Mexico 70: Wednesday 17th June 1970 and Brazil face off with Uruguay in the first of the semis

Mexico 70 1970 World Cup Brazil vs Uruguay

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 17th June 1970

As with the Quarter-Finals, there was no stagger in the schedule. Both Semi-Finals kicked off at the same time. As BBC and ITV had, had to leave two games out each day. Now they could decide who would get which. They tossed a coin and ITV won so they got the Brazil game. If BBC were disappointed, they soon found they had an absolute classic on their hands.

The original schedule was for both Semi-Finals to be played in Mexico City. But Brazil were desperate to stay in Guadalajara as they had done for their four previous games. As soon as they beat Peru in the Quarter-Finals, officials from the CBF got to work on lobbying for their team to stay where they were. By the next morning, the decision had been made.

As Andrew Downie explains in his book “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Inside Story of the Legendary 1970 World Cup”, the Uruguayans weren’t particularly happy with it. They’d just played 120 minutes in the heat against the Soviets at the Azteca. Now they had to travel over 100km to Guadalajara where the temperature, climate and altitude were different. The players were let down by their own officials who didn’t even contest the decision.

The semi-final line-up meant we were assured a South America v Europe clash as had been the case in two of the last three Finals. Then, Brazil came out on top on both occasions. What happened this time would have to wait as we sat back and watched two incredible matches.


Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, 51,261

BRAZIL (1) 3 (Clodoaldo 44, Jairzinho 76, Rivellino 89)

URUGUAY (1) 1 (Cubilla 19)

BRAZIL: Félix; Carlos Alberto, Piazza, Brito, Everaldo; Jairzinho, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Rivellino; Tostão, Pelé

URUGUAY: Mazurkiewicz; Ubiña, Ancheta, Matosas, Mujica; Maneiro (Espárrago), Cortés, Castillo, Cubilla; Fontes, Morales

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The two heavyweights of South American football at this time were Brazil and Uruguay. It had been Argentina and Uruguay in the early days of the World Cup, but after the War Brazil emerged as a stronger competitor. The two nations had 50% of the titles on offer, with two each. No country had ever won three.

Brazil had won every match, played some scintillating football yet there was some trepidation in their camp after what happened in 1950. Then, they were the host nation and went into the Final match knowing a draw would see them lift their first-ever World Cup. Over 173,000 people filled the Maracaña expecting to watch the hosts go through the motions. When they took the lead it all seemed so simple. Then Uruguay hit back with two goals and Brazil was plunged into a depression it took them years to come out of. Uruguay had picked their pocket that day, so few Brazilians were prepared to write them off. Despite the obvious gulf between the abilities of both sides.

This would be the first time the two had met in a World Cup match since that day in 1950.

Uruguay had been efficient rather than impressive in the group stage. They beat Israel quite comfortably, did what they needed to do against Italy, which was a draw, then lost to a very late goal against Sweden. In the Quarters they scored a disputed goal in extra time to see off USSR. So they’d scored during 90 minutes in just one of their four matches thus far.

With Pelé there was a growing belief this was his time. This was his fourth World Cup but the first he’d been able to play a part all the way through. But this team was not just about him. Gérson and Rivellino gave them industry, creativity and dead-ball danger. Jairzinho had scored in every game and was very much the successor to Garrincha. Tostão was a rejuvenated player able to bring in others around him. To complete the hand, Clodoaldo provided the necessary protection for the defence as well as a continuation for the attackers. In reality, if Brazil had, had a Clodoaldo in 1982 they’d have walked off with the trophy.

But Uruguay certainly weren’t overawed. They may have been tired from their Quarter-Final and the travelling to Guadalajara, but they didn’t fear Brazil. Roberto Matosas explained in Andrew Downie’s book;

“I think that a characteristic of the Uruguayan footballer had always been to respect the rival but not fear him; one always believes in his strength and that he can beat anyone.”

As the game drew closer the Brazilian players were under huge pressure, more so than for the England game. This was mainly from their own press. Players kept being asked whether they feared another’ Maracañazo’. This was a bit of a nonsense when many of the players weren’t even born then. Even Zagallo was just 18 at the time and eight years away from playing for his country. With little film of the match available, it wasn’t as if television could keep replaying the fateful day either. All the stories of the game were simply apocryphal, but of course, they were having an effect on the psyche.

Pelé was very aware of it all. He may not have been quite the hero he became in 1958 had 1950 not happened. In Downie’s book, he talks about supporters coming up to the players the day before begging them not to lose to Uruguay. Many of them would rather not win the World Cup as long as they just beat Uruguay.

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Skipper Carlos Alberto, spoke of how 1970 was the first World Cup where supporters travelled around with the team. He said this made things worse as their nervousness transmitted to the players. They definitely felt it during the first half.

