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SocratesThe Sarrià Stadium Tragedy


Brazil's 1982 World Cup squad, captained by Socrates, is widely regarded as the greatest team never to win the World Cup.

Sócrates was capped 60 times for Brazil between May 1979 and June 1986, scoring 22 goals. He captained the national team at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, regarded by many as the best team ever not to win football's showcase tournament.

On and off the field, Socrates stood out above the rest. His elegant style and his deep involvement in politics made him a unique figure in Brazilian football, setting him apart from the players of his time and even of today. The 1982 team were similarly unique, a collection of stand-out individuals, they were the stars of the tournament and clear favourites. With arguably one of the most talented midfields of all time, they were allowed free rein to express themselves, with no thought for pragmatism. The team was built for beauty rather than efficiency, style rather function.

On the 5th July, 1982, in the Estadi de Sarrià, Barcelona, the unthinkable happened. Santana's majestic Brazil World Cup side were beaten by a considerably less flamboyant, but very well organised and defensive-minded Italian side. The result was seen by many as not only a defeat for Brazil, but a defeat of their attacking philosophy by the less talented but more organised and resolute Italians.

The Italians won 3-2 with striker Paolo Rossi scoring a hat trick. The result eliminated Brazil from the tournament, while Italy went on to win it. 'Catenaccio' -  the tactical system with a strong emphasis on defence and pragmatism, became synonymous with the Italian game.

This match has since been labelled by Brazilian press as the 'Sarrià Stadium Tragedy' (A tragédia do Sarriá) and is often referred to as 'The Day That Football Died' (O dia que morreu de futebol). The defeat was painful and in many ways, signalled the end of the playing style that had defined the Brazilian footballing character. Had Brazil being a little more pragmatic against Italy, even when the score stood at 2-2, they would surely have earned the draw they needed to proceed to the next round. After this failed campaign, Brazil 'learned' the lesson and pragmatism crept into the national game.

What Italy's triumph represented was the superiority of the organised system over the liberated individual. Brazil set new aesthetic standards but ultimately failed to marry style with silverware.

"It may have been the last side to represent Brazil in a World Cup that epitomised the country. It was irreverent, joyful, creative, free-flowing. From that point onwards, the Seleçao became like any other first-world country national side." 

"He was a spectacular guy, as a player, there is not much to say, he was one of the best that I ever played with. His intelligence was unique, you always expected something good out of him." 


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