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History Makers: Cafu


We go back through our history to pick out five decisive moments from a former player. This week, Brazilian World Cup winner Cafu is the subject...

For the second edition of this new series, we’ve delved back into the archives to select five history-making moments from a famed player of yesteryear.

This week, we’ve moved into an elite group as World Cup and Scudetto winner Marcos Evangelista de Morais, better known as Cafu, is the subject...

Fans are naturally drawn to players who exhibit traits such as pace and flair, someone who can caress the ball and effortlessly produce magic on the pitch.

Add in some silky samba skills, a status as a reigning World Cup winner, and the fact that he’s actually a defender - and you have a recipe for one of the most cultured and successful players of all time.

For many, watching Cafu for the first time meant discovering their new favourite player.


CAFU - THE EXPRESS TRAIN


After forging a reputation as a right winger who dictated games for his all-conquering São Paulo side in his home city, he was crowned the South American Footballer of the Year in 1994 to add to his first World Cup victory with Brazil as the Seleção saw off Italy on penalties that same summer.

After an indifferent first spell outside of his homeland at La Liga outfit Real Zaragoza in 1995, Cafu returned to Brazil to join Palmeiras, via Juventude – not playing a single game for the latter, however, as the former circumvented a clause inserted by São Paulo that meant Zaragoza could not sell him to another club in the region.

In 1997 Roma came calling and Cafu, who now had the perfect platform to showcase his extraordinary talents to the world, embarked on carving out an unforgettable career at the Stadio Olimpico.

As the Serie A product, which at the time was considered to be the leading league in Europe and indeed the world, attracted a worldwide audience, fans earmarked Cafu as one of the standouts in the Italian game.

While viewers at home kept their eyes peeled in the corners of the screen whenever Roma ventured into their opponent's half, hopeful of a sight of their scampering Brazilian, those inside the Olimpico christened him Il Pendolino ('The Express Train') and their hearts would skip a beat when he galloped forward with the ball at the mercy of his educated feet.

Cafu, who was at his happiest when he was marauding forward, had a knack for timing his attacking runs to perfection; he knew when and where to make his run, and would leave his teammates’ ears ringing long after games with his calls for the ball in the final third.

The crowd favourite prided himself on his end product. There always had to be substance to follow his initial trickery and he contributed far beyond a player in his position would traditionally in the form of assists from pinpoint crosses, edge of the box interplay and with his fair share of goals.

While he was famed for his attacking endeavours, Cafu never lost sight of his defensive duties and was strong and imposing with an immeasurable lung capacity which saw him regularly cover the length of the field in the blink of an eye.

Here are five of his best goals for the Giallorossi...


1. Pace, precision... and a somersault

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vs. INTER MILAN (h)
10 April 1998
Serie A

Cafu opened his Roma account with a characteristically athletic goal against high-flying Inter Milan.

Having already tested Inter stopper Gianluca Pagliuca on a number of occasions in the first half, Cafu hovered around the Inter box and outfoxed their five-man defence - gliding through the air to bring down the ball ahead of Giuseppe Bergomi and racing into the box before nudging the ball home with his left foot.

The sheer presence of Cafu in an advanced position was enough to alarm the most composed defenders and, in this case, as the Inter backline watched the ball trickle home, they would prove to be just as bewildered by the sight of a somersaulting Cafu setting off to enjoy the adulation of his supporters.

2. Legendary brace away from home

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vs. FIORENTINA (a)
2 October 1999
Serie A

Deployed as a wing-back away from home against Fiorentina by Fabio Capello, the ever-reliable runner delivered two goals to see his side past La Viola.

A Francesco Totti free-kick - from 25 yards out and in-line with Toldo between the sticks for the home team – crashed against the wall and fell nicely to Cafu, who pounced on the loose ball and put his right foot and every fibre of his being through it - rocketing it into the roof of the net beyond a powerless Toldo.

Damiano Tommasi doubled Roma’s lead in the second half before Cafu popped up again to torment the hosts. As the visitors searched for a third, Marcos Assunção played the ball diagonally along the floor to Tommasi outside the box but he spotted the advancing Cafu to his right and let the ball roll to the most lethal marksman in Florence who leathered the ball home only this time it was low and across Toldo’s goal.


3. Header seals Bari blitz as Scudetto beckons

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vs. BARI (a)
19 May 2001
Serie A

Fabio Capello’s table-topping side were in ruthless form in this away trip to lowly Bari. A must-see volley from Vincent Candela and a tap-in from top goalscorer Gabriel Batistuta put the Scudetto-bound away side on their way to a momentous win.

Cafu, ever the opportunist, sensed that he could outmanoeuvre the overwhelmed Bari defence - who had lost centre-back Duccio Innocenti at the half hour mark to a straight red card - and, after excitedly noting his availability in the box (you can hear his screams for the ball in the video above), compatriot Antônio Carlos Zago picked out Roma’s number two at the back post and he guided the ball home with a diving header from just inside the six-yard box.

4. Champions League equaliser

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vs. GALATASARAY (h)
13 March 2002
UEFA Champions League

Trailing to a first-half strike from Turkish international Ümit Karan, evergreen Brazilian centre-back Aldair saw his countryman burst forward and launched a 40-yard ball from his own half beyond the Galatasaray defence.

Cafu took one touch with his right foot to take the sting out of the pass and showed his vision and attacking prowess in equal measure by lobbing the stranded goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón to restore parity. Sublime.

5. Penalty king in nine-goal thriller

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vs. VICENZA (h)
22 January 2003
Coppa Italia quarter-final (2nd leg)

The Giallorossi and visitors Vicenza played out a remarkable cup fixture in January 2003. A 2-1 first-leg win gave Cafu and his cohorts the advantage before the return fixture in the capital, but surely nobody expected what would come next.

Over the course of 90 minutes both teams would play their part in a frenetic, topsy-turvy, nine-goal thriller which had to be seen to be believed. But, in the closing stages and with Roma 5-3 ahead on the night, Cafu found a way to get his own name on the scoresheet.

Vicenza frontman Jeda gave his team a surprise lead after five minutes before Marco Delvecchio elected to seize control of proceedings with a sensational, 27-minute hat-trick. Midfielder Emerson added a fourth for Roma before Stefan Schwoch pulled one back via the penalty spot.

Marco Veronese cut the deficit to one goal before Emerson promptly replied with his second and the stage was set for Cafu to deliver the final goal in the 86th minute.

The all-rounder was unsurprisingly lethal from 12 yards as he emphatically dispatched the spot-kick into the top-right corner of Andrea Campagnolo’s goal.


What happened next for Cafu?

Inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame at the first opportunity in 2012, Cafu ultimately played 218 games for Roma and scored eight goals before joining AC Milan in 2003.

While prolonging his stay in Italy and capturing crowns including Serie A and Champions League trophies with the Rossoneri, the world-renowned defender further etched his name into the upper echelons of the game with his record-breaking feats for his country.

As a Roma player he captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002 - adding to his 1994 victory and place in the side that reached the final in 1998 - and remains their most-capped player of all-time with 142 caps.

A once-in-a-lifetime player, the Giallorossi great was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players and earned a spot in the FIFA World XI before retiring in 2008.

"I'm honored and delighted to be a part of Roma history," he said on recent visit back to the Italian capital.

"We worked so hard for the team and that's why we've been given a place in the club's Hall of Fame. That's no mean feat for a Brazilian and it feels amazing."

Read more in this series:

Hidetoshi Nakata

Follow Mark Pickering on Twitter: @_MarkPickering