Mexico 1970 – The Greatest FIFA World Cup of Them All?
Every football fan has their own particular favourite FIFA World Cup Finals competition but the consensus is that the tournament held in Mexico in 1970 was the greatest of them all. What was it about Mexico that made it so special? Perhaps it was a combination of factors which included an England squad defending their trophy widely regarded as even better than the team which won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966. Then there was the exotic location and for many the first chance to see the matches live on TV in colour. Add to the mix some very good teams from Italy, West Germany, Uruguay, Peru, the Soviet Union and the host Nation, Mexico. Then there was the fact that as the competition had just 16 qualifiers, there was none of the meaningless matches we have today for the first two weeks where the dross is eliminated. But above all there was Brazil. A Brazil who played the game with such flair and style that they are quite rightly regarded as the greatest football team the game has ever seen. There was Pelé & Rivelino, Jairzinho & Gerson, Tostao & Everaldo and if Brazil’s defence wasn’t quite up to the standards of their midfield and attack they also had one of football’s best ever full-backs in team captain Carlos Alberto. The first phase saw the elimination of Belgium and El Salvador from Group A, Sweden and Israel from Group B, Romania and Czechoslovakia from Group C and Bulgaria and Morocco from Group D. The four Quarter-Finals then offered-up a mouthwatering feast of football.
Uruguay and the Soviet Union had a closely fought match which was resolved three minutes before the end of extra time when Espárrago put the South Americans into the Semi-Final, despite Soviet protests about the cross which led to the goal going out of play. Italy, who only managed to score once against Israel & Sweden in the group stage, had a comfortable win over their Mexican hosts 4-1.
Brazil beat Peru in the all South American Quarter Final 4-2 and the last match was between the old enemies England and West Germany. Alan Mullery and Martin Peters put England two goals up and most people watching on TV thought that was pretty much that. Alf Ramsey decided to substitute Bobby Charlton and bring-on Colin Bell instead and while many consider this to have been a blunder the truth was that Charlton was exhausted and there was little option. In any case, the Germans could do nothing but attack and they got a goal back through Beckenbauer and their equaliser came with 8 minutes remaining through Seeler. Extra time was played and striker Gerd Muller won the game for the Germans and England were on their way home.
The Semi-Finals saw one of the most astounding matches in World Cup history as Italy and West Germany played a thriller which went to extra time with the Italians winning 4-3 in a match dubbed “The Game of the Century”. Brazil booked their passage to the Final with a solid 3-1 win over Uruguay.
The Final itself was probably one of the most talked-about and analyzed games in football history as the skill, artistry and rhythm of the Brazilians overcame the tactics and flair of the Italians 4-1. Brazil’s goals came from Pelé, Gerson’s thunderbolt from outside the box, Jairzinho’s close range effort and the icing on the cake from Carlos Alberto at the end of a move in which no less than 9 Brazilians had been involved.