After winning the 1970 World Cup with perhaps one of the best teams in history (Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino), Brazilian football entered an unusual phase, attempting to balance caution and flair. The results were not awful - Brazil finished fourth in the 1974 World Cup and third in 1978 (despite not losing a match) – but the style of football was not ‘Brazilian' and appeared to be excessively defensive at times. This team never had any major international success, but it is still one of the most well-remembered today. This is due to the energy with which they played attacking football, which was reminiscent of the famous Brazil squad of 1970.
Coach: Tele Santana
Star Players: Zico, Socrates, Falcao, Cerezo, Eder, Junior
After Pelé and other players from the 1970 squad retired from international football, Brazil was unable to defeat the Netherlands at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, finishing fourth after losing the third-place game against Poland. That changed in the early 1980s, when Tele Santana took over the squad and turned it into one of the most entertaining and aggressive teams ever constructed, with Zico, Socrates, Falcao, Junior, and Cerezo forming probably the best midfield ever assembled. This team didn't have the same overall talent as previous one, but it did have one of the best midfields in history. The team used a 4-2-2-2 configuration, which would become a trademark of the Brazilian national team, and made strong use of attacking fullbacks (such as Junior). In the end, the squad's strikeforce and defence were both deficient, and the team was overly reliant on its outstanding midfield.
The team played exquisite football, exchanging short passes and driving forward with elegant inevitability, scoring spectacular goals on several occasions. Unfortunately, the team's defensive weaknesses persisted, and they lacked a powerful finisher. As a result, they produced numerous opportunities but failed to capitalise on the most of them. They brushed Scotland and defending champions Argentina aside with spectacular displays in 1982, but were undone by Italy's excellent counter-attacking tactics (and Paola Rossi's exquisite finishing) in one of the greatest World Cup matches of all time. Brazil were the tournament favourites and breezed through the early stages of the draw at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, but a 3–2 defeat to Italy in a legendary World Cup encounter in Barcelona removed them from the tournament in the match dubbed "Sarriá's Disaster" after the stadium's name.
With Sócrates, Zico, Falco, and Éder in the midfield, the 1982 team is hailed as probably the greatest side never to win a World Cup. Four years later, the group was older but still everyone's favourite after easily defeating Spain and Poland, but again squandered numerous chances to lose on penalties against France, with both Zico and Socrates missing the penalty spot. Santana's Sorcerers may have never advanced past the quarterfinals, but they are still one of the greatest World Cup teams ever. Santana left the job after the World Cup loss.
Brazil, on the other hand, won the 1989 Copa América after a 40-year gap, their fourth title in four championships staged in Brazil. Brazil's 19-year championship drought came to an end with this victory. The last time it happened was at the 1970 World Cup. Sebastio Lazaroni, who had managed Brazil in the 1989 Copa América, was the coach for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The side lacked creativity but advanced to the second round with a defensive system led by midfielder Dunga, forward Careca, and three centre-backs. Argentina, captained by Diego Maradona, eliminated Brazil in the round of 16 in Turin, losing 1–0 to their South American archrivals.