The 1970 football finals took place in the hot heat of a Mexican summer, and at high altitude, with the stadiums at Mexico City, Puebla and Toluca being over 7,000 feet above sea level. The tournament is well remembered for the style and panache of the victorious Pelé-led Brazilian team, but with kick-offs taking place in the middle of the day to suit European television audiences many matches took place in almost intolerable conditions. Mexico had been blessed with the Olympic Games in 1968 and so was equipped with several new stadiums suitable for hosting the competition.

This was the first tournament to be shown on colour television, and the bright vibrant colours of the yellow Brazilian strip remain embedded on the footballing psyche. Also, luckily considering the conditions, substitutes were permitted for the first time, with two changes a side being allowed during each match. The yellow and red card disciplinary system for bookings and sending offs was also introduced. Countries competing in their first world cup finals were; El Salvador, Israel and Morocco.

The format

The 16 competing teams were split into 4 groups of 4, with the teams in each group playing in a round robin format. After each team had played the others in their group once the two leading teams would go forward to the quarter-finals where a straight knock-out format would determine the semi-finalists and finalists.

The venues

Matches were held at 5 stadiums spread throughout Mexico.

The results

First Round

	Group A						

Soviet Union 0 0  Mexico       (Mexico City)
Belgium      3 0  El Salvador  (Mexico City)
Soviet Union 4 1  Belgium      (Mexico City)
Mexico       4 0  El Salvador  (Mexico City)
Soviet Union 2 0  El Salvador  (Mexico City)
Mexico       1 0  Belgium      (Mexico City)

Soviet Union    3  2  1  0  6  1  5      
Mexico          3  2  1  0  5  0  5      
Belgium         3  1  0  2  4  5  2 
El Salvador     3  0  0  3  0  9  0  

The opening game of the tournament was a dull, lifeless and goalless affair between Mexico and the USSR taking place in the midday sun. In the other game Belgium easily defeated a weak El Salvador team. El Salvador were playing in their first world cup, and had qualified after a fraught campaign. A decisive play-off against neighbours Honduras had led to a short and bloody so-called 'football war' in July 1969, after rioting had escalated the tensions between the two central American states.

The next round of matches effectively decided who would make the quarter-finals, with the Soviet Union dismantling a disappointing Belgian side, helped by two goals from striker Anatoli Bychevetz. Hosts Mexico then beat El Salvador, but were beneficiaries of a bizarre refereeing decision when Mexico scored their first goal after Mexican Mario Perez took a free-kick that had been awarded to El Salvador. Despite strong, heartfelt protests the resulting goal was allowed to stand, and Mexico strode to an easy victory. In their last match against Belgium, Mexico playing in front of 112,000 fans, won again, this time thanks to a most dubious penalty decision. Mexico had reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

	Group B						

Uruguay       2 0  Israel       (Puebla)
Italy         1 0  Sweden       (Toluca)
Uruguay       0 0  Italy        (Puebla)
Sweden        1 1  Israel       (Toluca)
Uruguay       0 1  Sweden       (Puebla)
Italy         0 0  Israel       (Toluca)

Italy          3  1  2  0  1  0  4      
Uruguay        3  1  1  1  2  1  3      
Sweden         3  1  1  1  2  2  3 
Israel         3  0  2  1  1  3  2 

Although the 1970 tournament is fondly remembered as being a great advertisement for attacking free-flowing football, this group represented the antithesis to such display. Perhaps the high altitude and hot weather prevented the players reaching their potential, perhaps the defensive and tactical mindsets of the teams involved inhibited them from expressing themselves. None of the games in this group were memorable. Ten minutes into Uruguay's first game their talented little playmaker Pedro Rocha was injured and took no further part in the tournament. Ten minutes into Italy's first game they scored the only goal they would achieve in this stage, courtesy of Angelo Domenghini and a weak effort by the Swedish goalkeeper.

The games plodded out, Israel surpassing expectations, Uruguay hanging on to qualify despite losing to an uninspired Sweden, Italy relying on their excellent defensive capabilities for safe passage.

