Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe Surreal 3 Weeks of the 1970 World Cup - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The Surreal 3 Weeks of the 1970 World Cup - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The Surreal 3 Weeks of the 1970 World Cup

I remember watching a short review of the 1970 world cup when I was about 8 and being utterly mesmerised. It seemed different from any of the modern football I was watching at the time and had the feel of a fantasy adventure rather than a series of football matches. Now looking back at the event, I can understand why. Firstly, the rather primitive technology gives the atmosphere of watching the action on your television a different feel. There is a distinct comparison between the bright Technicolor and the all-encompassing hue of the Mexican heat which engulfs the already heated atmosphere in the sea of humanity at the Azteca stadium. Furthermore, the commentary sounds like the last communications of a pilot about to nosedive to earth and gives a heightened urgency to the football, as if every moment had the upmost significance to the existence of planet earth.  This doesn’t even account for the football on display: brilliant, bizarre and beautiful, all the greatest aspects of the sport rolled into what turned out to be football’s epic response to music’s Woodstock the year before.

First of all, there was the England team. Seemingly better equipped than 1966 and ready to prove that success wasn’t restricted to home soil. But strange incidents dogged their campaign from the start. Even before the tournament had begun their captain and icon, Bobby Moore was arrested in Columbia on allegations that despite his growing wealth as one of the leaders in the sport he had stolen a bracelet from a small Columbian jewellery shop.  Putting that aside, England had to face up to the might of the Brazilian team in the group stage in a game that turned into a utopian example of footballing excellence.  Firstly, Banks produced THAT save from Pele. Possibly the only time the great man was bettered on the football field. This caused the commentator to exclaim through the already sensitive microphone ‘WHAT A SAVE GORDON BANKS’ as the crowd in the Estadio Jalisco seemingly broke the sound barrier in the expectation that Pele had scored.  Then, Moore performed THAT tackle.  With Jairzinho racing into the penalty area ready to pull the trigger, Moore calmly placed his foot to make contact with the ball and sent the talented Brazilian flying. However, despite performing what is now often considered the greatest tackle of all time, Moore had no interest in congratulating himself; he had a game of football to play. Alas, in this world cup of strange happenings, England’s defensive efforts were ultimately powerless to stop the freewheeling Jairzinho, who lost Moore one time and scored the only goal of the game.  Things got stranger for England. The Mexican heat got to Gordon Banks a few days before the crunch re-match with the West Germans and he was unable to play. However, this didn’t seem like a huge problem as England had Chelsea’s ultra- reliable number 1 Peter Bonetti as a back-up. All was going superbly for England as they were cruising with a 2-0 lead over an opponent who had almost caused them such agony on home turf 4 years previously.  Then the perplexing Mexican heat hit Alf Ramsey as he pulled off Bobby Charlton to rest him for the next match. This freed up the space for Franz Beckenbauer to exploit the English defence and after a mistake from Bonetti and a further German goal conceded, the stage was set for a young Gerd Muller to seal the game for Germany and announce his talent on the world stage.  England had succumbed and their adventure was over, cue other strange tales.

One of the most engrossing episodes of this world cup was the dramatic antics of the soap-opera Italian team.  The stubbornness of their coach, Ferruccio Valcareggi, meant that the Italians struggled in the 1st half of their quarter final against the hosts. Valcareggi believed that Italian strikers Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera could not play on the same field together and refused to start both at the same time. This proved problematic for the Italian team until Valcarreggi devised a system known as “staffetta” or relay in which he would play Mazzola in the first half and Rivera in the 2nd. The crisis was solved as super sub Rivera scored 2 goals in the 2nd half against Mexico to lead the Italians to a 4-1 victory. Another scintillating episode developed in another of the quarter finals as Uruguay faced the Soviet Union.  With no penalties at the time of the World Cup, the players were aware in extra time that the game might have to be decided for the first time in World Cup history by the drawing of lots. Not wanting to leave this to chance, in the last four minutes of extra time, Uruguay’s Cubilla chased down a ball in the penalty area that he himself appeared to have lost. However, the Soviet player was unable to shield the ball effectively, believing it had already gone out of the field of play. Cubilla clawed the ball from the line, retained his footing and crossed the ball for Esparrago to head the ball passed the static Soviet defence. Thus, the drawing of lots at a World Cup was prevented even if the Soviet players maintained that the ball was out of play.

The drama extended into the semi-finals. The Brazilian mastodons went through with little fuss, even after going down 1-0 to Uruguay. They eventually pulled through for a comfortable 3-1 victory. However, in the other semi-final, it appeared that the excitement of the earlier rounds in the Mexican heat refused to leave both Italy and Germany.  They played out a back and forth and an incredibly open semi-final which is often viewed as one of the greatest games in the competitions history. The game only really exploded into life in the 30 minutes of extra time after the score was 1-1 after 90 minutes. Germany and then Italy went in front before the killer blow was struck by Italy’s star man, Rivera in the 111th minute. This was the last goal of 120 minutes of dramatic World Cup football with the score line ending up at 4-3 to the Italians. An incredible result considering the traditionally defensive stance of both nations and the fact the game would decide who would reach the biggest final in world football. But, after all, this was no ordinary competition.

The final was decided. The melodramatic Italians against the unbeatable Brazilians. The result appeared to be going as expected as the majestic Pele rose to meet a cross and produce an image that defined his legacy, putting a powerful header past Italian Goalkeeper, Albertosi. This World Cup of magical moments had another one, as Pele put the demons of his injuries in 1962 and 1966 behind him to cement his place in sporting folklore. However, defending for Brazil was a chore rather than a job. Goalkeeper, Felix was left stranded by his wayward defence in the 38th minute as Boninsegna fired into an empty net. So far the match had been a far more even tie than expected, but in the 2nd half, Brazil would show their class. Firstly, Gerson arrowed a shot from around 20 yards into the bottom corner and Jairzinho scored an unusually scrappy goal with the final touch coming off his chest. But, the finale of this 3 week adventure and the best moment of it was yet to come. Clodoaldo danced past the Italian’s and started off the move and Brazil moved down the touchline before coming in field where Pele seemed to be stuck with a number of Italian defenders near the penalty area. But racing out of shot came Brazil’s captain of flair, Carlos Alberto who drove a thumping effort into the Italian net. It was the coup de grace. Brazil had rounded off the 3 week Technicolor festival of brilliant, bizarre and surreal football with the ultimate send off.  They had won the World Cup and had become the heroes of my adventure quest.

Nathan Packham