RIO DE JANEIRO – The tall gangly figure of Serginho is blamed by many Brazilians for the failure of their sublime side to win the 1982 World Cup. Today's No. 9 in the Brazil shirt, Fred, looked to be following in Serginho's footsteps until he finally found the net after 228 tournament minutes without a goal in a 4-1 victory over Cameroon.
With Fred having only scored once before for Brazil in the previous 12 months, the Fluminense striker is bound to remain under scrutiny — despite being the joint top-scorer at the 2013 Confederations Cup with five goals. His next chance should come in Saturday's last 16 match against Chile. The No. 10 shirt may be the most fabled in Brazilian football, thanks to the likes of Pele, Zico and now Neymar, but in the nation of the five-time World Cup winners you also have to be pretty special to wear the No. 9.
Five of Brazil's best-known No. 9s:
Three-time World Player of the Year, double World Cup winner and current leading World Cup scorer of all-time, Ronaldo has few rivals to the title of greatest World Cup No. 9. A non-playing member of the 1994 World Cup winning squad, the man from Rio de Janeiro was named the player of the tournament as Brazil reached the final in 1998. Four years later, he led his countrymen to their fifth World Cup trophy, claiming the Golden Boot in the process. A final international tally of 62 goals in 98 matches placed him second behind Pele in the list of Brazil's all-time record goal scorers.
Despite being a central midfielder by trade and being limited by a self-confessed lack of pace, an almost unusable right foot and a distaste for heading the ball, the 1970 World Cup No. 9 Tostao sets a similarly imposing standard. The vision and passing ability of the 5ft 7.5 inch Brazilian allowed him to shine in a team containing Pele, Jairzinho and Rivelino. He scored twice as Brazil won the 1970 World Cup in one what is widely regarded as the best footballing performance by a team at any tournament.
The man whose injury saw Serginho promoted to the starting line-up for the 1982 World Cup wore the No. 9 shirt for much of the 1980s and early 90s. In an aging side, Careca was the second top scorer at the 1986 tournament, despite Brazil bowing out in the quarterfinals. He took his World Cup goal tally to seven in Italy four years later before bowing out of international football in 1993. Like Fred, Careca played in Europe, forming Napoli's legendary "Ma-Gi-Ca" front line alongside Diego Maradona and Bruno Giordano, and winning the club's first Serie A title in 1986/87.
Despite a similarly impressive strike rate to the luminaries on this list, Fabiano is perhaps a more realistic benchmark for Fred to aim at. The striker hadn't scored for Brazil for more than nine months ahead of the 2010 World Cup, before netting twice in the second group game against Ivory Coast. Fabiano scored again in the round of 16 before Brazil lost to runners-up, the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. Fabiano won the Golden Boot at the Confederations Cup (2009) and was the top scorer in Brazil's domestic league.
The bad news for Fred is that even the derided Serginho so far has a better World Cup No. 9 record. The man variously labeled by the international press in 1982 as "a talentless brute", a "donkey" and "a lumbering giant" actually scored two goals in the tournament, including one against Argentina. He is also credited by some observers as playing a critical pivot role, allowing the smooth movements of Zico, Socrates and co to flow around him.