Mario Zagallo, an enduring giant of Brazilian football, dies at 92

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BRASILIA – The first person to win the FIFA World Cup as both a player and coach, Mario Zagallo was as instrumental a figure as any in Brazil’s rise to prominence as a global football power.

Zagallo, who died on Friday at the age of 92, was the only surviving member of the Brazil team that lifted the 1958 World Cup trophy, the country’s first title and one that eased the pain of a traumatic defeat by Uruguay at the Maracana eight years prior.

“I was at the Maracana for that fateful loss to Uruguay. I was a soldier and it was my job to keep people off the pitch,” said Zagallo of a result that prompted national mourning.

“I’ll never forget the silence, the sadness and the disappointment of that defeat.”

His legendary teammate Pele died in December 2022.

While that memory remained vivid, Zagallo would do his utmost to relieve the anguish by leaving his fingerprints on four of Brazil’s five World Cup triumphs.

Emerging from the amateur ranks during the 1950s, Zagallo, a diminutive left winger, embodied Brazil’s quest to blend attacking flair with defensive solidity, combining his own exquisite technique with admirable commitment.

He won five Rio de Janeiro state championships with Flamengo and Botafogo. He only made his Brazil debut at the age of 26, shortly before the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, but became an integral member of the team, winning 37 caps. 

– Brazil’s run of success –

The tournament, which launched 17-year-old sensation Pele on the world stage, ended with Brazil beating the hosts 5-2 in the final. Zagallo scored his team’s fourth and then set up Pele for the final goal.


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