“Yet at its highest levels, the game can acquire something akin to the concentrated drama of the prize ring. Players go into some matches with the certain knowledge that the result will stay with them, however, submerged, for the rest of their lives. Defeat will deposit small, ineradicable sediment, just as victory will leave a few tiny bubbles of pleasure that can never quite disappear. Brazil v England was that kind of match”

 

Hugh McIlvanney

When you are asked, which are the matches in group stages of a FIFA World Cup? You come up with the likes of Soviet Union vs Colombia in 1962, Nigeria vs Spain in 1998, Romania vs Colombia in 1994, Algeria vs former West Germany in 1982, Argentina vs Iceland 2018, Brazil vs Soviet Union 1982, Holland vs Scotland in 1978 or Senegal vs Uruguay in 2002 and so on.

But when you are asked the greatest of them all, then surely, you cannot but ignore the epic clash at Guadalajara, where Brazil and England showcased a spectacular show.

The build-up

On June 6, 170 at Guardalaja in their second group match, Romania shocked one of the favourites and European Powerhouses of the ninth FIFA World Cup. They had knocked out Czechoslovakia by coming back from behind and announced, they are one of the teams to be feared of.

Former Czechoslovakia landed on Mexican soil with the intent to go a long way like they did in 19638 and 1962. The kind of players they possessed, the Eastern Europeans thought they could even lift the World Cup this time around. But in the World Cups you just never know what might happen if you fail to exploit the gained-momentum.

In their opening match against Brazil, they lost their way despite taking the lead and repeated it against Romania. The Czechs were shown the exit door by the Romanians, who celebrated in the afternoon shadows of Guadalajara.

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But the spectators present in the stadium and in the commentary box were gearing up for the Clash of the Titans on June 7, 1970 – Brazil vs the World Champions – England.

The excitement regarding this Brazil and England encounter took off six months before the tournament commenced. There was feverish anticipation about it.

“You may as well meet the bull at the beginning as at the end”, Brazil coach Joao Saldanha, replaced Mario Zagallo later on, said upon being notified of the draw for the 1970 World Cup, which pitted his side against England, as well as Romania and Czechoslovakia, in Group 3. It was a view shared by the England manager, Sir Alf Ramsey as well, “If we have to meet Brazil, we may as well meet them like this”.

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Brazil kicked off the tournament by thrashing Czechoslovakia 4-1 dishing out a scintillating display of Samba Dance, while England managed a hard-fought win against Romania courtesy of a Geoff Hurst goal.

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Brazil’s build regarding the ninth World Cup was scratchy – there were problems off the field and the country was dented by a Military Coup. Moreover, they had the task to whip off the tragic memories of 1966 and for Pele, it was time to deliver one last best shot at the Jules Rimet Trophy.

The Times viewed it as a match between “a better team, England, and better creative artists, Brazil”; the Daily Express summed it up as “Magic vs Method”.

The match lived up to its billing!

Brazil vs England – Here we go!

Before the start of the match, Pele said, “England are more solid, more defensive than the Czechs, but they don’t have players with the same skills we have”. While Gerson said, “This is the match that stands between us and our third World Cup. If I am to damage the leg badly it is better that I should do it against England. There is a chance that I could help to defeat them before I come off”.

But Gerson was not fit enough to start, which was a blow to Zagallo’s plans. He had to put in Paulo Cezar in the midfield alongside Codoaldo. Whereas England fielded a team, which had no such problems as Allan Ball said, “We got the hardest over [the game against Romania] and now we think we can beat these”.

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But, England suffered the loss of sleep, with around 100 Brazilian fans attempting to break into the players’ hotel rooms while klaxons and car horns blared outside. Unbelievably, a number of England fans then managed to get onto the team bus after pretending to be players.

Ramsey lodged a complaint with FIFA, and the governing body then made an official complaint to the Mexican government. “It was too much”, England midfielder Bobby Charlton said.

Such was the intensity of the match!

England took off.

The thunder-flashes burst and bands started beating – Guadalajara became a carnival, where legends were ready to exhibit the highest quality of football ever played in a World Cup Group Match.

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England marched on with their forwards to exploit the loopholes in the Brazilian defence, which was regarded as fragile by the experts. Charlton took control and tried to use the wider areas more. Francis Lee, English number 7 continuously ran to the wide with the ball and attempted to cross it in the center to Hurst. But Felix, who was never the goalkeeper any team, would want to have, weathered the storm efficiently.

England really were controlling the proceedings.

Brazil managed to disturbed England’s momentum.

The high-noon duel

18 minutes gone and no teams scored yet.

Carlos Alberto received the ball from Felix, who hold-on to a dangerous cross from Lee. Carlos Alberto noticed an advancing Jairzinho on the right flank. Rather than going forward with the ball by himself, he provided a fast-pass to Jairzinho, who beat the marker Terry Cooper at pace. Jairzinho surged to the right-hand byline and sent over a succulent centre which gravitated towards Pele.

He rose majestically above Mullery and his downward header was technically perfect and ferocious.

The Adidas Telstar ball flew off his head, but he reckoned without the lightning reactions of Banks, who somehow manages to sprint across goal and get an outstretched hand under the ball to flick it up and away over the bar.

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The animated commentary of ITV’s Hugh Johns – “it’s Pelé and a fantastic save by Banks”!

