.” Neymar is articulating a point that is largely accepted by fans of the Seleção, that Garrincha’s way of playing is in the DNA of Brazil. Years later, without explanation, most will recognize Garrincha’s influence on Brazilian football – moving forward, attacking, and entertaining.

Garrincha played 11 years for the canary and blue in a span that saw the team win their first and second Jules Rimet trophies in 1958 and 1962. Many journalists attending the 1962 World Cup have suggested that Garrincha single handedly won the tournament for Brazil after Pele left the competition with an injury in their second group match against Czechoslovakia. Very few players in footballing history have invoked such an honor (the only other being a diminutive Argentinian genius who was undoubtedly influenced by Garrincha – Maradona). The Wren also played in one of Brazil’s most difficult tournaments, 1966, when he was selected along with other members of the 1962 team more for their past achievements than their current performances.

Everyone that played with or against Garrincha has a favorite moment. Even the English found his abilities equal parts charming and frustrating, as he scored two goals against them in the quarterfinals of the 1962 World Cup. Most likely his best performance came when he continued that purple patch of form in a scintillating performance in the semifinals against hosts Chile. He scored two goals, one from a corner kick and another using his weaker left foot. His four goals in those two matches made him the joint top scorer of the tournament, with all of his goals scored in knockout round games. Two of his goals were from headers – Garrincha was five feet six inches. -Sam McFarlane

1969-1978: The Rise of the Beautiful Game

Pre-1960’s, South America was known for producing players with unquestionable individual skill, but by the late 1960’s a more cooperative style of football was being introduced around the world, with Brazil at the forefront. Brazil reached their peak at the 1970 World Cup, and in the final against Italy in Mexico City, the world watched as the Seleção introduced the perfect blend of individual and team play. Their final goal is considered by many journalists the greatest in World Cup history. Nine Brazilians touch the ball in the build-up, making quick passes, but the goal is still set up by Clodoaldo dribbling four Italian players in his own half, before releasing the ball upfield. The ball finally made its way to Pele, who found a sprinting Carlos Alberto on the right wing to smash it home. This was peak Brazil. 1974 and 1978 were largely a let down for fans of the Seleção, but fans will ultimately remember the dominance of 1970, and the way it forever changed modern football.

Jair Ventura Filho – Jairzinho aka “Furacão” aka “World Cup Hurricane”

Jairzinho’s career follows an eerie path: born on Christmas day in Rio De Janeiro, he played for Botafogo. His hero and predecessor in style and ability was Garrincha, who also played on the right wing for Botafogo. As a result, Jairzinho became Garrincha’s understudy both at the club and national team level. He made his Seleção debut in 1964 by replacing an injured Garrincha and played a few unheralded few games at the 1966 World Cup. But in 1970, “The Hurricane” was born.

In that tournament, the first televised to the World, he played six matches and scored seven goals. He is the only player to have scored in every match at a World Cup Final. He played across the front four but preferred the right wing. Rivelino, Pele, and Gerson all saw themselves as withdrawn attackers, so they can be seen all over the pitch, but Jairzinho stands out because of his willingness to continually move and make runs off Tostão to create space for other players. Whereas Pele dropped deep to draw defenders away from their line and Tostão acted as the focal point for passing moves, Jairzinho ran and ran and ran.

Jairzinho’s defining moment for the Seleção was his goal against Uruguay in the 1970 World Cup semifinal, and watching the replay, his role and nickname are evident. Heading into the match, many members of the Brazil squad were nervous, haunted still by the memory of the nation’s loss to Uruguay in 1950. In this game those sins were put to rest, and The Hurricane provided the absolution. The Furacão said it best himself – “when I took off with the ball it was hard to stop me.”

Brazil’s move itself only took eleven seconds and covered nearly the entire length of the pitch. It began with an errant Uruguayan pass to Jairzinho, near the edge of Brazil’s box. Eleven seconds and three passes later Jairzinho tucks the ball past Uruguay’s keeper. This goal typifies the greatness of the 1970 squad and illustrates the squad’s approach to total football – all eleven players were able to attack and defend simultaneously.

Unfortunately for Uruguay, the attack revolves around preternatural Seleção teamwork and the speed of Jairzinho. Each player knows precisely where his teammate is without taking an extra touch or needing a moment to look forward. Pele, without looking and a defender closing him down, flicks the ball to Tostão. All the while, Jairzinho jets down the field. The Uruguayan defender looks like he is running in mud as Jairzinho bears down on him. The move is finished off as the Hurricane touches the through ball from Tostão towards net, and then rolls the ball across the face of goal.

