That squad was one that had talent coming out of its ears but one which also had its fair share of mediocrity that would, come the final denouement, bring its own house crashing to the ground.
Players such as Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Eder were sublime talents that managers of other national sides of that era were left cursing the day that each member of the quartet was born in Brazil instead of their nations.
Unfortunately for Brazil, they also had players such as Valdir Peres, Luizinho, Oscar and Serginho who would be stars elsewhere but in teams that would not qualify for World Cups, let alone play in them.
Many describe them as 'the best team never to win the World Cup' but they rank well below other more deserving contenders for that particular 'crown'. The Dutch side of 1974, Hungary in 1954 and the Czechoslovak team of 1934 are higher up in the pecking order for this, ultimately hollow, accolade. All of them very skilful and talented sides who were well-organised but owing to a combination of over-confidence (Holland and Hungary) and bad luck - though some would claim Il Duce-inspired corruption (Czechoslovakia) - all would fall at the final hurdle.
Said last obstacle being the key phrase. Holland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia had made it all the way to the final. The Brazil of 1982 were sent packing after the second round group stage. Even the spectacular French sides of 1982 and 1986 and the Polish ones of 1974 and 1982 have better claims to the 'best team not to....' award as they at least came within a game of making the final - unlike the Brazilians.
Because when Tele Santana's men came up against teams that were not afraid to go toe to toe with them - and do so for the full 90 minutes, the talent would have to pull several rabbits out of the hat to compensate for the mediocrity who were not equipped to deal with the punches a strong European side could throw at them.
The USSR had arrived in Spain with the tag of being a potential dark horse to win the trophy. This was not without some justification. Both Dynamo Kyiv and Dynamo Tbilisi had both won silverware in European club competitions and, despite everyone referring to the USSR as being Russian, the Soviet team was largely comprised of players from the Ukrainian and Georgian clubs respectively.
They also had a clever coach at the helm. Konstantin Beskov was a gifted teacher of the game. If Pep Guardiola is hailed today for his free-thinking approach to football, then it would be remiss not to give credit to Beskov who had after all, drawn up the original blueprint.
Beskov, who as a player was a prolific forward for Dynamo Moscow, and also managed the club - his last act there being to take them to the final of the European Cup-winner's Cup in 1972 in Barcelona where it can be argued a dramatic comeback (they had pulled back two goals after being 3-0 down) was thwarted by the antics of the Rangers fans who, after mistaking an offside call for the full-time whistle, invaded the pitch for a celebration and subsequent punch-up with the Spanish police.
He would later take charge of Dynamo's city rivals Spartak and was held in such high esteem, the chairman of that era, Nikolai Starostin said of him: “When asked who is the best ever writer, Victor Hugo answered ‘I am’. That’s what Beskov should say if asked who is the best coach in the Soviet Union.”
He had had a previous stint as manager of the USSR before with the first one ending up with a harsh dismissal. Beskov had guided them, as defending champions, to the 1964 European Championship final but for the Communist-led Soviet dictatorship, losing to Spain who were governed by their ideological enemy - the fascist leader General Franco, was deemed to be an act of class treachery and Beskov was unceremoniously dumped.
However, he had been rehabilitated in the eyes of the Secretariat many years later and had been trusted with the honour again. Beskov's Dynamo and Spartak sides had played with a fluency which encouraged players to express themselves freely. Given the constraints of Soviet society at the time, the football pitch was probably the one place where free thinking was allowed to flourish unmolested. While Santana of Brazil was also one for freedom of expression, Beskov always had in mind that such a philosophy can only blossom if the platform is solid. The USSR had not only a strong back four but in Rinat Dasayev, they also had one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
This was a luxury that Santana did not have. His own goalkeeper, Valdir Peres, was one of the worst custodians of the sticks out there. A bag of nerves inspired more confidence such was his inability to deal with the basics. In front of him were two very average centre-halves in Oscar and Luizinho. While not as bad as their goalkeeper, and could certainly have done well for themselves had they been born Scottish, Icelandic, Swiss or Welsh, for a nation who had designs on World domination, this pair made the wearing of regulation boots appear to be akin to trying out a pair of roller-skates. The two full-backs, Leandro and Junior were only defenders in name. They were effectively attacking wingers who were superb going forward. However, when it came to doing the job that their actual position demanded, they were both defensively suspect.
Throw in the fact that Brazil had been hampered by the injury to striker Careca with his replacement, Serginho showing as much grace and talent in front of goal as a one-legged rhino with a roaring hangover, Santana's ultra-talented midfielders would have their work cut out to overcome a well-organised and equally talented Soviet Union.
