Brazil won the World Cup for the third time: 1970

The 1970 FIFA World Cup was the ninth FIFA World Cup held from 31 May to 21 June in Mexico, it was the first World Cup tournament staged in North America, and the first held outside Europe and South America.

A total of 75 teams entered the 1970 FIFA World Cup, and 73 were required to qualify. Due to rejected entries and withdrawals, 68 teams eventually participated in the qualifying stages, including eight for the first time.

The 1970 World Cup held in Mexico

Group stage:

Following the opening ceremony host nation Mexico faced the Soviet Union; this was the last time until the 2006 World Cup that the host nation’s first match rather than the World Cup holders’ began the tournament. Both this opening match of Group 1 and many others during the competition kicked off at noon for the benefit of European television schedules, meaning play under the midday sun. The match produced a goalless draw, prompting some media to predict the entire tournament would be played at the slow tempo that featured in this game given the conditions involved. Following the half-time interval Anatoliy Puzach became the first substitute to be used in FIFA World Cup history as the Soviets made use of the new competition rule. Both teams won their remaining two games to progress from the group at the expense of Belgium and World Cup debutants El Salvador.

When they begin the competition, Belgians Red Devils clinch their First ever win in a World Cup Finals Tournament, when they beat the Salvadorians (3-0).

Group 2 was the lowest-scoring of the groups with only six goals in its six matches as Uruguay, reigning South America champions and Italy, the reigning European champions, edged past Sweden and Israel. Sweden would have progressed if they had produced a two-goal victory against Uruguay in their final game, but it was not until the final minute that they scored the only goal of the game. Hours before the game FIFA elected to replace the scheduled referee after bribery rumours – later dismissed by FIFA – arose in Mexico. The 1–0 result meant Uruguay advanced, to be joined by Italy after they avoided defeat in the group finale against Israel.

Owing to the lack of a seeding system, Group 3 allowed the reigning World Cup holders England to be paired together with the two-time former champion Brazil, considered by many the pre-tournament favorites for the trophy. England’s preparations were hampered by the arrest of their captain Bobby Moore in Colombia for allegedly stealing a bracelet from a jeweler’s shop; the charges were later dropped. The attitude of their manager Alf Ramsey and the English media in general was perceived by many locals as unfriendly and xenophobic toward Mexico’s hosting of the competition, which meant the English team received a largely hostile response during the competition.

With both having won their opening games – against Czechoslovakia and Romania, respectively. – Brazil met England in the group’s most famed match.  Although Gordon Banks in the English goal denied Pele from close range with a reflex save that Pelé himself cited as the greatest of his career, a second half goal from Jairzinho won the match for Brazil after England squandered several excellent opportunities to equalize. Both teams then won their final group games to progress to the knockout stage.

Play in Group 4 began with Bulgaria taking a two-goal lead against Peru, but a second half comeback gave the South Americans a 3–2 victory. Morocco, the first African World Cup representatives since 1934, also began strongly by taking the lead against the 1966 runners-up West Germany, but the Germans came back to win 2–1. West Germany also went behind against Bulgaria in their second match, but a Gerd Muller hat-trick helped them recover and win 5–2; the eventual Golden Boot Winner Müller hit another hat-trick – the only hat-tricks of the entire tournament – to win the group against Peru.

Knockout stage:

Mexico and the Soviet Union had finished tied at the top of Group 1 on both points and goal difference, meaning that the drawing of lots was required to rank them. On 12 June the draw ranked the Soviets as group winners, meaning that they would face Uruguay in the large Estadi Azteca, while the host nation were paired against Italy in the smaller Toluca venue. Mexican officials unsuccessfully appealed to FIFA to stage their game in the capital to avoid traffic problems. The hosts took the lead against Italy with a Jose Luis Gonzalez goal, but his teammate Javier Guzman equalized with an own goal before half-time. Italy then dominated the second half to progress to the semi-finals with a 4–1 win. The Soviet Union were also eliminated in their quarter-final when a Victor Esparrago header three minutes from the end of extra-time sent Uruguay through. The Soviets believed that during the Uruguay attack a ball had crossed touchline and stopped playing while their opponents continued playing and scored.

The all-South America tie in Guadalajara was the highest-scoring of the four quarter-finals as Brazil recorded a 4–2 triumph over Peru. A rematch of the previous World Cup between England and West Germany took place in Leon, in which the reigning champions entered a two-goal lead. Franz Beckenbaur halved the deficit when his low shot beat England’s second choice goalkeeper Peter Bonneti, playing after Gordon Banks suffered food poisoning the day before. Eight minutes from time an Uwe Seeler header levelled the score. At 2-2, however, Hurst had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside. An extra-time goal from Gerd Muller brought (West) Germany’s first-ever competitive victory over England. The national embarrassment of losing against Germany is believed to have played a significant role in the surprise defeat of Harold Wilson’s government in the United Kingdom general election, 1970 four days later.

All four of the semi-finalists were former world champions with the line-up guaranteeing a European versus South American final. In the all-South American tie, controversially switched from the capital to the lower altitude of Guadalajara. Brazil came from behind to defeat Uruguay 3–1 and earn the right to contest their fourth World Cup Final. Two Brazilian goals in the final fifteen minutes decided a match that had been evenly-matched until that point. The all-European meeting between Italy and West Germany produced a match regarded by many as one of the greatest World Cup games of all time. Having led from the eighth minute through Roberto Boninsegna’s strike, Italy were pegged back in injury time when sweeper Karl-Heinz Schnellinger scored his only international goal. Extra-time brought five more goals as the lead swung between the two sides until Gianni Rivera gave the Azzurri a decisive 4–3 lead. The match subsequently became known as the “Game of the Century”, and today has a monument outside the Estadio Azteca to commemorate it. West Germany went on to defeat Uruguay 1–0 in the third-place match.

Italy and Brazil line up for the World Cup final in 1970

In the final, Brazil opened the scoring when Pele headed in a cross from Rivelino in the 18th minute, but Roberto Boninsegna equalized for Italy after a series of blunders in the Brazilian defence. The match remained level until the 66th minute when a powerful shot from Gerson restored the Brazilians’ lead. Further goals from Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto rewarded Brazil’s attacking play and secured a 4–1 victory and a record third World Cup triumph, which earned them the right to permanently keep the Jules Rimet Trophy.

With ten goals, Gerd Müller is the top scorer in the tournament. In total, 95 goals were scored by 55 different players, with only one of them credited as own goal.

Gerd Muller was the top scorer at Mexico 70



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