The first match of Brazil was against Sweden in Mar del Plata. One expects massive attendance of the games of the eternal favourite even in hostile lands like Argentina, but the match attracted only 38 000 people. 10 000 less than Spain – Austria, played at the same time. The starting eleven of Brazil was known since May 19, when Coutinho announced it... well, it was the same, except Ze Maria. The Brazilian debut was not a revelation – Sweden scored first and Reinaldo equalized in the 45th minute. The opponents were quite equal, Brazil not dominant at all, and struggling in attack. Nothing much happened to the end and the match would have been entirely unmemorable if not for the scandal it finished with. Brazil scored a second goal, but the Welsh referee K. Thomas did not allow it – he whistled the end at the same time and according to him the ball reached the net after his last signal. Brazilians run to protest and argue to no avail.
The second match, against Spain, showed some desperation and limited resources: Coutinho started with clear 4-4-2 scheme – the tactic used by Osvaldo Brandao, for which he was practically sacked. Another uninspired match, once again Brazil struggling in attack.
Before their last group match Brazil was still in the game – it was a race for one place, for Austria already qualified. It was win or die for the rest, including Brazil. Which had it easier in a way, for their opponents, Austria, already advanced and perhaps were not very motivated. Coutinho changed again his strikers – now he started with Mendonca, Gil, and Roberto Dinamite. Strangely, the best known of the Brazilian strikers did not play a single minute so far. And to a point it was clear why: Rivelino, Zico, and Roberto Dinamite were not compatible... Zico, hardly noticeable so far, was benched for this match. So was Rivelino, permanently. Yet, there was no improvement...
It was 1974 again... Brazil played well defensively, but nothing work offensively. Zico was unimpressive. Obviously, Rivelino and Zico were incompatible. The attack lacked imagination and struggled – only 2 goals in 3 games was entirely un-Brazilian. Coutinho tried every possible combination in the effort to bring some power to the attack, but so far nothing worked: except Polozzi all other strikers played, including the defender Nelinho, known for his deadly long shots. Midfield also appeared disorganized and sparkless. At the end, and may be inevitably under the circumstances, Rivelino lapsed into individual play – he was often criticized for egoistic individualism in the recent years, but who could really blame him? When he tried more standard midfield organization, there was no one to really use his passes; when he moved ahead as a typical striker – there was no one to supply him. Rivelino tried to solve the unsolvable by playing alone – which appeared very selfish and counterproductive from aside. And because of that Zico was entirely lost to the game. Brazil advanced, but it was clear that Coutinho had to continue his search for effective attacking line – not a good sign at this stage of the tournament. Only two months before Coutinho said that Brazil is strong enough to win the title – after three matches his words sounded as tasteless joke. More than that – after the match with Austria the President of Brazilian Football Federation Almirante Nunes stepped in and ordered Coutinho to make specific changes: Roberto Dinamite, Mendonca, and the defender Rodrigues Neto were to be starters. Edinho and Zico were out. And very likely the coach was out... as soon as Brazil exited the World Cup.