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Soccer-Brazil hoping for '62 reprise, Amarildo not so sure

Reuters

By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO, July 7 (Reuters) - The young striker who stepped in for the injured Pele and helped Brazil win the 1962 World Cup believes there are parallels with the loss of Neymar but no obvious saviours in an often ordinary Brazil side.

"It is not at all the same, although there are some similarities," Amarildo, the man who showed Brazil the way to victory in Chile, told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"The big difference is that the 1962 team had 22 exceptional players. It didn't matter who came off, there was a great player to take his place and we knew that whoever came on would do a great job."

"Modesty apart, the difference is great. The only forward the selection has is Fred and he isn't in the same class as the players of 1962. We had Coutinho, Pele's team mate at Santos, we had Vava. And Garrincha was there too. He was extraordinary."

Amarildo, who is 74 was a 22-year-old reserve in 1962 and not expecting to play when Pele tore a thigh muscle after 27 minutes of the second group stage game against Czechoslovakia.

There were no substitutions allowed in those days but such was their respect for Pele that the Czechoslovakia players refused to take advantage of his injury and the match ended 0-0 with the Brazil striker hobbling along.

"He played on but was clearly hurt so I told my team mates that when Pele had the ball they were not to tackle him," Czech captain Josef Masopust said last year at the Confederations Cup.

"It would have been easy, but it would not have been right to tackle an injured man. I saw it as a humanitarian gesture."

Amarildo got his chance in the next game against Spain and scored both of Brazil's goals in a 2-1 victory.

He scored another in the final when Brazil played Czechoslovakia again and beat them 3-1. He was hailed as a hero with Botafogo team mate Garrincha, who got four in the last three matches.

"I felt no pressure, they just asked me to do what I always did," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Rio de Janeiro. "So I did what I always did with Botafogo, where I played alongside Didi, Zagallo, Garrincha, Nilton Santos.

"It was no problem. I wasn't nervous at all because nothing changed for me."

UNLIKELY HEROICS

Brazilians have been recalling Amarildo's unlikely heroics this week as a possible omen ahead of their semi-final showdown with Germany on Tuesday.

Brazil will be missing talismanic striker Neymar, who suffered a fractured vertebra in the 2-1 quarter-final win over Colombia on Friday.

Chelsea midfielder Willian and Shakhtar Donetsk winger Bernard are among those being touted as possible replacements.

Amarildo, who in 1962 was the same age as Neymar now, said the loss of the Barcelona striker is a huge setback for Brazil. But he is hoping they can turn it to their advantage, as in 1962 when Pele's absence gave the other forwards more freedom.

"When Pele was playing, Garrincha was a right winger but his radius (then) expanded. He was free to go wherever he wanted and that made it much harder for them to mark (him), it opened space for me and Vava," Amarildo said.

"Brazil still have a chance, of course we do," he added. "It could be the best thing that happened to them. Before everything went through Neymar, whoever had the ball looked for Neymar."

"The team are no longer dependent on him. They need to work together and they need to take responsibility they never had to take before. They have to want it and they have to show they want it."

Amarildo also urged Neymar, who has been told to rest, to take a leaf out of Pele's book and be present in any way he can.

"Pele stayed with us and he encouraged us," Amarildo said.

"He said to me, play your football, you're a great player, and that's what I did. And it worked out. He didn't play but he was there with us the whole time. He gave us support, he was a great help. He was a real team mate even when he wasn't playing." (Additional reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Erik Kirschbaum and Ken Ferris)

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