Satadru145Telê Santana's brilliantly flamboyant team presented the essence of Joga Bonito, like very few ever could (certainly no other nation other than Brazil could).
Zico, disgusted by defeat to Enzo Bearzot's more limited but far better organised Italy in the second group stage, called it "the day football died", but while Brazil's bold and liberated approach to the game expired, their freeform midfield becoming an anachronism, memories of that great side remain very much alive. Yes, Brazil lost the war in Spain 30 years ago, but they have definitively won the peace.
Their conquerors went on to win the finals in Spain, but it is memories of Zico, Sócrates and the rest that persist, and exist in the collective memory. Nostalgia looks favourably not on the team that took the trophy home, but the team that entranced a generation of football fans, those dashing figures in yellow and blue, the greatest side never to win the World Cup.
It is tempting to suspect that the Brazil side of 1982 have had that greatness thrust on them in retrospect, and on repeated viewings of their cornucopia of great goals, but heading into the finals in Spain their capacity for fluid, brilliant, charming football was already evident. According to Hugh McIlvanney, writing in The Observer, Telê Santana's side were "the most gifted collection of footballers in the game ... [they were] the unmistakable nucleus of a great team".
Supplying the unique genetic material for that nucleus was a midfield of rare talent. The names roll off the tongue in luxuriant fashion: Zico, Sócrates, Falcão, Cerezo, Éder. Shunning pragmatism and the demands of creating a rigid system, Santana instead entrusted his creative players with a freedom to express themselves as they broke free from the constraints imposed by predecessor Claudio Coutinho at the 1978 finals. No longer were Brazil seeking to ape their European counterparts by focusing on physicality: now, in the words of The Guardian's Patrick Barclay, Santana had shown them that Brazil "should refuse to consider plagiarising inferiors". Instead, they wrote their own chapter in football's history books.