Zagallo said of the first half;

“I’m not fooling myself by saying the first 30 minutes of the game were a disappointment. Our team was unrecognisable. I had the impression that we had swapped shirts. I confess that I was astonished. I didn’t know what to do about such apathy. They scored a goal and I couldn’t get out of my seat. I was inert. But at that moment I could tell things were serious. We couldn’t complete a simple pass; we didn’t create anything from the back. The Uruguayans could’ve won the game in those opening 30 minutes. They were bossing it.”

Uruguay began strongly and made several tough challenges to make sure their opponents knew they were in a game. Mujica was booked for a late tackle from behind on Jairzinho in the first five minutes. Fontes then received the same punishment for an equally strong challenge on Pelé on the opposite flank.

Brazil were indeed sloppy. Brito, just outside his own box, inexplicably gave the ball straight to Morales. He crossed to the far post where Cubilla controlled it on his thigh, then clipped it across the goal inside the opposite post. No idea what Félix was doing but he made no attempt to save it.

Uruguay in front, Brazil a mess.

Gradually, Brazil came back into it. Rivellino went close with a free-kick that he chose to curl rather than power it. Pelé himself chose the latter from 25 yards out from another free-kick but the keeper was equal to it.

One of the problems Brazil had was that Gérson was being marked out of the game. So he decided to swap places with Clodoaldo. It didn’t take long before the change paid dividends. Just as the first half was drawing to a close, Clodoaldo played it out to Tostão on the left wing. He carried on his run and Tostão found him with a perfectly weighted pass allowing the Brazil number five to fire it into the net without having to check his stride. Uruguay didn’t really deserve to not to be in front but things were level at the break. This was Clodoaldo’s first goal for his country and was now enjoying his newfound freedom further forward.

Brazil were much better in the second period. Pelé had started to get a grip on the game. Matosas spoke afterwards of how it was Pelé who was the most calm of all the Brazilians and dragged his team back into things.

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Uruguay began to suffer for the heat and the extra time they’d played. They didn’t have a recognised striker so always found it difficult to convert any chances they created.

Pelé rolled back the years with a typically powerful run dribbling from the halfway line. He beat defender after defender before Ancheta managed to bring him down on the edge of the box.

A few minutes later he had the first of many encounters with Mazurkiewicz, one of which became very famous. The keeper took a goal-kick but could get no height on the ball. It went straight to Pelé, about 30 yards out, who hit it instinctively first time and almost beat the keeper.

Brazil were now finding far too much space as the Uruguayans were visibly tiring. The ball was given away to Jairzinho, who was about 30 yards from his own goal. He immediately drove forward. He found Pelé in the centre circle, who in turn flicked it audaciously onto Tostão. The Cruzeiro forward saw Jair had continued his run and again found him with a perfect pass. The Brazil number seven beat Matosas and slid it passed Mazurkiewicz for his sixth goal of the tournament, keeping up his record of scoring in every game.

With less than 15 minutes to go there only looked to be one winner. Pelé caused some controversy as he powered down the left wing ahead of Fontes. As the Uruguayan looked to bring him down, Pelé seemed to swing an elbow at him. Neither player was reprimanded.

Mazurkiewicz pulled off a good save from a long-range shot from Gérson and then Félix matched him. Uruguay kept launching it into the area, Brazil kept repelling it. From one clearance Mujica played it back into the far post where Cubilla met it firmly with his head. From close range Félix saved it. The Brazil keeper had come in for some criticism during the tournament as the weak link in their defence, yet at the crucial moment, he’d kept his team in front.

Then in the final 90 seconds, Pelé drove them forward again. He reached the penalty area, stopped, waited for Rivellino. He laid the ball into his path and the Brazil number 11 fired it past the keeper to complete a memorable victory for the favourites.

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Fortunately for the spectators, the watching world, the referee didn’t end the game exactly on 90 minutes. This allowed time for another moment of Pelé magic still talked about today.

Brazil were on the attack again. Tostão was again orchestrating things in midfield. He saw Pelé make a run down the right. Once more a perfectly weighted pass from Tostão allowed Pelé to get to the ball first as the keeper came out. But to everyone’s surprise, Pelé dummied the keeper by letting it run. He then ran round the other side of Mazurkiewicz and from a tight angle he put his shot just wide of the post. It was as audacious as his attempt to beat the Czech keeper, Viktor from the halfway line in their first match. For all the wonderful goals Brazil scored in this World Cup, the three Pelé didn’t score are remembered just as much.

The attempt to beat Viktor from just inside his own half, the header which saw Banks pull off the save of the century, and then the dummy against Mazurkiewicz when his shot went just wide.

Brazil would contest the final match of a World Cup for the fourth time in the last six tournaments. Could they become the first team to win the Jules Rimet trophy for a third time? As both matches kicked off simultaneously, they reached the dressing room waiting for news of who they were to meet in the Final.

You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out too, so join us then.