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Forza Italian Football πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§

Cafu at 50: More than a World Cup winner



On 7 June, 1970 Brazil defeated world champions England en route to securing the World Cup for the third time in their history, yet 50 years on the day could be greeted equally as notably for the birth of one of their greatest ever players.

In Itaquaquecetuba, Sao Paulo, Marcos Evangelista de Morais arrived unaware of the celebrations around him or the legendary status he would eventually acquire at home and in Italy under his more well known moniker of β€˜Cafu’.

As his country’s all-time appearance holder and a two-time World Cup winner the 50-year-old is arguably most recognisable in international colours, but nearly 400 appearances and seven major honours with Roma and AC Milan are testament to his success on the peninsula.

Despite that success, the defender struggled during his teenage years, signing youth terms with Sao Paulo in 1988 after failing to make the grade at Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, Atletico Mineiro and Portuguesa.

Starting out as a wide-midfielder, before his transitioning into a full-back or wing-back, Cafu won a state and national championship double in his second season in the Tricolor first-team, before further success on a continental and international stage had European clubs circling.

Playing a vital role in back-to-back Copa Libertadores triumphs in 1992 and 1993, that resulted in further victories in the Intercontinental Cup against European Cup winners Barcelona and future employers Milan.Β 

Ahead of his departure for Real Zaragoza in Spain, he was named Brazilian Player of the Year and headed to Europe as a World Cup winner, as a 21st minute substitute in the final against Italy in 1994.Β 

However, after missing the 1995 European Cup Winners’ Cup final through injury, Cafu returned home, won another state championship with Palmeiras in 1996 and Copa America with Brazil, before another assault on Europe.

The South American’s troubles in Spain became little more than a footnote in an amazing career after moving to Italy and, although not as trophy laden as his early career, remains one of the few to be inducted into the halls of fame of two Serie A clubs.

As a relentless and rampaging full-back, he was virtually ever-present in the Roma first-team during the 1997/98 campaign alongside compatriot Aldair, helping the Giallorossi to a credible fourth place Serie A finish. His season ended on a sour note personally, though, losing the World Cup final to hosts France.

Quickly becoming a crowd favourite in the capital, Cafu was nicknamed Il Pendolino (the Express Train) and was a permanent fixture in the side, although often as a wing-back in a 3-5-2. Even displaying a rare moment of attacking influence, scoring a pair of freekicks to defeat Fiorentina in October 1999.

That season Roma looked on from sixth position as Lazio won a domestic double, but would be parading the Serie A trophy themselves 12 months later. The Brazilian contributed a number of crucial assists and customary league goal.

In 2002, Cafu arrived in Rome for his final season with the club clutching a second World Cup winners medal, becoming the only person to appear in three consecutive finals, and his last appearance ironically against Milan as they lost the Coppa Italia final first-leg 4-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Rossoneri were probably the only Italian side where a 32-year-old would be expected to thrive, given their legendary list of ageing stars, and rejected a late attempt to take him to Japan.

An 85th minute substitute appearance as they won the 2003 UEFA Super Cup was a gentle introduction, before something of a resurgence at San Siro as an orthodox full-back and provided four assists in five games and won a second Scudetto.

The 2004/05 season started positively with Supercoppa Italiana victory over Lazio, but ended in embarrassment as part of the collapse to Liverpool in the Champions League final, and the following campaign disrupted by injury. He did manage to captain Brazil at his fourth World Cup finals before international retirement.

Although avenging defeat in Istanbul and a Champions League winners medal around his neck in 2007 and playing eight games en route, a role as a unused substitute in the final was the sign his career was coming to an end.

Another medal – 2007 UEFA Super Cup – was won from the bench, before a 15 minute cameo in the Club World Cup final against Boca Juniors fittingly became the last trophy the world champion would lift.

A late goal in a final day mauling of Udinese eventually provided the perfect goodbye to a country in which Cafu had provided so much joy, the legend mobbed by his appreciative teammates and receiving the adulation of a packed San Siro.

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Cafu at 50: More than a World Cup winner

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