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All-time Brazilian World Cup soccer team

The Times' Grahame L. Jones makes his picks for the best national-team members from Brazil.

May 09, 2010

Grahame L. Jones' All-Time

Brazilian World Cup Team *

• Playing in a 3-4-3 formation.

GOALKEEPER — GILMAR: The first 'keeper to win the World Cup twice, in 1958 and 1962, Gilmar also played in the 1966 tournament. An agile shot-stopper with excellent reflexes, he represented Brazil 94 times between 1953 and 1969 and was on the losing side only once in 14 World Cup matches.

LEFT BACK — NILTON SANTOS: "The Encyclopedia," as he was known, was a superb reader of the game, renowned for his tactical awareness and his knowledge of the sport. On four World Cup teams between 1950 and 1962, winning two. An attack-minded defender who controlled the left flank.

CENTER BACK — CARLOS ALBERTO: Captain of the glorious 1970 World Cup-winning team, regarded as Brazil's best ever. A strong tackler and a resolute defender. He could also dribble, create plays and even score, as witnessed by his eight goals in 53 matches for the Selecao.

RIGHT BACK — DJALMA SANTOS: A starter in four World Cups and winner of two. He and namesake Nilton Santos showed the value of attacking outside backs, something Cafu and Roberto Carlos later also demonstrated to great effect while setting appearance records for Brazil.

LEFT MIDFIELD — RIVELINO: Winner of the World Cup in 1970, he was also a starter on the team that finished fourth in 1974 and third in 1978. An exceptional passer of the ball, he could strike it with power and accuracy, especially on free kicks. He played 92 games for Brazil, scoring 26 goals.

MIDFIELD — DIDI: The creative force behind the Selecao's World Cup victories in 1958 and 1962. Inventor of "falling leaf" free kick, and also of the phrase "the beautiful game." On-field intelligence and superlative passing were his strengths, but he also scored 20 goals in 68 games for Brazil.

MIDFIELD — ZICO: "The White Pele," never lost a World Cup match, going 8-0-3 in 1978, 1982 and 1986, and yet never won a World Cup, along with Socrates arguably the finest Brazilian player never to do so. Netted 52 goals for Brazil.

RIGHT MIDFIELD — GARRINCHA: "The Little Bird," regarded as an equal of Pele and the best-ever dribbler of the ball. A Rio de Janeiro crowd of 131,000 turned out for his farewell match in 1973, Mesmerizing on the field but bedeviled by alcohol, he died 10 years later, at just 49.

FORWARD—PELE: "The King," widely seen as the greatest player in history, winner of three World Cups, scorer of more than 1,000 goals, including 77 in 92 games for his country, an average of 0.836 per game. Speed, strength, balance, vision, finishing power, creativity, unpredictability, Pele had it all.

CENTER FORWARD — RONALDO: "Il Fenomeno," as he was dubbed by Italian media, is the World Cup's all-time leading scorer with 15 goals. Has notched 62 goals in 97 games for Brazil. Winner of the tournament in 1994 and 2002 and runner-up in 1998, and a three-time world player of the year.

FORWARD — LEONIDAS: "The Black Diamond," was said to have invented the bicycle kick, although others claim he was merely its best practitioner. A standout of the 1930s, he played only 19 games for Brazil but scored 21 goals and was the top scorer with seven at the 1938 World Cup.

COACH — MARIO "LOBO" ZAGALLO: A World Cup winner as a player in 1958 and 1962, as coach in 1970 and as assistant coach in 1994, Zagallo also led the team that finished second in 1998.

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