No.3: Majestic Brazil Sweep Italy Aside (Mexico, 1970)
We’ve covered some wonderful sides in this feature. But none quite measure up to the Brazil team that won the World Cup in 1970.
The men that donned the famous strip during the tournament 44 years ago are looked back upon with bristling nostalgia. They captured the imagination of the watching world as they bewitched teams with their pace, power, incisiveness and incomparable technical ability.
Boasting talents such as Pele, Rivelino and Jairzinho, they were a ferocious attacking force, and throughout the 1970 tournament, they showcased an unyielding offensive swagger. They won all three of their opening group games in what was dubbed the original “group of death”, swatting aside the holders England and a pair of tricky opponents in Romania and Czechoslovakia.
But in the knockout stages of the competition, they pushed on again. They made light work of Peru in the quarter-final with a 4-1 win, before an equally impressive 3-1 win over Uruguay in the semi-final sent Brazil through to the final.
The Selecao had been truly irresistible, but ahead of the 1970 final in Mexico City, there was a sense that if one side could halt Brazil in their tracks then it’d be Italy, who had showcased some wonderful form themselves in the knockout stages—including a remarkable 4-3 win against Germany in the semi-final, in which five goals were scored in extra time.
In front of a reported 107,000 people at the Estadio Azteca, the 1970 final began at a frenetic tempo. Pele headed in superbly following a wonderful cross from a wonderful left-foot cross from Rivelino in the 18th minute. But Italy managed to stick with Brazil throughout the first half, and Roberto Boninsegna managed to capitalize on a mistake in the Brazilian defense to restore parity.
With the Azzurri looking capable of neutralizing this Brazil attack, a tight half likely. But after the break, Brazil increased the tempo of their play to devastating effect:
What happened next?
The fourth goal scored by Carlos Alberto is regarded by many as the greatest team goal in the history of the game. A total of eight Brazilian players touched the ball before the full-back hammered it home, and it was a strike synonymous with the manner in which the Brazil team played.
Many would argue that the current crop of Spanish players would surpass the Brazil side of 1970 should they triumph in their second consecutive World Cup; their fourth consecutive major tournament. And while there are some similarities between the two sides—namely the supreme technical ability and incisive passing—it’s perilously difficult to compare the two.