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The Ninth Edition - Mexico 1970

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The 1970 FIFA World Cup was the ninth FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international football championship for men's national teams. It took place from 31 May to 21 June 1970 in Mexico, the first World Cup tournament to be staged in North America, and the first held outside Europe and South America. Teams representing 75 nations from all six populated continents entered the competition, with its qualification rounds beginning in May 1968. Fourteen teams qualified from this process to join host nation Mexico and defending champion England in the sixteen-team final tournament.

The tournament was won by Brazil, who claimed their third World Cup title by defeating another two-time former champion, Italy, 4–1 in the final, thereby winning the right to permanently keep the Jules Rimet Trophy. The victorious team led by Carlos Alberto, and featuring players such as Pelé, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Tostão, is often cited as the greatest-ever World Cup team. They achieved a perfect record of wins in all six games in the finals, as well as winning all their qualifying fixtures.

Despite the issues of altitude and high temperature, the finals largely produced attacking football which created an average goals per game record not since bettered by any subsequent World Cup Finals. With the advancements in satellite communications, the 1970 Finals attracted a new record television audience for the FIFA World Cup as games were broadcast live around the world and, for the first time, in colour.

Mexico was chosen as the host nation on 8 October 1964 through a vote at FIFA's congress in Tokyo ahead of the only other submitted bid from Argentina. The tournament became the first World Cup hosted in North America, and the first to be staged outside South America and Europe; Mexico later became the first country to host the FIFA World Cup twice when it stepped in to stage the 1986 event after the original host selection, Colombia, suffered financial problems.

A total of 75 teams entered the 1970 FIFA World Cup, with 73 being required to qualify. Due to rejected entries and withdrawals, 68 teams eventually participated in the qualifying stages, including eight for the first time. Mexico as the host nation and England as reigning World Cup champions were granted automatic qualification, with the remaining fourteen finals places divided among the continental confederations.
Eight places were available to teams from UEFA (Europe), three for CONMEBOL teams (South America), one for CAF teams (Africa), one for an AFC/OFC team (Asia/Oceania), and one for a CONCACAF team (North and Central America and Caribbean). A place in the finals for an African representative was guaranteed for the first time, as a response to the mass boycott of the qualifying process for 1966 by the African entrants after FIFA linked Africa, Asia and Oceania together with only one qualifying place on offer.

The draw for the qualifying stages was conducted on 1 February 1968 in Casablanca, Morocco, with matches beginning in May 1968 and the final fixtures being concluded in December 1969. North Korea, quarter-finalists at the previous tournament, were disqualified during the process after refusing to play in Israel for political reasons. El Salvador qualified for the finals after beating Honduras in a play-off match, which was the catalyst for a four-day conflict in July 1969 known as the Football War.

Half of the eventual qualifying teams had also been present at the previous World Cup, but three teams qualified for the first time: El Salvador, Israel and Morocco, while Peru returned to the finals after a forty-year absence. Those who failed to qualify included Argentina, France, Hungary, Portugal and Spain.

Five stadia in five different cities were selected to host the World Cup matches. Alternative venues in Hidalgo State and the port city of Veracruz were also considered. Each group was based solely in one city with exception of Group 2, which was staged in both Puebla and Toluca. Aside from the Estadio Luis Dosal, all the stadia had only been constructed during the 1960s, as Mexico prepared to host both the World Cup and the 1968 Summer Olympics.

The altitude of the venues varied and the importance of acclimatisation was strongly considered by all the participating teams. As a result, in contrast to the previous tournament staged in England, most teams arrived in the region well in advance of their opening fixtures to prepare for this factor. Some teams had already experienced the local conditions when competing in the football competition at 1968 Summer Olympics. With an altitude in excess of 2,660 metres above sea level, Toluca was the highest of the venues, while the lowest, Guadalajara, stood at 1,500 metres.

Although it was reported in the build-up to the final draw that seedings would be used, as had been the case at the previous two World Cup Finals, the FIFA Organising Committee ultimately announced that there would be no seeding of teams. Instead the sixteen teams were divided into four 'geographical groupings', which also took into account the teams' strengths and even political considerations; the system ensured that Israel and Morocco would not be drawn to face each other after Morocco had earlier threatened to withdraw from the tournament, as they had done from the Olympic football tournament two years earlier, if that were the case.

The draw was staged in Mexico City, Mexico on 10 January 1970 in the Maria Isabel Hotel, which served as FIFA's headquarters during the competition. The teams were drawn into the four groups, which had their locations defined in advanced: Group 1 being staged in Mexico City, Group 2 in Puebla and Toluca, Group 3 in Guadalajara and Group 4 in León. It was predetermined that the hosts Mexico would be in Group 1 and so based in the capital city, and that England as holders would be based in Guadalajara, the tournament's second largest stadium. The 10-year-old daughter of Guillermo Cañedo, President of the Mexican Football Federation and the Local Organising Committee, drew out the teams from four silver cups.

Following the opening ceremony host nation Mexico faced the Soviet Union; this was the last time until the 2006 Finals that the host nation's first match rather than the World Cup holders' began the tournament. Both this opening match of Group 1 and many others during the competition kicked off at noon for the benefit of European television schedules, meaning play under the midday sun. The match produced a goalless draw, prompting some media to predict the entire tournament would be played at the slow tempo that featured in this game given the conditions involved. Following the half-time interval Anatoliy Puzach became the first substitute to be used in FIFA World Cup history as the Soviets made use of the new competition rule. Both teams won their remaining two games to progress from the group at the expense of Belgium and World Cup debutants El Salvador.

