It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it
It ain’t what you do, it’s the time that you do it
It ain’t what you do, it’s the place that you do it
And that’s what gets results
(â€œIt ainâ€™t what you do, itâ€™s the way that you do itâ€ â€“ Bananarama and Fun Boy Three)
Every four years, strikers from a host of countries converge on that ultimate festival of football â€“ the World Cup. For many, this represents the pinnacle of their careers to date, the chance to prove themselves against the best and to write themselves into history. And each World Cup throws up a striker who is forever associated with that competition and often one goal in particular that lives on in collective memories. Go right back to 1962 and we see Garrincha score a thundering shot against England in the quarter-finals.
1966 sees an exhausted Geoff Hurst hurtle towards goal before unleashing a piledriver past Tilkowski â€“ a shot that he later admitted was hit as hard as it was so that if he likely missed, it would eat up time recovering the ball. In 1974 Gerd MÃ¼ller shows his predatory instincts to spin on a dime and cause Dutch heartache. Four years later Mario Kempes bursts through the Dutch defence, hair billowing behind him â€“ and the list can go on; Paolo Rossi 1982 against Brazil, Maradona 1986 against England, Roberto Baggio 1990 against Czechoslovakia. What these all have in common is strikers scoring goals that are forever remembered from those respective tournaments, and often the first thing that you will think of when someone mentions their name and the competition. If I simply say the words 1998 and Zidane, I am betting your first thought is of his two goals in the final.
The list above has deliberately excluded one World Cup â€“ the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Yes, that beautiful World Cup that was the first in colour, with the shimmering heat haze and crackling commentary. And if you play the word association game once again and ask someone what first pops into their head when you mention that competition, the likely answer is Brazil. And if you then ask them to name one player from that Brazil team, it is odds on they are going to say, PelÃ©. Because while the Brazil side that won that tournament was arguably the greatest national team of all time (Hungary 1954 and Holland 1974 might like to debate that), one player still managed to stand out from such illustrious company â€“ the phenomenal striker that was PelÃ©.
Just how great a striker was PelÃ©? Well, letâ€™s start with 501 goals in 493 appearances for Santos between 1956 and 1974 â€“ so yes, averaging a goal a game for 18 years. Ah but I hear you say â€“ that is in the Brazilian league, which surely is not the same standard as European leagues? That is open to debate, but then consider PelÃ©â€™s international record â€“ 77 goals in 92 games. That includes playing in four World Cups against the top teams at those times. Faced with statistics such as those, it is hard not to argue that PelÃ© was extremely good at putting the ball into the net.
But that leads to an interesting observation. There is no doubt that the 1970 World Cup and PelÃ© are intertwined in peopleâ€™s memories. One of the greatest goal-scorers of all-time helped his side lift the trophy with four goals across the tournament, but oddly enough if you again ask people the first five things that come into their head when you say PelÃ© and 1970, I think you would be surprised to find that not a single one of them would be a goal scored by PelÃ©. Unlike the other strikers mentioned earlier, where you say Maradona and 1986 and one thinks of both goals against England, Peleâ€™s fame at the 1970 tournament actually came more from misses than goals. Yes, one of the greatest goal-scorers of all-time is actually remembered better for misses and saves.
So what would these five moments be that overshadow the four goals PelÃ© contributed? I would say that they are the following:
Memory one â€“ June 3, 1970
Brazilâ€™s opening match of the tournament sees them pitted against a decent Czechoslovakia team. The game is only three minutes old when a ball across the area finds PelÃ© unmarked in front of an open goal who then proceeds to place the ball over the bar. That miss is then compounded by the Czech’s having the cheek to take the lead after just 11 minutes. Things are not going according to plan. But Brazil begin to regain their composure and after 23 minutes Rivelino thunders in a trade-mark free-kick.