The peak of Jairzinho’s career would be playing for this 1970 team. After 1970, he bounced around South America and briefly played for Marseille, never quite reaching the heights of his time with Botafogo and the Seleção. But his performances in 1970 etched the man who claimed he won “best body on the planet” into canary and blue folklore forever. -Sean Makarin

1979-1988: The Pain of Expectation

Filled with promise, 1979-1988 would bring disappointment to fans of the Brazilian national team. The 1982 World Cup team featured many of the greatest players in modern footballing history, with Zico, Socrates, Falcão, and Cerezo all playing for the Seleção. Brazil played beautiful football throughout the tournament, but in a match which has since been dubbed the Tragedy of Sarria, the Seleção would lose in heartbreaking fashion to Italy. For many football fans, Brazil’s loss to the Italian catenaccio would come to define the “death of naivety in football,” as the more pragmatic Italians advanced past the attractive style employed by the canary and blue. During 1986, a less inventive Brazil would advance to the quarterfinals, losing to France in penalties, with Socrates missing one of the crucial spot kicks. The 1980’s are one of only two decades since 1958 where Brazil have failed to win a World Cup. Despite their lack of silverware, their commitment to joga bonito left a tremendous impact of football fans who grew up during this decade.

1979-1988: Paulo Roberto Falcão, aka “The Eighth King of Rome”

Every great clock, no matter how well adorned, requires cogs and gears to tick properly. For the 1982 team, Falcão made Brazil tick. Part of the famed Brazilian midfield of the mid-1980’s which featured Zico, Socrates, Cerezo, and Eder; Falcão served as a deep-lying playmaker for the Seleção, offering versatility in both attack and defense. He was a classic box-to-box midfielder, famed for his tactical acumen, high work rate, and ability to coordinate Brazil’s stunning attacking moves.

At the club level, he began his career for Internacional in Brazil. He was a vital player for the Porto Alegre-based club during the late 1970’s as they won three Brazilian titles and reached the final of the Copa Libertadores in 1980. After his near miss at continental glory, he moved to Roma, where he earned the nickname “the eighth king of Rome.” Falcão briefly became the highest paid footballer in the world, pushing Roma to a Serie A title in 1983, beating out Michel Platini’s heavily favored Juventus side to nip the Scudetto. In 1984, he led Roma to the European Cup final which would be played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, but after injuring his knee during the semifinals, he looked a shadow of his usual self as Roma lost to Liverpool on penalty kicks.

Falcão’s rivalry with Platini would define the race for the Scudetto during the early 1980’s. Matches between Juventus and Roma became the hottest ticket in Italy for three consecutive seasons, as the Frenchman and the Brazilian battled for Serie A superiority. The rivalry famously reached a fever pitch during 1981 when Roman claims of foul play caused the owner of Juventus to exclaim, “You have the Pope, Andreotti, and the sun. At least leave us the Scudetto.” Falcão’s time in Italy put him in a position to warn the rest of the Seleção about the tactical acumen of the Italians during the 1982 World Cup. Those warnings were largely ignored.

One of Falcão’s greatest ever goals would come during Brazil’s famed match against Italy in the 1982 World Cup. With the Seleção down 2-1, Falcão received the ball on the right edge of the box, shimmied three Italian defenders, before firing the ball past the keeper. The goal – as well as his iconic celebration – are etched in World Cup folklore. In that moment, the Seleção believed they had finally broken the Italian resistance. Kept quiet for so long in the Spanish heat, they believed Falcão’s goal was a symbol that destiny was working in their favor.

Running towards the bench, Falcão admitted his enthusiasm caused him to nearly choke on his gum. From his interview with Fernando Duarte in the Guardian, “Some of the Italian players would later ask why I was scowling at them during the celebration, but I was just trying desperately to clear my throat.” Only eight minutes later, Italy would take the lead for the final time. Falcão wouldn’t rescue the Seleção again, and one of the World Cup’s greatest sides would exit the competition early.  

