How many continental trophies have the sport's greats won?

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by IceBlood34, May 22, 2024.

  1. IceBlood34

    IceBlood34 Member

    Montpellier HSC
    Jan 27, 2021
    Hello everyone,

    With the Copa America and the Euro approaching, I wondered how players like Pele or Maradona could have failed to win the Copa America, given their place in the footballing pantheon.

    Just to remind you of the facts:

    - Pelé took part in the Copa America just once, in 1959, finishing top scorer and player with 8 goals, but Brazil finishing second by one point, behind Argentina.
    He also undoubtedly paid for Brazil's lack of interest in the Copa America throughout the 1960s.

    - Maradona, on the other hand, was more fortunate, making 3 appearances, including one in 1979, when Argentina finished last team in a 3-teams group, with one goal.
    In 1983, I don't know why he didn't take part, but Argentina finished second in their group and didn't qualify for the finals.
    In 1987, at the peak of his powers, with 3 goals in the group phase, Maradona qualified his team for the finals, but was eliminated in the semi-finals by Uruguay, the future winners.
    He tried his luck again in 1989, with Argentina qualifying for the second round, but finishing 3rd out of 4, with just a single point.
    He did not feature in either the 1991 or 1993 campaigns, as a result of his drug affair & suspension.

    So my question is, do you think these two players could have won at least one Copa America?

    For Pelé, I'm pretty sure he could have won it in 1963, given that the Brazilians were the World defending champions in 1962. As for 1967, I have my reservations, both about the state of the Brazilian team and about Pele's level that year.
    As for Maradona, could his presence in 1983 have brought that title?
    Would the 1991 and 1993 titles have been the same with him?

    I hope we'll have an interesting exchange here, mixing analysis of the teams of the time, the player's level, and all the context that follows.
    We could dwell on other great players later too.

  2. Vegan10

    Vegan10 Member+

    Aug 4, 2011
    #2 Vegan10, May 24, 2024
    Last edited: May 24, 2024
    With this one I’m pretty familiar with the specifics. But the what-ifs will always be an incognito…

    Let’s start with Edson…

    In regard to those specific years, the biggest thorn in Brazil’s path between 1959-1965 was Argentina who had a favorable record of 6 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws against their neighbors.

    In 4 competitions (CA59, CA59 extra, CA63 and the Nations’ Cup of ‘64) Argentina either eliminated or defeated them. In 1963 they beat them twice and lost the other. Furthermore, given that Brazil had fielded the oldest team at WC62, by the following year they were going through a transitional renovating period which produced an onslaught of negative results, one of which culminated in their European tour that ended being considered by European critics as a ‘disaster’.

    World Soccer magazine

    And their newly assembled squad in Bolivia ‘63 performed extremely poorly. Nevertheless, it was more lucrative for the CBD (Confederação Brasileira de Desportos) to preserve their star players in cashing in on their European tours than to send them to a declining event that no longer had the lustre of the first half of the century.

    IMG_3905.jpeg IMG_3907.jpeg IMG_3906.jpeg

    In addition, Garrincha, Didi and Vavá, all key players were no longer available by 1963. Didi and Vavà had retired from the NT. Garrincha was plagued by injuries and half of their defensive lineup had been revamped. Then as a whole, Pelè’s NT career throughout the 1960s was rather undistinguishable on a personal level, particularly once the aforementioned players disappeared. He also had never fully recovered from the ‘62 injury that ruled him out of the World Cup and the year 1963 became known more for him as spending time sidelined than for his triumphs.

    So again, with him or not the ‘63 Brazilian version was not in a favorite position to win any tournament. Once they did try to bring prestige back in the so-called ‘little World Cup’ at home in 1964, with all the best they had available, Argentina beat them handedly 3-0 despite the official handing out a phantom penalty and turning a blind eye when Pelè ‘criminally’ head-butted Messiano, the youngster that had shut him down for most of the match until he had to be subbed out with a broken nose.

    El Gráfico (1964)
    IMG_3278.jpeg IMG_3269.jpeg

    About the 1967 tournament, understanding the decline of this competition, Brazil did not participate, but even if they had it was played in Uruguay, where Brazil had always struggled and never defeated them in Montevideo in a South American championship or in a WC qualifier in the 20th century. Add to that all the shenanigans that accompanied the home team, Brazil’s odds were stacked against them.

