World Cup Retrospect - Mexico ‘70
Mexico ‘70 the first World Cup to be staged outside of either Europe or South America. The tournament is still widely revered as the best of all time, with a multitude of classic games, goals and magical moments engraining the event in the echelons of football folklore. This opinion is strengthened by the exploits of Mario Zagallo’s fantastic Brazilian team of the day, fondly remembered the world over for the pure and beautiful brand of football they provided.
Before the FIFA suits implemented the chaotic and futile 2nd group phase of later tournaments, Mexico ‘70 welcomed 16 teams, four groups of four with the top two going through to a straight knockout in the quarters. FIFA also decided to introduce substitutions for the first time to combat the stifling heat, and red and yellow cards were also brought in. Sure enough, these rare moments of clarity were accompanied with the typical buffoonery associated with the sport’s top-brass. They decided against seedings, thought the toss of a coin was the best way to settle draw’s after extra-time, and chose to have simultaneous kick-offs for the quarter and semi stages - thus depriving fans the opportunity to witness some truly fantastic football.
With geographical splits to divide continental representation, the draw threw together a tasty pot in Group 3 of defending champions England, Brazil, Czechoslovakia and Romania. The Three Lions defence of the Jules Rimet trophy hit an unexpected snag when skipper Bobby Moore was arrested for an alleged theft from a Colombian jewellers following a warm-up match. The lack of evidence and subsequent diplomatic pressure meant the charges were dropped and Moore rejoined the squad in time to lead the team in their first match, a narrow win over Romania. Brazil got off to a flyer with the attacking quartet of Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Tostao slamming four past the Czechs, in a match best remembered for Pele’s audacious lob from the halfway which sailed narrowly wide of the goal. England and Brazil then came together for their legendary tussle in Guadalajara, which, settled by a single Jairzinho goal, also featured Gordan Banks’s save, Moore’s tackle on Jairzinho, and the endearing sporting embrace at the end of this titanic battle between two of the sports real gentlemen - Moore and Pele. Both sides won their final group fixture to safely progress.
El Salvador, pitted in group 1 with hosts Mexico, Belgium and the Soviet Union, literally had to shed blood to get to the tournament. A qualifying match with fierce neighbours Honduras ended in rioting, which preceded a four-day war between the two nations, leaving thousands dead. They went onto lose all three games without scoring, and were involved in more ugly scenes when a goal was allowed to stand in their 4-0 defeat to Mexico, when a Mexican player took a Salvadorian free kick. After the extended protests waivered, El Salvador booted the resulting restart out for a throw-in, and were soon on their way home anyway with the Soviets and Mexico going through.
Group 2 saw Italy and Uruguay edge a tight group at the expense of Israel and Sweden - the lacklustre Italians managing just one goal, whilst in Group 4, the West Germans inspired by two Gerd Muller hat-tricks advanced with Peru - taking part despite an earthquake in their homeland just days before the competition began killing 60,000 people.
For reasons best explained by the event organisers, all four quarter-finals kicked off at the same time, in searing midday heat. The colossal Azteca stadium was barely a quarter full to see Uruguay edge out the Soviets just four minutes before a coin toss would have dictated the winner, whilst just shy of 30,000 crammed into the Estadio Dosal in Toluca to see Mexico take on stuttering Italy. The Mexicans took an early lead but ‘golden boy’ Gianni Rivera inspired a barnstorming come back for the Azzurri with Gigi Riva scoring twice as the Italians recovered to win 4-1.
Elsewhere during the Quarterfinal-athon, Brazil added to the eight goals in three group games with another four against the plucky Peruvians. Saving the best until last was England’s epic clash with their old foes, the Germans. The match was a re-run of the ‘66 final and things looked to be going Alf Ramsey’s way once again with Alan Mullery and Martin Peters goals putting them 2-0 up. Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler took the game to extra-time. Wembley hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst had a goal chalked off before that most dangerous of creatures, Gerd Muller, snatched a winner to exact revenge from four years previous.
In the semi’s, Uruguay briefly threatened an upset against the mighty Brazil but were ultimately unable to cope with wave after wave of yellow shirted attacks. The second semi between Italy and West Germany is still considered to be one of the best World Cup games of all-time. After taking an early lead the Italians held on until injury time when Schnellinger equalised. In extra-time, all hell broke loose, Muller put the Germans in front, but Burgnich equalised before Riva put the Azzurri ahead. The lethal Muller equalised again - his tenth goal in five games - only for Rivera to score the seventh and final goal of an encounter, still dubbed ‘The game of the century’.
Whether those exertions hindered the Italians or not, the brilliant Brazilians produced another breathtaking display of football at its purest to rout them in the final. Pele nodded in the opener - Brazil’s 100th in the World Cup - before Boninsegna levelled. But like all before them, Italy could not contain the skill and creativity of Brazil, who banged in another three goals, capped off with the immortal fourth from Captain Carlos Alberto.
If ever a goal could summarise Pele’s beautiful game analogy, this was it. The move included eight outfield players, was started off by a defender dribbling round four players on the edge of his box, and was finalised by Pele’s telepathic ball seduced into the stride of the onrushing Alberto to blast home from the edge of the box. A fantastic and fitting end to a wonderful tournament, capped by a quite amazing team.