Mexico 70: Sunday 14th June 1970 and England get it on with West Germany – but Banks is out!

Mexico 70 1970 World Cup England vs West Germany

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.


Sunday 14th June 1970

England and West Germany was the mouth-watering tie in León. The Germans had played there three times already and as this was at a higher altitude than Guadalajara, England were at a disadvantage.

This was a repeat of the previous World Cup Final which England won 4-2. The Germans were out for revenge and looked to have acclimatised themselves very well. England, still struggling with the heat, had been inconsistent, but then they were during the group stage four years before.


Estadio Nou Camp, León, 23,357

ENGLAND (1) (2) 2 (Mullery 31, Peters 49)

WEST GERMANY (0) (2) 3 (Beckenbauer 68, Seeler 82, Müller 108)

ENGLAND: Bonetti; Newton, Labone, Moore, Cooper; Ball, Mullery, Charlton R (Bell), Peters (Hunter); Lee, Hurst

WEST GERMANY: Maier; Vogts, Fichtel, Schnellinger, Höttges (Schulz); Libuda (Grabowski), Overath, Beckenbauer, Löhr; Seeler, Müller

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For many people, the 1970 World Cup was the best. This game is one of the reasons they say that. In world football at the time three of the top four teams were England, West Germany and Brazil. England had already met Brazil in a pulsating match earlier in the tournament. Now they had a match against West Germany. A repeat of the 1966 World Cup Final.

England had six players who’d played in that match, West Germany five. It’s probably fair to say for both teams they had made improvements. For England, Newton, Labone and Cooper were more mobile and attack-minded than Cohen, Wilson and Jack Charlton.

For the Germans, Maier was definitely a better keeper than Tilkowski and in Gerd Müller they had a prolific goalscorer.

The group stages had produced mixed fortunes for England. Defeat against Brazil meant this match rather than a slightly easier one against Peru. They’d beaten both Romania and Czechoslovakia without being dominant. But then their group stage matches in 1966 weren’t exactly classics.

The Germans had struggled to beat Morocco but thrashed a struggling Bulgarian side before seeing off the exciting, impetuous Peruvians.

Yet the Germans had one crucial advantage. They’d played all their matches in León and so were very familiar with their surroundings. England had been in Guadalajara, but second place in the group meant a trip of 220km east. There was no airport there at the time so they had to travel five hours by road.

The Germans were very much ‘up for it’, desperate to gain revenge for Wembley. The two had met once since then when West Germany won 1-0 in Hanover thanks to a late Beckenbauer goal.

The Mexican press were still anti-England too, although the locals in León hadn’t had time to build up the same animosity those in Guadalajara had.

England coach Alf Ramsey had been meticulous about the team’s food, drinks and even sunbathing. This had made enemies of their hosts, but Ramsey wasn’t concerned about them.

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Two days before the game Ramsey allowed the team to have a beer. Legendary goalkeeper, Gordon Banks was beginning to feel ill within half an hour of his meal and beer. He travelled with the team to León but went straight to bed when he got there – then spent most of his time on the toilet.

On the day of the game he had begun to feel a little better but had little sleep and crucially no food. In the team meeting before they travelled to the stadium, Ramsey addressed the players and asked Banks if he was ok to play. Unfortunately, he had begun to feel worse again so it was decided Chelsea’s Peter Bonetti would play in his place.

Bonetti had played six times for his country, with his debut coming just a few weeks before the last World Cup kicked off. But he hadn’t played a competitive game in weeks.

He was a dependable keeper who’d spent his whole career at Stamford Bridge and had just won the FA Cup. The other keeper in the squad, Alex Stepney, won the European Cup with Manchester United in 1968, so they weren’t short of experience. But Stepney had only one cap and that was two years before this match.

Despite the ground being the smallest of the five being used for this tournament, it was big enough for the Germans who also commanded the local support so it was very much like an away game for England.