Group 2 was the lowest-scoring of the groups with only six goals in its six matches as Uruguay, reigning South America champions, Italy, the reigning European champions, edged past Sweden and Israel. Sweden would have progressed if they had produced a two-goal victory against Uruguay in their final game, but it was not until the final minute that they scored the only goal of the game. Hours before the game FIFA elected to replace the scheduled referee after bribery rumours – later dismissed by FIFA – arose in Mexico. The 1–0 result meant Uruguay advanced, to be joined by Italy after they avoided defeat in the group finale against Israel.

Owing to the lack of a seeding system, Group 3 allowed the reigning World Cup holders England to be paired together with the two-time former champion Brazil, considered by many the pre-tournament favourites for the trophy. England's preparations were hampered by the arrest of their captain Bobby Moore in Colombia for allegedly stealing a bracelet from a jeweller's shop; the charges were later dropped. The attitude of their manager Alf Ramsey and the English media in general was perceived by many locals as unfriendly and xenophobic toward Mexico's hosting of the competition, which meant the English team received a largely hostile response during the competition.

With both having won their opening games – against Czechoslovakia and Romania, respectively– Brazil met England in the group's most famed match. Although Gordon Banks in the English goal denied Pelé from close range with a reflex save that Pelé himself cited as the greatest of his career, a second half goal from Jairzinho won the match for Brazil after England squandered several excellent opportunities to equalise. Both teams then won their final group games to progress to the knockout stage.

Play in Group 4 began with Bulgaria taking a two-goal lead against Peru, but a second half comeback gave the South Americans a 3–2 victory. Morocco, the first African World Cup representatives since 1934, also began strongly by taking the lead against the 1966 runners-up West Germany, but the Germans came back to win 2–1. West Germany also went behind against Bulgaria in their second match, but a Gerd Müller hat-trick helped them recover and win 5–2; the eventual Golden Boot winner Müller hit another hat-trick – the only hat-tricks of the entire tournament – to win the group against Peru.

Mexico and the Soviet Union had finished tied at the top of Group 1 on both points and goal difference, meaning that the drawing of lots was required to rank them. On 12 June the draw ranked the Soviets as group winners, meaning that they would face Uruguay in the large Estadio Azteca, while the host nation were paired against Italy in the smaller Toluca venue. Mexican officials unsuccessfully appealed to FIFA to stage their game in the capital to avoid traffic problems. The hosts took the lead against Italy with a José Luis González goal, but his team-mate Javier Guzmán equalised with an own goal before half-time. Italy then dominated the second half to progress to the semi-finals with a 4–1 win. The Soviet Union were also eliminated in their quarter-final when a Víctor Espárrago header three minutes from the end of extra-time sent Uruguay through.

The all-South America tie in Guadalajara was the highest-scoring of the four quarter-finals as Brazil recorded a 4–2 triumph over Peru. A rematch of the previous World Cup final between England and West Germany took place in León, in which the reigning champions entered a two-goal lead. Franz Beckenbauer halved the deficit when his low shot beat England's second choice goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, playing after Gordon Banks suffered food poisoning the day before. Eight minutes from time an Uwe Seeler header levelled the score before an extra-time goal from Gerd Müller brought (West) Germany's first-ever competitive victory over England.

All four of the semi-finalists were former world champions with the line-up guaranteeing a European versus South American final. In the all-South American tie, controversially switched from the capital to the lower altitude of Guadalajara, Brazil came from behind to defeat Uruguay 3–1 and earn the right to contest their fourth World Cup Final. Two Brazilian goals in the final fifteen minutes decided a match that had been evenly-matched until that point. The all-European meeting between Italy and West Germany produced a match regarded by many as one of the greatest World Cup games. Having led from the eighth minute through Roberto Boninsegna's strike, Italy were pegged back in injury time when sweeper Karl-Heinz Schnellinger scored his only international goal. Extra-time brought five more goals as the lead swung between the two sides until Gianni Rivera gave the Azzurri a decisive 4–3 lead. The match subsequently became known as the "Game of the Century", and today has a monument outside the Estadio Azteca to commemorate it. West Germany went on to defeat Uruguay 1–0 in the third-place match.

In the final, Brazil opened the scoring when Pelé headed in a cross from Rivelino in the 18th minute, but Roberto Boninsegna equalised for Italy after a series of blunders in the Brazilian defence. The match remained level until the 66th minute when a powerful shot from Gérson restored the Brazilians' lead. Further goals from Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto rewarded Brazil's attacking play and secured a 4–1 victory and a record third World Cup triumph, which earned them the right to permanently keep the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Both the Brazilian team that were crowned champions of the 1970 World Cup and the tournament itself have become regarded as among the very finest in the history of the FIFA World Cup. In contrast to the more physical style of play that had dominated the previous two tournaments, the 1970 Finals are noted for the attacking play adopted by most teams. For the first time at a World Cup Finals, referees could issue yellow and red cards, yet, in contrast to the previous tournaments (besides the 1950 edition) and all subsequent tournaments to date, no player was expelled from play. The officiating of the opening match, commentated by some media as overly strict, set a standard of discipline that instead helped protect skillful players in accordance with FIFA's stated wish. The tournament's average of 2.97 goals per game set a level not since bettered.

The eventual champions Brazil, led by Carlos Alberto, and featuring Pelé, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Tostão, is often cited as the greatest-ever World Cup team. They won all of their six games on the way to the title, and had also won every one of their qualifying fixtures. Jairzinho's feat of scoring in every finals match likewise has yet to be equalled. Coach Mário Zagallo became the first man to win the World Cup as both a player (1958, 1962) and coach.

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