Welcome back to our day-by-day account of Mexico 70, the 1970 World Cup. If you have missed any of this fantastic series so far you can catch up here. Every single day, Pete Spencer will be telling you the story of the Greatest Show on Earth.
Wednesday 3rd June 1970
Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 92,205
BELGIUM (1) 3 (Van Moer 12, 54, Lambert 79 pen)
EL SALVADOR (0) 0
BELGIUM: Piot; Heylens, De Walque, Dockx, Thissen; Semmeling (Polleunis),van Moer, De Vrindt, van Himst; Lambert, Puis
EL SALVADOR: Magaña; Rivas, Mariona, Osorio, Manzano (Cortés); Quintanilla, Vasquez, Cabezas, Rodriguez (Sermeño); Martinez, Aparicio
One of the features of the venues for this tournament was altitude. Throughout the competition, certainly in the UK, commentators and media continually talked about it. They focussed on how the ball hangs in the air longer. There is some science to show this to be true, but at the time it was more a fact that had been stated and everyone just believed it. Consequently, there wasn’t as much focus on this in 1986.
The reason for mentioning this was Belgium’s first goal appeared to justify this assumption. Wilfried van Moer was the elegant midfield playmaker who played for Standard Liége. He wasn’t as experienced as his teammate in midfield, Wilfried Puis, but he became a fixture of the Belgian team up to 1975. After an absence of four years, his country recalled him in the run-up to Euro ’80 where he was one of the players of the tournament.
12 minutes into this match and Puis played him in, about 25 yards out van Moer lashed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner leaving the keeper stranded.
It was his first goal for his country. 10 minutes into the second half he doubled his tally. Semmelling’s cross from the right was flicked on at the near post by van Himst. His touch was enough to take it past the keeper and van Moer had the simple task of turning it into the empty net from two yards out.
Belgium were clearly fitter than their opponents and this was evident when Cortés brought down Semmelling in the area. Raoul Lambert stepped up and scored the penalty.
3-0 flattered the Belgians, who admitted to nerves at the start but soon settled into things.
Estadio Luis Dosai, Toluca, 13,433
ITALY (1) 1 (Domenghini 10)
SWEDEN (0) 0
ITALY: Albertosi; Burgnich, Cera, Niccolai (Rosato), Facchetti; Bertini, De Sisti, Mazzola; Domenghini, Boninsegna, Riva
SWEDEN: Hellström; Cronqvist, Axelsson, Nordqvist, Grip; Svensson, Larsson (Nicklasson), Olsson; Eriksson (Ejderstedt), Kindvall, Grahn
Italy got their campaign underway determined to consign their experience four years earlier to the bin. At Ayresome Park, the old home of Middlesbrough, they were ignominiously knocked out by North Korea.
But things had turned round since then. They were unbeaten for over two years going into this tournament.
Sweden were making their first appearance at a World Cup since they were losing finalists in their own tournament 12 years earlier. They too were proving hard to beat, having lost just once in their last 13. The game was decided quite early.
After Riva hit the post Sweden put it out for a corner. Domenghini picked it up on the left and cut inside to hit a strong right-foot shot to Hellström’s near post. The Hammarby keeper looked to have it covered but inexplicably it went under his body and in.
Italy then sat back and defended their lead, which they did successfully. Poor Hellström was not only dropped for the rest of the tournament, he wasn’t even on the bench. His career recovered as he went on to make 77 appearances for his country, playing in the next two World Cups.
After Uruguay’s win the day before, Sweden knew they’d probably need to win their next two matches if they were to reach the knockout stages. For Italy they would take on Uruguay next so a draw could be enough for them.
Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, 52,897
BRAZIL (1) 4 (Rivellino 24, Pelé 59, Jairzinho 61, 83)
CZECHOSLOVAKIA (1) 1 (Petrás 11)
BRAZIL: Félix; Carlos Alberto, Piazza, Brito, Everaldo; Jairzinho, Clodoaldo, Gérson (Paulo Cézar), Rivellino; Pelé, Tostão
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: Viktor; Dobias, Horváth, Migas, Hagara; Hrdlicka (Kvasnak), Kuna, F Vesely (B Vesely), Petras; Adamec, Jokl
24 hours after England won their opening game, it was the turn of Brazil in Group Three. This was a repeat of the 1962 Final when Brazil retained their title.
Chances at both ends as the two teams attacked from the start. Petras fired over from a tight angle after he’d skipped past a couple of Brazilian challenges. Pelé was in a great position to open the scoring but the ball across the area was hit too hard and it bounced off him before he could really control it.
Then to everyone’s surprise, the Czechs took the lead. Petras took advantage of some sloppy defending and ran at the defence, being taken wide to his left but the angle was not too acute to stop him firing it past Félix into the roof of the net. It was his first goal in an international shirt in only his second appearance.
Brazil didn’t panic after going a goal down and it wasn’t long before they were level. Pelé was tripped in the ‘d’ and as the Czechs all expected him to take the free-kick, Rivellino bent it deliciously round the wall for the equaliser.
Brazil now pushed for another, their play looking so languid and calm and ideal for the conserving of energy, whereas the Czechs appeared busy, rushed and nervous. Television was desperate to see the Brazilians turn it on and as half-time approached the first great ‘moment’ of the tournament came.
The Czechs were in possession midway through the Brazil half when Clodoaldo’s well-timed tackle found Pelé in space. With just Jarizinho ahead of him, surrounded by four defenders, Pelé had just one thing in mind. He was in the centre circle when he saw the keeper off his line.
