World Cups remembered: Mexico 1970

If the 1966 tournament was played to the soundtrack of The Beatles, the 1970 World Cup danced to a Samba rhythm.

Brazilians show all how beautiful game should be played

Brazil were back after their misery in England four years earlier and the footballing world was about to witness the greatest team this planet has ever seen.

England, of course, came to the tournament as reigning champions but their chances of a repeat seemed to be jinxed from the start.

Firstly, they were drawn in the same Group C as Brazil to make any route to the final that much harder.

And then the nation’s greatest player Bobby Moore was arrested on the eve of the tournament during a stop-off in Colombia.

During a walkabout in a shopping arcade, Moore was accused of stealing a bracelet and was whisked off to the police station to face theft charges.

When the accusations were shown to be bogus, Moore was released and had to fly on behind the squad who had left for Mexico to start preparations.

Moore’s performances in the World Cup were to be greater perhaps than they had been in 1966 given these traumatic beginnings.

Yet another World Cup goal from Geoff Hurst saw off an obdurate Czech team in the opening match while Brazil swept aside Romania.

Then both sides met in the heat of Guadalajara for a match that became almost the defining moment of the tournament.

There was hardly a wafer between the two sides but the exuberant winger Jairzinho got the winner for the Brazilians, who marched onto the top of the group.

England edged out Romania 1-0 to fill the second spot but that was to mean an uncanny repeat clash with West Germany in the quarter-finals.

The Germans had won Group D thanks to Gerd Muller, who banged in one against Morocco, two against Bulgaria and a hat-trick in the group showdown with Peru.

After their 1966 debacle, Italy were enjoying a renaissance in Group B where they remained unbeaten to edge out the Uruguayans.

The host nation qualified second on goal difference in Group A behind the always resilient Soviet Union.

But they were to be crushed 4-1 by Italy in the quarter-finals where the cannonball shooting of Cagliari’s Luigi Riva was starting to become a factor.

Uruguay needed a goal three minutes from the end of extra-time to see off the Soviet Union for a semi-final spot while Brazil were starting to warm to their task.

They beat a Peru side coached by the Brazilian great from the 1958 World Cup side, Didi, and the teams traded goals and skills before Brazil emerged 4-2 winners.

That left one quarter-final; England v West Germany at Leon.

To say it was a game of two halves was almost to defy cliché.

England, purring confidence and class, streaked into a 2-0 lead inside an hour through Alan Mullery and Martin Peters before Sir Alf Ramsey made perhaps one of his few mistakes in a decade in charge of the national team.

To spare key players from the blistering heat, he withdrew Bobby Charlton and Peters.

Franz Beckenbauer, released from his stultifying task of shackling Charlton, stepped more into midfield and an astonishing fightback began.

Beckenbauer himself fired home the first and when the veteran Uwe Seeler back-headed home a cross eight minutes from time, the tide had simply turned.

A shell-shocked keeper Peter Bonetti, deputising for the sick Gordon Banks on the day of the match, was bemused by crosses coming in from either wing and when Muller volleyed home the winner from close range in the second period of extra-time, Bonetti was left clawing the post and England were a spent force.

A country was in shock.

Though it dragged for another disastrous World Cup qualifying tournament and the party-pooping Poles, the golden era of Ramsey, Moore and Charlton really ended in the heat of Leon.

But the aura of Mexico ’70 was beginning to work its magic.

Jairzinho continued his goal a game record in Brazil’s 3-1 destruction of Uruguay in the first semi-final.

Even the defensively-educated Italians and the workmanlike Germans produced a footballing feast in the second semi-final.

When the whistle blew on 120 minutes of exhilarating attacking, five goals had been scored in an amazing extra-time period and Italy won through to the final 4-3 thanks to a 112th minute winner from Gianni Rivera, the craftsman among the young artisans.

The final was expected to be a great match – it exceeded all expectations.

Nobody reaches a World Cup final by fluke and the Italians, obdurate in defence and powerful in attack, fancied their chances.

They needn’t have bothered turning up.