On an incredibly hot day, England started the better. In fact, they were the better for the whole first half. Martin Peters made mention afterwards how the Nou Camp was far more open than the Jalisco had been and so there was a cool breeze to combat the heat.

The game was a personal milestone for Bobby Charlton as he went past Billy Wright’s world record of 105 caps. Without a goal in this tournament, he was still one away from 50 at international level.

The one change Ramsey had made in midfield from 1966 was replacing Nobby Stiles with Alan Mullery. ‘Mullers’ had made his debut as a 23-year-old back in 1964, but wouldn’t be seen again in an England shirt for almost three years. Mullery’s performances were such Stiles only made four more appearances for England.

Yet to score for the national side, the Tottenham man earned notoriety when he became the first England player to be sent off when receiving his marching orders in the European Championships Semi-Final against Yugoslavia in 1968.

In the 31st minute, Mullery started a move as he switched the play from left to right to Keith Newton who was always a willing outlet on the right. Newton played it into the six-yard area where the German defence hesitated long enough to allow Mullery to nip in and send it past Maier for the opening goal.

England still lead at the break and looked pretty comfortable. The Germans had hardly tested England’s substitute keeper.

Then just five minutes after the break England confirmed their dominance. The move began at the back, predictably with Moore. He brought the ball out of defence, found Ball who found Hurst in a lot of space. Hurst brought the ball forward, waiting for Newton to provide the overlap. Hurst played the Everton full-back in allowing him to cross first time without breaking stride. It went to the far post and Peters ‘ghosting’ in with Vogts, got there first to make it 2-0.

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England were cruising, and for a short while played ‘keep-ball’. Few teams ever scored three goals against Ramsey’s England. Scotland did, before and after 1966 but it was rare.

One common feature of this match and the ’66 Final was how Beckenbauer and Bobby Charlton cancelled each other out. Charlton has actually said he didn’t really enjoy the Final as he didn’t really do much as the two concentrated on stopping the other playing.

West German coach, Helmut Schön shuffled his pack. He’d already brought on Willi Schulz for Höttges at half-time to bolster his beleaguered defence. Now after England had increased their lead he turned to Jürgen Grabowski

This was a definite tactic from Schön to use the Eintracht Frankfurt winger as a second half sub, and he certainly made them more of a threat than Libuda had been able to. Much as Libuda had done when he came in against Bulgaria. Grabowski says he wasn’t particularly happy with his part-time role, but recognised it worked.

Then as the game moved towards the final 20 minutes, Beckenbauer managed to find some space. He beat Mullery and hit a right-foot shot from just outside the right-hand edge of the area. He hit it across the keeper towards the far post.

Bonetti dived but inexplicably he dived over the ball. West Germany suddenly had a way in.

Just for a moment, Mullery had made the fatal error of forgetting his manager’s mantra at the start of the game. “Don’t let Beckenbauer shoot on his right foot”.

But Bonetti’s failure to gather a ball which wasn’t hit too hard was a little concerning for a defence so used to dependability from their keeper.

Two minutes later Ramsey made his first change and boy did this cause a stir.

Colin Bell came on for Bobby Charlton.

Charlton admitted he’d seen activity on the bench and when he saw Bell getting ready he knew he’d be the one to make way. A little disappointed he felt he could run for a lot longer but Ramsey had made it a policy to take Bobby off in the games against Brazil and Czechoslovakia. The heat was draining, Charlton was 31 and there may be a Semi-Final to prepare for.

Perhaps crucially, Charlton admitting he was concentrating on the bench rather than ‘der Kaiser’ allowed Beckenbauer the necessary space to create his chance.

But Bell was a capable replacement. Known as ‘Nijinsky’ after the famous racehorse, he could run and run.

He made an almost instant impression too. Schnellinger launched a long ball forward which Labone dealt with comfortably. Cooper left it for Moore, who brought it out of defence in that typical languid, calm, controlled style of his. He spotted Bell on the right wing in acres of space and found him with a perfectly weighted pass with the outside of his right foot.

