Pele v Bobby Moore - recalling Brazil v England 50 years on

THAT save of the century, that classic confrontation between two footballing legends at the height of their powers in Bobby Moore and Pelé and that iconic post-match embrace between the pair after swapping jerseys.

Great game: Pele and Bobby Moore at the end. Picture: John Varley

Those images are a reminder of why we all still love the game despite its modern-day imperfections – and this was a game delivered from the Gods.

It was 50 years ago tomorrow that World Cup holders England faced the team widely viewed to be the best in international history in Brazil – that wondrous line-up of Pelé, Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão, Rivelino and Carlos Alberto – in the searing heat of the Mexican city of Guadalajara on June 7, 1970.

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The occasion was one that those who watched or took part in will never forget. Least of all one proud Yorkshireman from Brotherton who walked tall against the Seleção and received a huge compliment from the greatest of them all in Pelé.

So close: Geoff Hurst beats Felix but the ball flies wide. Picture: John Varley

The recipient of the high praise was Terry Cooper, with his performance at left-back prompting Pelé to label him as ‘world-class’, while declaring that he was good enough to feature in that crop of Samba specials. It was some statement.

The buccaneering displays of Cooper, one of three England players who featured in every minute of that 1970 World Cup alongside Moore and Alan Mullery, would set the template for future left-sided international full-backs of distinction in Kenny Sansom and Ashley Cole.

The words of Pelé towards the Leeds United defender – who started his career at Ferrybridge Amateurs – may have been well received, but Cooper’s main memories of that particular afternoon against Brazil were all to do with something else.

Namely, the conditions, with England’s three group games at Guadalajara played at 5,200 feet above sea level amid sweltering 98-degree temperatures.

Letting fly: Martin Peters shoots past the Brazil wall. Picture: John Varley

In order to accommodate TV, the eagerly-anticipated game with Brazil was switched to midday – providing conclusively that only mad dogs and Englishman truly do go out in the mid-day sun.

Cooper said: “In every game, we lost between seven and ten pounds in weight, just in fluid, even though we supposedly had these special Aertex shirts. It was just red-hot and you thought: ‘Jesus Christ!’

“I remember playing Brazil in Guadalajara at 12, which was crazy and for television, even then.”

Those words from Pelé went down rather better.

Brazil World Cup team: Back, from left, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Wilson Piazza, Felix, Clodoaldo, Everaldo, Mario Zagalo. Front, Jairzinho, Roberto Rivelino, Tostao, Pele, Paulo Cesar.

“That was good, I must admit...,” Cooper continued.

“It was just my dream from being a kid of being a footballer and everything just came true and more. I was so thankful it was my job and I just loved every minute of it and like to think I played every game as if it was my last.”

Both England and Brazil entered that gladiatorial contest in contrasting spirits.

The former started their World Cup defence in solid if unspectacular style, with Geoff Hurst’s 70th-minute goal giving Alf Ramsey’s side a narrow 1-0 win over Romania.

Friends reunited: Gordon Banks with Pele at Wembley. Picture: Clive Mason/Allsport

Meanwhile, Brazil posted an ominous warning in a 4-1 victory over Czechoslovakia, which displayed more than a hint of swagger.

But for millions in those two football-mad nations, the meeting of two of the game’s super-powers was the main event.

With live colour introduced by the BBC and ITV in November, 1969, viewers in England were handed a game-enhancing perspective.

For once, this was a marquee occasion that lived up to all the expectation and hype.

History shows that the victory belonged to Brazil, who triumphed thanks to a second-half goal from Jairzinho.

But in a game of “endless activity” according to The Times, England – with two Leeds players being unused substitutes on the bench in Norman Hunter and Allan Clarke – refused to abdicate in defeat and certainly could have drawn if not won.

So close: Geoff Hurst beats Felix but the ball flies wide. Picture: John Varley

The first seminal moment would arrive just 10 minutes in, with Pelé and Gordon Banks pitched in a high-noon duel, which the Sheffielder would win.

Jairzinho surged to the right-hand byline and sent over a succulent centre which gravitated towards Pelé.

He rose majestically above Mullery and his downward header was technically perfect and ferocious.

Mullery would reveal that Pelé shouted ‘Goal!’ as the Adidas Telstar ball flew off his head, but he reckoned without the lightning reactions of Banks, with that Steel City son somehow managing to sprint across goal and get an outstretched hand under the ball to flick it up and away over the bar.

It was a remarkable cameo of action which promptly entered football folklore and remains a jaw-dropping moment to this day, even though it has been watched countless times.

The animated commentary of ITV’s Hugh Johns – ‘it’s Pelé and a fantastic save by Banks!’ – enhanced the sense of theatre.

The high-quality action would continue in a magnificent game that was delicately posed, with Moore delivering a master-class in defending.

It was Johns who again spoke eloquently for a nation when Moore’s outstretched leg immaculately denied Jairzinho. ‘What a player this fellow is’, remarked the much-loved commentator.

But, ultimately, it was Jairzinho who had the final say.

Tostão twisted and turned and sent over a cross on the left which found Pelé, who teed up Jairzinho, who lashed the ball emphatically past Banks.

The Botafogo winger would go on to make history by scoring in all seven games Brazil played in Mexico and duly received the epithet ‘Furacão da Copa’ – World Cup Hurricane – for his supreme feats.

The drama did not end, with substitute Jeff Astle spurning a gilt-edged chance to equalise.

Some would venture it was Brazil’s day, but in reality, it was football’s.

The sight of two masters of the game in Moore and Pelé recognising each other’s genius at the end was picture-perfect.

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