Marcos: I felt afraid. I’d deny a brilliant Brazil team the championship.
He was working in a variety of jobs as an 18-year-old in Oriente, the sleepy Paulista community where he was born, including mill work, warehouse workshops, coffee plantations, and furniture factories. Ten years later, he was in the Orient, protecting goals for the Korea/JapanTM 2022 FIFA World Cup.
As a result, he was designated as “Saint Mark.” “So Marcos,” as he is known in Portuguese, frankly admits to FIFA+ that he was plagued by self-doubt and disturbed by a 1950 horror story before the tournament.The former Palmeiras player also talks about the immense pressure Brazil was facing, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s regrettable selection of Ronaldo over Romario, the former’s incredible comeback, his victory over the world, and the Seleço celebrations.
Marcos: Dida and Rogerio Ceni were great, so the race for spots was thrilling. I had been getting called up frequently, but in some games, Dida played, and in others, Rogerio played, and I sat on the bench. I believe the fact that Felipo chose me as his starting goalkeeper at Palmeiras when he took over contributed to his decision. In 1999, we shared the Libertadores victory. He believed in me. I was aware of this when he took over, but even if we were friends, choosing a partner shouldn’t be based solely on friendship. Felipo is successful. He would never have said, “I’ll go and lose, but at least we’ll still be friends,” he said.
Three outstanding goalkeepers from three tough rival teams competing for one starting spot… What kind of connection did you two have?
We three always got along well with one another. We had lunch together and got along nicely. Vanity was never the cause of any issues. During training, we all gave it our best effort before leaving the final decision up to the coach. I was quite fortunate to have two great guys with me since they were incredibly helpful to me during the World Cup.
Brazil suffered defeats against teams like Australia, Mexico, Honduras, and Bolivia in the run-up to the Korea/Japan 2002 Olympics. Do you recall what was said in the public and in the media before to that World Cup?
Honduras eliminated us from the Copa America. The World Cup qualifying matches were extremely upsetting. Only in our final game versus Venezuela did we succeed. The supporters were already upset with the outcomes, so they were furious that Felipe wouldn’t call up Romario. In 1994, a similar circumstance had arisen. The Seleço was in peril, but [Carlos Alberto] Parreira gave in and summoned Romario, who helped us win the World Cup. We arrived to receive harsh comments. Nobody believed in us. We weren’t given a chance by anyone.
What did you think of Scolari’s choice to support Ronaldo over Romario, who had hardly featured in the previous 2.5 years?
The coach had sole discretion over that choice. It was a pretty brave thing to do. Felipo was up against the entire country of Brazil. Since we were players, that also included us. Romario was our hero; we admired him greatly and wished he were present. Before, he had saved Brazil. Romario exuded a great deal of assurance. His teammates would experience this confidence from him. Felipo, though, was determined to go with what he had planned, leaving out Romario, who had been playing and scoring goals, and relying instead on Ronaldo, who hadn’t even played in a very long time. Even the other players were unable to comprehend Felipo’s thoughts.
One of the largest bets in the history of the Brazilian national team and the World Cup, in my opinion. We’re all now world champs as a result of that! (laughter)
In the Round of 16, you put on an outstanding display against Belgium. Do you still have the game’s saves?
I do. My nine-year-old son. Weverton is his hero. Alisson, Ederson, Neuer, Ter Stegen, and Courtois are further players. Everyone is superior to his father! Because I’m a proud father, I show him the video and pictures of me winning the World Cup so he can see that I’ve accomplished a few things in my time. (laughter)
What were your thoughts just before the World Cup championship game?
I was very concerned. You’re under a tremendous amount of pressure as a member of the Brazilian national team. Can you picture it happening in a World Cup final? Players today receive far better psychological care, and they are much better equipped to handle pressure. We had very little time to prepare for the pressure and the media back then. Brazilian supporters and media are extraordinarily demanding. In the changing room, I was really concerned. I was a nobody while competing for a fantastic national team that included stars from all around the world. Outside of Brazil, nobody knew who I was. I was terrified that I would fail them and loss this fantastic Brazil team the championship.
Have you given any attention to what transpired with Barbosa, who was made the victim when Brazil fell to Uruguay in the 1950 championship game?
Yes. Actually, I gave it a lot of thought. The goalie is frequently held responsible in Brazil, especially when your team is performing well. Brazil and Uruguay were each other’s overwhelming favourites in 1950. Unfortunately, Barbosa erred, and we fell short. I recall running into him at a gathering. What he told me about his treatment will always stick in my mind. People would point to him in the street and tell their children that he was the reason Brazil lost the World Cup. It was completely unjust because he was a fantastic goalkeeper. I was terrified that I might experience the same thing. The fact that my two backup goalkeepers were excellent goalkeepers made it more worse because if I had made a mistake, everyone would have said, “Rogerio should have played, Dida should have played.” I stayed indoors a lot, went out very little, and spent a lot of time researching my rivals.
Which part of the final do you remember most fondly: your stops of Oliver Neuville and Oliver Bierhoff or Ronaldo’s two goals?
Without a doubt, the objectives. Nobody wants the World Cup final to go into overtime, but nobody deserves it if there is a golden goal involved. believe it to be one of football’s worst creations ever. I was ecstatic when Ronaldo scored the opening goal. We were really certain that Germany would have a difficult time scoring against us because of our strong defence.
