SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil have won a World Cup after losing their best player and they will be looking to the memory of 1962, when Pele was injured against Czechoslovakia, as an omen to get them over the loss of injured talisman Neymar.
Pele tore a thigh muscle midway through the first half of the Brazil’s second game in Chile, a 0-0 draw with the Czechs.
His replacement was a 22-year-old called Amarildo - nicknamed ‘The Possessed’ - who scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Spain in their next match and another in the final.
Garrincha was another who took up the slack, scoring four goals in the next three games as Brazil beat England, Chile and Czechoslovakia again to win their second World Cup in a row.
“In the 1962 World Cup, we lost Pele,” Carlos Alberto Torres, captain of the great 1970 side, told Sportv.
“The team then released Amarildo on the world, a player who even today is remembered very fondly, and who helped Brazil win their second World Cup,” he said, adding that Garrincha also stepped up when Pele was ruled out.
“Maybe someone will wake up and become the Garrincha of 1962.”
Brazilians are already citing the Neymar setback as a possible omen as they seek to come to terms with the forward’s unsettling absence.
The young Barcelona star suffered a fractured vertebra in the 2-1 win over Colombia on Friday and will miss the rest of the tournament. Brazil meet Germany in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
“You are going to get tired of hearing about Amarildo, The Possessed, who saved the team in 1962 when he replaced Pele,” Juca Kfouri wrote in the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
There are parallels and differences between today’s events and those of 1962.
Pele and Neymar both made their names at Santos. They were both in their early 20s when injured. And in spite of their youth, they were top goalscorers and already considered an indispensable part of the team.
But unlike Neymar today, Pele had already won a World Cup following his six goals en route to the 1958 victory over Sweden. There was not the same pressure on the team as there is now.
Pele was also surrounded by old heads who had won the cup before.
Perhaps the most glaring hole in the narrative is there are no obvious candidates for the role of saviour in the current 23-man squad. Bernard or Willian are the two players expected to replace Neymar, and Oscar is being touted as the first teamer who could take on his creative mantle.
But the first two have not impressed in their substitute appearances so far and Oscar’s form dropped off after a stellar showing in the opening game against Croatia.
They, like the rest of the team, have tried to put a brave face on Neymar’s absence and are vowing they will use it to motivate them.
“We can win the cup for him,” said Fernandinho.
Veterans, too, warned the host nation could be fired up by Neymar’s loss.
“If Germany think they are going to come up against a weak, discouraged team because we have lost Neymar they would make an enormous mistake,” said Ronaldo, who scored two goals the last time Brazil met Germany, in the final in 2002.
“They cannot underestimate the quality of Brazil - and Brazil has never been made up of only one player.”
“In 1962 Pele got injured and could not play but Brazil still won the World Cup that year. Whoever steps into Neymar’s shoes, will just help and we are still the favorites.”
Additional reporting by Mike Collett