SAO PAULO: Zito, energetic midfield hub of the Brazilian team who won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962, has died aged 82 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Jose Ely de Miranda, his full name, had been unwell since suffering a stroke a year ago and had been cared for in the Santa Casa de Misericórdia hospital in Santos for the past month.
Zito, who played all his senior club career with Santos, was brought into the Brazilian World Cup team in Sweden after they made a slow start to the group stage. He replaced Dino Sani in midfield after a goalless draw agaonst England.
Next time out Brazil beat the Soviet Union 2-0 and Zito’s complementary partnership with Didi, the creative ‘brain’ of the team, provided the essential foundation so the likes of Pele and Garrincha could flourish in attack. In later years Zito always played down suggestions that the squad’s senior players had approached coach Vincente Feola after the England game demanding changes.
In 1962 Zito chested home Brazil’s second goal when they recovered from going 1-0 down early on to beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final in Santiago.
Simultaneosly Zito was also the solid ‘father figure’ in the remarkable Santos club team which won the World Club Cup and the South American Copa Libertadores in both 1962 and 1963. His experience was crucial in maintaining focus among outstanding youngsters including not only Pele but also Dorval, Mengalvio and Coutinho.
Zito was born on August 8, 1932, and joined Santos aged 20 from minor club Esporte Clube Taubaté. He scored 57 goals in 733 games over 15 years before retiring in 1967. He also won nine Sao Paulo state championships and four national titles.
His national team career lasted 11 years from his debut in 1955 up until Brazil’s sad first round exit from the World Cup in England in 1966. Altogether he scored three goals in 46 appearances.
After retiring Zito took up a senior role in Santos’ youth and scouting sections. He ‘discovered’ both Robinho and then current Brazil superstar Neymar who tweeted a message of regret and thanks for all the help and support Zito had provided him.
Club president Modesto Roma Junior said: “His age did not matter. He always remained our Great Captain.”
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