As his career progressed, Falcão would continue to struggle with injuries. Roma released Falcão after he  received unapproved surgery in the USA after the 1985 season. He would play two seasons with Sao Paulo before retiring from professional football. At the end of his career, Falcão would describe his time with the 1982 World Cup squad: “Of course all of us suffered a great deal with the defeat but I am also grateful that I was part of one the greatest games in the history of football and part of a team that is associated with great football. It was a privilege to play alongside those guys.” -Chase Haislip
1989-1998: Return to Prominence

Following the crushing disappointment of the 1980s, the Brazilian national team rebounded with one of the most successful 15 year periods in the history of the game.  At the heart of this success was the stretch from 1989 to 1998, which saw the Seleção win two Copa America titles, the inaugural Confederations Cup title, and most importantly, the 1994 World Cup. On an individual basis, members of the team also won the first ever Ballon d’Or won by a Brazilian player, three FIFA World Player of the Year awards, and one UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award. Controversy before the start of the 1998 World Cup Final stood in the way of Brazil winning three straight World Cups from 1994-2002. At the heart of this decade were players such as Romário and Bebeto, who danced high up the pitch in one of the world’s deadliest strike partnerships.  Legends of the game filled in the ranks year after year, with players such as Cafu, Dunga, Jorginho, and Márcio Santos. The success of the squad was also inspirational, giving debuts to future world class players including Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Zé Roberto, and Dida. These players would carry the torch of the 1990s into the new millennium.

1989-1998: Cláudio André Mergen Taffarel  – “O Homem das Mãos Santas”, aka “The Man with Holy Hands”

One way to gauge the success of a club or national team is to look at the historical appearance listings for the squad and note the amount of goalkeepers with 25+ caps. The statistic sheds light into the consistency of the team. While strikers come and go based upon form, and outfields players are subject to greater wear and tear on their bodies, the careers of goalkeepers are typically limited only by their ability to play at a high level.  

Teams that cycle through multiple keepers rarely do it out of an overabundance of talent, but rather because they don’t have a singular keeper with the talent, ability, and leadership to command respect between the posts. Looking at the history of the Seleção, they have eight keepers in their history with more than 25 caps, and five of those players have more 80 caps for their country.  Atop that list sits one player, the only goalkeeper to ever earn more than 100 caps for Brazil: Claudio Taffarel.

Born in 1966 in Santa Rosa, Brazil, Taffarel grew up hearing the older generations tell folktales of the Brazil squads of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and watching and idolizing the stars of the 1970’s.  Taffarel signed with Internacional in 1985, enjoying five years in Porto Alegre before signing with Italian side Parma in 1990. Taffarel played in all 34 league matches in his first season at Parma, helping the newly promoted side finish 6th and qualify for the UEFA Cup.  

Over time, however, Taffarel saw a diminished role with the squad, and by the 1993 season, he transferred to Reggiana for a year before returning back home to Brazil to join Atlético Mineiro in 1995.  After a few successful seasons with Mineiro, Taffarel enjoyed a resurgence in his career when he transferred to Galatasaray in 1998.  His three year stay with Galatasaray proved to be the most successful move of his career, as he helped the club win six trophies, including two Süper Lig titles and the 1999-2000 UEFA Cup.  Taffarel was voted man of the match in the UEFA Cup final, as he completed a 120 minute shutout against Arsenal and helped Galatasaray prevail 4-1 in the penalty shootout.

Although his club career featured only moderate success, Taffarel shined for Brazil. He made his international debut as a 22 year old in 1988, and at 23, he was the starting keeper as Brazil lifted the trophy at the 1989 Copa America.  Taffarel kept his spot in the starting XI at the 1990 World Cup, and by the age of 27, had already made 57 caps for Brazil ahead of the 1994 World Cup.  

Often referred to by fans as “O Homem das Mãos Santas”, aka The Man with Holy Hands, Taffarel continued his high performance with the national team through the rest of the 1990s.  While his name isn’t whispered with the same air of respect as other great keepers of his generation, his consistent performance helped anchor the success of the national team through the decade.  Taffarel played his last match with Brazil in 1998, and finished his national team career with 101 caps, three major tournament wins, and three major tournament runners-up medals.  Taffarel is currently the fourth most capped player in the history of the Brazilian National Team, and one of the most decorated winners in Brazil’s storied history.

While much of Taffarel’s international success speaks for itself, one of his greatest moments arrived in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup.  Locked 1-1 after 90 minutes, the game went into extra time, and Taffarel held the Netherlands scoreless to send the match to penalty kicks.  Taffarel made two saves during the shootout, and Brazil advanced to the finals of the World Cup for the second tournament in a row.