Brazil had been placed in a group alongside the Soviets, Scotland and New Zealand and were based in the Andalucia region of southern Spain. Without question, the warmest part of that nation during the summer months, and many saw that factor being an extra advantage for the heat-accustomed South Americans. While that may have come to have a significant bearing in the Scotland game (your average Scottish summer peaking at half the temperature of an Andalucian one and the Scots' traditional 100 miles an hour style of play destined to wilt in the heat) and the part-timers of New Zealand not having the resources to put up a challenge regardless, for the Soviets, climate would not be an issue. While the winters of that particular part of the world are harsh, the summers - where the Soviets played the majority of their club season fixtures - could be Mediterranean-like themselves. More so in the regions on the Crimean coast of Ukraine and Georgia where the majority of the USSR team came from. A sweltering night in Seville would pose little problem to them.
The game saw the two sides go at each other and proved to be one of the most intriguing of the tournament. Zico had the first chance when a mazy run and shot was only denied by a fine outstretched save by Dasayev. Then came the first glimpse of Brazil's frailty. While Kyiv midfielder Oleg Blokhin was one of the best footballers of his day, the ease in which he skinned Leandro early on was revealing. A more capable full-back would have maybe timed his tackle better or even opt to try and jockey the Ukrainian and restrict his space. However, a telegraphed, careless lunge by the Brazilian was easily dodged by Blokhin who proceeded to race down the wing and cross to an unmarked Andriy Bal - carelessly left to make a run into the area by the static Junior - who should have done better with his free header.
However, Brazil received an even bigger let-off when an innocuous ball over the top caught out their back four. Tbilisi striker Ramaz Shengelia looked certain to rifle a shot into the net only to be hauled down by Luizinho. Bizarrely, referee Augusto Castillo, did not give a penalty.
The Soviets were not knocked off their stride and continued to pressure their heavily-fancied opponents. They got their reward in 34 minutes thanks to a huge slice of luck.
Good build-up play had created the space for Bal to try a shot from outside the box. The Kyiv man had not made the greatest of contacts on the ball and while his effort would have been easily gathered up by his team-mate at the other end, Valdir Peres made the strange choice to step to his right and try to turn his body to the left in order to pick up the ball. Had he stayed put, it would have come straight at him but such was the awkward angle he had created for his own body, the ball skimmed off his wrists and spun into the net to put the USSR 1-0 up.
Valdir Peres nearly compounded that error when soon after, a bread and butter high ball was spilled by him and only by the grace of an unknown power did he escape another goal for the Soviets when Volodimir Bezsonov failed to convert the rebound.
Brazil stepped up the tempo in the second half but the Soviet defence comfortably soaked up what was thrown at them. Indeed they were resorting to taking pop-shots from distance given their earlier plan of trying to dribble the ball into the net had failed miserably. Fortunately for them, plan B paid off with 15 minutes of the match remaining when Socrates picked up a loose ball and fired in a howitzer past Dasayev to equalise.
Then came the game's second moment of controversy and again it went against the Soviets.
Yuriy Susloparov picked up the ball on the left and his pinpoint cross picked out Shengelia who drilled the ball past Valdir Peres to make it 2-1. However, the linesman had put his flag up for offside and the goal was chalked off despite the replay showing Shengelia to have been onside.
It proved pivotal as with two minutes remaining, a moment of genius handed Brazil victory. Eder received the ball, played an outrageous keepie-up with it before he unleashed an unstoppable swerving drive that not even Dasayev or his legendary predecessor, Yev Yashin, combined could have stopped.
The final outcome had been hard lines on the USSR who had bravely squared up to Brazil and were a brace of poor refereeing decisions away from victory. Two sublime goals had done for them and while they were strikes of exceptional quality that had got Brazil out of jail, other coaches in the tournament, including one Enzo Bearzot of Italy, had been studying what had put them in the clink in the first place.
Despite falling behind again, Brazil disposed of Scotland in the next game 4-1 although they did receive some considerable assistance from the ineptitude of opposing goalkeeper Alan Rough - a Scottish Valdir Peres so to speak - for the first three goals while the part-timers of New Zealand were never going to offer much resistance. Brazil won that one 4-0 to go through as group winners.
Then came the second group stage in which Brazil, thanks to their opponents scraping second spot qualification places from their own first round groups, were given a tough draw with Argentina and Italy lying in wait with only one team guaranteed to go through to the semi-finals.
They were given a slight advantage to begin with. Defending champions Argentina had problems on and off the pitch. Cliques had formed between the old guard who won the trophy four years previously and the young upstarts, led by a certain Diego Maradona, who felt they were not given the same squad parity as the established members.
