Garrincha - arguably the greatest winger of all time

Of all the names that comprised the haloed squads of Brazil, it was Garrincha who best symbolised the Selecao's free-spirited samba style.

Garrincha (left) dribbles past Welsh defender Mel Hopkins during the 1958 World Cup quarterfinal match in Goteborg.   -  AFP

Of all the names that comprised the haloed squads that won Brazil three out of four World Cups between 1958 and '70, the one that best symbolised the Selecao's free-spirited samba style was Garrincha.

Born with a left leg six inches shorter than his right leg, and a left foot that curved outwards, Garrincha grew up to become arguably the greatest winger of all time, and certainly the most unfettered dribbler ever. His love for hoodwinking defenders was best captured in the goal he scored for Brazil in a warm-up game ahead of the 1958 World Cup against Italian club Fiorentina. Disdaining the open net that faced him after dribbling past four defenders and the 'keeper, Garrincha waited for another defender to approach him, beat him as well and then stroked the ball home.

 

Bizarrely, but not surprisingly, Garrincha was left out of the first two games of the World Cup, as punishment for his showboating. Back in the side for the must-win game against USSR, Garrincha helped Brazil to a 2-0 win and was a fixture throughout the knockout rounds, playing significant roles in the 1-0 quarter-finals win over Wales and the 5-2 humiliation of France in the semi-finals before stamping his mark all over the final, supplying low crosses from the byline for the two goals Vava scored to start Brazil's recovery from going 0-1 down against host Sweden. Brazil eventually won 5-2, with Pelé scoring twice.

Pelé missed the bulk of the 1962 World Cup with an injury, leaving Brazil with a potential goal-scoring void. Garrincha stepped up spectacularly, supplementing his usual assist count with four goals, two against England in the quarter-finals and two against host Chile in the semi-finals. He surprised everyone with his range of scoring, popping up with a headed goal each against both opponents.

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