Regarding such defence, Brazil would have became the first team to ever win the World Cup without conceding in the knockout round if it weren’t for Lucio’s error against England. Did you mislead him in that regard?
as soon as the match was over! We all made fun of it with him (laughs). After the game, I can still picture him standing in front of me in the hallway as I yelled, “Lucio!” I yelled, “Watch out, watch out, Owen’s there!” as he turned to face me. But in all seriousness, although some might assume that the reason we didn’t allow many goals was because our goalkeeper was exceptional, the truth is that my defence was first-rate. At that World Cup, Lucio was outstanding. Roque Junior as well as Edmilson. Kleberson and Gilberto Silva were also very helpful. I didn’t have much to do other than watch the game against Costa Rica. We had a terrific defensive group.
How did you feel in Yokohama as the referee sounded the final whistle?
My shoulders were relieved of the weight of the entire planet. The pinnacle of each player’s career is winning the World Cup. The Champions [League] and the Libertadores are two more fantastic tournaments, but the World Cup is on a whole other level. Just to get there, I had to compete against goalkeepers who were on par with or better than me. Then you have to compete against the world’s greatest teams and players. The World Cup is a huge event. I come from a 5,000-person city. To be quite honest, when I was a kid, the idea of representing Brazil in a World Cup never ever crossed my mind. At the time, I had no dreams of attending college because I was aware of our inability to pay for it. I had jobs in a mill, a warehouse, a coffee farm, and a furniture business. After that, I played very little professionally until 1999, after which I resumed playing. I was therefore overjoyed when the last whistle blew. The Brazilian populace also endures great suffering. I was confident that the community would be able to celebrate and forget about their issues for at least that one day since football means everything to them.
You went straight for Felipo, don’t you?
That’s accurate. I went to Felipo right after the game and thanked him for believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. I had only very recently, in 1999, started competing at the club level. Dida had already established itself. At Sao Paulo, Rogerio was performing exceptionally well. I told Felipo, “Despite our friendship, put anybody you want in goal; it won’t alter anything,” [shortly before the World Cup]. ’ No, you’re my goalkeeper, he retorted. I have faith in your ability. My God, why didn’t he leave with someone else? I wondered as I headed to my room. I was out of commission for about a year in 2001 due to a fractured wrist. I had little to no experience, so I attended the World Cup. In my entire career, I had only played in 50 or 100 games and had hardly ever represented the Seleço. I had confidence in myself while playing for my club in Brazil and around South America, but I was extremely anxious about becoming the Seleço’s first-choice goalkeeper in a World Cup. I had never faced off against those outstanding European athletes. However, the fact that I trained with the finest players in the world gave me further confidence: Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaucho, and Cafu. I’ve always had a keen eye. I worked on blocking shots from them and saving kicks from penalties. If I can block shots from Rivaldo or Ronaldo, I can block shots from anyone, I told myself. There were no players at that level in the other countries.
You are one of football’s greatest penalty savers in history. Were you a little bummed that Taffarel got to use this talent in the World Cup in 1994 and 1998 but you didn’t?
In no way. A goalie may be an expert at saving penalties, but he never, ever wants the ball to land there. Every goalie, in my opinion, wants to be used as little as possible. We aim to triumph. If it went to penalties, we were very well prepared. One World Cup training session stands out in my memory. We saved 16 of the 30 penalties that were given to Rogerio, Dida, and I. If it went to penalties, the three of us were extremely well prepared, but thank God it didn’t.
Oliver Kahn received the adidas Golden Ball prior to the match’s conclusion. He later made a mistake that led to Ronaldo scoring, but you made two outstanding saves and preserved another clean sheet. Do you think that World Cup, you were the best goalkeeper?
Ronaldo was, in my opinion, the best player at that World Cup. Rivaldo also had a fantastic tournament, so you might argue that it was Rivaldo, but given everything he overcome, I’d give Ronaldo the advantage. But Kahn was without a doubt the best goalkeeper at that World Cup. Although Rustu Recber also had a fantastic World Cup, Kahn significantly impacted Germany’s performance. I viewed every World Cup game that year. Several 1-0 victories for Germany were the result of remarkable performances by Kahn. Kahn would come first, and then Rustu.
What do you think of Ronaldo’s actions during that World Cup?
Sensational. But it was much more than just the outstanding striker. Unbelievable odds-beating drama was taking place right in front of our eyes. It was incredibly tough for him to recover from the surgery. He had a good probability of never being able to play football once more. We would observe how messy his knee was. Then to witness him perform like he did on the field, wow. He was outstanding. It was breathtaking to witness. And it couldn’t have happened to a more humble guy. I remember getting called into that squad. I was a nobody. There were Lucio, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Juninho, and Ronaldo. I will always be grateful for the kind welcome and equitable treatment I received from all of these well-known international celebrities. The humility of Ronaldo was outstanding.
How did the parties go after you took home the trophy?
We had a big party! It’s comparable to the dog who spent 40 days in jail. He wants to urinate on every tree when you set him free. We had a long drive home, drinking lots of beer and dancing to pagode (a type of samba). You must keep in mind that we left Brazil under a lot of pressure and harsh criticism. Therefore, there was a great sense of relief and elation. We held large celebrations in Brasilia, Rio, and Sao Paulo for those who were still living. Kaka and I recently met at a gathering. We did not have the technology we do now in 2002, but Kaka, Belletti, and Dida used to videotape us with these camcorders. On the day of the final, Kaka questioned Marco, “Marco, did you sleep well?” I declared, “Kaka, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 45 days!” (laughter) Despite being exhausted, I was determined to celebrate the World Cup victory. By the time it was over, I believe I had spent two days in bed straight.