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Almost no other country is associated with football as much as Brazil. No wonder, after all the Seleçao, the Brazilian national team, has already won the world championship five times. Brazil’s Seleçao is thus the most successful football nation in the world. In addition to its five World Cup titles (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002), it has won eight Copa America titles (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004 and 2007) and six Olympic medals.
Often, individual players are always associated with the titles that the Brazilian national football team won. There is arguably no other nation that has produced more magnificent players, who are still known throughout the world today.
Fascination Football in Brazil
Football stars are worshipped like gods in Brazil. First and foremost Pelé, who was largely responsible for the country taking home three world championship titles. But even today, with Neymar, for example, some football stars are known to everyone, even those that do not follow football at all.
The history of the Seleçao, the Brazilian national football team, begins in 1914 when the team played its first international match against arch-enemy Argentina and had to digest a bitter defeat with a 3-0 win. Nevertheless, the Brazilians never thought of giving up and were able to win the Copa America in 1919 and 1922. For a long time, however, these were the only titles. The real success came in 1958, the Pelé era when the Brazilians began their triumphant progress.
Since then, the Seleçao have been considered favourites in all sorts of tournaments. Losing 2-1 against Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2018, and even their embarrassment of losing 7-1 to Germany in the 2014 semi-finals did not prevent them from playing that role. The team will also have a good chance of winning the title at the upcoming World Cup 2022, and many punters will put their money on the Brazilian national team.
Brazilian footballers – a class of their own
The big stars that the team has produced over the past decades play a decisive role in this permanent role of favourites.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé)
For many football fanatics, he is the best player of all times: Edson Arantes do Nascimento or as we know him better, Pelé. His success speaks for itself. Not only has he been crowned footballer and world sportsman of the past century, but, as already mentioned, he has also won the world championship three times for the Brazilian national team.
The first time he won the title with his team was in 1958, and it was also the first victory in a World Cup for Brazil. The titles followed in 1962 and 1970, and he finally gave up his active career in 1977. However, he could never completely let go of the sport. Among other things, he served as a football ambassador and even as Minister of Sport.
Pelé is regarded as a pioneer in the field of football today. He was a highly skilled technical player, and it cannot be denied that his extraordinary style inspired later Brazilian players and footballers all over the world.
Throughout his career, Pelé has scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches. This includes his 92 international games, in which he scored 77 goals in total. He is still the Seleçao’s current record scorer today.
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
As far as the goal-scoring record is concerned, Pelé is followed by Cristiano Ronaldo. In his 98 appearances for the Brazilian national team, he has scored a total of 62 goals. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima rose to superstardom in the mid-90s, playing for PSV Eindhoven and, in 1996, FC Barcelona, whom he shot to victory in the 1997 European Cup final.
During his time in Europe, he was named World Footballer of the Year twice. In 2002, he won the title again after the Seleçao won their fifth world title. Although he only sat on the bench in 1994, he was already world champions with Brazil at that time. Ronaldo then announced his retirement in 2011.
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior
Although he is not even 30 years old, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior has already achieved much success in his career. He has been named South America’s Footballer of the Year twice, in 2011 and 2012, and the awards are probably due to his Copa Libertadores performances. Here he scored a total of 13 goals in six matches. Furthermore, with 61 goals in 101 games for the Brazilian national team since debuting at age 18, Neymar is the third-highest goalscorer for his national team, trailing only Pelé and Ronaldo.
He is currently playing as the number 10 striker for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and is part of the Brazilian national team squad.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite – Kaká
Another Brazilian, who has mainly played in European teams during his career, is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite. The attacking midfielder was able to take home a world championship with the Seleçao in 2002 when Kaká was just 20 years old.
Although he played little part in winning the title, he quickly developed into one of Brazil’s best footballers, which was finally rewarded in 2007 with the title of Footballer of the Year. He was also a team member of Brazil’s winning squads of the 2005 and 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, further winning the Golden Ball Award in 2009 as the tournament’s best player.
After several years in teams such as AC Milan and Real Madrid, he returned to São Paulo for a short period in 2014. However, after four injury-riddled seasons in Spain, which saw his physical strength rapidly decline, he returned to Milan for one season in 2013, before joining MLS expansion club Orlando City. He initially returned to his former club São Paulo on loan, before relocating to the United States in 2015 and finally retiring in 2017.
Of course, many other Brazilian footballers such as Romário, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho or Roberto Carlos, as examples, have earned their status as legends over the past decades. Nonetheless, the above selection of Brazilian football legends may pay tribute to a nation of brilliant footballers.