Mexico 70: Saturday 20th June 1970 and it’s the often forgotten third-place playoff…


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.


Saturday 20th June 1970


Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 104,403

URUGUAY (0) 0  

WEST GERMANY (1) 1 (Overath 26)

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

WEST GERMANY: Wolter; Vogts, Weber, Patzke, Schnellinger (Lorenz); Overath, Fichtel; Libuda (Löhr), Seeler, Müller, Held

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These days people are often not bothered by the Third Place Match at a World Cup. But there was a time when it was important. You can see some people’s point though, as they can often be drab affairs played out by two sets of players who’d rather go home. West Germany actually played in one of the better ones when they lost 3-6 to France in 1958. Just Fontaine helping himself to four more goals to take his tally past double figures to 13. A record which still stands today and may never be beaten.

It can often be a chance for the leading goalscorer to increase his total as Eusebio did back in 1966 when Portugal beat USSR. His penalty in that match took his total to nine.

In this World Cup West Germany’s Gerd Müller was top scorer with 10, four ahead of Jairzinho, so it was likely he’d remain at the top of the charts regardless.

Managers can often choose to include squad players previously unused as there’s not much riding on the game, other than pride. So it was a bit of a surprise when Uruguay coach, Juan Hohberg named an unchanged side.

He’d kept the same starting 11 all through the knockout stage. Seven of his squad played every game, with Cortés starting in all but one, and making a sub appearance in the other. His back five were ever present with only Brazil able to put more than one goal past them.

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They’d done well to reach this stage. They lost their star player, Pedro Rocha after just 13 minutes of the tournament. An injury picked up in the warm-up matches flared up again. The team’s preparation was what got them this far, according to defender, Roberto Matosas. Matosas also believed the reason they didn’t go further was through the lack of a recognised striker. Rocha could score goals and without him they struggled. They only managed five goals between them in the whole six matches they played.

The settled side decision also meant four players saw no action at all, with a further two just getting a one sub appearance each. Bareño and Rocha started one game each.

West German coach Helmut Schön, made four changes from the team which had played that incredible Semi-Final against Italy. Beckenbauer’s shoulder injury ended his tournament. Goalkeeper, Sepp Maier stepped down for this one, as did Schulz and Grabowski. The latter made a substitute appearance in every match except the Semi-Final, where he started.

Goalkeeper Horst Wolter made his only appearance in this match, with Wolfgang Weber, scorer in the Final at Wembley four years earlier, getting his first start after a sub appearance against Bulgaria.

Schön gave four players starting places in every game, with just three of the squad seeing no action whatsoever.

For Wolter, this proved to be his final appearance for his country. For players such as Seeler and Schnellinger and Löhr they’d play one more match.

If the organisers had any concerns over the public’s imagination being caught by this game, they needn’t have worried. More people turned up for this one than had been at the West Germany v Italy Semi-Final.

Having said that, the game did have an end-of-season feel to it. There wasn’t the intensity of the other knockout matches. But professionals still have their pride.

The Germans scored, what proved to be, the only goal of the game midway through the first half. Libuda’s cross from the right to the far post was won in the air by Seeler. He nodded it to the centre of the area where Müller controlled it. With his back to goal he laid it off for Overath to fire it in.

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The celebrations were muted but satisfactory. Playing his 55th match for his country, Overath was another who tasted defeat in the ’66 Final. This was his 14th goal for West Germany and he’d go on to represent them in over 80 matches.

Uruguay almost equalised before the break. Wolter misjudged the flight of a throw from the right into his box. It was headed on at the near post and Castillo, under pressure, just needed to head it in. But he hit the post from three yards out as if to emphasise Matosas’ view of the team in front of goal.

In the second half, they had another golden opportunity. Maneiro crossed from the right and Morales beat his marker to throw himself headfirst at the ball. It glanced off his head and hit the far post. As if to illustrate how much he didn’t mean it to go there, Wolter was diving the other way. The ball bounced back off the post towards Morales, who’d hit the turf by then. There was a rather comical moment when he attempted a scorpion-type kick but missed.

A few minutes later Fontes had a great chance. He judged the bounce of the ball better than the defence and just had to cushion a header over Wolter. He got it over the keeper but Schnellinger dived to head it away just in time.

The ensuing build-up saw Uruguay get it back into the area, and after a bit of head tennis, Fontes again headed it down for Cubilla to turn it in from three yards out. But he was challenged by Vogts and a combination of his and the keeper’s foot, managed to stop a certain goal, right on the line.

The Germans were playing deeper and deeper and soon Uruguay were trying to pass their way through in the area. But still, bodies got in the way and the ball just wouldn’t go in.

The last chance fell to Cortés but he blasted it over from outside the area.

One of the features of this World Cup is the number of shots from outside the area. Presumably, everyone had bought into the idea the thin air made the ball move quicker through it. But I cannot recall a goal scored from long range. No one seemed capable of keeping the ball down. Perhaps the Israel equaliser against Sweden was the only one, but that was only just outside the box.

West Germany eventually ran out winners, giving them a third place to go with second four years earlier. They could now think about four years of playing friendlies in preparation for hosting the tournament for the first time in 1974.

Uruguay could be proud of their achievements. They’d competed in six World Cups to this point, winning two and finishing fourth twice more. They were in the last eight in England so only the 1962 edition stood out as disappointing. For a country of their size that really was incredible.

The stage was now set for the Final the next day. 104,403 was impressive as an attendance figure for this game and would only be bettered by a further three thousand for the Final.

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Müller didn’t add to his tally but unless Jairzinho scored four in the Final, he was going to be out on his own as top scorer in the tournament.

Did someone mention the Final? Join us tomorrow for the final trip down Mexico 70’s memory lane…