They became the barely considered sideshow to a festival of footballing heaven even though Boninsegna equalised Pele’s early header to send the teams in 1-1 at half-time.

After the interval, they simply became caught in the headlights as Brazil out-passed, out-thought and out-scored them.

Midfield anchor Gerson drilled in a 25-yarder to make it 2-1, Jairzinho set the record for scoring in every match in the tournament to make it three and skipper Carlos Alberto fittingly sealed the 4-1 victory after half the team exchanged passes in a sweeping 70-yard move while the Italians looked on as admiring bystanders.

The greatest team ever had won the greatest World Cup ever.

The game had never seemed more beautiful.

Player of the tournament: Pele

In a team of stars, Pele became a legend. To find weaknesses would have needed the most powerful microscope. He scored goals, had blistering pace, consummate ball skills, positional sense, power in the air. But more than that, he had presence. He not only played better than anyone else, he looked like he enjoyed every minute of it. Each feint or trick seemed to delight him as much as his adoring public. His outrageous dummy in the semi-final on Uruguayan keeper Mazurkiewicz fully 40 yards from goal will live forever in the memory – even though he then fired the ball wide. More than 30 years on, his mere appearance in a room can bring most fans to their feet. Pele was – and is – the king of all footballers and the 1970 World Cup remains his crowning glory.

Goal of the tournament: Carlos Alberto v Italy

Brazil dominated this category as they did every other but simply saved their best for the very last goal of the tournament. The tough-tackling Clodoaldo shimmied his way past three Italians in his own half before feeding Rivelino on the left. The moustachioed winger drilled a pass 40 yards unerringly up the line. Jairzinho controlled in an instant, shook off his marker and cut inside to find Pele on the D. The maestro stood for what seemed an eternity mesmerising defenders before releasing a pass into space on his right. Carlos Alberto, having loped 70 yards to join in, rifled the ball low into the bottom right-hand corner with keeper Albertosi left rooted. It was the consummate team goal by the team without equal.

Match of the tournament: Brazil 1-0 England

The Brazilians were brilliant in the tournament and irresistible in the final but 14 days earlier, England almost brought off the impossible. The match was the dream confrontation, the attacker against the defender, the puncher against the boxer. And most of all, it produced the greatest cross of all time and the greatest save, Jairzinho’s electric burst past Terry Cooper and pinpoint far-post centre a nanosecond before colliding with the cameramen and Banks’ logic-defying clawing of Pele’s header from the goal-line at the base of the post. It was barely a half-chance and Brazil scored with the only genuine chance they were given by a heroic English defence, Jairzinho profiting from Cooper’s slip to drill home the only goal of the game. England had three clear-cut openings but Francis Lee, Alan Ball and the late lamented Jeff Astle contrived to miss them all. At the time, it seemed a tragedy but looking back, it was a fitting result. England surrendered their World Cup crown to the side that deserved it most. At the final whistle, Pele sportingly sought out the matchless Bobby Moore and offered to exchange shirts with a handshake. An old era had gone and a new one was beginning.

Home nations

Having won the 1966 tournament, England qualified automatically for the 1970 World Cup. England were drawn alongside Romania, Czechoslovakia and Brazil in Group 3.

They got off to a winning start as Geoff Hurst’s 65th minute strike disposed of the Romanians at Estadio Jalisco.

England then tackled Brazil and despite performing admirably were defeated when Jairzinho netted for the classy South Americans.

But they claimed the runners-up berth after Allan Clarke’s penalty edged out Czechoslovakia.

England were then drawn versus rivals West Germany in the quarter-finals, with revenge in the latter’s thoughts after their 1966 final defeat.

England started expertly and goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters put them 2-0 up.

However, second-half strikes from the excellent Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler ensured the match went to extra-time.

And England’s misery and exit was confirmed when Gerd Muller struck on 108 minutes for West Germany.

Northern Ireland failed to reach the finals after they finished two points behind table-topping USSR in their qualifying group.

Wales ended up bottom of their qualifying group and without a point to their name after they were handed a difficult draw against Italy and East Germany.

Scotland rallied in qualifying Group 7 but ultimately finished four points behind eventual winners West Germany.