The 1970 World Cup will go down in history as one of its greatest-ever editions. Televised in full-colour for the first time, the new technology perfectly showcased the vibrant landscape glistening under the hot Mexican sun.
England were the defending champions heading into the event, and questions were raised about their ability to cope with the blistering heat and high altitudes of Central America. Sir Alf Ramsey, however, did at least retain the vast majority of the squad who had delivered glory four years earlier.
Brazil, however, were the team who looked the most formidable. Boasting legendary players like Pele, Tostao, Jairzinho, and Carlos Alberto, the Selecao looked more frightening than any international squad that had come before.
How did the 1970 World Cup unfold? Let’s find out as we revisit the year The Beatles split up, Jimi Hendrix died, and the war in Vietnam continued to rage on.
1970 World Cup Group Stage
Sixteen teams traveled to Mexico for the ninth edition of the FIFA World Cup, with fourteen emerging from qualifying rounds and two teams, host Mexico and holders England, qualifying by default.
The groups were divided into four teams per group, and finished like this - with qualified teams being marked in bold.
- Soviet Union
- El Salvador
- West Germany
The most famous 1970 World Cup group game was played between Brazil and England on 7 June 1970. A classic encounter saw the Brazilians win 1-0 thanks to a lone Jairzinho goal, but the game will forever be remembered for Gordon Banks’ stunning save to deny Pele.
The Santos superstar headed the ball towards certain glory, only to somehow be halted by the diving Banks, who nipped down to push the ball toward the ground, where it bounced over the bar. To this day, Pele considers this to be the best save he has ever seen - a sentiment shared by football fans everywhere.
Heartbreak For England
Despite their narrow loss to Brazil, the reigning World Champions still qualified for the quarter-finals, where they would face a West Germany side hoping to exact revenge for the previous World Cup final.
England led 2-0 thanks to goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, however a late rally (topped off with a goal by the great Gerd Muller) inspired West Germany to a 3-2 victory. It would mark an unwanted trend for England, as they would be sent home from several future tournaments at the hands of the Germans.
West Germany were later eliminated in the semi-finals by Italy after a pulsating 3-4 loss.
Italy Demolished In Final
Brazil romped through the knockout stages and a semi-final victory over great foes Uruguay landed them in their fourth World Cup final - then a record.
The Selecao would face the Italians in the World Cup final in Mexico City - a tasty fixture considering Brazil’s attacking prowess and Italy’s famously-solid defence.
The Italians, however, were thrashed 1-4 in the final as the attacking output of Brazil proved to be too much to handle. Goals from Pelè, Gérson, Jairzinho, and a beautiful Carlos Alberto goal gave Brazil their third FIFA World Cup and permanent bragging rights over the Jules Rimet trophy.
The 1970 Brazil team would be forever etched in history as the greatest football team of all-time. Little did we know, however, that it would be 24 years before the nation won the tournament again.
1970 World Cup Fun Facts
- As well being the first World Cup to be broadcast in colour, the 1970 edition was also the first to send live pictures from across the Atlantic
- The tournament’s famous Telstar ball, featuring alternating black-and-white pentagons, quickly became iconic and marked the transition between heavy footballs and lighter ones
- West Germany’s Gerd Muller claimed the Golden Boot with ten goals
- Jairzinho scored in every game he played across the tournament
- Brazil would not win the World Cup again until 1994
- The famous Jules Rimet trophy, given to Brazil after their third World Cup victory, would be stolen in 1983 and it has never been recovered
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