THERE are tales in sports that are soaked in courage. The news in the days leading to the '70 World Cup in Mexico was bad for Tostao.

A freak injury during practice session had resulted in a detached retina and the ace striker had to be rushed to Houston for an emergency surgery. The whole of Brazil held its breath.

There were fears and rumours that his career had come to a premature end, and with the World Cup campaign only days away, the question mark over his fitness, was hardly what Brazil required.

Brazil had a bunch of super-talented footballers, headed by the legendary Pele, yet, Tostao with his fluid style, and natural goal-scoring ability, was vital in its game-plan.

Quite astonishingly, Tostao not only returned in time, but also played a key role as Brazil won the World Cup for the third time. The resplendent outfit produced some breathtaking moves and Tostao often was in the heart of them, as a quick-thinking quick-footed inside forward, who had the habit of sneaking his way through defences.

The fair complexioned Tostao was slightly built, but proved a handful for the men attempting to check him. He could get himself into wonderful positions to score, invariably being at the right spot at the right time. The fact that he held his own in the company of formidable footballers such as Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and Rivelino, reflects his not inconsiderable skills.

His moment of glory arrived in the quarterfinals clash, where he poached twice as Brazil brushed aside Peru 4-2. Both were strikes of precision and power.

He was in his element in the semifinal against Uruguay and in the final where Brazil imposed itself on Italy. Tostao may not have found the target in the last two games, yet was an integral part of the relentless onslaughts. Crafty, he certainly was.

The well educated Tostao, a student of economics, might have appeared out of place in a football scenario where talent surfaced from the streets and the ghettos, however, he blended well with the team.

In fact, Tostao made his World Cup (finals) debut for Brazil under dramatic circumstances, coming in for an injured Pele during the '66 edition in England. The Latin American giant had a disastrous World Cup, yet, the 19-year-old Tostao provided glimpses of his talent.

And he opted out of the '74 World Cup in Germany, amid speculations that the eye injury was bothering him again. The shrewd Tostao had made the wise move. For, he will forever be remembered as the terrific Tostao of Mexico '70.

Roberto Rivelino

BRAZIL is, well, Brazil. Breathtaking and innovative. The versatile men from Latin America weave patterns on the field that are on occasions, almost magical.

A clean attacking brand of football that often leaves the defence in a daze. Yet, the moves are so simple, so precise.

The list of great 'sorcerers' from Brazil is a rather long one, with the incomparable Pele at the very top. Among the pantheon of Brazilian greats is the name of Roberto Rivelino, a dynamic footballer who played the game with both passion and skill.

His dazzling runs down the left flank invariably caught the defence napping not to speak of those sizzling long-rangers that streaked its way into the net. He was a star, a superstar.

Rivelino's exploits in Mexico '70, where he made his presence felt in the company of greats, merits a special page in soccer history. He created goals, found the mark himself, as Brazil won the trophy that mattered for a record third time, after triumphs in 1958 and 1962.

The Brazilians, for all their glittering talent, faltered in the '66 edition of the competition and as the country's celebrated team journeyed to Mexico for the '70 competition, the expectations were high.

What followed was exhilarating. In Pele, Jairzinho and Tostao, the side had a formidable strike force and the arrival of Rivelino further strengthened the forward line. It was the 4-2-4 formation at work.

Like Tostoa, Rivelino was not big made, but such was the strength, that the defenders were hard pressed to contain him. He dished out a flamboyant brand of football.

He also scored when it mattered. The Brazilians were in a spot of bother in one of the group games, when Rivelino clinched the issue for Brazil in the dying moments with a wickedly swerving banana kick.

His strike against Uruguay in the semifinal was a gem too. Rivelino took possession near the midfield, sold the dummy to two defenders, and unleashed a powerful left-footed shot that brooked no answer from the goal-keeper.

The marauding Samba Kings from Brazil romped home 4-1 in the final, and Rivelino harried the defence with sparkling runs down the left, followed by dangerous crosses.

For most part of the tournament, he was both a provider and a scorer. The crowds loved him and he responded to their cheers with his aggressive approach.

It was a great moment for the team and Rivelino when the World Cup was won. Already thirty years old, this buccaneering player did deserve his moment under the sun.

Rivelino was a shadow of his self in West Germany four years hence. But that does not take the gloss away from Brazil's imposing display in '70. The Samba Kings did rule then.

Franz Beckenbauer

HE was dynamic. Now helping the defence, now providing the forwards, now figuring in raids himself.

Franz Beckenbauer was a path-finder for the game in the real sense, breaking free from the norms, creating a style that would take the game forward.

