Mexico 70: How everyone qualified for the 1970 World Cup – part two

Mexico 70 - the 1970 World Cup

Welcome back to our day-by-day account of Mexico 70, the 1970 World Cup. On Tuesday, we set the scene a little about what you can expect over the next couple of weeks. Yesterday, we explained how the UEFA teams qualified for the Greatest Show on Earth. Today, we look at everyone else.

How the rest of the world qualified for Mexico 70


The qualifying section in South America had yet to entertain the attractive one-league format it does these days. Instead, the ten teams were split into three groups.

Group One – Argentina, Bolivia, Peru

Argentina reached the Quarter-Finals in England, going out to the hosts. They’d finished second to Uruguay in the South American Championship in ’67. So it was some surprise they travelled to Bolivia first up and were sent packing 1-3.

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A week later they went to Lima and lost 0-1 to Peru, so that made qualification for them very difficult. Bolivia then beat Peru at home to put them in the driving seat.

But all was not well. Peru had a goal ruled out by the Venezuelan referee, Sergio Chechelev, which few people could work out why. Years later he admitted Argentina had bribed him to allow Bolivia to win.

Bolivia always benefited from the high altitude in La Paz, so perhaps it wasn’t that much of a surprise. When Bolivia travelled to Peru they weren’t so dominant. Peru won 3-0 with Teofilo Cubillas opening the scoring.

Both Peru and Bolivia had four points from three games. Bolivia then went to Buenos Aires and lost to a penalty from Rafael Albrecht.

The final game in the group was Argentina against Peru in Buenos Aires. It was winner-takes-all but Peru could afford a draw to go through. The game was goalless with twenty minutes to go when Oswaldo Ramirez gave the visitors the lead. Argentina fought back when Albrecht levelled with ten minutes to go. Almost immediately, Ramirez got a second to give Peru the lead again.

Argentina made it 2-2 but there was not enough time to grab a winner. The draw was enough to see Peru go through to the finals.

This remains the only time Argentina has not qualified for a World Cup.


Group Two – Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Venezuela

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As expected Brazil were favourites here. They were disappointing in England so were keen to put things right this time. Colombia had only appeared in one tournament to this stage but started well with a 3-0 win at home to Venezuela. Jaime González, who played in that tournament, scored twice.

The return fixture was a 1-1 draw.

Brazil’s first outing was a trip to Bogotá. Two goals from Tostão won it for them. Paraguay then put pressure on them with wins in Venezuela and Colombia.

As Paraguay won in Bogotá, Brazil put five past Venezuela. Tostão scored a hat-trick. Pelé helped himself to two goals as well as the pair scored four goals in as many second half minutes.

It was obvious the meetings between Brazil and Paraguay were going to decide the group. The first one came in Asunción. Goalless into the final 20 minutes but then Mendoza put through his own net to give the visitors the lead. Jairzinho and Edu completed the scoring to give Brazil a 3-0 win.

Four days later both teams won as Paraguay beat Venezuela and Brazil put six past Colombia. Tostão scoring another two.

They were both winners again a few days after that with Paraguay beating Colombia, 2-1. Brazil put another six past Venezuela to give them 22 in just five matches. Tostão scored another hat-trick to take his tally to ten goals in the campaign. Pelé scored another two to take his tally to five.

So the group would be decided on the final game. In reality, it was already decided as Brazil had a superior goal difference of 18 over Paraguay, so even if they lost the final match it was unlikely Paraguay would win by enough.

In the end Pelé scored the only goal of the game and Brazil went through with 100% record.


Group Three – Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay

Uruguay were the strongest side in this group. They’d reached the Quarter-Finals stage in ’66 and were the defending South American Championship champions.

They began with wins over Ecuador, both home and away either side of a goalless draw in Chile. Chile then beat Ecuador 4-1 at home with Francisco Valdéz scoring twice.

But then things went wrong for the Chileans. They could only draw in Ecuador. This meant they had to win in Montevideo to go through.

Uruguay were far too strong as goals from Cortés and Rocha won it for the home side and Uruguay had qualified fairly comfortably, dropping just one point.


CONMEBOL qualifiers – Peru, Brazil and Uruguay.


These two Confederations only included seven nations. A rather complicated structure was devised. Rather than a simple home and away league format, they designed three rounds. Four teams received a bye to the Second Round.

Australia, South Korea and Japan played home and away over a two-week period in October 1969. All the matches took place in Seoul. Three of the matches ended drawn so Australia’s wins over the other two saw them progress.

There were then just five teams left. Again rather than the simple option, they divided them into two groups. Australia played Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) over two legs. At this stage Rhodesia’s government wasn’t recognised which meant teams couldn’t go there, nor could other countries entertain them. Consequently, the games were played in neutral Mozambique. Both legs were drawn so a play-off was arranged and Australia won 3-1.

The other group contained Israel, New Zealand and North Korea. But North Korea refused to play Israel so they withdrew.

Israel then played New Zealand twice. Both matches were played in Israel presumably to cut down on travel. They won both matches without conceding.

To determine the qualifier, Israel and Australia met over a further two legs. Israel won at home after David Zeman scored an own goal.

Ten days later the two met at the Sydney Sports Ground. Mordechai Spiegler scored for Israel with just 11 minutes remaining. Australia now needed to score twice to force a play-off. Johnny Watkiss, an Aussie born in Willenhall near Walsall, grabbed an equaliser two minutes from time.

The game ended 1-1 so Israel qualified for the World Cup Finals for the first time in their history.



With just one place available for this Confederation, only 11 teams entered. This was a huge improvement on the last qualifying campaign when all African countries boycotted due to no automatic qualifying place. FIFA relented and there was now one place up for grabs.

The First Round saw 10 teams take part with Ghana receiving a bye. The matches were played over a two-leg knockout system.

As often happened in these ‘early days’ of the World Cup, qualifying fixture schedule was fairly haphazard. No two games played on the same day. Once the first two teams had finished their two legs, only one other leg had taken place.

Zambia and Sudan kicked off first. Zambia took an early lead but by 30 minutes Sudan were 2-1 up. Two goals in as many minutes midway through the second half put Zambia back in front. They ended 4-2 winners to take a useful lead to Khartoum.

Two weeks later Zambia scored first to extend their lead. Sudan levelled before half-time but were still two goals down on aggregate. Late in the second half they got the two goals necessary and extra time ensued. Both teams scored in extra time to leave the final score 4-2, just as it had been in the first leg. For some inexplicable reason Sudan qualified as they scored more goals in the second game! Despite the fact they matched Zambia’s score from the first leg. Strange.

More madness followed as Morocco won their home leg 1-0 against Senegal. Senegal won their home leg 2-1. Unlike the Sudan v Zambia match, there was no extra time played so a play-off was ordered. Morocco won that 2-0 to go through.

The other three ties were a little more straightforward. Nigeria and Cameroon played out a 1-1 draw in Lagos, before Nigeria then won 3-2 in Douala to go through.

Libya beat Ethiopia 2-0 in the first leg and must’ve been confident going to Addis Ababa. But Ethiopia blew them away with a 5-1 win.

Tunisia won 2-1 in Algeria before a goalless draw was played out in Tunis, giving Tunisia a route to the next round.

The six qualifiers were drawn into another two-legged knockout stage.

Tunisia were drawn against another North Africa opponent, Morocco. They played out two goalless draws to require a play-off. Once again the two sides couldn’t be separated after a 2-2 draw. Even an extra period of 30 minutes still couldn’t separate them so the only way to find a winner was to toss a coin. Morocco guessed correctly.

Ethiopia, who’d been free-scoring against Libya, were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Sudan. Then in Khartoum Sudan produced the necessary performance winning 3-1, to send them through.

Nigeria took on Ghana, who’d received a bye from the First Round. Ghana took the lead but two goals in three minutes in the second half won it for Nigeria. The return match was drawn 1-1, so Nigeria progressed.

18 matches to whittle 11 teams down to the final three. This time, at last there was a simple league format.

Nigeria and Sudan began things with a 2-2 draw. Morocco then beat Nigeria 2-1 to give them an early advantage.

Sudan and Nigeria again drew, this time 3-3. Then Sudan were held at home by Morocco to give them three draws from three matches. Morocco then took on Sudan in Casablanca, knowing a win would see them qualify with a game to go.

Mohammed El Filali gave them the lead in the first half. Houmane Jarir then extended the lead with 15 minutes to go. He then confirmed their passage to the finals with his second, four minutes from time.

They lost their final game in Nigeria, but this was immaterial as they’d won the group. Morocco were now into their first-ever World Cup.



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Another weird and wonderful format for this Confederation. The First Round was a fairly simple system of four groups of three teams.

Group One consisted of Bermuda, Canada and the USA. These fixtures were concluded before the other groups had even started.

Canada began well with wins at home to Bermuda and the USA, 4-0 & 4-2. But then were held 0-0 in Bermuda and lost 0-1 in the USA.

This meant the USA needed to win both their matches against Bermuda to stop Canada going through. They won the first game, in Kansas, 6-2 with Scottish-born, Peter Millar scoring a hat-trick.

Then in Bermuda they won 2-0 to win the group and advance to the next round.

Group Two consisted of Haiti, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad played all their matches away from home. Guatemala won their first game 4-0 against Trinidad. Three days later the two met in the same stadium and played out a goalless draw.

Haiti then beat Trinidad 4-0. But two days later they gave up a 2-1 lead to lose 2-4 to the same opponents.

The group would then be determined by the results between Haiti and Guatemala. In the first meeting Haiti won 2-0. This meant they only needed a draw in Guatemala. They managed this relatively comfortably and advanced to the next round.

Group Three contained Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica. As with Trinidad, Jamaica played all their games away from home.

Costa Rica won both their matches against Jamaica, 3-0 & 3-1. Honduras then followed this up with a similar performance beating Jamaica, 3-1 & 2-0.

As with Group Two the last two matches would decide the group. Honduras won 1-0 at home then played out a 1-1 draw in Costa Rica. Honduras made it into the next round.

Group Four contained El Salvador, the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname.

The group began with a bang as Suriname beat the Netherlands Antilles 6-0. A week later Suriname were on the receiving end as El Salvador beat them 6-0.

Netherlands Antilles got their revenge when Suriname visited, winning 2-0. El Salvador then beat Netherlands Antilles 1-0. The return meeting was just three days later and held at the same venue. El Salvador again won, 2-1.

This meant El Salvador won the group. They were well beaten in Suriname, 1-4 but it didn’t matter.

Four teams were then into the Second Round. This time there were two, two-legged ties to determine who went through. But rather than an aggregate score to separate them, each match earned points.

Haiti beat USA in both matches so there was little doubt about the qualifiers there.

But when Honduras and El Salvador won their respective home matches against each other, there was a play-off arranged. El Salvador would’ve won 3-1 if the aggregate score had been the decider. The play-off was held in neutral Mexico. El Salvador were 2-1 up inside the opening half-hour. Honduras equalised in the second half, forcing extra time.

José Quintanilla scored the winner and El Salvador went through.

Of course, these matches were infamous for the violence which erupted in the first two matches. They were said to have started a war between the two countries.

The final round was contested between Haiti and El Salvador. Neither nation had ever made it to a World Cup so history was to welcome the winner.

The first match in Port-au-Prince was won by El Salvador, 2-1. The return match was won comfortably by Haiti, 3-0.

Again aggregate scores counted for nothing so a play-off was arranged, with Jamaica the venue.

This seemed odd as Jamaica had not played any of their matches there. The game was goalless after ninety minutes. Then in extra time Juan Ramón Martinez scored the winner for El Salvador and they were through to the finals.

Martinez became a hero in his country, not only for scoring the goal which got them through but his seven goals were a major factor.

QUALIFIER – El Salvador

After 170 matches the 16 participants for the Finals in Mexico were decided.

Mexico (hosts), England (holders), Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, El Salvador (debut), Israel (debut), Italy, Morocco (debut), Peru, Romania, Soviet Union, Sweden, Uruguay, West Germany.

We discovered who’s qualified for the tournament. Join us tomorrow for the next section where we look at the draw.