The debate over the identity of the greatest footballer to live will rage forever, but there is little argument over who wears the crown as king of the World Cup: Edson Arantes do Nascimento. At this juncture, the man more commonly known as Pele stands head and shoulders above any other player to feature at the tournament. The figures speak for themselves: he has played in four World Cups, lifted the trophy three times - the first he was just 17 - and scored 12 goals in 14 matches. He remains the only man to have won three World Cups and it would take quite some player to match his feat.
If Pele is the king of the World Cup, then Ronaldo is undoubtedly the prince. The man they call Il Fenomeno is the highest goalscorer in the history of the tournament, with 15, and will remain so for some time should Miroslav Klose fail to add to his 14 goals in Ronaldo's back yard this summer. Possessing freakish pace out of the blocks, an incredible combination of power and finesse, and a devastating touch in front of goal, the 'real Ronaldo' secured his place in World Cup history - and in the pantheon of Brazilian football - when he scored twice in the 2002 final to collect his second title.
Less of a complete player than Pele, Garrincha remains one of the greatest dribblers to have graced the World Cup stage - and among the most popular footballers in his native Brazil. The damage he could do with his magical feet was astounding, earning him a multitude of nicknames, the most evocative of which was Anjo de Pernas Tortas. Translated, the Angel with Bent Legs beautifully sums up the playing style which helped Brazil to a title in 1962, when Garrincha made light of the injured Pele's absence.
A kind of Pele before Pele, Leonidas is widely regarded as one of the best players of the first half of the 20th Century. He played in two World Cups and was top scorer at the 1938 edition, during which his four goals in seven matches - and a new trick he championed called the 'bicycle kick' - saw him gain the international recognition he deserved. That he does not have a World Cup title to his name is something of a travesty, due in part down to the Brazil coach's decision to rest him in the semi-final against Italy; Brazil lost 2-1, Leonidas remained fresh, but he never had the chance to play in the final.
With nine goals scored in 10 World Cup matches, including a brace in the 1958 final, Edvaldo Izídio Neto is Brazil's third highest scorer, behind Ronaldo and Pele. Better known as Vava, the athletic centre-forward was the perfect complement to Pele, Mario Zagallo and Garrincha in what was a classic Brazil team of the late 1950s and early 1960s, during which time he picked up two World Cup titles. A stat to note: with Pele, West Germany's Paul Breitner and Zinedine Zidane of France, Vava shares the distinction of being the only player to have scored at least once in two different finals.
With Pele out injured in 1962, Amarildo, along with Garrincha, stole the show in Chile while leading Brazil to a new World Cup title. In his first game, the striker scored twice against Spain, a result that secured the Selecao's place in the quarter-finals. Two games later in the final, the Botafogo star found the net again to cancel out Czechoslovakia's opener, with an assist later in the match helping to down the Czechs 3-1. For a moment, however brief, Pele was forgotten.
One of the greatest midfielders of all time, Didi played in three World Cups, winning two (in 1958 and in 1962) alongside Mario Zagallo and Zito in the middle of the park. He was the '58 edition's player of the tournament and his vision with the ball at his feet, technique, powerful shooting and trademark dipping, swerving free-kicks ensured his place in Brazilian football folklore.
The ultimate 'fox in the box', to this day Romario remains one of the most prolific goalscorers in the history of the game. While some of his claimed 1,000 career goals may be somewhat dubious, the striker's reputation at the World Cup is unquestionable: he won the Golden Ball in 1994 and was a major cog in the Brazilian machine as Carlos Alberto Parreira's claimed a record fourth title in the US.
Cafu holds the singular distinction of being the only player to have played three World Cups finals in a row, winning two, in 1994 and 2002. His elevation to Brazil's right-back position may have been slightly fortuitous - starter Jorginho was injured after 22 minutes of the '94 final against Italy, giving Cafu his first taste of the biggest game in football - but his longevity there for years to come had nothing to do with chance. A complete player, strong and resistant on the back foot, brilliantly technical on the front, Cafu went on to win a second title in 2002 and cement his position as a Brazilian great.
On the other flank, over his career Roberto Carlos redefined the left-back role with his attack-minded brand of defending. Pace, skill and tenacity saw Carlos give a new dimension to his role, both at club level and for the Selecao, for whom he helped win the tournament in 2002. And there were his free-kicks, which bent minds as much as the ball itself.
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