On June 21, 1970, Brazil, led by soccer legend Pele, wins its third World Cup championship with a 4-1 victory over Italy. The game, at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City, was attended by 112,000 spectators, most of whom could but marvel at the spectacular play Pele and the Brazilians showcased in their triumph.
The game was supposed to be a match between Italy’s counter-attacking style and Brazil’s “beautiful game,” but rain the night before the match had left the field damp and slow, limiting Brazil’s usual freewheeling style in the first half. Italy played with characteristic precision, but was stifled by Brazil’s defense, which was usually overshadowed by the team’s world-class attack. Brazil’s captain, Carlos Alberto Torres, directed the dominant defense from his left fullback position and continuously turned the ball upfield to his fabulous midfielders and forwards.
Eighteen minutes into the game, Brazilian midfielder Roberto Rivelino directed a crossing pass towards the front of the goal, and Pele, just 5’7″, leapt over the Italian defenders to head the ball into the goal past the diving Italian keeper Enrico Albertossi. Not to be outdone, Italian midfielder Roberto Boninsegna stole the ball from Brazilian defender Wilson Piazza and scored in the 19th minute to tie the game at 1-1.
The Brazilians began to dictate play in the second half, and in the 65th minute, Pele passed to a dashing Gerson Olivera Nunez for a goal and a 2-1 Brazil lead. Six minutes later, Gerson returned the favor, passing to Pele, who headed the ball to Brazilian striker Jair Ventura three feet from the goal. Ventura scored to put the Brazilians up 3-1 and from then on Brazil was in control, showing off its “beautiful game” to the delight of the crowd. With three minutes left in regulation, Pele dribbled toward the goal to draw the Italian defense, and then quickly dished the ball to teammate Carlos Alberto, who scored from 30 feet for a 4-1 lead.
The 1970 World Cup was the third championship for Pele and the Brazilians; the first came in 1958, when Pele was just 17, and the second in 1962. Brazil was the first team to win three World Cup Championships and in recognition of the feat they were given the gold Jules Rimet Trophy, named for a former FIFA president, permanently. The Rimet replacement, the gold FIFA World Cup Trophy, was awarded for the first time in 1974 to World Cup champion West Germany.