Zico: "Don't compare this Brazil team to '82"

Arthur Antunes Coimbra better known as Zico or 'White Pele' was one of the biggest stars of the Brazilian side that dazzled in 1982 but failed to win the World Cup. Today the 57-year-old reckons that Dunga's Selecao could do the business in South Africa but isn't sure the two sides should ever be compared.
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Many people regard the Brazil team of 1982 as the best side never to win the World Cup. Would you agree?
We were definitely one of them. It’s really hard to stomach having so many great players playing together and not winning. Falcao, Eder, Socrates, Oscar… I think our team deserved to experience a World Cup final. I can’t say whether we should have won it, as plenty of amazing teams have lost in the final: Holland in 1974, Hungary in 1954, Brazil in 1950 - all those teams were amazing too and didn’t win the World Cup.

What do you make of the current Brazil team? How well can they do?
I think they can go far. Brazil are clearly among the favourites for the World Cup. Dunga has a lot of great players at his disposal, and he had turned them into a great team. The stats show us this. He has won the Copa América and the Confederation Cup and finished top of the World Cup qualifiers in South America.

Dunga seems to have found the right blend between flair and solidity – something that the 1982 side perhaps lacked?
I don't think we should compare. It’s not fair to either team. The current team plays a lot more than we did. We didn’t play a Copa America or Confederation Cup during our preparations, and I think that makes a difference. And we can only regard the blend of flair and solidity, as you say, as a success if Brazil wins the World Cup. They have to show that it’s a successful formula at the World Cup.

Brazil will, as always, be among the hot favourites to win this year’s World Cup. Who else do you expect to challenge?
I think Spain are the other favourites. I also hope that one of the African nations can make the final. Of course we can never ignore Germany, England, Holland and Italy, who are always up there among the favourites. As for Argentina, we have to wait to see how Messi is playing. If he’s on form, Argentina will be another favourite.

Are you pleased that the World Cup is taking place on a new continent?

I think it’s great to have a World Cup in Africa. As I said, I truly hope that one of the African nations can reach the final. It would be a major boost for African football. And generally, I think this World Cup can really help their football move forward. I hope that South Africa gives the world a World Cup that we will never forget.

Do you think the World Cup still generates the same excitement as it did in your day? Has the advent of the Champions League perhaps diminished its lustre?
Of course it does. The World Cup is the greatest moment of a player’s career and also the highlight for the fans. Everyone wants to be there because the World Cup is the only football tournament that can bring the world to a halt, the only one that makes everyone stop and look. I think that for players and fans alike the World Cup still provokes the same emotions as it did when I played.

Finally, Zico, tell us what you’re up to at the moment?
I’ve been resting and enjoying some time with my family and, in particular, my grandson. I’m still waiting on job offers, and I hope to get back to work soon, ideally in Europe.