Along with Holland's Johan Cruyff, the German brought to the fore a style that would change football forever - it was called Total Football.'

Beckenbauer was the sweeper but he often swept upfield, and had the ability to, both, provide defence-splitting passes and score vital goals. In short, he was a complete player, one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Beckenbauer's achievements are phenomenal. The highlight being leading the German side to victory in the '74 World Cup at home, overcoming a formidable Holland in the final. An exceptionally skillful customer, he also possessed great leadership skills.

Popularly known as 'Kaiser', Beckenbauer's latent talent surfaced when he turned out for Bayern Munich with distinction. It did not take him long to make the German side for the World Cup.

It was a memorable championship for the youngster in '66, with Beckenbauer's display in the final at Wembley, where he was engaged in a famous tussle with feared England striker Bobby Charlton. That duel is part of football folklore now.

England managed to win the final under controversial circumstances, but the World took notice of this elegant defender with the heart for a battle. Beckenbauer had arrived on the world stage.

And in '70 at Mexico, he turned in a heroic performance, playing from the 66th minute with a dislocated right shoulder in that dramatic semifinal against Italy. He had his arm strapped around his chest, yet that did not prevent him from giving his all for Germany. Italy won 4-3, however, Beckenbauer's display is arguably the most courageous in World Cup history considering the physical nature of football. One rough tackle, and it could have been curtains for his career.

Earlier, Germany registered a thrilling 3-2 win over England in an epic encounter, and Beckenbauer, apart from defending with aplomb, found the net himself.

Beckenbauer's exploits in '66, '70 and '74 placed him among the very best in the game. It is not often that we come across a player, who can defend, create and score. Beckenbauer could do that and more.

Given his leadership and man-management qualities, it was not surprising that Beckenbauer assumed charge as the manager of the German team. He endured moments of disappointment in the '90 final in Mexico when Germany staged a spirited recovery yet went down by an odd goal to the Maradona-inspired Argentina in the final.

It was a different story in the summit clash in Italy '94 where a resilient Germany gained its revenge over Argentina. And Beckenbauer had won the Cup that matters as both player and manager. A born winner.

Bobby Moore

HE was the rock in the English defence. A formidable barrier at the rear for the raiders. A calm, quick thinking, smooth tackling footballer with great anticipation.

Bobby Moore will go down as one of the finest defenders of any era for his clean, faultless methods. Not for him the rough tackles, and the desperate slides.

He was also the only English captain to have led the side to a World Cup triumph. The year was '66, and the competition was being held in England.

Not only did the Englishmen triumph, but Moore emerged as the 'Player of the Tournament.' His was indeed a towering presence at the back; as the captain he shouldered the responsibility manfully.

It was indeed a moment to beat all moments for England and Moore, when he held aloft the World Cup at Wembley following a physically and emotionally draining final. Apart from defending heroically, Moore was the provider for the final goal, in the dying moments of the dramatic final, scored by Geoff Hurst.

England was coached by the no nonsense Sir Alf Ramsey, and Moore's solid ways blended into the coach's scheme of things well. England, indeed, played as a single cohesive unit in the tournament.

Moore won several duels in his career, against some of the most dangerous strikers. Among them was Portugal's Eusebio in the semifinal. With his dream shattered, the feared forward, in sizzling form going into the last four clash, left the arena in tears.

Moore, who turned out for West Ham all his career, was among the most intelligent in the business. Not unlike Beckenbauer, he moved up front on occasions, and had the ability to read the game instinctively.

Indeed, as a roving centre-back of exceptional ability, Moore had the knack of making his demanding job look easy, snatching the ball from the feet of the forwards in one quick, fluid motion and sending defence splitting passes to his men.

Not surprisingly, he climbed the rungs fast. Moore made his England debut against Peru in '62 and given his leadership qualities, it did not take him long to be nominated the England captain. If the year '66 was a momentous one for Moore, then '70 was a forgettable one. First, he had to grapple with the darkest hour of his life when he was charged with attempting to steal a bracelet in Bogota, on way to Mexico.

Moore vehemently denied this and considering his exemplary past behaviour on and off the field, the allegation was indeed difficult to believe. The charge was later dropped.

Moore, with his team-mates solidly backing him, did not let the incident affect him. Actually, he was at the peak of his powers now and did play to the best of his ability in Mexico.

England, under the burden of expectations as the defending champion, was involved in a hard fought draw against the Brazilians. And Moore who had stopped the unstoppable Pele for most part of the contest, had won his most cherished 'personal' duel.

The side made its exit in the quarterfinals, done in by a quicksilver Gerd Muller strike with only moments remaining, yet, the rock-solid Moore could walk back with his head high.