Mexico 70: Thursday 11th June 1970 – would there be Group Two drama? And England know what they have to do against the Czechs

Mexico 70 1970 World Cup England Czechoslovakia

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.


Thursday 11th June 1970

After yesterday’s matches, we knew four of the eight who would take part in the Quarter-Finals. Brazil and West Germany had 100% records, the USSR had dropped just one point and Peru, maybe the surprise package, could all rest knowing there was more action to come.

The USSR were certain of going through, they just didn’t know whether they’d finish top of their group or not. This obviously concerned the hosts too, as a two-goal Mexican win against Belgium would mean they topped the group at the Soviets’ expense. Equally, a win for Belgium would knock the hosts out.

Group Two was the hardest to call. Three sides had three points, and even the bottom side, Israel, still had a mathematical chance of going through.

In Group Three England knew the best they could achieve was second place, which would mean moving to a different location. Higher altitude and against a team more acclimatised to the surroundings. For all the faith and attention FIFA had put into this tournament it was manna from heaven to have England v Brazil and then England v West Germany as match-ups. But of course, England had to avoid defeat against Czechoslovakia.


Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 108,192

MEXICO (1) 1 (Peña 14 pen)


MEXICO: Calderón; Peña, Vantolrá, Guzmán, Pérez; Pulido, González, Munguia; Valdivia (Basguren), Fragoso, Padilla

BELGIUM: Piot; Heylens, Dewalque, Dockx, Thissen; Semmeling, van Moer, Jeck, van Himst; Polleunis (Devrindt), Puis

The biggest crowd of the tournament thus far filled the Azteca hoping to see the hosts reach the knockout stages for the first time in their history. There was nervousness though, as this was no foregone conclusion. But they shouldn’t have been so concerned as their opponents were in a worse place than them.

Belgium were discovering the brutality of tournament football when joy, expectation and positivity from a win in your opening game can all come crashing down with the complete reverse in the next fixture. USSR had proved the strongest side in the group, yet the manner of Belgium’s defeat had brought about uncertainty and hesitation.

Mexico made one change from the side that beat El Salvador. Pulido came in for Borja.

Mexico were a little anxious to score early. Both Guzmán and Pulido had shots from long range which just went over the bar.

Then on 14 minutes, all hell broke loose.

Van Moer miss-kicked a clearance and it bounced towards his own goal. As Valdivia went to strike it, Jeck came in from the left and cleared it. Unfortunately for the Belgian, he also took Valdivia with him. The referee pointed to the spot and was immediately surrounded by angry Belgians who couldn’t believe Jeck hadn’t got the benefit of the doubt as he got the ball.

These days the penalty probably would’ve been given but back then you could see the Belgian’s argument. There was a belief the pressure from a partisan crowd as well as the importance to the tournament of the hosts’ progress, could’ve made the referee’s mind up.

The fact the ref was from Argentina just confirmed things in the Europeans’ minds that this was a conspiracy.

Gustavo Peña was the regular penalty taker and he calmly converted it. He’d been in the squad back in 1966 and was one of the most experienced this time round.

Try as they might the Belgians just couldn’t get back into it. Later, van Moer admitted many of the players were relieved it was all over, they just couldn’t wait to go back home. They’d been away for too long and the desire to get a result in this one just wasn’t there.

Mexico had made it through to the knockout stages for the first time in their history. The public went crazy, with people filling the streets waving flags and sounding car horns. They’d been through three matches without conceding a goal too.

Both Mexico and the USSR had an identical goal difference, despite the Soviets having scored a goal more. So the rules decreed a toss of a coin would decide which team topped the group. The Soviets called correctly so they would stay at the Azteca. Mexico had to move to Toluca to take on the winners of Group Two.


1 USSR 3 2 1 0 6 1 5 5
2 Mexico 3 2 1 0 5 0 5 5
3 Belgium 3 1 0 2 4 5 -1 2
4 El Salvador 3 0 0 3 0 9 -9 0


Estadio Luis Dosai, Toluca, 9,890

ITALY (0) 0

ISRAEL (0) 0

ITALY: Albertosi; Burgnich, Cera, Rosato, Facchetti; Bertini, De Sisti, Mazzola; Domenghini (Rivera), Boninsegna, Riva

ISRAEL: Vissoker; Bar, Primo, Schwager, Rosenthal; Rosen, Bello, Shum; Spiegler, Spiegel, Feigenbaum (Shmulevich-Rom)

Football-wise, Group Two was by far the worst of the lot. But it was the only group where all four teams were in with a shout of grabbing the two qualifying spots.

