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Born: Friday 20 September 1935, Niterói, Brazil
Died: Wednesday 10 February 2010, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (aged 74)
Position: Centre Half
One of Brazil's finest defenders, Orlando Peçanha was an important member of the team which won the World Cup for the first time in 1958 and helped to introduce the concept of a 'back four' to the game. He also enjoyed a successful club career with Vasco da Gama, Boca Juniors and Santos, although his spell outside of Brazilian club football cost him the chance to appear in another World Cup winning team in 1962.
Orlando was born in Niterói on 20 September 1935, where like so many great Brazilian players he grew up play football barefoot in the streets around his home. At the age of 16 he was invited to join Vasco da Gama's youth team, where the coach did not initially rate his chances of making the grade as a professional due to his slight build. Orlando stayed with Vasco while completing his miiltary service and continued to train hard, eventually forcing his way into first team contention.
His debut came on a European tour in 1954, in a match against Barcelona, where he came on as a substitiute at half-back. Orlando finally signed his first professional contract in 1955, soon becaming a first team regular. He was blessed with superb reading of the game and excellent timing, particularly when making tackles. The first major trophy of his career came in 1956, when Vasco won the Rio state championship.
As the 1958 World Cup in Sweden approached, Orlando began to force his way into international contention. After starring in the Vasco team which won the Rio-São Paulo Tournament in April 1958, he made his debut for Brazil as a substitute in a friendly match against Bulgaria the following month. Brazil were beginning to make use of the revolutionary tactic of using a second centre-half to provide more defensive cover and in the World Cup. Orlando was a crucial part of that system. Smaller but more technically gifted, he provided a perfect central defensive partner for tall and powerful captain Bellini.
Between them they led Brazil to four consecutive clean sheets to open the tournament, winning their first round group and edging past Wales 1-0 in a very tight quarter-final. In the semi-final, Brazil's defensive line was finally breached when Just Fontaine drew France level, but having more stability at the back gave the team more attacking freedom and they went on to win the game 5-2. In the final against hosts Sweden, Brazil trailed early on but fought back to lead at half time, before going on to record another impressive 5-2 victory and take the title for the first time.
Later in 1958, Vasco were involved in an incredibly tight race for the Rio state title as they finished level on points with both Botafogo and Flamengo. After one round of play-off matches which could not separate the teams, Vasco came through a second play-off earlier in 1959 to give Orlando his second state title at the club. He came close to adding another international title just weeks later at the South American Championship, but Brazil's failure to beat hosts Argentina in their final match left them a point behind their rivals in second place.
At the end of the 1960 season, Orlando was transferred to Argentinian side Boca Juniors. From the point of view of his club career the move was a success, but it caused a significant gap in his international career as Brazil did not select anyone who played in another country. He was left out of the squad which successfully defended the World Cup in Chile in 1962, although did win his first major honour in Argentina later that year when Boca held off River Plate to claim the league title.
In his first four seasons in Argentina, Orlando rarely missed a game. He helped Boca reach the final of the Copa Libertadores in 1963, where they were beaten 5-3 on aggregate by Brazilian site Santos, before adding another league championship a year later. Boca reached the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores in 1965, losing only after a play-off against Independiente, but Orlando's time at the club was coming to an end. After appearing in the 1-1 draw with Vélez Sársfield in the first game of the new league season, he returned to Brazil to play for Santos.
Returning home brought him back into consideration for the Brazilian national team and almost immediately he was called up, appearing in the 5-0 thrashing of Belgium in a friendly at the beginning of June. Forming part of one of the finest defences in Santos' history, Orlando's first season at the club brought the São Paulo state championship. Santos also won the Brazilian Cup in a volatile final against Orlando's former club Vasco, where he was one of several players sent off in the second leg.
In the summer of 1966 he was selected for his second World Cup, but was not an automatic choice for the finals in England. He missed Brazil's first two games but returned for the must-win final group match against Portugal, a game which proved to be a disappointing end to his international career. Brazil lost 3-1 and were knocked out, the only defeat Orlando ever suffered in the national team. The team's early exit dented his pride and he would later put it down to poor organisation on the part of the Brazilian federation.
Back with Santos, Orlando helped the club to continue their domination of football in São Paulo state, being part of the team which won the state title in both 1967 and 1968. He left Santos at the end of 1968 having played 137 games for the club, his final appearance being an exhibition match against Benfica in New York. He returned to Vasco for a short second spell to finish his playing career, before retiring in 1970 at the age of 35.
Having retired, Orlando briefly went into coaching, albeit without any great success. He took charge of Centro Sportivo Alagoano in 1977 and Vitória three years later, but soon stepped out of club football. In his later years, he worked as president of the Brazilian Association of Football Coaches, a position he held into his 70s. Orlando Peçanha died in February 2010 at the age of 74, following a heart attack.
References (all accessed 24 October 2012):
- Published on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 21:57