(Sao Paulo) Mario Zagallo, the Brazilian soccer legend who died Friday at the age of 92, will forever remain the first to win the World Cup as a player, then as a coach, establishing himself as the one of the figures in the history of the global tournament.
Nicknamed “the professor”, Zagallo even played a key role in four of the five world titles won by the Seleçao.
As a player, he won two trophies: in 1958 in Sweden and in 1962 in Chile.
On the bench, he then guided the Seleçao to the supreme title in 1970 in Mexico and was assistant coach during the 1994 coronation in the United States.
He was coach again in 1998 when Ronaldo’s Brazil lost 3-0 at the Stade de France against the Blues of captain Didier Deschamps.
Only the legendary German Franz Beckenbauer (1974 as a player and 1990 as a coach) and Deschamps, after the 2018 coronation of the Blues in Russia, have managed to imitate him.
Zagallo, whose statue sits in front of the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio, has little exported his talent. Only for the lucrative sirens of the Gulf, between 1976 and 78 to coach Kuwait, then in 1989-90 with the United Arab Emirates whom he qualified for their only World Cup, contested without him, dismissed before the tournament for stories of bonuses.
Born on August 9, 1931 in Maceió, in the northeast of the country, into a family of Lebanese and Italian origin, Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo began his career in 1948 with the modest America club in Rio de Janeiro, then played eight seasons with Flamengo and seven with Botafogo.
A very skilled left-hander, he defended fiercely for an attacker.
He became an international in May 1958, before winning his first Jules Rimet trophy at the age of 27 with his glorious teammates Pelé, Garrincha, Didi and Vava, 5-2 against Sweden, the host country.
Zagallo scored the fourth goal before being the decisive passer for Pelé on the fifth.
“Zagallo is like a brother to me. When we arrived in Sweden for the 1958 World Cup, I was 17 and the youngest member of the team and Zagallo, along with Zito and Gilmar, took me under their protection,” said Pelé in August 2013, on Zagallo’s 82nd birthday.
Very superstitious, Zagallo had unshakeable faith in the number 13 which adorned his jersey. He married his wife on June 13, lived on the 13th floor, drove his car with a 13 license plate. And he said he regretted that the 1998 final was played on July 12…
Zagallo hung up his boots in June 1964 with a 33rd selection before starting to coach two years later, mainly in Brazil (Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense, Portuguesa and Vasco da Gama).
Auriverde coach during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he led Brazil to its third world title with Pelé, Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson and Carlos Alberto.
A tactical genius, he was the first to set up a 5-3-2 formation capable of transforming into a 3-5-2 in attack.
He left the Seleçao for the first time after 4th place in the 1974 World Cup and was recalled in 1994 to be Carlos Alberto Parreira’s assistant during the Seleçao’s 4th victory.
He took over from Parreira until the 1998 final in France, where Zinédine Zidane’s gang deprived him of the title. Then Zagallo ended his coaching career, playing no role in Brazil’s fifth world title in 2002.
Recalled in 2003 to prepare, as technical coordinator, the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he will put an end, this time definitively, to his career when Brazil comes out in the quarter-finals against France (1-0), a new once beaten in a Zidane recital.