Perfect farewell to Pelé’s last appearance in a World Cup

First World Cup to be broadcast in colour to the whole world, the 1970 tournament was full of skilful and attacking plays, particularly from Brazil, who had great players like Pelé, Tostão, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Gerson. From the first match to the final, Brazil put on a glorious exhibition of attacking football, while thousands watched spellbound, including the Mexican hosts, in awe of the offensive style employed by the team led by Zagallo.

Mexico was hosting the World Cup for the first time and the match schedule had to be adapted to the European television timetables, which resulted in games being played in the hottest times. Indeed, the intense heat was a matter of concern for most players. On the plus side, it was the first World Cup that allowed two substitutions per team. In addition, yellow and red cards were introduced as way of emphasising warnings given by referees to players.

German striker Gerd Müller also stood out, finishing as the tournament's top scorer with the impressive mark of ten goals. He scored against Morocco, got a hat-trick against Bulgaria and another against Peru.  In the quarter-final, he scored the winning goal that eliminated England in extra-time. The game was a rematch of the 1966 final and one of the greats in World Cup history, as well as being an example of German perseverance. The Germans were trailing 2-0 a little over twenty minutes from time. However, Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler equalised and took the match into extra-time. Nonetheless, before Müller scored Germany’s winning goal, rather ironically, England had a Geoff Hurst goal disallowed, player who had scored the controversial goal in the 1966 World Cup final. Müller’s winning goal gave West Germany their first victory over England in an official match.

The other match that made history was the semi-final between Italy and Germany. The game finished tied 1-1, after Karl-Heniz Schnellinger scored in the last minute of normal time to take the match into extra-time. Five goals were scored in extra-time, the highest number ever recorded, with Gerd Müller getting two. However, the Italians scored three times and guaranteed their place in the final. For the Germans, the image of their captain Franz Beckenbauer, playing with a dislocated shoulder until the end of the match has been embedded in their minds.


After Brazil’s fiasco in England four years earlier, which could have been the result of Pelé being the target of vicious and violent tackles, there were those who questioned whether he should play. In fact, he did consider not playing in the 1970 World Cup. However, he ended up caving and turned into the core foundation of the team, which for many people, would not be easily beaten even today.

The 4-1 victory over Italy in the final gave Brazil the right to take the Jules Rimet trophy home for good. Mexicans and viewers from all over the world watched spellbound, as the yellow and green jersey turned into an eternal icon of football magic. In his last World Cup, Pelé played a protagonist role and was responsible for some amazing moves, a perfect farewell to international competitions.

There were countless examples of his superior genius and skill with a ball: the perfect header into the bottom corner of Gordon Banks’ goal, making the English goalkeeper make what is considered the best save of all times; the attempt from the halfway line against the Czechoslovakian goal, which turned into a near miss; the dummy in the semi-final against Uruguay, when he let the ball run past him, leaving keeper Mazurkiewcz stranded, then ran past the Uruguayan and shot narrowly wide; and let us not forget his four goals in the tournament, including one in the final against Italy.     

However, it would be unfair to attribute all of the brilliance shown by Brazil in Mexico just to Pelé.  The team made up by Félix; Carlos Alberto Torres, Brito, Piazza and Everaldo; Gerson and Clodoaldo; Pelé, Jairzinho, Tostão and Rivelino is very much in the memory of football lovers. The last goal Brazil scored in the 1970 World Cup, the fourth against Italy, shows how well they played together. Seven players were involved in the move that ended with a perfect pass from Pelé to Captain Carlos Alberto Torres, who hammered a shot into the corner of the Italian goal. In all, they won six out of six, scored 19 goals, seven by Jairzinho, who went down in history as the only player to have scored in all World Cup matches.

» Interview on video: Jairzinho, the Hurricane of the 1970 World Cup, talks about his memories and tells a few stories