Pele hails England next to Spain as strongest Europeans in World Cup

Brazil legend backs Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United stars to do England proud at the FIFA World Cup this month.

"I'm proud that people still concede me that honour," three-time World Cup winner Pele, 73, told MARCA when reflecting on his accolade as the greatest footballer of all-time due to his longevity at the highest echelons of world soccer, his inventive play and prolific striking.

As well as his international honours, Pele's footballing legend transcended football. Yes, he is credited with scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, is a six-time league winner in Brazil, a two-time Copa Libertadores titlist and returned 77 goals - a national record - from 92 games with the Brazil team. But he's also an icon for all sport, a champion of social issues, a humanitarian and an environmentalist. 

An ambassador for Brazilian football, there will be few who are more excited at hosting the upcoming FIFA World Cup tournament than him and, while the Samba Stars are regarded as the clear favourites to win the trophy, it is Spain and also England who the former striker believes should be seen as the danger teams from Europe.

"The best team of all time is Brazil, but this Spain team is very good," said Pele, marvelling at long-established Furia Roja athletes like Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Xavi - who have precisely 500 caps between the four of them. "Their strength is that they have been playing together for eight years; they know each other perfectly and that's why I think they are the best at the moment."

He continued by commenting on Roy Hodgson's Three Lions, a team with a unique split between experience and youth (England have the most Under-21 players in the senior selection at this World Cup): "I think that Spain and England are the strongest European teams and the ones who will put up a fight here.

"And in Latin America, in addition to Brazil, I'm going with Chile and Argentina. I think the Chilean side will be the real revelation of this World Cup."

Brazil kick off the tournament tomorrow evening, Thursday, at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. They take on Croatia in the introductory match of Group A.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch