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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
ESPNsoccernet: May 2, 9:24 PM UK
World Cup 1970 - Hosts Mexico

John Brewin

As with 1966, images of this tournament remain to the forefront of the football fan's memory.

This was the first tournament to be televised in colour and the football played was similarly vivid. And the tournament will be remembered as Brazil's finest and defining hour.

After the woes of 1966, after which Pele had said he would never play in a World Cup again, the Brazilians took this tournament very seriously indeed.

Coach Joao Saldanha wanted his team to play a flowing brand of football but this was to be coupled with a hard-edged physical edge, brought about by months spent in a spartan training camp.

Though Saldanha would be supplanted by Mario Zagallo just prior to the tournament, the team continued to play in Saldanha's chosen image and won the tournament in the manner he approved of.

Pele was tempted out of his exile and was joined by thrilling wingers Jairzinho and Rivelino, balding playmaker Gerson, the nascent talent of midfielder Clodoaldo and skipper Carlos Alberto, a superb exponent of the art of the attacking full-back.

Centre-forward Tostao was there too, his career saved by an eye operation. Together they formed the World Cup's most thrilling attacking force.

The tournament's location was the subject of much consternation from the European teams, who worried about the 50 degree heat and the breathing problems associated with high altitude. Nevertheless the West Germans, English and Italians were involved in some of the best matches.

In the group stage, England faced the Brazilians in Guadalajara in a game many envisaged as being a dress rehearsal for the eventual final. Jairzinho grabbed the goal that won it for Brazil but the game is best remembered for Gordon Banks' save from Pele's bullet-header - and a late miss by Jeff Astle. Despite that defeat England joined Brazil in the knock-out stages.

But, in a re-staging of the 1966 final, the Germans got their revenge over England, when, with Alf Ramsey's side leading 2-0 and having taken off Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters to rest them for the next round, stand-in keeper Peter Bonetti fumbled a long-range shot from Beckenbauer and then allowed Uwe Seeler to back-head the equaliser.

England wilted in the heat of Leon as the West Germans gained their revenge for '66. Sir Alf Ramsey's team, run ragged by a far fitter German side, succumbed in extra-time when Gerd Muller, scorer of ten goals in Mexico, scored a typically predatory winner.

Brazil meanwhile, rolled over the unsung Peruvians, led by the mercurial Teofilio Cubillas, and now faced old enemy Uruguay in the semis. An early goal from Uruguay's own Cubilla saw the Brazilians rocked but a pep talk from Pele and a fantastic strike from Clodoaldo brought them level.

The samba football soon returned and Jairzinho and Rivelino's late strikes put them into the final.

Germany, exhausted by their efforts in Leon, now faced Italy, then fully in the bloom of the catenaccio era. But when Karl Schellinger cancelled out a Roberto Boninsegna goal in the very last minute, luck looked to be with the Germans.

But then Beckenbauer dislocated his shoulder and though he played on with one arm in a sling, the Italians won out. The score changed no less than five times in extra-time before Gianni Rivera, the Golden Boy of Italian football, scored a 112th-minute winner.

The superhuman efforts in the last four perhaps did for Italy as Brazil overpowered them in the final. Pele pulled the strings for the South Americans as first he leapt, in the proverbial fashion of a salmon, to head in a Rivelino cross on 19 minutes.

Italy got back in the game when Boninsegna seized on a mistake from Clodoaldo to beat keeper and sometime clown Felix and the crowd, almost all of them cheering for the Brazilians, began to worry. But up stepped chain-smoking midfielder Gerson to clatter in a goal from the edge of the penalty area.

Twenty minutes from the end, Pele headed a Gerson cross back for Jairzinho to bundle in and complete his record of having scored in every game. But the coup de grace was added in the very last minute as Brazil took the ball the length of the field to score the fourth.

Clodoaldo, rejuvenated after his early mistake, beat a couple of players and the ball reached Pele. He, as ever, used his vision to play in Carlos Alberto, whose low drive drilled past Albertosi into the Italian goal. As a sign off for a great side it has never been surpassed, just as the Brazilian team of 1970 is unlikely to be ever surpassed.

For their three wins in twelve years, the Jules Rimet trophy that Carlos Alberto lifted would remain in Brazil permanently.


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