1962 World Cup: Brazil wins again

After a 12-year absence, the World Cup returned to South America in 1962 when Chile staged the event. That Chile was even selected in the first place was a miracle on par with the loaves and the fishes.

The Selecao flew on the wings of Garrincha to victory in Chile.

Brazil poses for a team picture prior t the 1962 World Cup final held in Santiago, Chile. ((AFP/Getty Images))

After a 12-year absence, the World Cup returned to South America in 1962 when Chile staged the event. That Chile was even selected in the first place was a miracle on par with the loaves and the fishes.

In 1960, FIFA was in the midst of selecting the host nation when a catastrophic earthquake and the ensuing tsunami rocked Chile. Thousands were killed and the country was devastated.


  • Number of participating teams: 16
  • Top scorer: Brazil's Garrincha and five other players finished tied with 4 goals
  • Number of games: 32
  • Total goals scored: 89
  • Average goals per game: 2.78
  • Highest scoring game: Hungary's 6-1 win over Bulgaria on June 3
  • Total attendance: 776,000
  • Average attendance: 24,250

Strangely, though, this did not weaken Chile's application to stage the World Cup, but rather strengthened it.  A desperate Carlos Dittborn, president of the Chilean soccer federation, made an impassioned appeal to FIFA.

"We have nothing - that is why we must have the World Cup," Dittborn famously pleaded. FIFA listened and awarded Chile the tournament.


Chile quickly went to work and the country's eventual regeneration was sparked by the building of new stadiums for the competition, foremost among them being the spectacular Estadio Nacional in Santiago.

The format of the competition stayed the same: 16 teams were divided into four groups with the top two advancing to the quarter-finals. Games took place in four cities: at the foot of snow-capped mountains in Santiago, the sandy beaches of Vina del Mar, Arica (a northern town bordering Peru) and Rancagua.

Unfortunately, the quality of the product on the field was no match for the picturesque surroundings. The 1962 World Cup is generally considered one of the more disappointing competitions, a reputation that was earned by the alarming dearth of goals, the dour defensive play and the sheer physical brutality of several matches.

Brazil was the clear favourite and the world champions started off promising enough with a 2-0 win over Mexico with Pele, now 21 and the best player on the planet, scoring the second goal. Tragedy struck the champions in their second game, however, a 0-0 draw with Czechoslovakia, when Pele suffered a torn thigh muscle. He would not play another game.

With the young superstar out, Amarildo took his place in the lineup and it was his goals, along with the inspired play of Garrincha and Mario Zagallo that carried Brazil to the top of Group 3 ahead of the Czechs.

The Soviet Union, another pre-tournament favourite, won Group 1. Yugoslavia finished second ahead of Uruguay and World Cup newcomers Colombia. Over in Group 4, Hungary and England progressed to the quarter-finals, while Argentina and Bulgaria, another first-timer, returned home.

It was the brutal matches in Group 2 that left an undesirable taste in everybody's mouth. Italy and West Germany battled to a 0-0 stalemate, both sides relying on the dreaded catenaccio defensive system. Swiss forward Norbert Eschmann suffered a broken leg courtesy of a violent tackle by Horst Szymaniak in West Germany's 2-1 victory.

MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT: The Soviet Union and Colombia's 4-4 draw in the first round. Colombia mounted one of the most amazing comebacks ever at the World Cup on June 3. Up 4-1 with just over 25 minutes left in the game, the Soviets fell completely apart when Colombia beat Lev Yashin, soccer's greatest ever goalkeeper, for three goals in a ten-minute span.

MAN OF THE TOURNAMENT: Garrincha. Nicknamed the "Little Bird," no player flew higher in Chile. When Pele was knocked out of the tournament with an injury, it was the Brazilian winger, renowned for his mazy dribbling skills, who hoisted the team on his shoulders. Garrincha scored four goals - including two in the semifinals - to help Brazil repeat as world champions.

SPOTLIGHT: In 1947, Nereo Rocco introduced the infamous defensive system known as catenaccio - door-bolt, while coach of Triestina in Italy's first division.

The system's sole purpose was to prevent goals, and was designed not to win games, but rather to avoid losing them. Under catenaccio, goals were scored on the counterattack with quick transitions from defence into attack.

Catenaccio required three defenders to mark a certain player on the opposing team while the libero - free man, patrolled deep behind this defensive line and closed down any open lanes and mopped up behind his teammates.

Rocco used catenaccio to great effect while at Triestina, a small club that routinely sat at the bottom of the standings. During the 1948 season, the modest club not only avoided relegation, but amazingly finished in second place. Noting the success Rocco had, other Italian clubs began using catenaccio.

By the early 1960s, several top national teams employed the system and it was used at the 1962 World Cup, most notably by Italy and West Germany.