Taffarel ended his career at the age of 37, having rejoined Parma and serving as their back-up keeper.  Since his retirement, Taffarel has served as the goal keepers coach for both Galatasaray as well as the Seleção.  

Taffarel is also as great a humanitarian as he is a player, and has adopted 15 of his 17 children. He is often remembered for his touching tribute to fallen Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna after the 1994 World Cup Final, dedicating the Seleção’s victory to his countryman, saying “it was at the bottom of our hearts to dedicate this victory to our great friend, Ayrton Senna. He was also heading for his fourth title.” -Matthew Hintze

1999-2008: Boom and Bust

Full of peaks and valleys, 1999-2008 would be a roller coaster ride for fans of the Brazilian national team. The peaks included the 2002 World Cup campaign that was full of memorable moments such as Ronaldinho’s quarter final free kick goal against England and Ronaldo cementing his place among the greatest strikers in history with his tournament-leading eight goals. Over the course of the decade, Brazil also captured three Copa America titles and a Confederation Cup title. Although there was much to initially celebrate, the valleys began at the 2006 World Cup, when a much-hyped dream team of Brazilian stars failed to live up to their unbeatable expectations. A pattern of firing and rehiring managers began in the wake of the 2006 World Cup, and would serve as the building blocks for disappointment in the next decade.

1999-2008: Rivaldo Vitor Borba Ferreira

Rivaldo was a one of a kind player – the player Brazil deserved, but not the one that Seleção fans appreciated. Rivaldo was consistently second fiddle to Brazil’s larger-than-life superstars, and if the national team was criticized, he was often the focal point of the criticism. After a 1-0 loss against Columbia, Rivaldo was booed so badly by Brazilian supporters he threatened to retire from the national team.

His Brazilian teammates would have been ecstatic that he never acted on those promises, as Rivaldo was a critical part of the Seleção’s successes during his international career. Rivaldo played as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker, with the ability to fill in a wide midfielder or a winger.  He was known for his creativity, strength, close ball control, and dribbling ability. He accumulated 74 caps for the national team and scored 35 goals over his career, including five goals in Brazil’s successful 2002 World Cup Campaign.

Rivaldo was fortunate to have a career in club football. Born into extreme poverty in Recife, Pernambuco, he experienced malnourishment and his physical appearance still bears traces of a rough childhood. Because of the malnourishment as a child, he is now bow-legged and missing several teeth. Like his predecessor Garrincha, Rivaldo managed to find incredible success against the odds.

Rivaldo started his club career with Santa Cruz at the age of 19 and moved clubs often throughout his career.  Rivaldo did not find a stable home until he joined FC Barcelona in 1997. During this period, Rivaldo played the best football of his career. His time at Barcelona is littered with outstanding highlights, an incredible goal tally (86 goals in 157 appearances), multiple trophies (a Super Cup, two La Liga titles, and a Copa del Rey), and a smattering of personal honors (including FIFA Player of the year and the Ballon D’Or in 1999.)

One of Rivaldo’s greatest performances was the final match of Barcelona’s 2000/2001 La Liga campaign against Valencia. Barcelona were three points behind fourth placed Valencia, and needed to win to guarantee a fourth place finish to qualify for the UEFA Champions League tournament. Rivaldo scored a hat trick in Barca’s 3-2 victory over Valencia to ensure qualification.

Each of Rivaldo’s goals was more difficult than the last. The game was a slugfest: each team trading goals, until Rivaldo finished the game off with an audacious overhead kick. Words fail the hat-trick and only the video can do it justice. Notice the distance on the free kick, the dip and serve of the ball on the second goal, and skill and control on the third. From the Sky Sports commentary on his final goal, “Rivaldooo…that’s magnificent. Ohh wonderful. You just could not envisage such a finish to the season. The Brazilian completes a hat-trick, a minute from time with the most delightful of goals you will ever see. A goal in a million, to earn many many millions next season.”

