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Born: Monday 12 November 1934, Recife, Brazil
Died: Saturday 19 January 2002, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (aged 67)
Centre Forward


Powerful Brazilian centre-forward Vavá secured his place in football history when he became the first player to score in two World Cup finals. Always seeming to reserve his best form for the big tournaments, he was an important part of the winning teams of both 1958 and 1962. He was extremely popular with crowds both in Brazil and in Spain, where he played in between his two World Cup appearances.


Vavá was born Edvaldo Izidio Neto on 12 November 1934, in the coastal city of Recife in eastern Brazil. He first joined hometown club Sport Recife at the age of eight, appearing in the youth teams when he was still below the required minimum age after his coach changed his age on his registrations documents. Although never the most stylish of players, he was an instinctive goalscorer who had a habit of finding the net at crucial moments in games.


Making his first team debut for Sport Recife during the 1950 season, Vavá soon attracted the attention of one of Rio's top sides Vasco da Gama. Known for his strength and bravery, he was given the nickname 'peito de aço' (chest of steel) because of his ability to hold off defenders with ease. Breaking into Vasco's first team in the 1952 season, he was called up to Brazil's squad for the Olympic Games in Helsinki at the age of just 17.


Making two appearances as Brazil reached the quarter-finals, Vavá got on the scoresheet in the preliminary round win over the Netherlands, grabbing the final goal in a 5-1 win. A few months later he helped his new club win the Rio state championship, scoring the winning goal aginst Bangu in the penultimate match of the season to clinch the title with a game to spare. He was not able to force his way into contention for the full national team in time for the 1954 World Cup, but did make his debut a year later in a 3-0 win over Paraguay.


In 1956 Vavá helped Vasco to another Rio state championship, scoring 13 goals including both as another 2-1 win over Bangu clinched the title. Although he remained on the fringe of the national team for a couple of years, he was still able to force his way into the squad for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Not initially first choice, Vavá missed the opening win over Austria but having played at inside-left against England, was moved to centre-forward for the final group game against the Soviet Union and made an instant impact on the tournament.


He scored twice in that match to seal Brazil's place in the quarter-finals, where they beat Wales 1-0. In the semi-final against France, he opened the scoring inside two minutes and although France equalised, Brazil went on to win 5-2 and reach the final against Sweden. After his team had falled behind, Vavá scored the goals which turned the match in his team's favour when he twice got on the end of crosses from Garrincha. Having led 2-1 at half-time, Brazil won 5-2 to claim their first ever world title.


After impressing in the World Cup, Vavá left Vasco having scored 150 goals for the club in seven years of first team football. He moved to Europe to play for Atlético Madrid where he scored 16 goals in his first season, helping the team to finish fifth in the league. He stayed with Atlético for three years, during which time they won the Copa del Generalísimo in both 1960 and 1961, although Vavá did not appear in the final wins over city rivals Real. Although popular with the fans, he missed Brazil.


Having also missed out on both South American Championship tournaments which were held in 1959, Vavá also feared that by playing in Europe he might put his place in the squad for the 1962 World Cup in Chile at risk. He returned home after the 1960-61 season to join São Paulo side Palmeiras. When the World Cup came round, he was fully restored in the national team and led the line from centre-forward in all six of Brazil's games.


Although Vavá was not on target in any of their group games, Brazil eased into the knockout stages with wins over Mexico and Spain and a draw with Czechoslovakia. It was in the knockout stages that he came alive. With the quarter-final against England level at 1-1, he headed home a rebound after Garrincha's shot was saved to give Brazil a lead they never relinquished. Against hosts Chile in the semi-final, he was on target with two more second half headers to seal a 4-2 victory.


The final was a rematch of the group game against Czechoslovakia. Brazil fell behind in the first half but recovered to lead 2-1, before Vavá sealed the game with 12 minutes to go, tapping in when the Czech goalkeeper dropped the ball at his feet. His four goals placed him in a six-way tie for the Golden Boot, while he remains one of only four men to score in two World Cup finals and the only player to score in consecutive finals.


Vavá won the São Paulo state title with Palmeiras in 1963, but that proved to be his last season with the club. In 1964 he joined Mexican side Club América, the move away from his home country coinciding with the end of his international career. In total, he scored 15 goals for Brazil with nine of them coming in the World Cup. In three years with América, Vavá won the Mexican Cup in 1965 and the league title a year later.


After a brief spell with Toros Neza, Vavá moved on to the United States where he joined San Diego Toros for the inaugural season of the NASL. Scoring five goals in 28 games, he helped the Toros win the Pacific Division title and reach the championship final, where they were beaten by the Atlanta Chiefs. Vavá's career ended with a season back in Brazil with Rio side Portuguesa, after which he retired from playing at the age of 35.


Having retired, Vavá moved back to Spain to begin a coaching career, taking charge of Córdoba, who suffered relegation under his leadership in 1972, as well as Granada. He was also involved in coaching national teams in Brazil, leading the youth side to the quarter-finals of the World Youth Cup in 1981 and joining the full national team as an assistant coach for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. After a long period of poor health, he died in January 2002 at the age of 67.


References (all accessed 19 October 2012):

Nílton Santos