	Group C						

Romania        0 1  England        (Guadalajara)
Czechoslovakia 1 4  Brazil         (Guadalajara)
Romania        2 1  Czechoslovakia (Guadalajara)
England        0 1  Brazil         (Guadalajara)
Romania        2 3  Brazil         (Guadalajara)
England        1 0  Czechoslovalia (Guadalajara)

Brazil          3  3  0  0  8  3  6      
England         3  2  0  1  2  1  4      
Romania         3  1  0  2  4  5  2 
Czechoslovakia  3  0  0  3  2  7  0  

This was the most exciting group, featuring both the holders England and the skilful rejuvenated winners in 1962 and 1958, Brazil. The group was rounded out by two countries from behind the iron curtain. The English sides build-up had been mired by a number of incidents, notably captain Bobby Moore being arrested under suspicion of shoplifting in Bogota after a warm-up game against Colombia. The charges were later shown to be without foundation but the disruption to England's preparations remained. Further difficulties were to follow thanks to manager Alf Ramsey's uncommunicative approach with the Mexican press would alienate locals and after nervous flyer Geoff Astle emerged from a plane landing at Mexico City in a deep state of inebriation the team were taunted as 'a team of thieves and drunks' according to one Mexican newspaper.

England were made to work hard in their opening game, but emerged winners thanks to a goal from 1966 hero Geoff Hurst. Meanwhile Brazil were setting out their stall with a display of energetic, breathtaking football, in their 4-1 victory over Czechoslovakia. As if to emphasize the question mark over the Brazilian defence the Czech/Slovaks scored first. Brazil quickly regained terms thanks to a trademark Rivelino swerving free-kick, and then took the lead before half-time thanks to a left-footed volley from Pelé. Brazil stretched their lead with two goals from Jairzinho in the second half.

So to Brazil against England, a game that some observers consider as the real final. The England team, encamped in the Hilton hotel in central Guadalajara had to endure a barrage of noise from dusk to dawn, cars honking, motorbikes revving and chants of 'Brazil, Brazil'. The game started in 98 degree heat, England playing their customary 4-4-2 while Brazil had the wingers of Jairzinho and Rivelino, although Gérson was missing for this match. Brazil began at full tint, Jairzinho tormenting the England left-back Terry Cooper, and this mastery looked to put Brazil in the lead after 10 minutes as Jairzinho reached the byline and pulled a cross back for an unmarked Pelé, who was shouting 'goal!' as he headed the ball downwards into the net. Now goalkeeper Gordon Banks pulled off one of the most famous saves in football, moving virtually the whole length of the goal before gymnastically flailing to get an outreached hand to the ball to send it over the bar.

After this display of brilliance from both sides, the game opened up, although England's forwards Hurst and Francis Lee failed to capitalise on their openings. One side had to give way, and it was England who broke first, after some clever interplay between Pelé and Tostão, who managed to glide past the England defence, led to a Jairzinho goal. England strove to get back in the game, introducing the tall Astle to try and trouble the Brazilian defence, but Astle would fluff his chance. Despite a late Alan Ball shot hitting the bar, Brazil won, and the defining image of the game was the mutual respect and camaraderie between the Pelé and Moore, the respective captains.

Brazil, now certain of qualification for the next stage fielded a weakened team against Romania, but emerged victorious. England, also followed suit in an attempt to rest players for future games but looked all at sea and struggled against Czechoslovakia, having to rely on a fortunate penalty decision to win the game.