Long before Beckham and long before Xabi Alonso, Pelé tried an audacious long-range shot from inside his own half. The watching world held its breath as the ball sailed over the back-tracking keeper but landed agonisingly just the wrong side of the post.
It was just what TV wanted. We’d never seen anything like that before and of course, it seemed like only one man in the whole world could be capable of doing it.
Early in the second half, the Czechs had a couple of good chances to go back in front, but a combination of the keeper and the side netting denied them. Then both Rivellino and Gerson had shots from outside the area. Rivellino’s went wide but Gerson hit the post full-on. On the hour Brazil took the lead with a goal that just oozed ‘samba football’. A patient build-up as players strolled about letting the ball do the work, just waiting for the killer pass. Then it came as Gerson lifted a ball from just outside the centre circle to pick out Pelé’s run into the area. He found the number 10. With all the skill, composure and confidence of the greatest player on the planet, Pelé controlled it on his chest before smashing it in on the bounce.
The goal seemed to encapsulate everything about the man. Tightly marked, his ability to jump higher than anyone else gave him the advantage. Then, as time seemed to stand still waiting for the ball to drop, he wasn’t worried about any challenge just focused on hitting it with as much power as he could. Sure enough, as if the script had been written beforehand, it dropped and Pelé blasted it past Viktor to give Brazil the lead.
Almost immediately Czechoslovakia had the chance to level. A corner from the left came right across the six-yard box. Kuna had ghosted in unmarked and with Félix out of position, the goal at his mercy, he just had to knock it in. Instead, he went for power and succeeded in almost finding Mexico City rather than the back of the net.
With clinical precision Brazil immediately made them pay. Clodoaldo just inside his own half, saw Jairzinho’s run. He launched the ball beyond the defence where Jair was clear. As the ball bounced he lifted it over the keeper, ran round and, as if to pay homage to Pelé, he too controlled it on his chest before lashing it into the empty net.
Brazil were out of sight now but there was still one moment of beauty to witness. Jairzinho had been increasingly enjoying himself, tiptoeing over tackles, dribbling with the ball seemingly tied to his feet. He scored Brazil’s fourth. Pelé found him in space just inside the Czech half. He still had four defenders ahead of him, but one-by-one he enticed them to lunge in and each time he just skipped over them. Eventually, it looked like they’d succeeded in forcing him out to the right, but Jair wasn’t deterred as this gave him the perfect angle to fire the shot across the keeper into the opposite corner.
Brazil had won their opening game with four wonderful goals and England knew they’d have a tough game on their hands when the two met three days later.
Estadio Nou Camp, León, 12,942
WEST GERMANY (0) 2 (Seeler 56, Müller 80)
MOROCCO (1) 1 (Jarir 21)
WEST GERMANY: Maier; Vogts, Schulz, Fichtel, Höttges (Löhr); Haller (Grabowski), Beckenbauer, Overath; Seeler, Müller, Held
MOROCCO: Kassou; Lamrani, Slimani, Benkhrif; Mahroufi, Bamous (Faras), El Filali; Ghandi, Ghazouani (El Khiati), Jarir
West Germany had one of the most experienced squads coming into the World Cup. Helmut Haller and Willi Schulz were in their third tournament and Uwe Seeler, like Pelé, a remarkable fourth. There was a point when it was feared his international career was over. He wasn’t used in qualification and hadn’t worn the shirt for two years. He scored in both friendlies leading up to the tournament, two and a half years after his last goal for his country. But he was still his nation’s leading scorer and manager, Helmut Schön considered his tournament experience vital. Six of the squad were over 30 but these were days when age was considered an important quality.
But all was not perfect in the camp. Since they lost at Wembley four years before, they discovered a 20-year-old striker called Gerd Müller. He scored four goals in only his second international. He’d scored six in his first five matches. When they took the field in Léon he was on 18 in just 20 games. But there was a belief in West Germany Müller and Seeler were too similar to play in the same team. In the build-up to this game, Müller turned up the heat by saying “either I play or Seeler plays”. But Schön felt they would be far more threatening with two strikers so they both played.
Morocco were making their first ever appearance at a World Cup, representing a continent. No one gave them a hope, but one advantage they had was the ability to cope with the heat. With no access to videos, few teams knew about opponents from a different continent.
The Germans attacked from the start but it was the minnows who took the lead. A cross from the left to the far post was headed back into the six-yard box by Fichtel. Maier, in the German goal was all over the place and Jarir stole in and blasted it into the empty net.
The Africans held the lead to the break, but Schön shuffled his pack and brought Grabowski on for Haller. The change paid dividends just 10 minutes into the second period. Held found Müller in the area, he controlled it, passed to Seeler who hit it first time into the corner of the net for the equaliser.
But the predicted onslaught didn’t happen. Overath admitted afterwards to being concerned the team just wasn’t quite functioning as smoothly as they knew it could. The midday heat was sapping their energy. Finally, as the game moved into the final 10 minutes they got the winner. A ball crossed from the right to the far post was headed back by Held, at full stretch. It bounced on the bar but instead of going over it came down and Müller was first to react with the simple task of nodding it in.
It was tough on the Moroccans but they weren’t expecting anything from the game anyway. Allal Ben Kassou said afterwards “it was a great experience, we were happy and still enthusiastic”.
The Germans had been lucky and they knew it. For Haller, it was the end of the road. Having made his debut as a 19-year-old just a few months after the 1958 World Cup, he came into this tournament struggling with a shoulder injury he’d picked up in a friendly against Romania back in April. After 33 caps in 12 years, he never pulled on the West German jersey again.
Join us again tomorrow for the 4th matchday of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.