On November 20, the World Cup will return after an extended overlay due to COVID-19. The site for the iconic event will be in Qatar (which is a bit problematic due to the country’s government’s view on the LGBTQ+ community). Nonetheless, we’re excited about the big game, but even more so for the Latino countries competing in the World Cup this year.
This year there are six Central and South American countries competing – Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.
There are many other Latin American countries that have an extraordinary and rich World Cup history. However, today we’re focusing on the teams in this year‘s tournament. It’s important to remember that Spain and Portugal are not Latin American countries, so the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi will have to be on another list.
To honor the six teams that made it to Qatar, we’d like to take a look back at the history and accomplishments of the five best players in the World Cup tournaments from each country, starting with Brazil.
Brazil won back-to-back World Cups in 1958 and 1962. The story of Pelé’s assurgence at the 1958 Olympic Games is legendary, but the performances of Vavá are just as consistent. When Pelé got injured in the 1962 World Cup, it was Vavá who seized the stage – earning the golden boot for his performance. Vavá has the third-highest goals-per-game average in World Cup history (minimum ten matches). He is also tied for 1st place in total goals scored in a World Cup final with Pelé, Geoff Hurst of England, and Zinedine Zidane from France.
Zico is considered the best Brazilian player. Yet, he has never won a World Cup final. He came in just after the era of Pelé, Garrincha, and Vavá, and played a total of 14 matches in the World Cup leading Brazil to a record of 9-4-1. Although Brazil was still a highly talented team – in the three World Cup tournaments Zico participated in – they just could not get it done. However, there are countless highlights of Zico’s signature no-look passes and very memorable performances in classic World Cup games.
Even decades after his retirement, Garrincha is still hailed by many as the greatest dribbler in fútbol history. In his first international practice for Brazil, Garrincha nutmegged (dribbled through the legs) Brazilian defender Nílton Santos – and from that moment – Garrincha soared to be one of the greatest players in international soccer and club soccer. Most regard him as a top 15 player of all time. He was part of the big three in Brazil’s back-to-back World Cup victories in 1958 and 1962.
Garrincha is mainly known for his performance in the 1962 tournament, where he scored four of his five total goals in World Cup matches.
Pelé is no doubt the greatest Brazilian soccer player of all time. Unfortunately, he faced untimely injuries during two different World Cup tournaments. The games missed are unmistakably the only thing that kept Pelé from having the achievements to be number one on this list.
Pelé and Garrincha are the best duos in World Cup history. In 1958, Pelé scored six goals in the World Cup tournament at just seventeen years old and is the only player in history to score a goal in four different World Cup tournaments.
Garrincha is all-time at dribbling while Pele is all-time at scoring. He also is the only player to ever win three World Cup titles.
Ronaldo led Brazil to back-to-back World Cup final appearances in 1998 and 2002. He is second all-time in total World Cup goals scored with 15. Brazil’s record in games he started in was 16-3.
Ronaldo is most known for his 2002 performance where he scored a total of eight goals in the tournament and was the lone scorer in the final game against a loaded German squad. Ronaldo finished with two goals leading Brazil to victory.
When it comes to club play, there are other Brazilian soccer players that had more success than Ronaldo. It wouldn’t even be an absurd statement to say that Ronaldo is not a top 10 Brazilian club soccer player of all time. Nevertheless, he deserves the top spot in World Cup play leading a Brazilian team to success comparable to the days of the Pelé World Cup teams and doing it with a less talented squad. Ronaldo played with tremendous talents like Cafu and Ronaldinho, but no one can dispute they were not as talented as the teams Pelé played with.