Mexico 70: Sunday, 31st May 1970 and the tournament gets underway with the hosts in action

Mexico 70 1970 World Cup Mexico vs Soviet Union

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. On Wednesday, we explained how the UEFA teams qualified for the Greatest Show on Earth. Thursday, we looked at everyone else’s qualification campaigns. Friday was the Mexico 70 Group Draw and today it all gets underway on the pitch – enjoy!

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Sunday 31 May 1970


Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 107,160

MEXICO (0) 0


MEXICO: Calderón; Vantolrá, Peña, Guzmán, Pérez; Hernández, Pulido, Velarde (Mungula); Valdivia, Fragoso, Salgado

USSR: Kavazashvili; Logofet, Shesternyov, Kaplichny, Lovchev; Serebryanikov (Puzach), Asatiani, Muntyan; Nodia (Khmelnitsky), Byshovets, Yervriuzhikin

After the opening ceremony, the hosts kicked off against a strong USSR team. A reported 107,160 watched.

Up to this tournament the hosts had always had the honour of opening each one. After this, the baton was passed to the holders. That is until 2006 when the holders didn’t automatically get a qualifying place.

Perhaps it’s a little simple to say the hosts always opened. Uruguay didn’t in 1930 and in 1934 eight matches kicked off at the same time.

At France 1938, Switzerland took on Germany who were playing under the rather foreboding image of the Nazi flag.

In 1954 when the Swiss hosted the tournament, they were nowhere to be seen on the opening day as four matches kicked off together.

The Swiss were back on opening day in 1962 against the hosts, Chile but as three other matches kicked off at the same time it could hardly be classed as the opening game.

In 1966 England opened against Uruguay with a goalless draw which had the home press incredulous having waited six years since being granted the tournament, only to see a drab 90 minutes with no goals.

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The Soviet Union met Mexico for the first time in their history just three years before this game. In May 1967 Lev Yashin set the record for most appearances for USSR as they won 2-0 in Leningrad.

A year later the two countries played three friendlies in a week – two in the Azteca and one in León. All three matches were drawn and only the game in León saw any goals (1-1). The fact they played out two goalless draws in the Azteca wasn’t a great omen for this one. And it would prove to be the case.

Mexico had some impressive results from their friendly matches since 1966. They beat Argentina and Brazil at the Azteca. Then they were coached by Ignácio Trelles, who was in charge in the 1962 and 1966 World Cups. By this tournament, he’d been replaced by Raúl Cárdenas, a player himself in 1954, 1958 and 1962.

USSR were on a 10-game unbeaten run going into this tournament. Once again against Mexico, the national team’s appearance record was broken as Albert Shesternyov’s 75th cap beat Yashin’s previous best.

Many of the world’s press believed the opening ‘bore draw’ would set the tone for the tournament. Fairly ignorant of the effects of altitude, they reported the whole tournament would be played at a pedestrian pace. Kicking off at mid-day local time meant the heat was at its highest and therefore contributed to a game where players paced themselves.

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Played in a fantastic atmosphere, this match stood out only for two things which happened for the first time in a World Cup match. Ukranian Anatoliy Puzach became the first-ever substitute in a World Cup match. He replaced another Ukranian, Viktor Serebryanikov who, like Puzach, played his club football with Dinamo Kiev. Puzach came on right after half-time to make history.

The second ‘first’ was that referee, Kurt Tschenscher from West Germany was the first to be able to use yellow cards in a World Cup match. Players had been booked before but it wasn’t until this tournament they were handed yellow and red cards. In the 31st minute, Kakhi Asatiani, a Georgian from the Soviet Union became the first player to receive a yellow card.

Mexico created several chances but clearly missed Onofre as they were unable to convert any of them.

The best chance of the first went to the host nation. A ball into the area allowed Fragoso to throw himself head-first at it, but his header went straight into Kavazashvili’s hands.

In the end, there was a lot of huff and puff but no end product.

For some strange reason after just one match, FIFA schedulers decided to give the rest of the teams the day off on Monday. Imagine that happening now!

Join us tomorrow when we tell the story of day two…