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FIFA World Cup history is littered with great teams, many of which earned their place in the history books by winning the tournament itself. However, one great example of a team which is absolutely beloved in World Cup history, despite not getting anywhere close to claiming the trophy, is Brazil’s 1982 team.

A Seleção – led by coach Tele Santana and featuring the likes of Eder, Socrates, Zico, and Falcao – got only as far as the second group stage (effectively the quarterfinals) where a 3-2 loss to eventual champions Italy ended their participation in the tournament in Spain.

Yet such was the beauty of the football they played leading into the tournament and through the course of their campaign at Espana ‘82, that this Brazilian is regarded by many pundits as perhaps the greatest ‘pure football’ team ever assembled.

“Brazil in ‘82 was the most wonderful national team that ever existed. Junior, Falcao, Socrates, Eder, Zico… so many phenomenal talents playing together. It was truly an extraordinary team,” said Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

“The touches, the one-twos, the dribbles… they had so much class it was beyond belief. They never seemed to score a normal goal. I don’t know if they were the best team in history, but nobody has ever played football like they did,” said Alan Rough, former Scotland goalkeeper.

Playing with freedom and dominating through overwhelming attack was the ‘tactical approach’ – if you could call it that – for Tele’s Brazil.

“As soon as he came in things changed drastically,” explained Falcao (a legendary midfielder who is regarded as one of the all-time greats for Italian club Roma) of Tele Santana’s appointment.

“Playing for A Seleção became a lot more fun. He wanted us to play intuitively and not systematically. He urged the fullbacks to attack.

“He didn’t want central midfielders who only knew how to stop the opposition – he wanted ones who knew what to do with the ball. He gave us the freedom to try what we wanted. He always wanted us to put on a spectacular show.”

Tele famously said, “I’d rather lose playing beautiful football than win playing badly”. Brazil may not have conquered Spain in 1982, but they went down as one of the most beloved XIs in history.

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