Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 5-The Greatest (1970)


There have been many great teams that have dominated World Cups (most not winning them) but most people from around the time agree that Brazil in 1970 is the greatest of them all. They had been virtually kicked to death in the 1966 World Cup in England with Pele being quite bitchy about the whole thing and slunk back to South America to rebuild a side that had won two titles but shown its age. Such was the disappointment in this effort that a Government inquiry was set up to see why Brazil had failed. It was serious business. It would take a while to fix too. Pele did retire for a while following his treatment in England. He was eventually coaxed back but the then coach Joao Saldanha had the team in pieces and even challenged the hardline militaristic President of the country at the time after dropping Dario who was a presidential favourite.

When harassed about the selection decision Saldanha’s curt reply was “I don’t choose the President’s Ministry. He doesn’t choose my forward line.” Following a loss to Argentina at home the wheels were put in motion to get rid of Saldanha they just needed one more excuse. Critcising Pele for not getting back and defending was all they needed. Criticising the favourite son of Brazil meant instant dismissal. Zagallo, a former teammate of Pele, had just retired from playing and the CBF took a risk hiring the untried coach who had nothing to offer but a philosophy. That philosophy was to not only have skilled players but players deemed ‘skillfully intelligent’.

By ‘skillfully intelligent’ he meant they knew their position and teammates inside out and just let them go nuts. Zagallo just saw the big picture and gave the players a blank canvas for the most part long before there was the micromanaging of moneyball and the such dedication and professionalism in the sport. The team built its confidence slowly while the world wondered who would win between the European super teams of the time including the champions England, West Germany and Italy. In to this side that walked softly and carried a big stick were Jairzinho (‘The Hurricane’),Rivelino (‘The Atomic Kick’) and their captain Carlos Alberto who the rock for the side along with a whole gaggle of other talented little bastards. There was also Tostao, a quite plain and unassuming attacking midfielder who would leave the game because of fame eventually and become a doctor. Kind of like Tom Swift but with a lot more talent.

Brazil creamed their group with a 4-1 battering of Czechoslovakia, 1-0 win over England and then did away with Romania 3-2 with the foot off the pedal. They would face South American opposition in the knockout rounds but this didn’t seem to phase them at all. In the quarter finals against Peru they ran a train through them with Brazil winning 4-2 thanks to goals from Rivelino, Tostao and Jarzinho playing football that never stopped and always attacking. Who needed a defence? Up next were their loathed neighbours Uruguay in the semi finals but Uruguay scored early and held on like grim death. Well, only until the 44th minute when Clodoado scored with two more coming in the second half to send Brazil through 3-1. This was where the much used and sometimes tedious commentary term ‘Don’t score against Brazil. It will only make them angry’ came from.

The opponents in the final for Brazil would be Italy who were in the middle of their quite loathed but deadly effective ‘catenaccio’ period. They had just defeated West Germany in that classic semi final we had talked about earlier 4-3 and were though. Were they ready for Brazil though? 120 minutes in intense heat in a semi final would lay waste to anyone. The final would be played at the Azteca Stadium in front of around 100,000 and again (for the benefit of European TV) it would be played in the middle of the day. With tired legs from the semi final Italy were always going to go in to defensive mode and did so but they were up against the best attacking side in the competition and quite possibly of all time. It wasn’t just that Brazil won it was the way they played to win it with pure ‘joga bonito’.


With quarter of an hour gone a quick throw in was taken and given to Rivelino who crossed instantaneously before the Italians even had time to think, Pele was at the end of the brilliant cross to head in, 1-0, and an iconic photo of Pele jumping on his teammate to celebrate. It was job on but Italy were no mugs. They decided to show that they could catch teams napping and they forced what defence the Brazilians had in to a mistake. Inter striker Roberto Boninsegna leaped on the error(s) and equalised quicker than they thought they would. Italy held firm as the Brazilians hogged possession and tried to find the key to the Italian defensive chastity belt but it was 1-1 at half time.

In the second half it was more of the same with the Italians holding for grim death as Brazil had them chasing shadows but on the hour they finally wilted when Gerson took a shot that was impossible to save and it was 2-1. The flood gates opened now and Brazil started to run rampant vowing before the game they would not leave that stadium as losers after 1966 and in Pele’s last game. It was 3-1 some five minutes later when Pele headed down a brilliant long free kick to Jarzinho who converted his chance. Following their escapades against West Germany the Italians were dead on their feet and could offer no resistance to the Brazilians but on this day Brazil would’ve mauled anyone. The fourth goal in the 86th minute is seen as Brazil’s greatest ever and one of the best of all time. The main example of what made Brazil the greatest at the art. It was also a goal that thanks to the camera angle showed it was better than perhaps it was.

Tostão started the move in his own half and then after passing ran the length of the field to the Italian penalty area. Clodoaldo took the ball beat four Italian players in his own half before passing to Rivelino who passed down the left wing to Jairzinho. Jairzinho drove inside and passed to Pelé in his final act who showed superb composure to hold the ball up before rolling a perfect pass into the path of Carlos Alberto arriving from right back. Carlos Alberto’s shot hammered into the bottom corner of the Italian goal with extreme prejudice going far too fast for Enrico Albertosi to even touch it. A brilliant goal to finish off a tournament Brazil always looked like they’d win even with West Germany, the champions England and Italy full of their own stars.


The final finished an amazing 4-1 (the biggest thrashing until 1998) and Brazil had won the cup for an unprecedented third time. Pele was hoisted on the shoulders of his team mates and in tears in his final game for Brazil and part of all 3 victories from 1958 until 1970. He was the man who had been everything to Brazil and their World Cup success from when he promised his weeping father he would win the World Cup for him in 1950 to his opening goal to break the Italian lines some 20 years later. As a result of winning the cup for a third time they got to keep the Jules Rimet trophy, that classic cup that had been stolen in England and then found by a dog and also hidden under a bed in World War 2 by a member of the Italian FA to save it from the black shirts. The cup would be stolen in the end from the Brazilian FA in the 80s and allegedly melted down for its gold.

It’s hard for people from generations following this one to comprehend who is the greatest team of all time but people seem to go on about this side a lot even when compared to Spanish side of the past 6 years or any other World Cup winning Brazilian side. The players in this side are all seen as possibly the greatest of all time for their positions in a time before everyone from around the world mainly playing in the big European leagues. The legacy of the 1970 Brazil side has been a hindrance at times for Brazilian teams that followed them with the 1982 and 1986 sides seen just as good but they managed to find the self-destruct button in both tournaments. 1970 was another example of when no one thought Brazil were in disarray they would win the whole lot just like 1994 and 2002.

Brazil in 1970 was truly a team for the ages.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. Thanks Dennis. The epitome of the beautiful game. The last goal is stunning creative team play.

  2. Dennis, these are great. And finally Foxsports is catching up to you. Last night they aired a 20 great moments doco. Needless to say Brazil 1970 and Pele generally were right up there. Pele’s near-miss, having allowed the ball to run past (himslef and the goal-keeper) is one of the most creative things I have seen in sport. Only 1 in 100,000 poeple knew what was happening.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Extraordinary sustained series Dennis.

    Sorry I haven’t commented earlier.

    The 66 and 70 World Cups were amazing. So many highlights that you’ve captured so well.

    A bit off topic, My favourite bit of trickery is from Cruyff from the penalty spot.

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