Minicopa: The story of the Brazil Independence Cup 1972 – part three

brazil independance cup 1972

This is the story of a tournament which was held in the summer of 1972, to celebrate 150 years of Brazilian independence. 20 teams took part. The largest collection of nations at a football tournament before 1982. 15 teams contested three groups in the first round. The three group winners joined five others, who’d received a bye. Those eight teams were split into two groups with the winners going through to the Final.

Finally, we cover the last matches in each group.

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5 July

At the Maracanã, Brazil took on Scotland. Tommy Docherty kept with the same team which drew with the Czechs. This meant for Colin Stein, Ally Hunter and Jim Bone they had travelled all the way to Brazil to watch games from the bench. But seeing as the tournament wasn’t broadcast on UK TV then they got a better view than if they’d stayed at home…..or gone on holiday.

Mario Zagallo rewarded Leivinho, a two-goal scorer against Yugoslavia, with a starting place. The Scots attracted the biggest crowd of the tournament so far, 130,000. The game was niggly throughout. In Mexico, two years earlier this Brazil side coined the phrase, ‘Samba Football’. A mixture of walking football and sudden bursts of speed as players took up positions all over the pitch, dragging markers everywhere. Jairzinho was a classic example of this. In the days when wingers kept to the touchline, he’d play as a number ten, a number nine and sometimes a number five, as well as his customary role on the right wing.

To begin with, George Graham and Billy Bremner seemed surprised at the aggression of the hosts. But soon they realised it was a style of play they relished. Both teams had chances, although Brazil had the better of them. Scotland needed to win and as the game moved into the final ten minutes things were still all square. But then Jairzinho scored the only goal of the game with just eight minutes to go and that was the end of the dream. Brazil had yet to hit the heights of two years earlier, but they’d avoided defeat again and were still yet to concede a goal. They were unbeaten in their last 25 internationals since Argentina beat them in March 1970.

Victory also confirmed their place in the Final which made the result of the last game in the group immaterial.

Pos GROUP 1 Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Brazil 3 2 1 0 2 0 5
2 Scotland 3 0 2 1 2 3 2
3 Czechoslovakia 2 0 2 0 0 0 2
4 Yugoslavia 2 0 1 1 2 5 1


6 July

The final game in Group 1 was irrelevant to the overall result of the group as Brazil had booked their place in the Final the day before. But there was a Third Place Match to compete for. Whichever team won this match would be in that.

Yugoslavia were the top scorers in the competition and had the individual leading scorer in Dušan Bajević. He added to his tally inside the first 20 minutes, taking his total to 11 for the tournament.

Yugoslavia were coached by Vujadin Boskov in his first management role. He would later go onto steer Sampdoria to Serie A success in 1991, taking them to the European Cup Final a year later. It was his second loss in a European Cup Final having seen his Real Madrid side lose to Liverpool in 1981. In 1999 he returned to manage his country taking them to Euro 2000.

They were denied a half-time lead when Anton Hrušecký scored his first international goal. One of six Spartak Trnava players in the team, the 30-year-old played every match in this tournament, but would never represent his country again.

As the game moved into the final quarter of an hour, the Czechs were heading for the Third Place match. But then skipper Dragan Džajić changed all that. His goal, 13 minutes from time, won it for the Yugoslavs.

Pos GROUP 1 Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Brazil 3 2 1 0 4 0 5
2 Yugoslavia 3 1 1 1 4 6 3
3 Scotland 3 0 2 1 2 3 2
4 Czechoslovakia 3 0 2 1 1 2 2


In Group 2 in Porto Alegre, Argentina and Uruguay met each other. Formerly two of the fiercest rivals in international football, both countries were in a transition period. Argentina hadn’t been at Mexico ’70, whereas Uruguay finished fourth. The Final was out of reach for Uruguay but third place was up for grabs. Argentina’s win over Yugoslavia gave them the chance of an appearance in the Final. As Brazil had already booked their place, the organisers were hoping for such a meeting.

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As expected, the game was keenly fought. Finally, the deadlock was broken eight minutes before half-time. Oscar Más got the goal. The River Plate striker ended his career as the club’s second-highest scorer, and a year after this game he moved to Real Madrid. No matter how much pressure Uruguay put their opponents under, they just couldn’t find the equaliser.

Argentina were now anxiously waiting for the result of the other match to see if they had a further game to play. 1-0 wasn’t enough to reach the Final. Portugal’s goal difference was superior so a draw for them would hand them a place in the Final. If USSR won, even by a solitary goal, they would also supersede Argentina on goal difference.

All eyes turned to Belo Horizonte. Portugal had won five of their six matches thus far. The Soviets only arrived a few weeks before, getting a bye from the first round. Remarkably, the 24 players who played that day, came from just five different clubs. One of the 11 Benfica players, Rui Jordão scored the only goal of the game just a minute into the second half.