As half-time approaches, PelÃ© receives the ball within the Brazilian half and surveys the scene while moving slowly towards the centre circle. Then, suddenly, he smashes the ball goalwards from just within his own half. As the camera follows the flight of the ball, it picks up the Czech keeper, Viktor, furiously backpedalling. In that split second after receiving the ball, PelÃ© has noticed Viktor has strayed forward from his goalline and decided to attempt to lob him. The Brazilian commentator describes the action perfectly â€“ â€œPelÃ©, PelÃ©, PelÃ©â€¦quasi (almost)â€ as the ball just goes wide of the post.
It is important to bear in mind the context of this attempt. This is not a league match against Wimbledon where you are 2-0 in injury time, so why the hell not have a go â€“ this is an opening World Cup finals tie in which you are level. To even attempt such a lob on such a stage shows the genius of PelÃ© and that is strengthened by the fact that, even though he actually missed, it is still remembered by all. Yes, David Beckhamâ€™s lob against the Dons was fantastic â€“ but he was standing on the shoulders of PelÃ©.
Memory two â€“ June 7, 1970
Brazil end up with an emphatic victory over Czechoslovakia 4-1, including a goal from PelÃ© before being overshadowed by a double from Jairzinho. But Brazil face stiff competition in their group by being drawn alongside the reigning world champions England, who arguably have a better team now than then. And so the second match of the group between the two teams is always going to be critical in terms of who advances top.
The game kicks off at noon under a scorching Mexican sun â€“ advantage Brazil in terms of weather. Just seeing red-headed, freckled Alan Ball chasing the ball is the ultimate advert for sun protection cream. Just nine minutes into the game, Carlos Alberto moves towards the halfway line with the ball before hitting a great pass into the stride of Jairzinho, who then beats Terry Cooper to take the ball to the byline, before hitting a cross to the back post. And there is PelÃ©, who powers a header downwards towards the corner at a horrible height for any keeper. But the keeper happens to be Gordon Banks, who somehow gets across from the near post to the far post and then gets down to the header and doesnâ€™t just palm it out but scoops it over the bar. Enter immortality.
As time progresses, the cult of the Banks save grows. It steadily becomes referred to as â€œthe greatest save of all-timeâ€- as if that is something that anyone is really fit to judge. I personally would argue that Jim Montgomeryâ€™s double save against Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup final could give it a run for its money. But the moniker has stuck â€“ aided in England by David Colemanâ€™s commentary of the save being sampled into â€œThree Lionsâ€ â€“ â€œwhat a save, Gordon Banksâ€.
Memory three â€“ June 7, 1970
They say that a picture tells a thousand words. During the course of football history, there have been many iconic images â€“ Maradona facing five Belgian defenders or Baggio hands on hips after his penalty miss. But one of the most famous is that of PelÃ© and Bobby Moore embracing at the end of the Brazil vs England game. Embracing may be too strong a word given that it involves an Englishman in the 1970s â€“ but there is a definite tenderness in the way PelÃ© touches Mooreâ€™s face while Moore clutches PelÃ©â€™s discarded shirt proudly in his hand.
It is an image of two great players who know that they have just been involved in a titanic struggle.Â It is an image of pure mutual respect. After all, in a game that according to the English had already produced â€œthe greatest save of all-timeâ€, it had also, according to the English once again, produced â€œthe greatest tackle of all-timeâ€ by Moore on Jairzinho (not PelÃ© as many believe). Another moment sampled into â€œThree Lionsâ€ ensuring it lives on for generations.
Memory four â€“ June 17, 1970
Brazil ended up winning all their group games and then proceed to eliminate a useful Peru side in the quarter-finals. Standing between them and a World Cup final are their old foe, Uruguay. It has to be remembered that it was Uruguay who crushed the Brazilian nation by defeating them 2-1 in the 1950 World Cup at the famed MaracanÃ£ â€“ a defeat that so devastated the nation that it became known as the Maracanazo (â€œThe blow of MaracanÃ£). Therefore any big game against Uruguay was always going to cause heightened tension for fans of the SeleÃ§Ã£o.
The game did not disappoint in that respect with Uruguay taking an early lead. As the half wore on thoughts must have been flooding back to 1950. Surely Brazilâ€™s greatest side werenâ€™t going to be undone by their tiny neighbours again? But an equaliser just before half-time helped soothe frayed nerves.
