Zico is often considered one of the best players to never win a World Cup. Ahead of Russia 2018, he speaks to RT’s Stan Collymore about how the world’s most prestigious trophy eluded him.
Despite a glittering ten-year career, as one of chief creative focal points of an outstandingly talented Brazil team, Zico and his teammates never quite managed to win the World Cup that their talents deserved.
At the 1982 World Cup in Spain, standing alongside Zico in the Brazil side were the likes of Socrates, Falcao, Eder and others, a lineup of players considered by some as equals to the great Pelé-led team of 1970. Ultimately though, the Brazilian attack was neutered by the Italian defense, sending Zico and his teammates on an early flight home.
Nonetheless as Zico tells Collymore, he still has positive memories of the tournament.
“My favorite World Cup was without any doubt 1982,” he said. “Because we knew about our capability, we knew we could go all the way, we trained for three years and prepared for it and we ended up being displeased that we didn’t reach the final.
“I think when you come so close to the final and you lose it is so displeasing and it is a very tiring objective. Plus that selection should have at least got us to the semi-final.”
The 1982 side was overflowing with attacking talent. Hindsight, they say, is always 20/20 but reflecting on that particular tournament Zico says that perhaps there wasn’t room in the team for the attacking flair that the public demanded, instead more emphasis should have been placed on solidifying the team’s rearguard.
“Brazil were hugely talented because we played three years with Leandro and Junior on one side, you had Paulo Ezador, Serginho, Eder, in the middle was Cerezo, myself and Socrates which affected myself, Falcao and Cerezo and Socrates and I think the right side ended up losing its support.
“Leandro sometimes didn’t approach because he was scared that someone went to that side,” he continues. “So Brazil were slightly off in the later stage. I think that was an important factor.”
For Zico, his memory of the 1982 World Cup, and practically every other game he played in, is crystal clear. Throughout his career he insisted on recording his memories of each game that he played so as to never forget an important moment on the pitch.
“When my brother finished the games he made notes, spoke about it to the world, he spoke about the skills of everyone. So when I started playing I just repeated what he did with the advantage that I didn’t have to speak to anyone on how I played so it was just about noting the goals. And for me that was an opportunity. So for me not to forget, I wrote everything down. I didn’t leave a lot of time before doing that so I didn’t forget everything.”
In the end it feels somewhat odd that a player of Zico’s caliber didn’t get to hoist the World Cup at least once in his career. The 1982 competition was ultimately won by Brazil’s conquerors Italy and while regrets exists for Zico, he salutes what that side overcame to claim the trophy and laments his own team’s mistakes.
“I think that our major disappointment was that we made an error at the point where we shouldn’t have,” he says. “Italy were a strong team with a good team with great players, Bruno Conti, Paolo Rossi, Tardelli, they were fantastic players and they played to our faults and took advantage of our errors.
“In the World Cup you can’t make such errors. If you do, you return home.”