For 250 million soccer players throughout the world, and for millions of fans, the World Cup is the World Series, the Olympic games and the Davis Cup all rolled into one. Once every four years the 16 best national teams, survivors of a worldwide elimination tournament, meet to decide which country really does play the best soccer football.
Last Sunday afternoon in Santiago, Chile they found out. With the great snowcapped peaks of the Andes peering over the rim of National Stadium, and 75,000 spectators jammed inside, the answer turned out to be the same that it had been at Stockholm in 1958: Brazil.
The Brazilians, a bubbling band of assassins, beat stubborn Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final game and won not only the World Cup once again but a victory for the slashing South American style of play as well. Czechoslovakia played as Europeans have been playing in recent years—methodically, carefully, concentrating on ball control and defense. For three weeks the Czech defense had been like a great pane of shatterproof glass thrown up before the goal, and perhaps no one in the tournament had performed with quite the diligence of the Czech goalkeeper, a stubby, balding little acrobat named Vilian Schroif. In an early-round game Schroif had stopped the Brazilians. But this time they assaulted his back line until it crumbled. Then they swarmed over Schroif.
Czechoslovakia actually scored first, moving the ball into Brazil's territory with precise, short passes to set up a close-in shot by Josef Masopust after 14 minutes of play. It took Brazil less than two minutes to tie the game. The Brazilians all have names, but they are very long ones, so they go by nicknames instead: Vav�, Didi, Zito, Lobo. The name that the Czechs feared most was Garrincha. Garrincha is a bow-legged little bullet of a man who had turned England upside down in the quarterfinals and repeated the operation against Chile in the semifinal round. By putting two and three and sometimes four men on Garrincha, the Czechs stopped him. But the strategy weakened them elsewhere and Zito, Amarildo, Tavares and Vav� poured through.
Amarildo scored first, on a vicious leftfooted kick from a difficult angle 30 yards out, and the score stood at 1-1 until 24 minutes of the second half. Then Amarildo sent a soft, arching pass across the face of the Czech goal. Schroif came out to intercept, missed, and Zito thumped the ball in with his head. The final Brazilian goal was scored by Vav� 10 minutes later. A long shot bounced off Schroif's hands and Vav� kicked it in. By the time the game ended, Schroif's tongue was hanging out so far that it looked like his necktie.
The championship match was along classic lines. To 7 million Chileans, however, this was not really the championship game at all. That had occurred four days earlier, when Chile met Brazil. In fact, the real story of the 1962 World Cup was the amazing march of little Chile to the semifinal round.
Chile was in the World Cup final group of 16 almost by chance. Always a contestant, never a contender, the pencil-thin nation furrowed between the Andes and the Pacific had been awarded the big tournament for good behavior and, as host team, did not have to qualify. The selection of Chile, said the F.I.F.A., governing body of world soccer, was in recognition of the small countries. It was not really expected that Chile would gain much recognition on the soccer field itself.
The 16 national teams in Chile were first divided into four-team groups to play a round-robin schedule within each group. The four winners and the four runners-up would then advance to the quarter-finals. There were clear favorites in each group. At Arica, a small town of tumbledown shacks surrounding a magnificent new soccer stadium, neither Russia nor Yugoslavia anticipated much trouble from Colombia or Uruguay. In Vina del Mar, a breathtaking seaside suburb of Valparaiso, Brazil and Czechoslovakia were the class, with Spain given a chance. Mexico did not count. At Rancagua, an agricultural town 62 miles south of Santiago, Hungary and England were clearly superior to Argentina and Bulgaria. Only in Santiago itself was there doubt. West Germany was good, Switzerland was nothing. But in between stood Italy and Chile, and who would advance?
For a while, during the first week of competition, it seemed that no one would advance. The U.S.S.R. arrived in Arica fresh from a Russian winter and discovered that Arica was located 1,000 miles north of Santiago, almost in the tropics along the Peruvian border. For days the Russians were so tired that they could hardly walk to the practice field. They were also having trouble with the eight-hour time change between Arica and Moscow. They slept most of the day and stayed awake all night. Finally the Russian coach, Gavril Kachalin, came up with a solution. "Go to bed," he commanded his players, "and sleep for 14 hours."
Czechoslovakia, without a surplus of funds for preliminary research, had dropped its housing problem in the lap of a Czech national living in Valparaiso. The man did a good job of finding a hotel but, unhappily, he was not a soccer buff. He forgot to arrange for a practice field. So the Czechs worked out daily in what amounted to a clearing in the jungle. Perhaps that is why Czechoslovakia played so well on defense.