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Sunday, 13 May, 2001, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Brazilian legend Didi dies
Didi was an exceptionally gifted player
Brazilian footballer Didi, a World Cup winner in 1958 and 1962, died on Saturday aged 71.

Hospital sources said that he died of natural causes.

Didi, full name Waldir Pereira, was regarded as one of the greatest footballers Brazil has produced and was famous for his long-range shots nicknamed "the dry leaf" which dipped viciously at the last minute.

For him, playing football was as easy as peeling an orange
  Pele on Didi

Pele, who played alongside Didi at the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, led the tributes.

"Didi was very important for me in 1958. I was only 17 and he was like an older brother," said Pele.

"For him, playing football was as easy as peeling an orange.

"He invented a lot of important moves, like the dry leaf and the "three-toe pass" (striking the ball with the outside of the foot to give it an outswinging curve)."

Didi began his career in 1943 with Rio de Janeiro club Sao Cristovao as a junior.

His first big club was Fluminense who he joined in 1949. He later played for Botafogo, Spain's Real Madrid and clubs in Mexico and Peru.

In 1950, he became the first player to score at the Maracana, built for the 1950 World Cup which Brazil hosted, in a match between a Rio de Janeiro XI and a Sao Paulo XI.

World Cup successes

He made his debut for Brazil in 1952 in a 2-0 win over Mexico and played for his country in the 1954 World Cup when they were knocked out by Hungary in the infamous "Battle of Berne."

Four years later in Sweden, Didi was ever present in the team which won the first of Brazil's four World Cups.

He won another World Cup winners' medal four years later in Chile, where the final against Czechoslovakia was his last game for his country.

After that Didi took to coaching and in 1970 led Peru in their first World Cup.

The Peruvians delighted the world with their effervescent football and might have gone further than the last eight had they not had the misfortune to meet Brazil's Pele-inspired team in a quarter-final which Brazil won 4-2.

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