It was enough to win the game for Portugal and confirm their place in the Final. Defeat for the Soviets would mean they missed out on a place in the Third Place game. That went to Argentina.

Pos GROUP 2 Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Portugal 3 2 1 0 5 2 5
2 Argentina 3 2 0 1 3 3 4
3 USSR 3 1 0 2 1 2 2
4 Uruguay 3 0 1 2 1 3 1


9 July

The last two matches of the tournament were played on the same day, in the same stadium. The biggest crowd of the tournament, 170,000, filled into the Maracanã to watch Argentina take on Yugoslavia.

Both teams had come through the first round and suffered just one defeat each. Both at the hands of the two finalists.

Yugoslavia struck first. Predictably Bajević got it. It was his 12th of the season. Ten minutes later Josip Katalinski doubled their lead. He was having a great tournament after making his debut in their opening game against Venezuela. He scored in that match, and in the next one against Bolivia.

At the break, the crowd was silenced. Yugoslavs had a decent 2-0 lead. The next goal could be crucial. It was the South Americans who got it. Just before the hour, they were awarded a penalty. Miguel Ángel Brindisi converted and they were back in the game.

Before they could find an equaliser, Yugoslav left-winger, Džajić restored his side’s two-goal lead. Džajić had tormented the Brazilians a week ago, and now he was running rings round the Argentines. The tricky Yugoslav captain was getting kicked but remained unbowed. Then with seven minutes to go Bajević scored his 13th of the tournament and Yugoslavia’s fourth of the match.

Brindisi scored another penalty to reduce the arrears but the Yugoslavs were good value for their win.

The pitch was cleared ready for the Final. Apparently, 70,000 left after the Argentinians lost. But there was still a crowd of just under 100,000 to watch the two finalists.

The organisers would’ve loved a Brazil v Argentina Final, but perhaps it was fitting for a tournament commemorating Brazil’s independence from the Portuguese that the two nations were represented in the Final.

15 games had taken place to reach this stage. Brazil and Portugal were the best two sides in the competition with Portugal having to navigate twice as many matches as their hosts. Both sides were unchanged, as Portugal had been throughout the second stage of the competition.

Within minutes of the kick-off, it was clear where the Portuguese believed the danger would come from. They immediately doubled up on Jairzinho and fouled him on the right. This was a familiar pattern as the clever Brazilian dribbled and weaved his way through the tackles.

The game was goalless as it headed towards full-time. Then Jairzinho once again went on a mazy run down the right and was hacked to the ground. The Israeli referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Jair was going to take it, but then Rivellino wandered over and decided he was better suited.

Good job he did as Rivellino floated in the free-kick it was Jair who got up highest to head the ball in. Predictably the place went nuts and it was too late for Portugal to come back.

Brazil had won 1-0 and Zagallo could add the Independence Cup to the World Cup his side had won two years before.

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Brazil captain Gerson was presented with the trophy and the celebrations continued long into the night.

It was the last trophy Brazil won until Romario’s goal against Uruguay in the same stadium won them the Copa America in 1989.

Just before Christmas 1983 thieves broke into the Brazil FA headquarters and stole the trophy, along with the Jules Rimet Trophy, they’d been given having won it for the third time in 1970. There was also a trophy they’d been presented for finishing second in 1950. That went too.

Famously the Jules Rimet Trophy was melted down. But there’s never anything ever said about the Independence Cup from 1972.

The tournament may have been a financial failure for Brazil, but the military leaders considered it a success from a publicity point of view. Organising such an event was also considered a coup for João Havelange in his bid to take over from Sir Stanley Rous as FIFA President. Two years later he became the only non-European to hold the post.

244 goals were scored in the 44 matches at an average of 5.54/game, so there was little to argue about the goal entertainment. Compare that with 95 goals scored in 32 games at Mexico ’70 at an average of 2.97/game.

Generally the attendances, save for the Brazil matches, were disappointing. But for the Irish lads, for instance, the whole experience remained one of the highlights of their careers.

O’Connor would later tell website;

“When you played internationals you were gone two days before and home the day after. With Brazil, it was three weeks living and eating with the same guys. It was a great opportunity to get to know them. Breakfast, dinner, tea and training together, there was great bonding in the squad. They just love their football in Brazil, especially at that time. It was a marvellous experience”

It may have passed many people by, I stumbled on it when researching something else. But it remains an important tournament in the history of the game. There are very few clips anywhere and of course none of them have any English commentary as we weren’t interested in it. In fact, the Irish team confirmed there were no journalists travelling with them to Brazil. No one covered it, no one knew about it.

But you do now.