Banks later told The Observer, “I heard Pele shout ‘goal’ as he headed it, which was followed by a massive, almost deafening, roar. Even though I’d got a hand to it, I thought he must have scored. Then I realized the crowd was cheering for me”.

Pele was left dumbfounded!

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“I could not believe what I saw”, he said. “At that moment, I hated Banks more than any man in football. When I cooled down, I could only applaud him in my heart. It was the greatest save I have ever seen”.

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John Moynihan, who watched the game in the stands with Tranmere Harry and friends, wrote in Soccer Focus – Reflections on a Changing Game: ‘The ball seemed to tumble over the goal and roll slowly down on the other side of the net with the sudden abatement of an ocean wave breaking on a rock. One wondered, amid all the confusion, the commotion, the shouting and screaming, whether Banks had broken his arm and suffered grievous damage. He lay on his back with his shoulders on the grass, his colleagues standing around, too nonplussed to yell their praises. The Brazilians took a very quick corner. It was all over before it had begun, like a short Disney cartoon.

‘”Did you see that!?” roared Tranmere Harry, turning round at us, his cowboy hat tilted back on his head, his yellow nicotined fingers trembling with tension. “By Christ, did you see that?”

“It was a fatuous remark, but he had to say something to relieve his windpipe. He wanted so much to convince his mates that he really had spied a miracle and to make sure that his normally placid mind had not fallen victim of some strange figment of the imagination, a confidence trick, a sudden mirage brought on by the unrelenting rays of the sun”.

Until today, that high-noon duel between Pele and Banks remain the best moment in the history of FIFA World Cup.

The action continued

Brazil regained their momentum and Pele started to control the game from deep with Cezar moving a bit wider and Roberto Rivellino, Tostao and Jairzinho threatening the English defence.

Pele, despite being checked Allan Mullery, found ways to dictate the game.

In the English defence Bobby Moore put up a master class display.

It was Johns who again narrated eloquently when Moore’s outstretched leg immaculately denied Jairzinho.

Mcllvanney wrote about Moore, “As always in this World Cup, he was magnificent, interpreting the designs of the opposition with clairvoyant understanding and subduing their most spirited assaults with brusque authority”.

Lee fouled Felix.

Carlos Alberto fouled Lee.

Then both apologized at the intervals.

Just before half-time, the Brazilians were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. As Mcllvanney wrote, “Employing the ruse that had been so successful against Czechoslovakia,  the Brazilians put Jairzinho in the English wall, but Moore, who could play tag with a fox and never get caught, simply stood behind him. As Rivelino’s shot raged through, Moore killed it as coolly as he would have taken a lobbed tennis ball and strode upfield. The word ‘majestic’ might have been invented for him”.

Brazil break the deadlock

Deep into the second half, Tostao attempted a shot, which was blocked by an English defender and went a distance, but Tostao picked the ball-up quickly and got engaged in a short-passing-drill with Cezar.

Then Tostao twisted and turned. Nutmegged Moore and sent over a cross on the left to Pele, who was surrounded by English defenders, but teed up Jairzinho, who lashed the ball emphatically past Banks.

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“I make a goal. Good movement of Tostao, he plays the striker in the left, he beat Bobby Moore and makes a pass, Pele control, then to me and I make the goal! This game a special game, this the final of the World Cup,” Jairzinho said.

Carlos Alberto told The Observer in 2002 that the build-up of the goal against England and Italy were much more the same: “It was almost the same situation, but I think Jairzinho’s was better”.

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Jairzinho, who was given the number 7 shirt to carry on the legacy of legendary Garrincha, shone throughout the tournament, but on that particular afternoon, he was like a wizard.

Alongside Pele, Jairzinho left England at bay in the second half.

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The deadlock was finally broken!

England look to bounce back

Ramsey had brought on Jeff Astle and Colin Bell for Franny Lee and Bobby Charlton in the 64th minute to force an equalizer, and his changes should have paid dividends. Astle made an open-goal chance for Alan Ball, who miskicked, and Astle himself then spurned a similarly gilt-edged opportunity after a mix-up in the Brazilian defence.

Pele and Bobby Moore after the match. Image Courtesy: Mirror UK
Pele and Bobby Moore after the match. Image Courtesy: Mirror UK

The match ended 1-0 in favour of Brazil, who would top the group by beating Romania.

England would overcome a sturdy Czech and advance to the next round.

“The best team did not win today. Brazil were very good in an even match. They took their one chance, which is where we failed”, Ramsey later said.

Conclusion

ESPN FC stated, “There was no bitterness. At the final whistle, Pele and Moore had sought one another out to swap shirts to produce one of football’s great iconic images. “Bobby Moore has proved himself to be one of the most important figures who have ever played the game”.

Pele said afterwards. Jairzinho later told FourFourTwo, “I remember after the game all of the England squad came over to meet the Brazilian players and we had some tea and coffee together, which was nice”.

Brazil won, but received the accolades they deserve for such a wonderful display.

As Zagallo noted after the game, they had forced this great Brazil team “to play hard, precise and more scientific soccer – not like the ballet performance against Czechoslovakia”.

ESPN FC stated: Newspapers across the globe were united in their praise of both teams, with both El Mundo Deportivo in Spain and A Bola in Portugal describing it as the tournament’s “real final”, and the encounter has stood the test of time. “That game is like a lesson,” Jairzinho added in his FourFourTwo interview in 2002. “A lot of coaches throughout Brazil use that game as a reference when coaching young players”.