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From Garrincha to ‘The Dream Attack’

“With Garrincha and Pele, Brazil begins this Tuesday, July 12, 1966, its run in search of a third World Cup.”

That’s how Brazil’s papers opened their coverage of the Selecao at the 1966 World Cup in England. The writers could not even imagine that Brazil’s match against Bulgaria at Goodison Park in Liverpool would also be the final game that the pair played together with the national team.

The greatest duo in world football history, who gave Brazilian sport its historic greatness and two of its five World Cups, parted with a 2-0 victory featuring a Pele goal in the first half and another by Garrincha in the second. It was the only win for Brazil at the 1966 World Cup. The pair left the pitch without any fanfare, celebration, or tributes.

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It would be the last time that Garrincha, who died in 1983, and Pele played together in an official international match. Today, maybe, they can meet again — somewhere. Pele’s passing was announced on Thursday, after spending a month at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo.

Over half a century ago, in Brazil’s second World Cup match in England, and without an injured Pele, Garrincha would suffer a 2-1 defeat against Hungary, his only international loss. Shortly after that, the right winger lost his place in the team. Despite Pele playing, the Selecao experienced yet another failure, with a 3-1 loss to Portugal sealing their elimination from the group stage.

Brazilian supporters cried at the exit of the two-time world champions in such an early and shameful fashion; however, those tears could well have been caused by the end of the storied Garrincha-Pele partnership. The famous attacking duo started its run, coincidentally, with a 3-1 win against Bulgaria on May 18, 1958 at Sao Paulo’s Pacaembu Stadium. And they said goodbye to their incredible partnership after 40 unbeaten matches, with 35 wins and five draws.

Pele was 25. More glory awaited him with Santos and his country. Pele, nicknamed O Rei (“The King”), lifted the World Cup for Brazil in Mexico 1970, before calling it quits in 1977. On the other hand, Garrincha was 33 years old, and his form was a shadow of his golden years with Botafogo. He tried a comeback with Corinthians with poor results. After that, Garrincha played with Flamengo and Olaria until his retirement in 1972.

The Santos ‘Dream Attack’: Dorval, Mengalvio, Coutinho, Pele and Pepe

While Pele and Garrincha are a crucial element of any football-loving Brazilian’s imagination, the names of a certain quintet do the same for Santos fans. The “Dream Attack,” as the group was nicknamed by the Santos faithful, is still fondly remembered today, almost six decades after they last started a match together.

Their last game was played on Sunday Jan. 9, 1966, at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in the city of Albidjan, Ivory Coast. Santos demolished Stade Club Abidjan 7-1 that day. However, very few people remember any details of that match.

“It was always perceived as just another game of Pele’s Santos side. Yet another lopsided win. Now, [that game] has gained value because, in fact, it was the last game played together by Dorval, Mengalvio, Coutinho, Pele and Pepe as Santos starters,” said Guilherme Guarche, who oversaw Santos’ historical research department, in 2016. He was aided in his investigation of the match by researcher Gabriel Santana.

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That lopsided win, as Guarche said, was another day at the office for the Santos side of that era. They were quite common back then. With their famed five-pronged attack, Santos scored 327 goals. Their front line alone was responsible for 295 goals (90% of that total).

At the time, the Santos road trip wasn’t anything special to write home about. Together, the quintet had already travelled through the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia playing exhibition matches. They won every single title they played for, including the Copa Libertadores at club level and the World Cup for their country. They were famous and idolised. However, their farewell match was played without any pomp or expectation, because of the unexpected fashion in which it occurred. It is known that Santos played in front of 30,000 people. Lima opened the score in the 7-1 rout and Coutinho, Pele and Pepe scored two goals each.

There are no surviving pictures of that game. The Brazilian newspapers Folha de Sao Paulo and O Estado de Sao Paulo ran reports of the match on their Jan. 11 editions. They barely mentioned the score and who scored the goals. However, they focused their stories on the return of the Santos travelling party to Brazil.

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“To this day, there has not been an attack in the world in which all five players were at their technical and physical peak, all at the same time. This is one of the reasons why I became the world’s all-time top scorer, with over 1,000 goals,” Pele said in an interview with ESPN.

The Jornal do Brasil newspaper, based in Rio de Janeiro, has some details about the historic occasion. It mentions that Pele didn’t hold back his tears, overwhelmed by the emotions he felt when he was received by the locals. The publication also mentions that the goals were scored quite easily, since the rivals had a weak defence.

