The 1970 World Cup
Great Sporting moments -the 1970 World Cup
By Steve Wade
When preparing these articles I always find it easiest if I write about something that really meant something to me personally and this month I want to tell you about the 1970 World Cup, memorable because it was covered by satellite television and beamed around the world for the first time. In colour too!
England were the holders after winning the previous tournament at Wembley and sent a formidable squad to defend the trophy. Despite being played in Mexico, with it’s high altitude and stifling heat, they were expected to put up a stern defence of the title.
Up against them were some excellent sides from both Europe and South America including Germany, Italy and the current South American champions Uruguay. And then there was Brazil. Everyone who followed football knew the name Pele but the rest of the Brazilian squad were complete unknowns to people watching in Europe up until then but the names of Rivellino, Jairzinho, Tostao and the rest would be written into football history forever after what they did at this tournament.
With apologies to our younger readers, it is difficult to overstate what an impact the arrival of satellite TV and colour on our screens had back in 1970. The whole tournament looked great but the Brazilians appeared like footballing golden gods on our TV sets and people were mesmerised by them, myself included.
Back in England the tournament really caught fire when England played Brazil in the group stages. The current seeding system was not in place at that time so two of the favourites for the competition could be drawn against each other. After a pulsating match where England more than held their own a goal from Jairzinho secured a 1-0 win for the Brazilians, despite England having several chances to level the score late on. Both teams had won their previous two matches and advanced to the last eight.
The quarter finals is where the tournament really began to cement its place in football history. The all South American match between Peru and Brazil, which the latter won 4-2, is considered to be one of the most entertaining World Cup ties ever, with both teams going for all out attack. This was in fact the Brazilian strategy, which was basically if you score one goal, we’ll score two. You score two, we’ll score three. Not very scientific but if you had those players, pretty effective!
England went out to West Germany 3-2 in another thriller of a quarter final. After going 2-0 up they were pegged back to 2-2 and Gerd Muller scored in extra time to win the game. Incidentally this was the first time that Germany had ever beaten England in a competitive match.
The semi final line up of Italy v Germany and Uruguay v Brazil, who were all previous world champions, produced more great football. Brazil overcame Uruguay 3-1 after going a goal behind but it was the other game that produced the real fireworks. Italy led from as early as the eighth minute before being pegged back late on, sending the game into extra time. Five more goals were scored with Italy finally coming out on top 4-3. The match was dubbed the “game of the century” and even has a monument outside the Estadio Azteca to commemorate it.
And so onto the final, where the dark blue of the Italians would face the Gold of the Brazilians in the glorious sunshine of Mexico. This is where the skill and artistry of the Brazil team was really etched into the memory of everyone who saw it. I remember watching it as a kid myself and being transfixed by the colourful scene and incredible football that I was witnessing.
Pele put the Brazilians ahead but Roberto Boninsenga equalised for the Italians after a mix up in Brazils defence. Never their strong point! The match remained level until around midway through the second half when Gerson, another world class player who we had never heard of, lashed in a powerful shot from 20 yards. A third goal from Jairzinho, who had now scored in every round of the competition, a record yet to be equalled, secured the match for the Brazilians but there was enough time for one more goal, the goal that would seal the teams reputation as probably the greatest World Cup team ever.
I’m sure you remember it but what always amazes me is the part played by Clodoaldo, a centre back, beating three players in his own half!
The highest goal per game average ever, no sendings off and a parade of world class players never seen before or since. Unforgettable for a twelve year old football fan watching on his first colour TV.