The fact that Sweden had been pretty poor for nearly all three matches yet a last-minute winner against Uruguay had them dreaming of a quarter-final place, told you all you needed to know about the group.

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Uruguay and Sweden had finished on three points, but Uruguay had a goal difference of +1 and Sweden’s was 0. Italy started the day on three points, so a draw would be enough for them. Israel had one point and a -2 goal difference. This meant that if they could pull off the unthinkable and beat Italy by two goals this would put them level with Sweden on identical goal difference. The two would then flip a coin to see who went through. Of course, a three-goal victory for Israel would knock both Italy and Sweden out, and Israel would flip a coin with Uruguay to see who the group winners were.

The match was refereed by the same guy who’d been removed from doing the Sweden v Uruguay game the day before, for fear of a bribery approach.

The game ended goalless. But that’s not to say there weren’t chances as Italy had plenty. Riva, especially was very active. He had a glorious opportunity when he was put through one-on-one with the keeper. Inexplicably he dragged his shot well wide. De Sisti hit the post with a fierce drive from outside the area.

Then Domenghini had the ball in the net in the first half after he headed in Riva’s cross. But the linesman had his flag up for offside.

In the second half, it was much the same pattern. Italy attacked, created chances and missed them. Riva could’ve had a double hat-trick with the opportunities he had.

Then finally he scored. Or at least he thought he did. Bertini launched a long ball from just inside the Israeli half on the right. It went to the far post where Riva got up and headed it past Vissoker.

The celebrations were cut short when he saw the linesman had his flag up. There was no way he could’ve been offside when the ball was kicked as it travelled a long way. The linesman was Ethiopian, Seyoum Tarekegn who’d taken a lot of criticism for the way he handled the Sweden v Israel game at the same venue four days before. Moraes went over to consult him and he was certain of the offside so the goal was ruled out.

In the end, Italy got the draw they needed. They were rarely under threat from the Israelis yet looked by far the poorest of the teams left in the tournament.

For Israel, their first World Cup appearance was a huge success, despite going out in the group stage. They were only beaten once, by Uruguay and the two draws against Sweden and Italy lived long in the memory.

In his book “The Greatest Show on Earth” Andrew Downie quotes Mordechai Spiegler who reflected on what it meant for the team

“We were very anonymous underdogs and suddenly people say ‘Israel, where? Israel who?’ and you say a country in the Middle East also plays football. It was an opening. We all had a chance to go and play professionally as the gates were not really open to us before then. I went to Paris, Paris Football Club and Paris Saint-Germain, then New York Cosmos. We had one player who went to play for Mönchengladbach. My friend Spiegel he played a couple of years in France, in Strasbourg and Lyon, and later every generation had more opportunities as the market became more open and that began at our time.”


1 Italy 3 1 2 0 1 0 1 4
2 Uruguay 3 1 1 1 2 1 1 3
3 Sweden 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 3
4 Israel 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2 2


Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, 49,292

ENGLAND (0) 1 (Clarke 50 pen)


ENGLAND: Banks; Newton, Charlton J, Moore, Cooper; Bell, Mullery, Charlton R (Ball), Peters; Clarke, Astle (Osgood)

CZECHOSLOVAKIA: Viktor; Dobias, Migas, Hrivnák, Hagara; Pollák, Kuna, Veselý, Petrás; Adamec, Capkovic (Jokl)

England were still suffering a Brazilian hangover. Alf Ramsey was determined to rest some players knowing a draw would be good enough to see them through. They would still be in the hunt if they lost by a goal, but it would mean identical goal difference with Romania and a coin toss would decide who went through. Lose by two goals and Romania would be into Sunday’s Quarter-Final.

Keith Newton came back in at right-back and Jack Charlton won, what proved to be, his last cap for his country, as he replaced Brian Labone alongside Bobby Moore. Manchester City’s Colin Bell came into midfield as Alan Ball dropped to the bench. But the most interesting change was up front. Both Geoff Hurst and Francis Lee were rested with Jeff Astle and Allan Clarke replacing them. Clarke was being given his debut by Ramsey, who was generally seen as a conservative manager. For Clarke, it would be a day he never forgot as it was also his wedding anniversary and his wife’s birthday.

With Hurst missing they had to sort out who would take the job of penalty taking. Ramsey asked for volunteers and as no one responded Clarke piped up he’d do it.

Bobby Charlton was making his 105th appearance for his country, equalling Billy Wright’s record.

The game was a poor one with few chances in the first half. Four minutes into the second half came Clarke’s big moment.

Colin Bell dribbled into the area when Czech defender, Ladislav Kuna lost his balance and then pulled the ball back with his hands. The referee pointed to the spot.