With just fifteen minutes remaining, Brazil finally take the lead through a beautiful Jairzinho goal. A sigh of relief ripples through their fans but tempered by the memory that they also led at one stage during the Maracanazo. And so nerves continue to jangle until, with just one minute remaining, PelÃ© runs at the Uruguayan defence before setting up Rivellino to put the game beyond doubt.
So as injury time commences, Brazil look home and dry. As the crowd awaits the final whistle, a through ball from TostÃ£o puts PelÃ© clean though onto goal. The keeper rushes out but it appears that PelÃ© will just get to the ball first. Then it should just be a matter of touching it past the keeper and rolling the ball into the unguarded net for the icing on the cake.
But this is PelÃ© â€“ a player whose genius almost produced a halfway magical lobbed goal earlier in the tournament. To just go around the keeper would be too straight-forward. After all Brazil have won the game. So instead, while running at full speed, PelÃ© just steps over the ball and lets it run on past a stunned keeper who is stranded in no-mans land. Quick as you like, PelÃ© then spins to the right to chase the ball, hits it towards the net and a last ditch defender â€“ and watches the ball roll agonizingly just wide of the post. It is a move that takes the breath away in a similar fashion to the Cruyff turn in 1974.
Memory five â€“ June 21, 1970
And so Brazil progress to the World Cup final and a date with Italy. The biggest stage in world football. After 18 minutes, PelÃ© opens the scoring with a header at the far post. But an equalizer by Boninsegna â€“ he of the Coke can fame â€“ sees the sides level at half-time. Thereafter goals from GÃ©rson and Jairzinho put Brazil firmly back in the driving seat and as the match approaches the end, Brazilian songs fill the Mexican air.
But there is one more moment of greatness to savour. Brazil get the ball near their own penalty area and start to pass it around with one touch football. The ball falls to Clodoaldo who almost drunkenly weaves past four Italian players before laying the ball off to Rivellino who immediately passes it directly forward to the feet of Jairzinho. Jairzinho brings the ball across the penalty area and then spots PelÃ© to his right. A short pass and PelÃ© has the ball facing goal just outside the area with an Italian defender before him.
Weâ€™ve all tried it during five-a-side or a Sunday league game â€“ the infamous no-look pass. It is up there with the nutmeg as the ultimate flashy move. With a sixth sense, PelÃ© just holds the ball momentarily while behind him, Carlos Alberto is streaking forward on his right hand side. A heartbeat â€“ and then PelÃ© just rolls the ball so, so casually to the right, sensing that Alberto is arriving. And without having to break stride at all, Carlos Alberto drills the ball in at full speed. Brazil are world champions once again.
And the final, iconic images of the World Cup are of Brazilian fans rushing onto the field and basically stripping the Brazilian players of all their kit as souvenirs. PelÃ© is down to his shorts before being hoisted aloft by fans and paraded around the stadium.
The Brazil team of 1970 was undoubtedly one of the greatest teams of all-time, setting a benchmark that has haunted subsequent Brazil teams for generations. And while the whole team was fantastic, PelÃ© will always be remembered as the focal point. His four goals, including one in the final, helped push Brazil to victory, just like his goals had 12 years earlier in Sweden. And they were great goals, especially his first against Czechoslovakia. But PelÃ© was such an outstanding player that it is more than just his goals that are remembered from 1970. Only PelÃ© would have the audacity to try to lob the keeper from his own half. Only PelÃ© would have the nerve to dummy an onrushing keeper and then retrieve the ball and almost score. Only PelÃ© could power a header so hard and so perfectly into the bottom corner that the resulting save would be described as the â€œgreatest save of all-timeâ€. And only PelÃ© could finish off the greatest World Cup final team goal with a no-look pass to a colleague.
PelÃ©was an outstanding goal-scorer but also, unlike many other greats in front of goal, so much more. It really wasnâ€™t just about what he did that made him great â€“ it is also the time and place that he did it â€“ in a World Cup finals tournament. Thatâ€™s what gets results.