Both South American teams were strong, although the Brazilians had captivated the world with its beautiful style as they had cruised themselves to the final. In the first round Brazil had won all their matches against Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the defending world champions of England (a match remembered particularly for Gordons Banks spectacular save of a Pelé header), and in the quarterfinal had defeated Perú 4-2 in a match that arguably has been one of the most entertaining in terms of attacking technical football in the history of the world cup.
With Pelé as the star, the Brazilian team nevertheless had some of the most talented players of an entire generation of Brazilian football: Jairzinho, Rivelino, Tostão, Gerson, Clodoaldo and Carlos Alberto were some of the players of a team that by many is considered the best in the history of Brazilian football.
Uruguay played an entirely different defensive style of football than Brazil or Perú, and had more difficulty in reaching the semifinals: in the first round group they had just barely finished second behind Italy, after defeating Israel, tying with the Italians, and losing to Sweden.
In the semifinal Uruguay had defeated the USSR 1-0 after a extra time on a goal by Victor Espárrago in a match that was quickly forgotten. Uruguay’s star player was its goalkeeper, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, who was also the best goalkeeper in the world at the time, and everyone was surely expecting his to have to play his best against the Brazilian attacking machine.
Due to its historical precedents, the match immediately caught the imagination of the world, in particular in Uruguay and Brazil, where a war of nerves ensued as the Uruguayans tried to appeal to the history of these matches: as some joked, Uruguay would be world champion every twenty years! (1930-1950-1970).
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.
Although Brazil then tried attacking, it only bore fruit in the last minute of the first half when the extraordinary dribler Clodoaldo equalized for Brazil.
The Brazilians went out to the second half with a determination that history should not repeat itself, and there were some big chances before Jairzinho managed to bring Brazil ahead after a splendid pass from Tostão that split the Uruguayan defense.
Uruguay proved unable to respond, and in the last minute of the match Rivelino put the definitive score of 3-1 for Brazil with a shot from the edge of the area after a pass from Pelé.
The match is perhaps best remembered for a goal that wasn’t, and is perhaps considered one of Pelé biggest misses: on a one-on-one with Mazurkiewicz, Pelé totally confused the Uruguayan goalkeeper by letting the ball pass to the left of the goalkeeper while he himself runs around his right. Alone with goal, Pelé nevertheless miscalculates his shot, that goes wide of the goal.
Nevertheless, Brazil had been victorious and were now ready to take on the Italians in the final to finally exorcise the painful memories of 1950.
- 17th June, 1970, Guadalajara, Jalisco
- Attendance: 61,000
- Referee: José Maria Ortiz de Mendibil (Spain)
Goals: 0-1 Cubilla (19), 1-1 Clodoaldo (44), 2-1 Jairzinho (76), 3-1 Rivelino (89)
Brazil: Felix; Brito, Piazza, Carlos Alberto, Clodoaldo, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostão, Pelé, Rivelino, Everaldo
Uruguay: Mazurkiewicz; Ancheta, Matosas, Ubinas, Montero, Mujica, Cubilla, Maneiro (Esparrago), Morales, Fontes, Cortez