On the bench there was some concern from Ramsey as coach Les Cocker told Clarke after the game.

“After the match Les Cocker came up to me and said ‘Alf was funny when you were placing the ball on the spot. He said ‘Will Allan score? And I said ‘what?’ And he said ‘Will Allan score?’ and Les said ‘Alf, you could put your mortgage on it.”

Clarke stepped up and cooly put it to Viktor’s left. Viktor never moved. England had the lead they wanted and Clarke had the dream start to his career.

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15 minutes later Bell had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside. Then five minutes later Mullery and Capkovic jumped for the ball and the Czech got an elbow in the face and had to be replaced.

With just minutes to go, Dobiás took a shot from long range which Banks looked to have covered quite easily. He recalled to Andrew Downie;

“The ball swerved through the thin air and what should have been a comfortable save for me, suddenly become a problem. I managed to get the fingertips of my right hand to the deviating ball and push it upwards. I immediately spun around and was astonished to see the ball return from the crossbar and straight into my waiting hands.”

It would’ve been one of the most amazing reverses in fortunes had the shot gone in. Banks pulled off one of the greatest saves anyone had ever seen, then four days later produced the sort of save more akin to a city park.

Banks then explained how the Mexican public was still very hostile towards England.

“I had more trouble with the crowd during this game than the Czech forward line. They pelted me with orange peel, apple cores and coins throughout the first half. I complained to the referee, who drew the matter to the attention of the FIFA officials present. They in turn asked the Mexican police to stand behind my goal and that changed things drastically; about five times the amount of orange peel and coins rained down. I wouldn’t be short of change for the telephone after the game.”

England saw out the game. They hadn’t played well, they knew that. Moore admitted as much and said Ramsey told them to go out and let their hair down as they needed to pick themselves up ready for the Quarter-Final clash with West Germany.


1 Brazil 3 3 0 0 8 3 5 6
2 England 3 2 0 1 2 1 1 4
3 Romania 3 1 0 2 4 5 -1 2
4 Czechoslovakia 3 0 0 3 2 7 -5 0



Estadio Nou Camp, León, 12,299

BULGARIA (1) 1 (Zhechev 40)

MOROCCO (0) 1 (Ghazouani 61)

BULGARIA: Yordanov; Gaydarski, Zhechev, Yakimov (Bonev), Penev (Dimitrov); Shalamanov, Nikodimov, Kolev, Popov; Mitkov, Asparuhov

MOROCCO: Hazzaz; Benkhrif, Fadili, Khanousi, Slimani; Mahroufi, Bamous (Choukri), El Filali, Ghandi; Alaoui (Faras), Ghazouani

There was absolutely nothing riding on this game. West Germany and Peru had decided the first two places so these lads were just going through the motions before their flight home.

Bulgarian coach, Stefan Bozhkov made more changes to his team as he had done for the game against the Germans. He used a total of 20 players for the three matches. You feel a bit sorry for Bozhidar Grigorov and Georgi Kamenski who were the only two players not to get a game.

There were just two goals in the game and they came either side of half-time. Bulgaria took the lead when Popov took a free-kick on the left wing. Instead of floating it into the area, he calmly passed it along the ground, a move which foxed the Moroccans.

Somehow the keeper made a hash of gathering it and it ran all the way to the far post where Zhechev turned it in. For a tournament that had been a letdown for Bulgaria, at least Zhechev could celebrate his first goal for his country in his 44th appearance.

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Bulgaria had lead in every game this World Cup but were yet to register a win. Just after the hour, this run continued. Perhaps befitting this game, the equaliser was a scruffy one.

Ghazouani headed a ball into the area, which Dimitrov headed away. It fell back to the Moroccan who controlled it on his chest and then hit a shot which took a deflection and dribbled past Yordanov into the net.

It was a great moment for Morocco who picked up their first point in their first-ever World Cup. They returned to a hero’s welcome.

Bulgaria were competing in their third successive World Cup but were yet to register a victory. They returned home to a Communist country welcomed by no one. Despite the fears of several players and many officials, there was no one to greet them back in Sofia.


1 West Germany 3 3 0 0 10 4 6 6
2 Peru 3 2 0 1 7 5 2 4
3 Bulgaria 3 0 1 2 5 9 -4 1
4 Morocco 3 0 1 2 2 6 -4 1

The Quarter-Final ties were now known. They were to take place just three days after the group stages ended.

14th June 1970

USSR v Uruguay, Mexico City

Brazil v Peru, Guadalajara

Italy v Mexico, Toluca

West Germany v England, León

So, join us tomorrow as we get down to the last eight in Mexico 70.