This is the eighth in a weekly series of World Cup history lessons brought to you by our very own “Professor” Guy Bailey. He is not actually a professor; the only professor on staff is Jamie Clary. Well, sort of.
The 1970 World Cup
The ninth World Cup is technically the first to be hosted outside of South America and Europe and is therefore North America’s first (sorry guys!)
Classic is an overused word to describe a lot of transient crap but virtually everything about this tournament screams CLASSIC at you in a loud voice, through a bullhorn, into your ear – the Day-Glo kits, in color for the first time for a generation of TV viewers watching matches live back in Europe (which resulted in a lot of lunchtime local kick-offs which put a lot of teams at a disadvantage); the classic black and white ball by Adidas, used for the first time, the first appearances of substitutes and yellow/red cards in a World Cup tournament; arguably the greatest save ever made, the greatest tackle ever made, the most audacious tricks ever played and after the final presentation of the Jules Rimet Trophy to the winners – the touchstone for the greatest attacking football ever played.
The format of the tournament remained the same although the revolutionary concept of using goal difference to separate the teams was now implemented along with extra-time in the quarter and semi finals, although instead of penalty kicks, the winners name would be drawn out of a hat by the referee the following day!
Group One saw the always dangerous, always relentless Soviet Union win, edging out the hosts into second who also overcame Belgium and El Salvador to go into the quarter finals. This was particularly tough on the El Salvadorians who had to overcome an unusually tough qualifying campaign which culminated in a brief War with their larger neighbors Honduras after two particularly ill-tempered qualifying matches. Their final tally of 0 wins, draws or goals and nine against was a sad testament to the number of lives lost in the conflict which is still known as the “Soccer War” today.
Group Two saw Italy advance as winners with Uruguay pipping Sweden to second place on Goal Difference, despite a last minute Swedish winner in the match between them in the last group game. Israel, making their tournament debut, proved less than chosen ones with only one goal and two draws to show for their efforts.
Group Three saw the first genuine clash of the titans thanks to the vagaries of the seeding system – the holders England would square off against the favorites, Brazil. Romania and Czechoslovakia did their best to crash in from the undercard but both were readily dispatched to set the scene for the match of the century. Brazil started brightly and Pele forced a miraculous save from Banks with a powerful downward header. The great man admitting that he shouted “GOAL!” as he connected, so sure of its destination. England’s colossus in this match was World Cup Winning Skipper Bobby Moore, already recovering from the drama of being accused of stealing a bracelet from a Colombian jeweler before the tournament began and suffering the indignity of house arrest for days, Moore rose to the occasion and time and again thwarted the brilliant Brazilians, the tackle on Jairzinho being a textbook example of the art – a second late and it’s a penalty but not only does he take the ball, incapacitate the opponent fairly but is able to bring the ball out of defence and set up a counter attack. Coaches take note.
There was nothing that Moore or anybody could do later in the game when Jairzinho got revenge with a decisive bullet strike to win the game for Brazil 1-0 but Pele for one admitted that it was his toughest match in a yellow shirt. “See you in the Final” he told Moore after the match in an iconic photograph. Unfortunately, and not for the first time, the great man’s prediction was incorrect but both went through.
Group Four saw West Germany sweep all before them with the exciting new striker Gerd Muller proudly to the fore with seven goals in the group stage, including two hat-tricks against Bulgaria and Peru, laying down a marker of his future greatness. The Peruvians joined them in the last eight, overcoming Morocco, the first Africans to qualify for the Tournament for 25 years.
The first Quarter Final saw a tense and dour affair as the Uruguayans overcame the Soviet Union 1-0 with a goal four minutes from the end of extra time. The second match saw the Brazilians turn it on again beating South American neighbors Peru 4-2, although the men from Machu Pichu gave a better account of themselves than the score suggests.
Mexico took the lead against the Italians in their quarter final but the dream lasted 10 minutes before the great Gigi Riva and Rivera piled on the misery in a 4-1 demolition. The fourth quarter final was another classic, again England faced West Germany in a repeat of the 1966 Final. Again, England looked to be heading for victory, taking a 2-0 lead early in the second half. Then, England Manager Sir Alf Ramsey probably made the greatest tactical error of his career; he took of midfield talisman Bobby Charlton, later admitting to wanting to “save him for the semi final”. Within minutes Beckenbauer and then Seeler brought the Germans level and back into extra time. Inevitably, the pendulum shifted towards the Germans and man of the moment Muller sealed victory in with 12 minutes to go to eliminate the World Champions and give rise to conspiracy theories everywhere. The England goalkeeper Gordon Banks was unable to play in the match due to suffering from violent food poisoning. His replacement Peter Bonnetti, was widely blamed for two of the German goals, a fact my own dad reminded him off when warming up a Chelsea goalkeeper some 20 years later at Ayresome Park. Nevertheless, no other player suffered from these ill effects despite sharing the same menu and Banks, Bonnetti and England bade the World Cup a fond farewell – for 12 years as it would later turn out.
The first semi-final saw Uruguay poke the sleeping bear and take the lead against the Brazilians before the glory boys took over, equalizing before half time and then turning on a show in the second half. Pele was the conductor and produced a miss more famous than most people’s goals in the second half. 3-1 was the final score. The second semi was another humdinger, Italy taking the lead on eight minutes and believing themselves to be in the final until Germany equalized with virtually the last kick of the match. Extra time two goals from Muller, both equalized until Rivera sealed the win for the Italians with nine minutes remaining. How much this feat took out of them we will never know but they worked a heck of a lot more for their victory than the Brazilians did. West Germany signed off from the competition with 3rd place beating Uruguay 1-0, Muller unable to add to his tally of 10 goals, and the scene was set for one of the most memorable finals ever.
The Final took place on June 21st in the mighty Azteca Stadium in Mexico City drawing an official crowd of 107,412 spectators with millions more watching live around the world. The next goal for Brazil would be their 100th in World Cup Competition and perhaps rightly, Pele was the man to score it, heading home after only eight minutes. A dreadful mistake let the Italians back into the match at 1-1 and as history reminds us, this was as good as it got for the Italians in Mexico City. Rivellino nearly broke the crossbar with a thunderous free-kick before Gerson restored Brazil’s advantage with a clean, crisp strike. Jairzinho, chief architect of the victory got the third and became the first player in World Cup History to score in each and every match the team played.
The 4th goal is a collector’s item in and of itself. After some great defensive dribbling the ball comes to Jairzinho on the left, he plays it infield to Pele who traps the ball and with barely a glance to his right, feeds in the rampaging captain, Carlos Alberto who lashes in the winner. 4-1 to Brazil and possibly the most popular winning team of all time were crowned with Brazil being awarded the Jules Rimet trophy permanently for being the first nation to win it three times.
Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com.