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'Rivelino gave a shimmy, bang, and that was it'

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 Rivelino causing havoc for Brazil against the Shamrock Rovers XI in 1973 in
Lansdowne Road – giving Eoin Hand & Co a warning of what awaited them in
Brazil the following year

Rivelino causing havoc for Brazil against the Shamrock Rovers XI in 1973 in Lansdowne Road – giving Eoin Hand & Co a warning of what awaited them in Brazil the following year

Rivelino causing havoc for Brazil against the Shamrock Rovers XI in 1973 in Lansdowne Road – giving Eoin Hand & Co a warning of what awaited them in Brazil the following year

OUR boys won't be in Brazil, but 40 years ago an Ireland team led by John Giles strode proudly into the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro to take on the world champions.

They remain the only Republic team to play Brazil at their world-renowned home, which will host the World Cup final on July 13. Those few hardy souls that wore the green jersey in Brazil's home of soccer should cherish their unique place in our history.

The date was May 5, 1974 and 120,000 passionate Samba fans gathered at the iconic stadium to acclaim their heroes in a World Cup warm-up game.

And when I say 'warm-up', it was literally true. The sweltering 90+ degree heat created a sauna-like effect on the pitch and on the bench.

The match was only the second in the reign of player-manager Giles. His first game as successor to Liam Tuohy ended in a 1-0 win over Poland at Dalymount Park in October 1973, days after the Poles had ended England's hopes of qualifying for Germany 74. By May, Giles had played a pivotal role in Leeds United's drive to winning the First Division championship, and immediately after the season ended, the squad gathered in London prior to travelling via Paris to Rio.

Hardened professionals as they were, the Irish players felt a special tingle of excitement about the trip. They were to play Brazil, Uruguay and Chile on their South American tour, but that first match was the big one.

Paddy Mulligan, formerly of Shamrock Rovers and Chelsea, and at that point at Crystal Palace – who were relegated from the old Division 2 to Division 3 on the last day of the 1973-74 season – recalls the mood among the Irish lads.

"If you'd said to me when I was starting my career that I'd play against Brazil," says Mulligan, "the team I first saw in 1958 when Pele came on the scene and scored two goals in a World Cup final against Sweden, and that I was going to play against Brazil in the Maracana, I'd have said 'don't be daft.'

"When you have a dream and it is fulfilled, what more can a man ask for?

"To play against the best, that's a test, and you can say 'yeah, I played against the best and we held our own there.' That was the beauty of that particular trip as well."

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Pele was gone from the heroes of 1970 by then; their main man at that stage was the formidable left-footed genius Rivelino.

Also there from the 1970 World Cup team was Jairzinho. Paolo Cezar, who featured in most of the 1970 games, but did not get a place in the side for the final against Italy, played against the Irish.

Eoin Hand, who was to return eight years later on another, less memorable visit by Ireland to Brazil, was a Portsmouth player. Giles played him in midfield with a simple instruction – 'follow Rivelino wherever he goes.'

Hand gave it his all, something which wasn't totally appreciated by the great Rivelino.

"My job was Rivelino. As soon as the play broke down on our side I'd be going – 'where is he, where is he?' I'd look around, see where he was and get right close to him," recalls Hand. "I was tackling him hard – fairly, but hard. Anyway, didn't he sell me a dummy and whum! Top left-hand corner, bang! Goal.

"I thought 'how did he do that?' Because I was right up his back. He just gave a little shimmy and bang, that was it. The funny thing about that was he lost his head with me', and he blatantly kicked me. He got booked, I didn't. I was a bloody nuisance. I was following him around all over the place.

"So he got booked, and they won the game 2-1. Terry Mancini scored for us. At the final whistle, I straight away went over to shake hands with him and said 'jersey, swap?' and he said, 'Loco, you loco!' But he took the shirt off and gave it to me, but said with a smile 'Loco' – meaning madman."

The Irish gave a very good account of themselves, and kept the Brazilians at bay for the first half.

Just six minutes had elapsed in the second period when Jairzinho made a typical burst down the wing and crossed the ball for Levinha to head it past Waterford goalkeeper Peter Thomas.

'Tommo', the only League of Ireland player in the side, acquitted himself well but he could not do much about Levinha's goal or the 56th-minute thunderbolt from Rivelino for Brazil's second.

Giles' men knew in their hearts that their best hope of scoring was from a free-kicks or corner and That's how they finally cracked the Brazil defence. A Giles free-kick went high into the penalty area, goalkeeper Leao flapped at it and Mancini of QPR scored with a looping header.

Mulligan played centre-back alongside Mancini and at one point, thought it might be useful to send a message to the Brazilian right-back Ze Maria.

"I remember I made a run up the left-hand side,and I said to myself 'I'll sort this opposing defender out, the right-back' – and I felt like I'd hit a brick wall. He was so strong. I just bounced off him," says Mulligan.

"They (Brazil) were all so physically strong in those days. People talk about the silky skills, but they had the physical strength as well and they could look after themselves."

From Rio, the Irish party flew to Montevideo, where they played Uruguay on May 8. They lost 2-0, but Mulligan recalls: "It was a match we should have won 5-2 because we had so many chances."

They ended the tour in Santiago against Chile. Finally, a victory, with goals by Hand and Jimmy Conway pulling them through a bruising encounter.

SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR, 1974

Brazil 2 Republic of Ireland 1

Rio, May 5, 1974

Ireland (4-3-3) – Peter Thomas (Waterford); Joe Kinnear (Spurs), Paddy Mulligan (Crystal Palace), Terry Mancini (QPR), Jimmy Holmes (Coventry City); Eoin Hand (Portsmouth), John Giles (Leeds Utd), Mick Martin (Man Utd); Terry Conroy (Stoke City), Ray Treacy (Preston North End), Don Givens (QPR). Subs: Tony Dunne (Bolton Wanderers) for Holmes; Gerry Daly (Man Utd) for Treacy.

Brazil – Leao; Ze Maria, Luis Pereira, Mario Peres, Marinho Chagas; Carbone; Rivelino, Paolo Cezar; Jairzinho, Leivinha, Cesar Augusto.

Uruguay 2 Republic of Ireland 0

Montevideo, May 8, 1974

Ireland – Mick Kearns (Walsall); Kinnear, Mulligan, Mancini, Holms; Hand, Giles, Martin; Conroy, Givens, Jimmy Conway (Fulham). Sub: Daly for Givens.

Chile 1 Republic of Ireland 2

Santiago, May 12, 1974

Ireland – Kearns; Kinnear, Mulligan, Mancini, Dunne; Hand, Giles, Martin; Conroy, Conway, Givens. No subs. Scorers: Hand, Conway.


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