	Group D						

Peru            3 2  Bulgaria        (León)
Morocco         1 2  West Germany    (León)
Peru            3 0  Morocco         (León)
Bulgaria        2 5  West Germany    (León)
Peru            1 3  West Germany    (León)
Bulgaria        1 1  Morocco         (León)

West Germany    3  3  0  0 10  4  6      
Peru            3  2  0  1  7  5  4      
Bulgaria        3  0  1  2  5  9  1 
Morocco         3  0  1  2  2  6  1 

The final group say both Peru and West Germany qualify after only two games each, but both teams suffered little hiccups along the way. In their opening game Peru went quickly behind to Bulgaria, conceding a soft early goal after ten minutes, and another early in the second half. Peru made use of both substitutes, changing their side round and emerged victorious, helped by the splendid individual displays from Teofilo Cubillas and Alberto Gallardo who scored a goal apiece. Similarly, West Germany were taking aback by the attacking play from unfancied Morocco and also found themselves a goal behind after a mix-up between defender Horst Höttges and keeper Sepp Maier allowed Mohammed Jarir Houmani to score. In the second half Germany brought on winger Jürgen Grabowski who managed to turn the game around, and set up the winning goal, which was scored by Gerd Müller reacting to Hannes Löhr header against the crossbar from Grabowski's cross.

Peru and West Germany found their second games easier going, and both achieved commanding wins, with Cubillas's brace being beaten by Müller's hat-trick. With both teams qualified the match-up would decide which side got the better draw, and Peru's slack defending was punished by typical Germany efficiency, allowing Müller to help himself to another 3 goals in the first half. The heat saw the Germans weaken in the second half, leaving most of the play to Peru, who failed to capitalise on their advantage, a solitary goal from Cubillas their only consolation.

Quarter Finals

Uruguay 1 0 Soviet Union
(Mexico City)

A dull game, with both sides canceling each other out left the first 90 minutes goalless. In extra time things continued in the same vein until almost the final whistle before finally Uruguay broke the deadlock with a controversial goal. Luis Cubilla got to the by-line, crossed the ball in for substitute Victor Esparrago to score, but it was obvious to all present except the officials that the ball had gone out of play before Cubilla had delivered his cross. The goal stood and Uruguay were in the semi-finals.

Italy 4 1 Mexico

Italy had for several years always faced a dilemma of which of their two outstanding creative attackers should play Alessandro Mazzola or Gianni Rivera? Often the soluton was to play one in the first half and the other in the second, and this was the approach Italy took today. Mazolla started, but the host nation scored first. Italy equalised, but it was only in the second half when Rivera emerged that they took control of the game. Rivera was magnificent, and helped centre-forward Luigi Riva who had been having an execrable tournament to two goals, and ended the hopes of the Mexican nation.

Brazil 4 2 Peru

The two South American sides were both renowned for attractive and aggressive attacking play and also for suspect defences. In this match-up Peru proved the weaker in both departments, and went behind early on to two goals from a Gerson-reinforced Brazil. Peru were given a chance to compete in the game thanks to Felix's misjudging of a cross from Gallardo which ended up in the back of the net. The second half took the same shape as the first, with two more goals from Brazil cancelling out their defensive lapses.

West Germany 3 2 England

A rematch of the 1966 final, England were disadvantaged when goalkeeper Gordon Banks, easily the best in the world at the time, suffered food poisoning on the eve of the match and was unfit to play. Peter Bonetti was drafted in to be his replacement. West Germany had managed to avenge their 1966 defeat in a friendly played in Hanover in 1968, and had performed admirably in the opening group games. But England got on top first, and England carved out a 2 nil lead thanks to goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters.

In the second half the heat started to take its toll, making the effective use of substitutions all important. West Germany introduced Jurgen Grabowski and Willi Schulz, and Grabowski's pace started to punish the tiring England defence. Then captain Franz Beckenbauer thrust his team back into the game after slotting a rebounded ball into the goal. England coach Alf Ramsey had to respond and he chose to do so by withdrawing the aging Bobby Charlton, who that day set a world record for international appearances by earning his 106th cap. Charlton withdrew gracefully, replaced by Colin Bell, and later Leeds hard-man Norman Hunter would be brought on to shore-up the English midfield. These moves nearly paid off as a Bell cross was met at the near-post by Geoff Hurst, whose header flew past the keeper Maier, but also past the wrong side of the far post. Time was running out, by a weak clearance by full-back Brian Labone was quickly returned by the Germans, and with Uwe Seeler managing to beat the offside trap sent a long looping header on a slow arch over the head of the stranded out-of-position Bonetti and into the net. The game was all square and extra time beckoned.