Not to mention that all were reeling from the shock of what they saw on their TV screens when they had first arrived in Spain. Argentina was at war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands and back home, their state-influenced media had told them that their armed forces were winning the conflict. Spanish television told them a different, and more accurate, story. They were losing the war and many players had relatives fighting in it. Midfielder Ossie Ardilles had to play knowing that his pilot cousin Lt. Jose Ardilles had been killed.
They had laboured past the first round and lost their opening second round group stage game 2-1 to Italy in a game marred by foul play. Battered and bruised by the roughhouse tactics of the Italians, and with their minds drifting to matters off the pitch, they were in no mood to play one more match of a tournament they were effectively out of. Brazil smelt blood and went for the jugular and put on their best display of the tournament in a 3-1 victory.
Only a draw was needed against Italy, but this Brazil team was not set up to play for such an outcome and Italian coach, Bearzot, noting the scare that the USSR had given his opponents earlier on, knew it.
He only last a season there before taking up a post with the Italian Federation becoming the coach of the under-23 national side before becoming Ferruccio Valcareggi's assistant for the full Italy side. Following the Azzurri's disappointing first round exit at the 1974 World Cup, Bearzot was promoted to take charge of Italy. His appointment saw a revival in fortune and four years later, only an outrageous long-range thunderbolt from Holland's Arie Haan denied them a place in the final against the hosts Argentina.
Given that Italy had beaten the Argentinians in the first round group stage - no mean feat given the tournament was staged under the watchful eye of the Buenos Aires junta and that the hosts had enjoyed some remarkable 'luck' en route to the final, Bearzot's team might well have come back with the trophy itself - Holland had after all, come within an inch of the post of doing just that in the dying seconds of that final.
Four years on and his side were strongly tipped to do well. Italian football had the stigma of relying heavily on the catenaccio system which was based on a strong defensive strategy with the means to employ a counter-attacking manoeuvre once the opposing side had over-committed themselves going forward. Certainly they were very strong defensively - the back four marshalled superbly by Gaetano Scirea with captain Dino Zoff behind them in goal on hand to mop up anything that breached the defence's wall. But they had plenty of creativity in the middle of the park with Giancarlo Antognoni pulling the strings and a certain Paolo Rossi upfront - a man with much to prove having just served a suspension for his involvement in the Tontonero betting scandal.
Italy though started the tournament slowly and drew all three of their first round group stage games. In fact, they only qualified behind Poland thanks to having scored one goal more than rank-outsiders Cameroon. They were roundly slaughtered by the Italian press for their dismal showing and many fans braced themselves for the brace of hidings that would almost certainly be heading their way via the hands of Argentina and Brazil.
At this point Bearzot instructed the team to close ranks and a media silence was imposed. Somehow this galvanised them and the Azzurri players came out of the traps against Argentina as if the South Americans had personally mugged their grandmothers such was the robust nature of how this game panned out. Italy, and centre-half Claudio Gentile in particular, got in the faces of the Argentinians and the latter, no doubt weary of the war off the pitch, were in no mood to conduct one on it. Italy won 2-1 and while it was not the prettiest performance, it was one that sent a message loud and clear to Brazil that when they met, the Azzurri would leave everything and then some on that pitch come the final whistle.
It was a warning the Brazilians foolishly paid lip-service to. So confident were they of progressing, the carefree nature that was taken onto the pitch in Barcelona that afternoon suggested that they thought the Italians would not be able to resist their firepower.
However, this wasn't a part-time New Zealand or a disorganised Argentina. Nor was this a Scotland who would wilt in the blistering heat. This was another USSR in waiting, one that had a wealth of talent, one being a Mediterranean nation itself would not succumb to the intense climate and one, unlike the Soviets, who knew how to close the deal once they got their noses in front.
Brazil got their rude awakening as early as the fifth minute. Italy came forward only to find their opponents strangely backing off. They worked the ball to Antonio Cabrini on the left and he floated in a cross which the Brazilian defence, for some reason, stood still in their admiration of it. Rossi meanwhile made a run into the box and found himself unmarked to head in past Valdir Peres. The fact that the Juventus striker did not have to jump when executing his header said it all about the lackadaisical approach the South Americans had taken towards the art of defending.
Soon after, a moment of comedy. Socrates played the ball through the middle to Zico. The playmaker left his marker for dead and as he was about to fire what might have been the equaliser, Serginho gatecrashed the party by stealing the opportunity from his team-mate for a greedy shot on goal himself. More like a shot at the corner flag given how bad his effort actually was - a miss a Sunday morning pub team player wouldn't have been guilty of. The more-talented Zico was visibly livid and rightly so.
