From the archive: England 0-1 Brazil, World Cup match report (1970). By Albert Barham

Albert Barham on 12 February 2019

Guadalajara, June 7

Brazil, the masters of football technique, triumphed over England in the Jalisco Stadium here today. Only one goal was scored, by Jairzinho, after an hour, but it was sufficient to remind England that they have never yet beaten Brazil in their own hemisphere.

It was sad for England’s supporters to see their champions beaten, but it is not the end of the team’s chances. England can still quality for the quarter finals, but now Brazil seem certain to win the group, and qualify to play here.

Only victory over the by the Romanians and victory by England over Czechoslovakia can now make this a three-way tie in which goal difference would count.

England played their hearts out in the heat and as the thunderflashes burst, and the bands played, greeting Brazil’s victory, England walked off ruefully. Two great chances were missed in as many minutes only four minutes after the Brazilians had scored. The first miss was by Ball, who miskicked at a pass from Astle right in front of the goal. Then it was the turn of Astle. He failed to take advantage of a terrible defensive muddle involving Everaldo, and shot wide of an open goal. The chances were the greatest, and most costly missed, of the World Cup.

Banks’ acrobatic save, preventing a header by Pele, was described as the ‘greatest save ever’.
Banks’ acrobatic save, preventing a header by Pele, was described as the ‘greatest save ever’. Photograph: Allsport Hulton Deutsch/ALLSPORT

Much has been said about the fragility of the Brazilian defence and on the vulnerability of Felix in goal. But it is sufficient to say that England were unable to take advantage of any leaks even though they increasingly swarmed around the Brazilian goal as the game went on, trying to force errors.

The match was a battle between England’s methodical defensive network, and the gifted self-expression of Pele, Tostao until he was replaced, Jairzinho, and the deadly surges up the wing of Paulo Cezar, who today took the place of Gerson, the mastermind of Brazil’s attack, who was injured.

No one could fault Banks. He pushed away the swerving shots at which the Brazilians are so adept, first from Paulo Cezar, and later from Roberto, the substitute for Tostao. One did not envy the task of Cooper, trying to smother Jairzinho, with Cooper trying attacks down the wing when circumstances permitted. Mullery held Pele well, as he did in Rio a year ago. But one cannot budget for genius.

Guardian, 8 June 1970, p1.
Guardian, 8 June 1970, p1. Photograph: Jason Rodrigues/The Guardian

There was one occasion when Pele eluded the England defence, and played the ball off defenders’ legs as one does a billiard ball off a cushion. Mullery came to England’s rescue then, sweeping the ball away from Pele. Labone held the threat from Tostao, and once again England were thankful to Moore for his cool, commanding generalship. But the forwards could not get going often enough, and England’s passing was not as accurate as might have been expected on an occasion of such importance.

The Brazilians need not have worried about the comparative inexperience of Piazza and Brito, the centre-backs. They thwarted Hurst, and Peters was seldom able to make his ghost-like runs on the blind side. Lee, who tried to bustle through, on one occasion having a good chance half smothered by Felix, and Bobby Charlton, who worked himself almost to a standstill in the middle of the field, were replaced by Bell and Astle immediately after the Brazilians had scored.

Chances missed

It was then that the two England chances came and were lost forever. England were efficient, but they were against something intangible, a method – if method it be called – where unexpectedly graceful, yet deceptive moves suddenly built into moments of great danger. So was the goal built on the hour. Rivellino linked with Tostao, who beat three men before passing to Pele. The ball was sent to Jairzinho, and England were beaten. The move was so simple, but simplicity is often devastating.

The build-up to the match bad begun in the early hours with disturbances by Mexican and Brazilian supporters at England’s hotel which caused sleepless hours. Today, the packed stadium was a cacophony, with drums banging for Brazil, and clouds could not act as a sombrero to hide fully the blazing sun.

As early as the tenth minute, Jairzinho beat Cooper to the line, centred to Pele, and only aerobatics by Banks prevented England falling behind.

For once Bobby Charlton heard whistles of derision directed at him as he drove the ball high over the crossbar. But he was not alone: Even in this pro-Brazilian crowd, Pele himself received the same treatment for a bad shot.

England had their first half change after 32 minutes, from a move involving, Mullery and Wright; but Lee’s shot was smothered. Lee, on the ground, tried to hook at the ball again, but succeeded only in touching the goalkeeper. Immediately, the Brazilians swarmed around, as in these parts a goalkeeper is sacrosanct. Happily, the incident passed away quietly, as did other occasions when the Brazilians tried a few histrionics each time they were impeded.

For a time England appeared to find cracks in Brazil’s defence but goals were denied the world champions.

Paulo Cezar forced Banks to dive to turn the ball away for a corner. Then, in another quirk burst, Pele and Tostao weaved through. Again England’s defensive web closed round them but on the hour, came the goal which beat England. They had to be content to walk off the field as the vanquished today. And there was no disgrace in that.

It remains now for a great effort against the Czechs on Thursday to ensure that England qualify for the quarter-finals, even if they have to go to Leon to play. I’m sure England will be only too glad to do that now.

The Guardian, 8 June 1970.
The Guardian, 8 June 1970.

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