RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil's stunning 3-2 defeat to Italy at the 1982 World Cup was one of the sport's most memorable matches but former midfielder Zico believes it had a negative impact on world football that is still being felt today.
Brazil had delighted the world with their adventurous, flowing football until the fateful day at Barcelona's Sarria stadium when a Paolo Rossi hat-trick, scored with the aid of a blunder-prone Brazil defence, knocked them out before the knockout stage.
Needing only a draw to qualify, Brazil nevertheless went for all-out attack and Zico said their failure to win the trophy meant their style of play was subsequently viewed as obsolete.
“Brazil had a fantastic team, recognised around the world, and everywhere we go people remind us about that team in 1982,” Zico told the Soccerex conference.
“If we had won that game, football would have been different. Instead, we started to create football based on getting the result at whatever cost, football based on breaking up the opposition's move, and based on fouling the opposition.
“That defeat for Brazil was not beneficial for world football.
“If we had scored five goals that day, Italy would have scored six as they always found a way of capitalising on our mistakes.”
The consequences were especially far-reaching in Brazil, whose two World Cup wins since have been achieved in a more efficient, less flamboyant manner.
Brazil's former coach Mano Menezes said earlier this year that Spain, rather than the five-times world champions, had become the new benchmark in international football.
Zico, who is considered one of the country's finest players but failed to win the World Cup in three attempts, said Brazilian teams had become more interested in physical strength and doubted that he would be able to make it as a professional in the current game.
“Brazil is a fertile land for players but we have to change the mentality in the junior divisions of the clubs,” he said.
“I'm sure that I went for a trial at a football club today, I would be rejected for being thin and small.”
“You don't see Romario-type forwards in the youth divisions, (the centre forward) is always a big guy,” he said referring to the stocky striker who led their 1994 World Cup attack.
“That's where the deterioration of Brazilian football begins. Clubs are worried about winning titles in the junior categories, rather than developing players.”
Brazil was also paying the price for building over its football pitches, he added.
“We have lost out since losing the (informal) football pitches and buildings and condos went up in their place. Today, kids from humble backgrounds have trouble finding a place to play football.
“Sometimes, they close off streets at the weekends for football games, but it's not the same. If you don't live in a condo or aren't the member of a private club, you have trouble getting a game.”