England were still by no means out of the game, and had what looked like a legitimate goal by Hurst ruled out for no good reason. But it was West Germany who ended up victors, courtesy of a hard hit volley by Müller, connecting with another ball from the immaculate Grabowski. The holders were out, but not without forcing a heavy degree of exertion from West Germany which would cost them dear in the semi-finals.

Semi Finals

Italy 4 3 West Germany
(Mexico City)

Italy took an early lead against a West Germany side still suffering from the after effects of their encounter with the English. The goal had a touch of fortune about it, the ball kindly running for Roberto Boninsegna, bouncing off the forest of German legs before his shot nestled past Maier. From then on the Italians concentrated on sitting back, sponging up pressure and relying, as typical, on their defensive prowess to see them through. Consequently the rest of the match consisted mostly of German probing, but the space offered to the likes of Beckenbauer gave West Germany an excellent platform for initiating wave after wave of attack. Still Italy held out, thanks both to their own defending and to German frugality in front of goal. West Germany suffered a blow when their inspiration Beckenbauer was crudely knocked down by Pierluigi Cera when bearing down on the Italian defence. Germany wasted the resulting free-kick, and Beckenbauer had to play the remainder of the game with his arm strapped to his side. More than enough chances had been produced for the Germans to win twice over, but as the final whistle approached no goals came their way. Both substitutions had been used up long ago, and entering the third minute of injury time the dam finally broke, with Karl-Heinz Schnellinger scrambling the ball in after a free-kick launched the ball into the Italian penalty area for the last time.

In extra time, the Italians were required to attack once more, and the game mutated into a more open spectacle, although the actual quality left much to be desired. Germany took the lead after a brainstorm by Italian defender Fabrizio Poletti gave Müller the opportunity to score. But the lead did not last long with Italy equalising minutes later with a header from a free-kick into the penalty box of their own, and then took the lead after Riva scored with a speculative hit from outside the box.

Swapping ends, Italy in the ascendance again, West Germany did not give up and soon won a corner. The resulting header from Seeler forced keeper Enrico Albertosi into the save, tipping the ball over the bar for another corner. This time Seeler got his head to the ball again, but this time headed the ball back across the goal for Müller to get his tenth goal of the tournament. But nevertheless it was Italy who would reach the final after Boninsegna cut a ball back for Rivera (who had come on again for Mazzola) to score the winning goal and send Maier the wrong-way. Now in the intense heat Italy killed the rest of the game, playing for time, knocking the ball out of play at any opportunity and not allowing the basketball-esque momentum of the game to take hold again. The tactics were successful and Italy were finalists.

Brazil 3 1 Uruguay

The second semi-final took place in Guadalajata, which had become virtually Brazil's home ground. It was Ururugay who took the early lead in this game however, Cubillas exploiting the weakness of the hapless Felix again, with a shot from a very narrow angle that ricocheted off the keeper's body and into the goal. Uruguay sought to maintain their lead by changing their play into a cynical and disruptive style, conceding free-kicks at will, but preventing the Brazilians from mounting coherent attacks. This strategy lasted for the rest of the first half, until Brazil equalisied from the young full-back Clodoaldo in the dying seconds of the first half.

The second half saw Brazil seize control of the game by the scruff of the neck, and Uruguay's resistance saw only their violence and cynicism increase. It took time for Brazil's dominance to translate into goals, it wasn't until the 76th minute that Jairzinho sent them in the lead. Now behind for the first time, Uruguay strove to make their way back in the game, but Felix proved the equal of the Uruguay shots at goals. Then the game was settled to a spectacular goal by Rivelino after Pelé and drawn the defence.

