Friday, December 18, 2009

Greatest World Cup Matches: Brazil-Italy (1970)

Expectations to Brazil, who had been outstanding during the entire tournament, were huge before the final, where the somewhat cynical Italians would nevertheless not be an easy task.
Brazil was coached by Mario Zagallo, who had played in the 1958-world champions side in Sweden. He had taken over the team after the previous coach, João Saldanha, had resigned amid pressure to include some of the immensely talented players on the Brazilian team. This did not seem to affect Zagallo, who put an extraordinary team together.
Of course, most outstanding among the stars was Pelé, who 29-years old was about to play his last World Cup, also the crowning achievement of his career. Other players were: the Botafogo striker Jairzinho, who had scored in every match of the tournament (and scoring in the final, he is one of only three players, the other being Alcides Ghiggia and Just Fontaine, to have done this); the São Paulo midfielder Gerson, who was and still is considered one of the best passers of all time; the captain of the team, Carlos Alberto, perhaps the best defender in Brazilian football ever; the outstanding left-winger with the powerful left-foot (Mexican fans in the tournament had dubbed him “Patada Atómica”) Rivelino, from Corinthians, who is today ranked as the fourth best Brazilian player of all time (after Pelé, Zico and Garrincha); Tostão, from Cruzeiro, a prolific goalscorer with outstanding passing abilities.
The team is arguably the best national team in the incredible history of Brazilian football.
In spite of being the underdogs, Italy, defending European champions, had a very strong team centered around AC Milan’s Gianni Rivera, an incredibly strong and well-organised defense, and some powerful strikers in Cagliari’s Gigi Riva and Inter’s Roberto Boninsegna. Their way to the final had nevertheless not been overly impressive with two 0-0 ties against Israel and Uruguay and a 1-0 win against Sweden. Italy had then defeated the home side of Mexico 4-1 in the quarterfinals, and then West Germany 4-3 in the semifinals in a memorable extra-time drama. The Italians had not been overly popular for their defensive style, and most fans in the full Azteca Stadium were most eager to see the Brazilian attacking machine in action.
The match was more than a match for the world championship: both teams could get their third win, and thus get the Jules Rimet trophy for good.
The game between the two different styles of football started as was expected, with Brazil attacking and the Italians defending, hoping to get a lucky strike and defend. However, after 18 minutes Brazil took the lead by what is probably Pelé’s most famous goal: after a throw-in, Rivelino crossed the ball into the area from the left side, and Pelé rose majestically above the Italian defenders and headed downwards, not giving goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi a chance for catching the ball. This was Brazil’s 100th world cup goal ever, and had brought Brazil one step closer to the Jules Rimet trophy.
Although the Italians now had to attack, they patiently waited for their chance, and after 37 minutes it came; Clodoaldo clumsily made a back-heel pass that caught the Brazilian defense off guard, and a quick Roberto Boninsgna caught the ball, and alone with the goalkeeper Felix, equalized for Italy.
It was not a well-deserved goal, but Italy had shown that they could not be underestimated as the result held until halftime.
Italy continued defending in the second half, but this time the Brazilians made no mistakes in their continuous attacking. Twenty minutes into the second half Gerson scored a beautiful goal with a powerful shot outside the area, and only five minutes later a high ball into the Italian area was picked up by Pelé, who headed it on to Jairzinho, who pressed by an Italian defender nevertheless managed to push the ball into goal.
After this the result was clear: the tired Italian players had little response to the Brazilians, who made no mistakes and instead continued attacking. Only four minutes before the end of match beautiful Brazilian combinations ended with Pelé, who without looking up somehow saw Carlos Alberto coming from behind in full speed into the Italian penalty box; Pelé set up the ball perfectly for the Brazilian captain, who with a precise and hard shot made it 4-1 for what was undoubtedly the best team in the world, and playing a style of football that captivated the entire world.
Brazilian coach Mario Zagalo had become the first man ever to become world champion as player and as coach, while Pelé had won his third title, sealing his status of one of the greatest football legends of all time. Brazil had become an outstanding world champion, and won the Jules Rimet trophy for their permanent ownership (in 1983 the trophy was stolen from the Brazilian Football Confederation headquarters, and has never been recovered).

Match Stats:
  • 21st June, 1970, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
  • Attendance: 107,000
  • Referee: Rudi Gloeckner (West Germany)
Brazil-Italy 4-1
Goals: 1-0 Pelé (18). 1-1 Bonninsegna (37), 2-1 Gerson (65), 3-1 Jairzinho (70), 4-1 Carlos Alberto (86)

Brazil: Felix, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Piazza, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao, Pelé, Rivelino
Italy: Albertosi, Cera, Burgnich, Bertini (Juliano), Rosato, Domeghini, Mazzola, de Sisti, Bonninsegna (Rivera), Riva

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