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Maradona's 'moral' Hand of God

ESPN FC & Howler
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 By Tim Vickery

A tribute to Brazil legend and 1970 World Cup hero Carlos Alberto

The man who scored the perfect goal has died.

Carlos Alberto Torres, captain of Brazil's 1970 World Cup winning team, passed away in his native Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday at the age of 72. And if Saint Peter is a football fan, then Carlos Alberto will not have the slightest problem getting through the pearly gates. Because in magnificent style he rounded off one of the game's most iconic, most joyful moments.

Encapsulated in a few seconds towards the end of the 1970 World Cup final are all the elements that made the 1970 team so magnificent. In truth the game was already won.  In Mexico City's Azteca stadium Brazil led 3-1 and Italy were on their knees.

Brazil were fitter -- centre forward Tostao won possession chasing back into his own half. They had skill to burn -- defensive midfielder Clodoaldo went on a mazy, stepover dribble, taking opponent after opponent out of the game. They were tactically very astute. Brazil had seen -- and here future national team coach Carlos Alberto Parreira gets some credit -- that Italy's rigid man-for-man marking system could be turned into a weak point. 

Right winger Jairzinho drifted across to the other flank. Italy left back Giacinto Facchetti followed him - leaving a corridor to be exploited by Brazil's right back. Pele rolled the ball sideways into his path, it sat up perfectly and Carlos Alberto met it with a shot that the Italian keeper barely saw before it hit the back of the net. It was a wonderful moment - the scorer never tired of talking about it - which crowned the title of a team that achieved physical, tactical and technical excellence. And which had in Carlos Alberto Torres not only a very fine right back, but also a leader. 

He was always known in Brazil as 'capita' -- slang for 'skipper.'  It sums him up well.  I did plenty of TV programmes with Carlos Alberto over the past 20 years, and I was always part charmed and part terrified by him. He was an imposing figure, a strong man to represent the players in dealings with directors, and also the man to yell at a team-mate, even his great friend Pele -- who he thought was not giving his all.   

Carlos Alberto logged 53 caps and scored eight goals for Brazil in all but everyone will remember his stunner from 1970.

Central midfielder Gerson was the team's main technical leader -- coach Mario Zagallo told me that Gerson was an extension of himself on the field.  But Zagallo never thought of giving him the armband.  Through sheer force of personality, that belonged to Carlos Alberto Torres.  When he talked, everyone listened.

It is a great shame that the planet only saw him in one World Cup. He should have gone to England in 1966 - in Brazil's chaotic preparations he was part of an original call up of 44, but did not make the final list. He was injured in 1974 - and surely the team would not have divided into different factions had he been present. And he could have played 1978 as a centre back, but by then he had moved to the USA to play for New York Cosmos.

So he missed a World Cup, but learned a language.  Speaking fluent English gave him a profile in the international media, and also widened the scope for him to work as a coach.  He won titles there, too -- most notably the 1983 Brazilian Championship with Flamengo of his native Rio. But he perhaps lacked the patience for a top class coaching career; why should he deal with idiotic club directors or players with much less talent than himself?

In football history, then, he will go down as the star of one World Cup.  But what a World Cup!  And what an ending he gave it!

Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.

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