World Cup 1970

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  • Story of Mexico '70

        The 1970 World Cup is regarded by many to be the best ever. Mexico ousted Argentina during the FIFA congress in 1964 and won the right to host the ninth edition of the tournament. Many delegates were a bit worried about the high altitude and how that would affect the matches, but despite the thin air, hot temperatures and early kick-off times the quality shown on the field by the best teams was impressive.

        Defending champions England had their own problems before the World Cup started. During the preparation camp in Bogota, skipper Bobby Moore was accused of stealing a bracelet and was forced to stay in Colombia while the rest of the England team travelled to Mexico. Thankfully, he was released due to lack of evidence and could join the England party a few days later. Moore went on to play up to his brilliant best in this World Cup despite the pre-tournament distraction.

        The World Cup tournament set-up was identical to the one four years earlier. Sixteen teams - four groups of four teams with the best two teams in each group through to the quarterfinal knock-out stage. The new additions from FIFA for this World Cup included yellow and red cards plus substitutions. The red card was not used a single time during the three weeks in Mexico, making 1970 one of only two World Cups to this day (the other 1950) to be staged without a player being sent off.

        The boring Group A 0-0 curtain-raiser between the hosts and Soviet Union was not a worthy teaser to the remaining 31 games. The players lined up and waited an extra-half hour in the mid-day sun, listened to speeches and watched balloons fly into the sky before kick-off. May be that took some energy out of them. By 1970 opening ceremonies at World Cups had started to become huge spectacles.

        Both Soviet Union and Mexico progressed rather comfortably to the quarterfinals. Belgium gave some resistance, but could not occupy any of the top spots. El Salvador was the group's fourth team. They literally fought a war to qualify for the World Cup. The decisive 3-2 win over arch rivals Honduras triggered off military actions for four days between two countries who already were at loggerheads with each other. Thousands of people were killed. El Salvador's football team, made up by amateur players, could not measure up against the three other teams in the group and lost all games without scoring a goal.

        Group B produced only six goals in six games. Slow starters Italy impressed nobody, but did enough to top the group thanks to a Domenghini goal against Sweden - their only first round goal. Israel made their World Cup debut and got two creditable draws with Italy and Sweden, but it wasn't enough to avoid the bottom position. They went home early with Sweden. Uruguay qualified alongside Italy.

        Group C brought together first and foremost champions England and favourites Brazil. The match between them is regarded as one of the best in World Cup history - certainly among first round matches. Brazil won 1-0 thanks to a Jairzinho goal after a fine attack, but the game is also remembered for the "save of the century" by Gordon Banks from a Pelé header. Pelé himself looked rejuvenated after the beating he took in 1966. In Brazil's first match against Czechoslovakia they won 4-1 after coming from behind with Pelé in sparkling form. He once tried to score from 60 yards out, but missed the target by a few inches.

        Romania stood up well against Brazil, but lost 3-2 in another entertaining match in this group. Despite some fine efforts none of the Eastern European teams matched up against England and Brazil who marched into the last eight with confidence.

        The last group featured some great action too. Peru came from 0-2 down to beat Bulgaria 3-2 to soften the pain felt by their countrymen after the devastating earthquake which killed over 60,000 people just days before the World Cup. Teofilo Cubillas made a name for himself and he would become one of the stars of the tournament.

        Debutants Morocco held a 1-0 lead against West Germany for nearly an hour before Uwe Seeler and Gerd Müller saved the day for the 1966 finalists. Müller was unstoppable and knocked in consecutive hat-tricks against Bulgaria and Peru taking his goaltally to seven by the end of the first round groupstage. Peru followed the Germans to the quarterfinals.

        The knock-out stage was badly organized from the TV-audiences' point of view. All matches had kick-off at the same time which caused fans to miss a lot of live action. There were 80,000 empty seats at Azteca for the Uruguay v Soviet Union match. Mexico played against Italy in the tiny stadium at Toluca at the same time. At Azteca both teams looked certain to head for a special kind of tie-breaker - the toss of coin - but after 117 minutes a controversial goal gave Uruguay the victory. Victor Esparrago headed in a cross from Luis Cubilla which might have gone out of play before it was headed in. The goal stood anyway.

        In Toluca, Mexico took an early lead to the delight of the home crowd, but Italy - who only scored one goal in the groupstage - made an heroic comeback and won 4-1. Gianni Rivera came off the bench and transformed the game.

        Nobody could stop Brazil either who scored four more goals in an open game against Peru who bowed out in style. Tostao and Rivelino played key-roles in this game. The fourth quarterfinal was a replay of the Final four years earlier. England had a 2-0 lead deep into the second half when Beckenbauer brought West Germany a glimmer of hope with a fine goal. West Germany's equalizer came from a looping header by Seeler. Peter Bonetti - stand-in goalkeeper for a sick Banks - looked out of position. Just like in 1966 the game went to extra time, but this time West Germany won - the winning goal was scored by Gerd Müller, who else?

        The semifinal stage saw two more great games - one of them an all-time classic. Italy lead West Germany by 1-0 at Azteca when defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger - a veteran of four World Cups - went forward and knocked in his only international goal in stoppage time to secure extra time. The extra thirty minutes brought no less than five goals. Italy bowed out 4-3 winners with Rivera - once again coming off the bench - getting the winner. In Guadalajara Brazil came from behind to beat Uruguay 3-1 with some breath-taking attacking football. Rivelino, Tostao, Pele and Jairzinho once again the deadly quartet.

        The World Cup Final at Mexico '70 has become one of the most classic of all time. Pelé headed in 1-0 - Brazil's 100th goal in World Cup history. Gerson followed up with a great goal from long range, Jairzinho kept his goal-in-every-game-record going and captain Carlos Alberto finished it all off with a thunderous shot following a wonderful move. 4-1 the final score and a fantastic ending to a tournament that thrilled the world. A grand total of 34 goals scored from the quarterfinals onwards contributed a great deal in making this World Cup unforgettable.

        Brazil won permanent possession of the Jules Rimet Cup. FIFA said in 1930: The first country to win it three times keeps it forever. Pelé crowned his career with his third title, Mario Zagallo became the first man to win the World Cup both as player and coach and the whole team of 1970 has become some kind of yardstick for all others to measure up against.




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