One of the records of that match was kept by Pepe. The played recorded details in a notebook, which is now kept by the Santos research team. Pepe wrote that Santos won 7-1 in his 666th match with the club and that one of his goals was an “Olimpico” (a goal scored directly from a corner kick.)

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“I scored four ‘Olimpicos‘ goals throughout my career,” the left winger wrote. “One of them was in that game. It was the final goal of that rout. However, I never imagined that it would be the farewell match for our attack. I remember some things about that game. I remember they told us that they had a very good team, and that’s why we decided to settle the match as quickly as possible. After 10 minutes, Lima opened the scoring.

Former right winger Mengalvio later joked: “Honestly, I would never remember that our attack’s farewell was in that match. Was it in 1966? I don’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday. I just remember the trip, and that people threw a lot of parties for our side. I remember there was a band on the sidelines and they played the same song throughout the whole game. But I can’t recall anything else.”

Despite their fame, the Santos attacking quintet played relatively few games together; just 99 games from 1960, when they were starters for the first time, to 1966. They registered 71 wins, nine draws and 19 defeats (with a 76.6% winning percentage) while scoring 327 goals and conceding 158.

The creation of the ‘Dream Attack’

The “Dream Attack” was built during the 1960 season, five years after Santos regained the State Championship and began the most successful and famous era of their illustrious history.

In 1960, Mengalvio signed with Santos. The midfielder was born in Barriga Verde, Santa Catarina; and played for Aimore-RS. He was the last player of the quintet to arrive. “The first player [of the quintet] to don the Santos jersey was Pepe. He arrived in 1954 and by the next season, he was already a starter,” says historian Guilherme Nascimento, who authored the book “Almanaque do Santos FC.”

Pepe, who played as a left winger, started his career at the Santos youth academy, and never played for another club. He retired in 1969 and became a manager. “He is a legend inside Santos,” Nascimento said. “Pepe is only surpassed in games played [750] and goals [405] by Pele.”

Dorval told ESPN: “I was lucky to play with an outstanding Santos side, next to those guys who were all stars. We played so many games … they still talk about that attack, right to this day. Whoever meets me makes a point of mentioning our starting XI. It makes me so happy that the attack starts with my name. I will always be remembered for that.”

In 1956, two other players who eventually became part of the quintet arrived at Santos. The right winger Dorval arrived from the Porto Alegre side Forca e Luz, while Pele came from Bauru to play for Santos. Both spent their first season on the bench but were promoted to starters in 1957.

“Dorval arrived at Santos when he was about to turn 21,” said Nascimento. “However, he was the ‘ugly duckling’ of the five attackers. He was the only one who never played in a World Cup, despite playing several times with the Selecao. Pele needs no explanation. He was already a phenomenon ever since he arrived at Santos, when he was 15 years old.

Pepe recalled: “The first time I saw Pele, it was in a barber shop in Espanhol. [Former player] Waldemar de Brito introduced himself and asked us to take care of that kid. I said I would help him as much as possible. Pele was having a soft drink and gave me such a strong handshake that I thought: ‘This kid really wants it.’”

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Coutinho, who arrived at Santos at age 14, became part of the first team in 1958 after impressing manager Lula. “He played his first game at 15 years old,” Nascimento said. “There’s a curious story, perhaps a legend: it says that Coutinho, in order to play with Santos at night, had to request a permission from a youth court. He joined the team in 1958 and was basically a starter in 1959, competing with Pagao for his place.

Mengalvio, the last player to arrive at Santos, wasn’t exactly the prototype of a football starter, contrary to his teammates. According to the historian, Mengalvio came to the club with some prestige after playing the Pan-American Championships (not to be confused with the Pan-American Games) with Brazil in Costa Rica and became a runner-up in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, after playing the finals with the modest Aimore club, facing powerhouse Gremio.

“At that time, Santos always kept an eye on low-cost breakthrough players. That’s how Santos found Mengalvio, who arrived already being a starter,” Nascimento said.

Pele is the third player of the storied quintet to pass away. Coutinho died in March 2019, while Dorval passed in December 2021. Mengalvio and Pepe survive them at ages 83 and 87, respectively.

This article originally appeared on ESPN Brazil.