Parity was restored on 12 minutes thanks to a piece of audacious cheek from Socrates. Zico's clever turn flat-footed the Italian defence and his pass sent Socrates clear on the right. He shaped up to cross the ball but then changed his mind. No doubt having seen the player in the six-yard box was Serginho, the midfielder was probably wise to chance his arm himself. However, Zoff having bought the initial move was in the process of committing himself to intercepting a cross when he received the shock of Socrates' shot whizz past him at his near post. Match level.
If people had thought 'normal service' had been resumed, they were right to a degree but only because the shoddy Brazilian defence had intervened to undo the work done by their world class attacking midfielders. In the 25th minute, the back four started casually knocking the ball in front of the penalty area. Not noticing how the Italians were pressing, they got careless which resulted in defensive midfielder Cerezo gifting a pass to Rossi who didn't need to be asked twice in restoring Italy's lead.
Bearzot's men were now in the driving seat in terms of qualification for the semi-finals - something that had seemed unlikely as they limped to a draw against Cameroon earlier in the tournament. At this point, catenaccio was employed. Italy did not need to go chasing a third goal but they knew Brazil would throw caution to the wind and leave themselves vulnerable to an Italian counter-attack.
The plan nearly worked midway through the second half. Brazil, rather predictably, had overcommitted and their already-patchy defence had left a gap which Italy almost exploited. Francisco Graziani broke down the left and squared the ball to Rossi, who it seemed had the easiest of chances for his hat-trick and to give his team a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately, he saw glory without grabbing it first as a horrible miskick skewed the ball wide. A let off for Brazil and a moment that minutes later had Italian fans cursing under their breath.
Falcao picked up the ball outside the Italy box, he then jinked to the left, sold the defence a dummy before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Zoff to equalise. Such was the expression of relief pinned to the midfielder's face as he celebrated, you could tell that like the Soviet match, how much Brazil had been rattled by the stoic opposition that they were facing.
Catenaccio was put to one side. Italy had to attack. Had this been a situation against the France, West Germany and Poland teams that were in this tournament, you might have rated their chances as being fifty-fifty. But with this Brazilian defence not being of the standard of the aforementioned teams, the odds of Italy retrieving this match were good - and so it proved.
With 15 minutes left, Italy had a corner which fell to Marco Tardelli outside the box. The midfielder played a low ball back into the area towards Rossi. Despite having every team member back, no Brazilian player picked up the striker and having fluffed one golden opportunity to complete his hat-trick, Rossi was not going to let another one pass as he slammed the ball in from close-range to make it 3-2. Urban legend has it that back in Rio de Janeiro, a 20-year-old Brazil fan shot himself dead as soon as Rossi's shot hit the back of the net.
Brazil desperately threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Italy in trying to salvage their World Cup dream and were nearly caught out again when a swift, incisive Italian break saw Antognoni finish off a fine move only for the linesman to incorrectly rule his goal out for offside. Brazil themselves thought they had got away with it when late on, Oscar sent a powerful header towards goal only for Zoff to pull off a magnificent save just before the ball had a chance to creep over the goal-line.
And then it was over.
The Italians celebrated as a shell-shocked Brazil team trudged off the pitch, visibly trying to come to terms with what had happened. Those watching around the world were stunned too. In a TV studio in London, then-Manchester City manager, John Bond, exclaimed: "That's the World Cup over for me now".
Many others expressed surprise but the truth was, this was a Brazil side that was hugely dependent on its set of sublime midfielders to get them over the line because their defensive unit could not be relied upon to do their job and keep the opposition out. Such a strategy can only take you so far - especially when up against a talented, well-organised team that can match your own attacking prowess and throw blows back at you. Brazil had got themselves off the the hook against the USSR but their luck ran out against an Italian side that would go on to be crowned World Champions.
Had Brazil survived the Italian ambush, a talented Poland team - who had pipped them to third spot in 1974 - lay in wait and again, the likes of Zico, Socrates, Eder and Falcao would have almost certainly been called upon to bail out their average team-mates. Even if they made the final, the cynical West German team of that era would more than likely have sucked them into a war of attrition as they had done to France in the semi-final and might well have pulled off the same result.
Italy though had the tools from top to bottom to overcome such obstacles which they did by first overcoming Poland in a tense tactical battle thanks to two Rossi goals before a second half destruction of West Germany via goals from Rossi, Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli in a 3-1 win.
Many have bemoaned Italy's success and proclaimed it to be a shame that the Brazil side of 1982 did not win that year's World Cup. Those people often remark on how 'bad' it was for the game that 'defence should triumph over attack'. To such criticism we leave the final word to Enzo Bearzot:
"There was some mean-spirited talk. Our third goal was scored after a corner with all the Brazilians in the area. I repeat: all the Brazilians in the area. Yet we were still accused of playing counter-attacking football."