Why Mexico 1970 was the greatest World Cup ever

Choosing the second-greatest World Cup of them all is a great pub debate.

Naming the best World Cup of them all is simply general knowledge.

Mexico 1970 was the tournament that had everything.

The best World Cup team of all time, the best player, the best goal, the best save, the greatest game, even the two greatest misses in the history of football – all were showcased in what is still the jewel in FIFA’s football crown.

For those watching back home, there was the ITV World Cup panel, with Brian Moore trying to keep the “Midnight Cowboys” of Malcolm Allison, Bob McNab, Pat Crerand and Derek Dougan under control. On the BBC – long before the idea of breakfast television took hold – there was Good Morning Mexico, with David Vine or Frank Bough.

In Brazil, the 1970 champions are still held up as the template against which all teams from that country are measured.

Their ultimate triumph at the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City on June 21 1970 even managed to take some of the sting out of England’s gut-wrenching surrender of the trophy in that impossibly dramatic quarter-final defeat to West Germany in Leon.

That Brazilian team on its own would be enough to make 1970 the champion of World Cups, but you also had a vastly entertaining Peru side, the emergence of Gerd Muller –  the leading scorer in the cmpetition  with an astonishing 13 goals – and the added benefit none of the overblown second-round group stage which would plague the tournament for the nest 28 years.

As for that list of bests, here they are in full.

The Player. Pele was the most complete footballer who ever lived. Maradona has a legitimate claim to have been the world’s greatest-ever player, but he wasn’t two-footed and he couldn’t tackle or head the ball like the Brazilian.

The Goal. Carlos Alberto’s joyous exclamation point on the 4-1 win over Italy in the final was a sensational finish to a perfect move which showcased sensational dribbling skills (by a centre-half!), perfect passing and immaculate timing.

The Save. So good was Gordon Banks’ save from Pele that there is no clear-cut rival to the claim that his was the best of all time.

The Game. The greatest game is perhaps the most contentious of 1970s claims to be the best-ever. All I will say is that there may have been games to match it, but none have been better than the 1970 extra-time classic between Italy and Germany (1-1 after 90 minutes, 4-3 at full-time), complete with Franz Beckenbauer playing on with a broken collarbone.

The Misses. Misses are not generally remembered in the same way as goals, and never as illustrations of how good a player was – quite the reverse in fact. But Pele’s audacious, outrageous dummy  – in a World Cup semi-final no less – against Uruguay, and his shot from inside his own half against Czechosolvakia (the first time many of us had ever seen such a thing) were marks of the man’s genius.

Leaving aside the special case of 1966, which only England fans could truly love, the only other two real contenders for the title of Greatest World Cup are:

1982 Another terrific Brazil team, their defeat by Italy, Northern Ireland beating Spain, the France v West Germany semi-final and Marco Tardelli’s goal celebration. But don’t forget this was the World Cup with the despicable “after you, Hans” arranged German victory over Austria, at Algeria’s expense. It was cheating of the lowest order, which FIFA shamefully ignored. And manager Ron Greenwood’s negative tactics in the second group stage ensured England’s exit was a miserable one.

1990 England and Gazza’s excellent adventure was mesmerising, and the Irish made it fun, too, but the tournament was disappointing overall. Scots fans held up a banner in 1982’s USSR v Scotland game which read: Communism v Alcoholism. There should have been a banner at the 1990 final between Germany and Argentina which read: Pragmatism v Cynicism. The worst World Cup final ever.

What's your favourite World Cup final? Let us know by leaving a comment below...

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