Bell took it right to the edge of the area, sold Schulz a dummy onto his left and his shot forced Maier into a sharp save.

Then a few minutes later, patient build-up play led to Peters, on the right, sending Bell clear down the wing. He looked up and played a perfect ball into the six-yard area where Hurst got his head to it first. Agonisingly for him, and England, it bounced narrowly the wrong side of the post. If it had just hit the foot of the post it would probably have bounced up for Lee to put it in.

It was then the Germans’ turn to hit their opponents on the counter. Löhr picked up a clearance from the back and found Müller on the edge of the area. He turned Newton and fired a shot at Bonetti’s near post but the Chelsea keeper clutched it gratefully.

Then with just eight minutes remaining, the Germans attacked again. A cross into the box was dealt with by Labone but Beckenbauer volleyed it back in. Moore half cleared it, but it came out to Löhr on the left of the area. Labone again cleared it but there was Schnellinger. He floated a ball in towards Seeler at the far post.

The ball seemed to hang in the air for ages. Eventually, it dropped and Seeler, without looking at the goal, backheaded it. It looped up and over Bonetti into the far corner. Seeler maintained afterwards he meant to do it. Difficult to believe that, but the Germans didn’t care they’d come from two goals down to score a late equaliser.

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They’d scored in the last minute to force extra time four years earlier and now they’d done it again.

Within a minute Beckenbauer almost won it. He was given far too much space in midfield. He played a one-two with Müller, beat Newton and put his shot just wide of the near post.

Finally, the Argentinian referee blew for the end of 90 minutes. England players couldn’t believe they hadn’t won it after cruising two goals to the good.

Few of the players must’ve relished a further 30 minutes in that heat. The only meaningful chance of the first period of extra time was from Beckenbauer.

Enjoying his freedom he hit a long-range effort which Bonetti did well to tip over.

Three minutes into the second period England had begun to look tired. Grabowski twisted and turned on the right wing. He eventually got a cross to the far post. Löhr got up to head it back across goal and while the ball was still in the air, Müller got his foot up to hook it in from close range.

Soon after England thought they’d levelled things. Lee’s cross from the right wing was aimed for Bell on the penalty spot. But a German head got to it first and it looked to be bouncing out for a corner. Lee ran round and got to it before it went out. He beat Maier and knocked it across the six-yard box for Hurst to tuck it in at the far post.

But the linesman’s flag had gone up. Evidently, he was claiming Lee was offside when the ball was headed back by Vogts. Incredibly the linesman was flagging for a rule he didn’t understand. Vogts clearly got his head first to the ball and so Lee couldn’t have been offside.

Worse was to follow. If Hurst’s disallowed goal was bad enough, the next moment was completely inexplicable. Bell was chopped down in the area by Beckenbauer. Yet the referee waved play on. Bell clearly knocked the ball beyond Beckenbauer, who lunged in and completely took Bell out.

Unbelievable, Jeff.

With only a few minutes to go, Newton had a shot from 20 yards out which he hit with the outside of his right foot and Maier just managed to tip it over.

Finally, the referee brought proceedings to an end and England, the World Champions, were out. It had been an unbelievable game and an incredible comeback by West Germany.

But there were plenty of questions to be answered. The Germans felt vindicated and worth their place in the Semi-Finals. England had problems with a couple of mistakes from Bonetti and that substitution of Charlton.

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Ramsey apologised to Charlton for the way it ended. Charlton never played for England again. Neither did Bonetti, who continued his club career at Chelsea well into the 70’s. Newton and Labone weren’t capped again either, which seemed a surprise given how well they’d played in Mexico.

West Germany now had a Semi-Final with Italy to prepare for which would be at the Azteca.

Quite a day.

The semi-final line-up was now complete. There would be a three-day break before we would find out who the finalists were. The two ties were fascinating. An all-South American one and an all-European one, so obviously we’d have a South America v Europe Final. Just like two out of the last three Finals.

17th June 1970

Brazil v Uruguay, Guadalajara

Italy v West Germany, Mexico City