It should have been the Soviet Unions in the semifinals at Guadalajara against Brazil, but against the fighting spirit of Latina America’s toughest side, the Russians failed to advance. Uruguay would meet Brazil again in a World Cup match since that tragic Maracanazo in 1950.
If any team could unnerve that Brazil side of 1970 then it was none other than Uruguay.
Uruguay always have this habit of dishing out their best fighting displays against Brazil and Argentina. Ask Diego Maradona, which was the toughest match of Mexico, he would certainly point out the Round of 16 clash against Uruguay. It was the same in case of Brazil in 1970.
From the Hotel Lobby to the Press Conference to the Training Sessions, each and everywhere the buzz about Maracanazo 1950 dominated more than the semifinal clash.
Mario Zagallo and his Boys did not pay heed to such words, but the memories of 1950 were still so fresh in the minds of many back then, automatically it got into the minds of Brazil players and officials.
The Uruguayan coach, Juan Honberg, studied Brazil better than anyone else and he noticed, apart from Pele, it was Gerson who used to dictate the game from the deep. Uruguay might not be able to stop Pele, but he can mark Gerson and disturb the rhythm.
Uruguay had the best and notorious defenders under their belt and alongside Italy, they were regarded as the best defensive side in world football back then.
In the first thirty minutes of the match, Honberg’s tactics were paying off.
When Uruguay went ahead by 1-0 19 minutes into the match, it seemed history would repeat itself; the Uruguayans had played defensively and well-organized, and had scored by the Nacional player Luis Cubilla.
For a moment, the tragedy of Maraca 1950 revisited in Guadalajara.
But under the stewardship of Pele and Garrincha since 1958, Brazil developed that killer instinct to fight back and banish demons.
With Gerson under strict marking, stepped up Codoaldo.
Close to the half-time whistle, a brilliant build-up play on the left-flank split-opened the Uruguayan defence.
Codoaldo scored and Brazil were back.
Then Pele took over!
He was instrumental in orchestrating the goals for Jairzinho and Rivellino.
The ghost of Maracana 1950 was laid to rest once and for all.
But the match was more famous about the greatest miss by Pele, who runaround the best goalkeeper of the tournament, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, to score the fourth goal, but failed.
At the fag end of second half, Tostao played a through-pass to Pele as a counterattack started.
Sprinting up the middle, Pele was immediately confronted with Mazurkiewicz, who came off his line quickly.
Pele got there first and fooled Mazurkiewicz by not touching the ball, causing it to roll to the goalkeeper’s left, while Pelé went to the goalkeeper’s right.
Circling the goalkeeper to collect, Pele shot while turning towards the goal, but he turned in excess as he shot, and the ball drifted just wide of the far post.
What a miss by the King, but what a dummy it was!
That move would be termed as “Pele roundaround move” in years to come, where it requires a split-second timing and speed in execution – letting a pass from a teammate approach but allowing it run past the opponent, then sprinting around the opposing player to continue the attack.
It relies on speed for its execution in situations where there is little time or space.
One needs to be a genius to execute this and thus the coaches teach this move to highly talented youngsters in the following years.