World Cup: Hoodwinking the goalie

World Cup: Hoodwinking the goalie

It began, as magic often does, with simplicity. It began with a pass on June 17, 1970 in Guadalajara, Mexico from Eduardo Goncalves de Andrade to Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

Except it wasn't just another pass. And these weren't just any other players.

The first was Tostao, the second was Pele. Genius is best known by a single name.

Tostao was 23 and later wrote: "I practically only used my left foot, I couldn't head the ball - I did so with my eyes shut - (and) my technical and physical limitations meant I couldn't keep up with my speed of thought."

Pele was 29, a player whose precocious debut at 17 in 1958 was prefaced by a report from psychologist Joao Carvalhaes which noted "he is obviously infantile. He lacks the necessary fighting spirit".

So maybe Tostao was slow, but for a man who suffered a detached retina in 1969 his footballing vision was otherwordly. So maybe Pele couldn't pass a psychologist's test, but his spirit and fight by now were legend.

Tostao threads the ball between two players from the left. Down the middle, towards goal, Pele gallops; out of goal, towards the ball, comes Uruguay's Ladislao Mazurkiewicz. The best goalkeeper of this Cup is about to meet the best player of all Cups.

The ball is coming from the left. Pele is arriving from the right on a slightly diagonal run which will take him left of Mazurkiewicz.

Pele arrives at the ball just a fraction before Mazurkiewicz. As expected he goes left of the goalkeeper.

Except he does so without the ball.

Pele hasn't touched the ball. He lets it go unmolested and to the right of Mazurkiewicz. The goalkeeper, watching both player and the ball go by him on either side, looks silly, which is why the move is called a dummy.

Dummies require a card-cheat's timing, a con man's lying body language, an artist's imagination, a showman's audacity. Pele has it all this day - he executes his idea, Mazurkiewicz has no idea.

Having gone left past the keeper, Pele veers right, runs to the moving ball, spins and kicks it towards goal in one fluent movement and falls.

In 1950, when Uruguay broke Brazil's heart at home in the finals, Pele had a boyish conversation with a picture of Jesus: "If I'd have been there I wouldn't have let Brazil lose the Cup."

Now, 20 years later, Brazil were playing Uruguay in the Cup for the first time since that day. A semi-final not just to win - which Brazil do - but a day to leave a memory.

Pele's kick goes across the goal. It does not go in. It misses. It does not matter. No one will forget the dummy. No one will forget a Brazilian running circles around a Uruguayan. As revenge goes, you could say it was pretty.


This article was first published on June 8, 2014.
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