The beginning of the end of Rivaldo’s stay with Barcelona began in his third season, when he had a falling out with then-manager Louis van Gaal. Although van Gaal briefly left Barcelona, he would return two years later, and Rivaldo would leave the club to join AC Milan. Rivaldo never again reached top form, but was a member of the AC Milan squad that won Serie A and the UEFA Champions League in 2002/2003 season. After one year with Milan, Rivaldo bounced from team to team, ending his career as he began it – as a journeyman. -Jimmy Torrejon

2009-2017: The Arid Years

The failure of the 2006 World Cup squad to deliver on expectations led to a series of reactionary managerial hires that hampered the Seleção’s ability to find consistency between 2009 and 2016. Having been knocked out of the 2010 World Cup at the quarterfinal stage, Brazil headed into the 2014 World Cup on home soil with great expectation. The tournament ended in tragedy, however, as Brazil were defeated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final, one of the worst defeats by any nation in World Cup history. The bright spot of the decade arrived in the summer of 2016, when a Neymar-led Brazil captured Olympic gold in an emotional final at the Maracana. A recent resurgence under new manager Tite has pushed Brazil back where they belong: among the favorites for the 2018 World Cup.

Philippe Coutinho, aka “The Little Magician”

“Big time players step up in big games.” While this quote states the obvious, bar Neymar, the Brazilian national team has lacked this type of player over the past five years, specifically in the 2014 World Cup. Throughout his career, it is obvious that Philippe Coutinho has the ability to shine under the bright lights in the biggest moments. Unfortunately for Coutinho, he missed the opportunity to make his mark on the national stage in his home country during 2014. Following an unsuccessful title run for Liverpool, Felipe Scolari opted for players such as Bernard and Hernanes rather than the talented, young midfielder from the Vasco de Gama youth system.

Coutinho has had to overcome the criticisms of inconsistent play, since transferring to Inter in 2010. He found a home at Liverpool in 2012, and is now known across Europe as “the Little Magician”. Whether playing as a midfielder or an inverted winger, Coutinho has shown a brilliance on the ball and an ability to score from all over the pitch. Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino claims the Brazilian has “magic in his feet.” Coutinho has thrived under Jurgen Klopp and now turns in consistent performances playing on Liverpool’s left side.

Last season, Coutinho was one of the Premier League’s top performers – scoring 13 goals and providing seven assists in just 28 starts. His performances garnered interest from Europe’s elite, with Barcelona failing to pry him away from Liverpool, offering over £100 million for his magic feet.  If Coutinho continues to display an ability to unlock defenses and score important goals for the Reds in the Premier League and Champions League, a move to Barcelona seems inevitable. If he moves to the Catalan club, he will succeed one of Spain’s greatest midfielders, Andres Iniesta. The Little Magician still has much to prove, but, at the age of 25, he is well on his way to becoming one of Brazil’s greatest players of this decade.

Coutinho has scored several key goals for Liverpool, although the goal that stands out most was scored in April of 2014. In their title challenge in the 2013/14 season, Liverpool desperately needed to pick up three points against title rival Manchester City at Anfield. Liverpool flew out of the gates, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel. Manchester City clawed their way back into the game thanks to a David Silva goal and a Glen Johnson own goal.

With Liverpool losing hope and just twelve minutes remaining in the match, Vincent Kompany failed to clear a Liverpool throw in and Philippe Coutinho curled the ball in the lower right hand corner past Joe Hart to secure the win for Liverpool. While Liverpool ultimately failed to win the league, the Brazilian’s goal put the Reds in control of the title race. Deemed one of the best matches of this decade, Coutinho’s goal does not quite hold the importance it did on April 13, 2014, but had the Reds come away champions that season, we all would have looked back on Coutinho’s goal as the defining moment in the title race.

Coutinho’s career for the Selecao has been limited to this point in his young career, but under recent manager Tite, the little magician has finally received a sustained run in the squad. Linking with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho has repaid Tite’s faith in spades, scoring several iconic goals for Brazil over the past year, including a scorching strike against in a 3-0 drubbing of Argentina earlier this year. He will be a key figure for the canary and blue as they head to Russia this summer. -Quinn Haislip

If you liked this article, be sure to look out for Canary and Blue, the Football Purists’ new podcast that covers the Brazilian National Team. The podcast will cover the past, present, and future of the Seleção, providing analysis, oral histories of Brazil’s greatest moments, and discussions of the country’s greatest ever players. Ahead of the podcast’s release this October, follow us at @CanaryandBlueFP.

Editors Note: The original version of this article incorrectly listed Chase Haislip as the sole author of this piece. The following Canary and Blue team members made substantial contributions to the article: Sam McFarlane (Garrincha), Sean Makarin (Jairzinho), Matthew Hintze (Taffarel), Jimmy Torrejon (Rivaldo), and Quinn Haislip (Coutinho).