AND ANOTHER THING: Goal scoring was down considerably at the 1962 World Cup from previous tournaments. In Chile, 89 goals were scored in 32 contests for a 2.78 goal-per-game average, compared to 126 goals in 35 games (3.60 goals-per-game) four years earlier in Sweden.

Not only was it the lowest average of any World Cup at the time, but it was also the first that dipped below 3.00.

Part of the reason for the alarming drop in goals was the predominance of catenaccio   at the time, but also FIFA's decision to use goal average to settle ties in the first-round standings instead of single playoff games employed at previous World Cups.

Implemented to encourage more attacking soccer, which would lead to more goals, the new tie-breaking system had the exact opposite effect as several teams, especially those that were devout practitioners of catenaccio, became even more defensive and conservative in their approach.

It was the Chile-Italy contest on June 2, however, that forever earned a place in World Cup infamy. Known as the "Battle of Santiago," the contest was an appalling exhibition of violent and vicious play with players maliciously kicking and punching each other.

Only two players - both Italians - were sent off, but it could have easily been more. Behind the referee's back, Chile's Leonel Sanchez took a swipe at Humberto Maschio, breaking the Italian's nose. At the end of the 90 minutes, a 2-0 victory for the hosts, the teams had to leave the field under the protection of the police. West Germany and Chile both moved on from the group.

The quarter-finals produced some surprising results. Yugoslavia, having lost to West Germany in the quarter-finals in the previous two World Cups, finally turned the tables on the Germans in Santiago when Petar Radakovic scored the game-winner with three minutes left in regulation.

Hungary hit the post no less than four times against Czechoslovakia, but the Czechs pulled a rabbit out of the hat, winning 1-0 in Rancagua. Chile looked far from its best in Arica, but it still managed to surprise the Soviets, winning 2-1.

In Vina del Mar, Brazil was at its scintillating best in a 3-1 win over England thanks to a brilliant performance from Garrincha. The "Little Bird" scored twice and Brazil, with Garrincha shining in Pele's absence, was through to the semifinals.

It was there that Chile's astonishing run came to an end, Garrincha scoring another pair to guide Brazil to a 4-2 victory. Garrincha was expelled late in the game, but instead of being slapped with a mandatory one-match ban, he received a reprieve from FIFA and was allowed to play in the final.

The Czechs defeated Yugoslavia 3-1 in the other semifinal, setting up a Brazil-Czechoslovakia rematch in the final.

Chile consoled itself over its loss to the Brazilians with a 1-0 win against Yugoslavia in the third-place game.


On June 17, nearly 70,000 spectators jammed into Santiago's Estadio Nacional for the final.

Though the Brazilians were favoured, the Czechs were not to be taken lightly. They had, after all, upset Hungary and Yugoslavia in the previous two rounds, and entered the contest brimming with confidence.

Adolf Scherer and Josef Masopust combined to devastating effect early on, tearing the Brazilian defence to pieces, and when Masopust scored at the 15-minute mark, a third upset by Czechoslovakia seemed a distinct possibility.

Unfazed, Brazil took all of two minutes to even the score, Amarildo beating Czech goalkeeper Vilem Schroif from an impossible angle to wipe out Masopust's goal.

Far from overawed, the Czechs pressed forward and put up a solid resistance against the encroaching Brazilian attack. They had Brazil on the back foot in the second half when the game turned in the 68th minute.

Pegged back on the sideline, Amarildo rounded a Czech defender with a nifty move and with open space in front of him to work with, he delivered a cross to Zio who scored on an easy header. 2-1 for the champions.

Brazil put the game away nine minutes later when Schroif fumbled a lob into the penalty area and Vava was there to score on an effortless tap in.

Brazil retained the title - sans Pele - and joined Uruguay and Italy as the only two-time champions of the world. More important, Brazil proved it was much more than a one-man team.


  • Brazil's Vava scored in the finals of 1958 and 1962 World Cup, one of only four players to do so. Pele (1958 and 1970), West Germany's Paul Breitner (1974 and 1982) and Zinedine Zidane (1998 and 2006) are the others.
  • Bulgaria lost its first two games in Chile and went winless in a World Cup record 17 consecutive games (11 losses, 6 draws) before finally earning its first victory in 1994 in the U.S.
  • Mexico lost a World Cup record nine straight games (1930, 1950-58) and didn't earn its first win until 1962.
  • Tensions between Italy and Chile were brittle long before the "Battle of Santiago". Italian journalists covering the event in Chile wrote disparaging articles about the country. The local media and fans caught wind of it, and a feud was born.
  • Alfredo di Stefano, the legendary Real Madrid forward of the 1950s, pulled a muscle prior to the competition, ruling the Argentine-born maestro out of Spain's lineup. Di Stefano, the greatest star of his generation, is considered the best player never to play in a World Cup.
  • Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Masek scored a mere 15 seconds into the game against Mexico on June 7. It was a record that stood until 2002 when Turkey's Hakan Sukur took just 11 seconds to score against South Korea.