Brazil were coming up to the 20th anniversary for when they last celebrated holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft. They had mesmerized a whole globe through their attacking shape in the 1970 tournament, and had capped that World Cup off by smashing four goals past Italy in the final. Whilst the 70s had otherwise not proved successful, there had been a lot of hope for their ’82 generation, which obviously is famous in football folklore for “being the finest team to not have won the World Cup”. In Mexico ’86, France had outwitted the Brazilians in the penalty shoot-out after a thrilling quarter-final encounter.
Sebastião Lazaroni, 38 years old by the start of the qualification, had been appointed earlier in the year as Brazil’s new coach. He had a much more pragmatic outlook on footballing tactics than his recent World Cup predecessors, and perhaps was this the way forward now that the top European nations seemed so strong both tactically and physically? Artistically, Brazil were still right up there.
The Brazilians entered the World Cup qualification on a high, having just arrived from a home soil Copa América triumph, their first continental championship title for 40 (!) long years. They had conceded just a solitary goal right throughout the tournament, and they had a front two with Romário and Bebeto looking ever so dangerous. The latter had finished the tournament as top goalscorer with six goals to his name.
However, a 5-3-2 formation with a libero at the heart of their defence; it was hardly classic Brazilian, was it. Lazaroni, despite the Copa América title, had his critics. “What use is there in winning if you can’t get enormous pleasure from watching the team play?” That seemed to be some of the thinking which was found throughout the nation, and which was a view the manager would have to tackle. Attacking principles had such long traditions in Brazil.
Half of their 22 man strong squad in the Copa had been based at home, half in Europe. Altogether, they were a comparatively young squad with no supposed key player (from that squad) aged older than 27 (Galvão/Alemão, though the latter had only been a bit-part player). Could it even be so that 1990 came too soon for this Brazilian generation?
Two weeks to the day after the Copa América title had been secured, it was time for the first qualifier. They had some further talent to call upon which had not taken part in the continental tournament, and both strong full-back Jorginho and experienced striker Careca looked to be excellent additions to the already strong-looking squad.
24.05.1989: Peru 1-1 Brazil
Line-up: Zé Carlos – Jorginho (c), Mauro Galvão, André Cruz, Mazinho (Nelsinho) – Bobô (Edu), Bernardo, Bismarck (Nilson), Zinho – Zé Carlos III, Cristóvão
08.06.1989: Brazil 4-0 Portugal
Goals: Bebeto, Sobrinho (own goal), Ricardo Gomes, Charles
Line-up (4-4-2): Acácio – Jorginho (c) (Branco 67), Mozer (Aldair 87), Ricardo Gomes, Mazinho – Silas (Geovani 64), Bernardo, Edu (Cristóvão), Valdo – Bebeto, Charles
Tournament of Denmark
16.06.1989: Sweden 2-1 Brazil
Line-up (4-5-1): Acácio – Paolo Roberto, André Cruz, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Valdo, Silas (Bismarck 73), Bernardo, Edu (Geovani h-t), Careca II (Gérson 69) – Charles (Cristóvão h-t)
Big central defender Mozer was supposed to feature for his country during this three-match European tour, but he was about to strike a deal with Olympique Marseille, moving on from Benfica, and so he didn’t join with the team after all.
Tournament of Denmark
18.06.1989: Denmark 4-0 Brazil
Line-up: Acácio – Paulo Roberto, André Cruz, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco (Mazinho 64) – Geovani, Bismarck (Edu 74), Bernardo, Valdo (Charles 74), Gérson (Careca II 85) – Cristóvão (Silas 64)
21.06.1989: Switzerland 1-0 Brazil
Line-up (4-3-3): Taffarel – Paolo Roberto (Branco 74), André Cruz, Ricardo Gomes (c), Mazinho – Alemão, Dunga, Valdo – Renato, Gérson (Geovani 74), Tita
Brazil were desperately unlucky to lose this game, and in addition to failing to score, the penalty from which the hosts netted their goal was clearly wrong.
01.07.1989: Brazil 3-1 Venezuela
Goals: Bebeto, Geovani (pen.), Baltazar
Line-up: Taffarel – Mazinho, André Cruz, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Geovani, Valdo, Tita (Silas 11) – Bebeto (Baltazar h-t), Romário
03.07.1989: Brazil 0-0 Peru
Line-up: Taffarel – Geovani, Aldair, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco (Renato Gaúcho 59) – Alemão, Dunga, Valdo – Bebeto, Romário (Baltazar 68)
05.07.1989: Brazil 0-0 Colombia
Line-up: Taffarel – Geovani, Aldair, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Alemão (Mazinho 64), Dunga, Valdo – Renato Gaúcho, Baltazar (Bebeto 57)
07.07.1989: Brazil 2-0 Paraguay
Goals: Bebeto 2
Line-up: Taffarel – Mazinho, Aldair, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Silas, Dunga, Valdo, Bebeto, Romário (Renato Gaúcho 78)
12.07.1989: Brazil 2-0 Argentina
Goals: Bebeto, Romário
Line-up: Taffarel – Mazinho, Aldair, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Silas (Alemão 75), Dunga, Valdo – Bebeto, Romário (Renato Gaúcho 75)
14.07.1989: Brazil 3-0 Paraguay
Goals: Bebeto 2, Romário
Line-up: Taffarel – Mazinho, Aldair, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Silas, Dunga, Valdo (Alemão 73) – Bebeto, Romário (Renato Gaúcho 73)
16.07.1989: Brazil 1-0 Uruguay
Line-up: Taffarel – Mazinho, Aldair, Mauro Galvão, Ricardo Gomes (c), Branco – Silas (Alemão 85), Dunga, Valdo (Josimar 86) – Bebeto, Romário
23.07.1989: Brazil 1-0 Japan
Line-up: Taffarel (Zé Carlos h-t) – Aldair, Mauro Galvão, André Cruz – Mazinho (Josimar h-t), Dunga (Alemão h-t), Valdo (Silas h-t), Branco (Edivaldo h-t) – Bebeto (Renato Gaúcho h-t), Careca (c) (Tita h-t) (Cristóvão 72), Romário (Bismarck 63)