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Josimar charms the world at Mexico 86
In the summer of 1964, England took part in the Little World Cup in Brazil. It was a simple four-team league involving Portugal, Argentina and the hosts. England finished joint-bottom with Portugal. In their first match they were plugged 5-1 by Brazil in Rio. They commiserated with a night on the town, and were staggering around Copacabana beach the following morning when they were challenged to a game by some local kids.
It was an embarrassing mismatch: the England team, two years away from winning the Big World Cup, got absolutely slaughtered for the third time in 18 hours. Admittedly it was 12 v seven, and the seven had quaffed a few performance-diminishing substances the night before. But the story, told in Jimmy Greaves’s Don’t Shoot the Manager, reflects an eternal truth about Brazilian football: that there are brilliant, natural talents on every beach corner.
The ultimate symbol of that is Josimar, the two-hit wonder of Mexico 86. No World Cup has ever produced
a better collection of goals – if you do only one thing with your lunch break today – and Josimar scored two monsters against Northern Ireland and Poland. He might as well have come straight out of the thin Mexican air. Nobody outside Brazil had heard of him; he wasn’t even in the Panini album.
He wasn’t just unknown – he was also uncapped and unemployed when he was called up to the Brazil squad at the last minute after the first-choice right-back Leandro pulled out. Four players missed a curfew but only one, the playboy winger Renato Gaúcho, was thrown out of the squad by the manager Telê Santana. Leandro, whose head was a mess at the time, pulled out in a kind of guilty solidarity.
Josimar had not played a game since mid-March, when his Botafogo contract expired. He was cooking and looking after his pregnant wife when he received a call telling him he was going to Mexico. In the best traditions, he thought it was a joke, politely said thank you and got on with his day. An hour later he received another call telling him where and when to report.
Édson Boaro, the back-up for Leandro who was now first choice, got injured after 10 minutes of the second match against Algeria. Josimar was not
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on the bench but he did replace Edson in the starting line-up against Northern Ireland six days later. He was strikingly tall for a full-back and formidably built, with a sinewy frame and thighs made of
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Brazil were 1-0 up with four minutes to go to half-time, keeping the ball with some lazy passing in Northern Ireland’s half. “Josimar … Júnior … Elzo … Alemao,” said BBC commentator John Motson, capturing the rhythmic groove of Brazil’s possession as Alemão played the ball square to Josimar. “Well, Careca and Casagrande are waiting for a cross.”
They’re still waiting. Josimar pushed the ball in front of him, sprinted on the spot in excitement at what he was about to attempt, and put his whole being into a shot. It was a ridiculous distance from which to shoot - 30 yards out and a long way to the right of centre – but the ball swooshed wickedly and arrowed past Pat Jennings into the far top corner.
The celebration was almost as iconic as the goal. Josimar went off on a mini lap of honour, both arms raised in the air, his face a picture of giddy disbelief. Years later, Jennings was asked by a small boy at a Q&A what it was like to be chipped by Josimar from 35 yards. “Son,” he said. “Your idea of a chip and my idea of a chip are two different things!”
For a full-back, a goal like that is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. So Josimar did
it again four days later, rampaging through the Poland defence to batter the ball home from an absurd angle. It was the second goal in a 4-0 win that took Brazil into the quarter-finals, where they lost to France on penalties after a classic 1-1 draw.
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