This had been the first World Cup that Pelé had been able to stamp his full authority on since his debut in 1958, and he was determined to leave a mark to remember, embarking on a quest to score one truly extraordinary and brilliant goal that would live on in the memory. Although this quest was unfulfilled he came closest to achieving his goal in this game. The first attempt came in the first half, after Pelé had noticed the Uruguayan goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz had a short goal-kick. Positioning himself to intercept one of these clearances, he met the ball just outside the centre circle in the Uruguayan half and unleashed an immediate volley on the full, that flew towards the goal and forced Mazurkiewicz into making an accomplished save. Another attempt came near the end of the game as Pelé received a through ball that left him with only Mazurkiewicz to beat. Instead of picking up the ball he ran to the other side of the ball, drawing the keeper with him, before doubling back and sending a first-time shot at a narrow angle that agonisingly went inches wide of the unguarded goal.

Third Place Match

West Germany 1 0 Uruguay
(Mexico City)

The warm up to the final saw West Germany taking third place thanks to a goal from Wolfgang Overath.


Brazil 4 1 Italy
(Mexico City)

Brazil: Félix, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Piazza, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Jairzinho, Tostão, Pelé, Rivelino

Italy: Enrico Albertosi, Pierluigi Cera, Tarcisio Burgnich, Mario Bertini (Antonio Juliano), Roberto Rosata, Giacinto Facchetti, Angelo Domenghini, Alessandro Mazzola, Giancarlo De Sisti, Roberto Boninsegna (Gianni Rivera), Luigi Riva

The overwhelming consensus before the game was that Brazil would win, which they indeed did, but it was the sheer style of their play that made them the most fondly remembered side in world cup history. Italy played their normal defensive game, which was folly against this Brazilian team, the best way to exploit their weak defense was to bring the game to them, as England and Peru had done. As it was the space and time given to the Brazilian players allowed them to play the game in an imaginative, adventurous way that was a joy to behold, showing that football surely was 'the beautiful game'.

Brazil took the lead 18 minutes into the first half, a strong powerful header from the airborne Pelé who rose above the Italian defence to direct a Rivelino cross into the goal. Italy, despite some fine play by Mazzola and Boninsegna seemed unable to carve a hold onto the game themselves, but were given a helping hand by a typical piece of sloppy Brazilian defending that emerged from their carefree and joyful play. The chance arose after Clodoaldo executed a back heel in his own half, the move did not come off and instead played Boninsegna into an opportunity. Felix, rushed out to confront the approaching threat but Boninsegna cleverly passed him and passed the ball into an empty net. The game was level.

Unexpectedly Italy were back in the game, but they could not take advantage against a momentarily demoralised Brazil. In the second half Brazil held onto the greatest share of the game, and this dominance gradually started to tell. Then Gérson struck with a cross-cum-shot with his left foot from the edge of the box that burrowed into the net to put Brazil in front once more. That was it for Italy, and despite their best attempts, and the far too late introduction of RIvera, this time at the expense of Boninsegna as it seemed unthinkable to replace Mazzola who had been Italy's most efective player.

Brazil's third game from a smart free-kick by Gérson which was lobbed up to Péle who in turn headed it into the path of Jairzinho who could easily walk the ball into the goal. This goal gave Jairzinho the unique feat of scoring in every World Cup game that his country played in. By now Brazil were playing with flair, passing the ball from player to player with ease. The last goal captured this ease and dominance and has been readily repeated as an example of the class of the 1970 Brazilian teams position as the best ever. A fluid passing move involving most of the Brazilian team was capped off by Péle setting up his captain the fullback Carlos Alberto who thundered into the ball like a steam train and lashed it into the goal.

Brazil celebrated their victory with gusto, as fans streamed onto the pitch and hoisted their heroes onto their shoulders. Brazil had won the World Cup for the third time, an unprecedented achievement at the time, and to honour this they were given the Jules Rimet Trophy in perpetuity. The triumph of 'glorious' football over the dull and cynical play of other countries ensured that the 1970 World Cup has endured long in the sporting memory.

Top Scorers

10 - Gerd Müller (West Germany)

7 - Jairzinho (Brazil)

5 - Teofilo Cubillas (Peru)

4 - Pelé (Brazil), Anatoli Bychevetz (Soviet Union)