As Brazil prepare for Sunday’s Copa America opener against Peru, pressure, pride and prestige will fuel their attempt to claim a ninth title.
But for Carlos Alberto Torres, the Selecao still have to remain true to their footballing tradition and combine style with success.
As captain of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning side – one of the greatest national teams of all time – anything else would appear somewhat of an injustice to their proud past.
It would also help restore a reputation damaged by the 7-1 loss to Germany in last year’s World Cup semi-final. In front of an eager, expectant home crowd in Belo Horizonte, the hosts were humiliated by the eventual winners on the biggest of stages.
“It was a big surprise for everybody,” says Carlos Alberto. “We knew we had no team to play equal against Germany, but to lose 7-1 was too much. But you have to work, learn and forget the past. You have to move forward.”
It was what he and Brazil did in 1970. Having gone out at the group stage at the 1966 World Cup, they regrouped to lift the trophy in Mexico with performances that were a privilege to watch. Led by Pele, Rivelino, Gerson, Jairzinho and Tostao, for many they were ahead of their time with an innovative attack-minded philosophy. “We were perfect…just perfect,” adds Carlos Alberto.
Few would disagree. A combination of teamwork and talent proved too much for opponents, as Italy would testify when flayed 4-1 in the final 45 years ago, with the last goal from the right-back himself regarded as the epitome of footballing beauty.
“It was a nice goal,” continues the 70-year-old, somewhat modestly. “That team was special. We constructed it one year before, 1969, mainly for the physical part.
“We knew to go to the final we had to be in good physical condition, not just technical.
“We knew about the altitude in Mexico and that would affect us. It was very hot in that summer time. We worked for three months and when we got to Mexico we were in very good shape and it showed.
“The team was good because we dedicated ourselves to make that team good. We were altogether like brothers, friends, a very close group. We had a very good coach in Mario Zagallo too. He was very smart and he was close and friendly with the players.
“He gave us the ideas and encouragement to find the best way to play.
“Spain were a wonderful team in 2010, Germany good at the World Cup, but I don’t think any team was like Brazil 1970.
“They all have their own way to play, how to defend, to touch, touch, touch the ball to each other, but our team was only thinking about going forward and scoring all the goals. We loved to attack, we loved to win with style.”
It is what Carlos Alberto desperately wants to see with Dunga’s current Brazil side.
A run of nine successive wins in friendlies after their World Cup shame has offered hope, but the playing style has been pragmatic and mindset cautious.
“The problem is not only the coach, but we have to change the mentality of Brazilian football for the future,” says Carlos Alberto.
England v Brazil 1970. Bobby Moore and Carlos Alberto pic.twitter.com/FkEdwUIzLp
— The League Magazine (@Theleaguemag) June 5, 2015
“Dunga has a good start, but we are not playing the real Brazilian football, we are trying to play the European way.
“If you don’t start now to change then you are going to make the same mistake.
“I like the beautiful football – even if they lose. But if you play in the right way, the beautiful football, you will never lose, never.
“You have to play the real Brazilian football, play with full-backs going forward and crossing, a midfield where one guy can have long passes as well. Now it’s touch and touch and they don’t go anywhere.
“People talk about modern football with full-backs like wingers, but I played like this 40 years ago. The players need to understand what Brazilian football means, what the supporters expect, and to improve, improvise and more dribbling.
“You don’t see this today. Only Neymar tries to dribble. What about the rest? It’s like they forget.”
Copa America will be one to watch. Messi gunning for national glory, Brazil gunning for redemption, Suarez being Suarez! Can’t wait.
— Mahia (@MahiaMutua) June 10, 2015
Like many of his peers, such as Pele, he dreamt of a life in football as he grew up in poverty-stricken Rio.
“I was inspired by the Brazilian way,” he recalls. “Since birth you start to think about being a football player and dream of playing for Brazil. When you are young, you start to play with a small ball.
“But we had no money to buy a ball at that time so we used old socks and put papers inside to make a ball. I was always a defender, I don’t know why. Someone asked me to play full-back and that was it.
“Everyone wants to play a World Cup, to win it. I was the captain, scored the last goal and received the cup. Until today people talk about 1970 and that makes me proud.
“I didn’t go to the World Cup in 1966. I was part of the squad, but one week before they went to England they cut me.
“I don’t know why, the Brazilian people didn’t know why and of course I was disappointed. But it was a lesson and I learnt a lot about it. I understood a lot about the cut and it made me stronger.”
He now hopes Brazil can be strong again, motivated by the pain of last summer.
Carlos Alberto adds: “It’s possible they can do well at the Copa America, but we will see. There is pressure, but Brazil always have a chance in any big tournament because we are always one of the favourites and still have some great players.
“For me, Thiago Silva is the best defender in the world, a very good player.
Carlos Alberto gats be number 1 for any list of top 5 CBs for Brazil
— Ifeoluwa (@Akasalu) May 9, 2015
“Neymar is special and our best hope in attack. He plays in the way we like to see. When he plays well, Brazil play well and he is getting better all the time.
“But for the next World Cup in 2018, that’s most important, and we are going to make a good team then, I’m sure, because these players will have more experience. Oscar, for example, is a good player, but will learn more and get better.
“We lost our prestige against Germany, but that game was not the real Brazilian football and is in the past. A new mentality and confidence will change this.
“It was a good lesson for our team after the 1966 World Cup and it can be same for this team now. When you lose, it can be the best lesson.”