Mario Zagallo: Brazil’s four-time World Cup winner dies aged 92

Mario Zagallo
Mario Zagallo is the only man to have been part of four World Cup-winning teams

Brazilian football legend Mario Zagallo, who won four World Cups as a player and coach, has died aged 92.

Mario Zagallo was a winger in the Brazil team who won back-to-back World Cups in 1958 and 1962, starting in both finals.

He managed the side widely regarded as the greatest international team of all time, including Pele, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto, to glory in 1970.

Zagallo’s final World Cup triumph came as Carlos Alberto Parreira’s assistant coach in 1994.

He returned as Brazil manager after that tournament and led them to the final in 1998, where they were beaten by hosts France.

Zagallo was the first person to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager – a feat that has since been matched by Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and France’s Didier Deschamps.

“With enormous sadness, we inform you of the death of our eternal four-time world champion Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo,” a statement on his official Instagram account said.

“A devoted father, loving grandfather, caring father-in-law, faithful friend, victorious professional and a great human being. Giant idol. A patriot who leaves us a legacy of great achievements.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Zagallo was “one of the greatest football players and coaches of all time”.

“Zagallo was an example of a Brazilian who never gave up,” he added on X (formerly Twitter).

“It is this lesson and spirit of affection, love, dedication and overcoming that he leaves for our entire country and for world football.”

Key figure in Brazil’s decorated history

Brazil are the most successful nation in World Cups, with five titles, and Zagallo is one of the most instrumental figures in that history.

As a teenager on national service he was one of nearly 200,000 in the Maracana Stadium who saw hosts Brazil stunned by Uruguay in the decisive final match of the 1950 World Cup.

Speaking to BBC in 2013, Zagallo said, “That day has never left my mind.”

He made his Brazil debut aged 26 shortly before the 1958 tournament but became a key part of the team that alleviated some of that pain from 1950, as a 17-year-old Pele inspired the Selecao to victory over Sweden in the final, with Zagallo scoring the fourth goal in a 5-2 win.

Zagallo had been the last surviving member of Brazil’s 1958 World Cup-winning team who played in the final.

With Pele injured in the early stages of the 1962 World Cup, Zagallo again played a crucial role, tracking back to help in defence during an era where it was unusual for forwards to do so, as Brazil beat Czechoslovakia in the final.

Zagallo, who played domestically for America, Flamengo and Botafogo, retired in 1965, having won 33 caps for his country.

He started his managerial career at Botafogo before he replaced Joao Saldanha as Brazil boss aged 38 shortly before the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The tactically astute Zagallo, nicknamed ‘The Professor’ and ‘Old Wolf’, pulled together a side filled with the attacking talents of Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostao and Rivellino and made them irresistible.

Brazil won all six of their games and swept to a 4-1 victory over Italy in the final.

Zagallo stayed on as Brazil coach for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, where they finished fourth.

He subsequently managed Brazilian clubs and national teams including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, helping the latter qualify for their maiden World Cup in 1990, before returning as coordinator in Parreira’s coaching set-up before the 1994 World Cup.

Brazil would go on to win their fourth title and first since 1970 as they beat Italy on penalties in the final in the United States.

‘Idol of Brazilian football’

Zagallo’s side began the 1998 tournament as favourites but were beaten 3-0 in the final by France, with star striker Ronaldo having had a mysterious fit on the day of the game.

Brazil won their fifth title in Japan and South Korea in 2002 under Luiz Felipe Scolari, with Zagallo attending the tournament as a special adviser.

He returned as Parreira’s assistant in 2006, where Brazil were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals and he subsequently retired.

Zagallo’s wife of 57 years, Alcina de Castro, died in 2012. They had four children.

Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues said: “The CBF and Brazilian football mourn the death of one of its legends.

“The CBF offers solidarity to his family and fans in this moment of sadness at the departure of this idol of our football.”

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said Zagallo’s “influence on football, and Brazilian football in particular, is supreme”.

“In times of need, Brazil has looked to ‘The Professor’ as a calming presence, a steering hand and as a tactical genius,” added Infantino.

“He will be remembered as the godfather of Brazilian football and his presence will be sorely missed by everyone in the game but especially here at Fifa.”

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