    Also, as you alluded to, at this point Pelè was also considered a player more concerned about other things than football, viewed critically by many in the local and foreign press as a ‘dead king’ that no longer was the force of the past. Then we factor in the history of what it takes to win there and of Pelè playing in Montevideo and the results were almost always negative with defeats to Uruguay (1960) to Nacional (‘61), Peñarol (‘64); Peñarol (‘65)… on 3 occasions he faced Uruguay (1959, 60 and 70) and never scored against them. So the task would have been very difficult.

    It took a new crop of similar talents to emerge and mature by 1970 with the arrivals of Jairzinho (some believed he was the heir and even better than Garrincha) and Tostao, Gerson and Rivelino for the resurrection of Pelè, who was even close to being omitted from the NT in the prelude until the CBD dropped manager Saldaña for Zagallo.

    Onto Diego…

    In fact in his case there wasn’t that much more ‘fortune’ because in 2 out of 3 of those editions he was carrying injuries (‘87 and ‘89) and the other one (‘79) he never finished due to the main priority shifting instead to the FIFA Youth World Cup which had overlapped.

    Here again the tournament’s prestigious decline continued where AFA (Asociación del Fútbol Argentino) prioritized any FIFA tournaments at the expense of the CA. In fact in a dictum for 1979 the top of the list was the priority of the FIFA Youth World Championship:

    Understanding this the Argentinian FA sent Maradona and manager Menotti away to Japan to bring further global prestige to the nation at the expense of the Copa América.

    The ‘83 squad was Bilardo’s arrival as new manager that implemented a defensive system of catenaccio with an almost complete overhaul of the previous generation of Menotti’s men. Bilardo had made it always clear that the World Cup was all that mattered and he would use the Copa Americas as an examination to test players. Argentines (and for that matter Brazilians and Uruguayans) that played in European leagues were not going to make the trip down south at the detriment of the club’s own financial interests to have their assets unavailable. So only local players participated.

    Even if Maradona had made the trip he’d have to travel back and forth between continents (the championship was phased out between months in-between) and this was the year they fractured his ankle in September, right in the middle of the Copa América. In addition, although Bilardo had backed Maradona as his number 10 when the time was right, there were certain local press voices that doubted his true value to the team after the sour ending to World Cup 1982, culminating in a sending off. So taken into account all factors it was not the right time nor was Maradona untouchable at this stage.

    About the 1987 and ‘89 events more information about the details in the link below:

    In regard to their standings, their place in the pantheon has to do with many factors, one of which was time and promotion. Pelè was part of the ascension and propaganda of black athletes during the peak of the civil rights era in the western world and the transition from B&W to color TV.

    Civil Rights Act (1964)

    Black history (1964)
    Civil Rights Act (1957)
    1963 Kennedy Civil Rights bill

    1968 Olympics Black power athlete salute

    Maradona was a part of the JVC video era and the World Cups were at the peak of satellite TV coverage around the world with billions of viewers and thousands of journalists.

    The history of JVC as it skyrocketed in the late 1970s and 80s with VHS that coincided with Maradona’s arrival:

    The World Cup at its peak
    IMG_3898.jpeg IMG_3899.jpeg

    And both had tremendous influence in the propaganda machinery of marketing, endorsements and sponsorships.

    But putting the propaganda aside, their success at the World Cup propelled them forever in the history of the world game. Pelè being part of the famous WC70 team and Maradona with what is considered by most accounts the most dominant performance in the color-TV era.
  3. IceBlood34

    IceBlood34 Member

    Montpellier HSC
    Jan 27, 2021

    Thanks for the great information!

    So if I summarize correctly, there would actually have been very little chance of Pelé and Maradona finally lifting the Copa America?

    What do you think, if Edson, would have been part of the team in 1957?
    To tell the truth, it was his very first year at a very high level, but then I wondered if he would have revealed himself late in 1957, rather than early on?
    It seems to me that the '57 Copa that year was March-April.
    On the other hand, we could also potentially extend Pelé to the 1975 Copa America. What do you think?
    Brazil that year was eliminated by lottery in the semi-finals!!! I still think Pelé's level had dropped drastically, and on top of that it was his year to play in the NASL with Cosmos.

    Concerning Maradona, do you think he would have had a good impact on the winning campaigns of 1991 and 1993? You say, “what if” but it's interesting to know his real level at the time and his potential impact. By the way, how come Maradona was there in 1993 for the Artemio Franchi Cup, but not the Copa America?
    For the 1995 & 1997 Copa America, I think we can also rule out the possibility that he was no longer physically fit, don't you think?

    In any case, thank you for your detailed answers!
  4. IceBlood34

    IceBlood34 Member

    Montpellier HSC
    Jan 27, 2021

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