The tournament returned to Latin America for its ninth edition, with Mexico playing host to the world’s top sixteen teams. As in 1966, the teams were divided into four groups of four – with the top two in each group progressing into the quarter-finals.
For the first time goal difference rather than goal average was used to separate teams on the same number of points, but in the knockout rounds the best solution had still not been found to games drawn after extra time, with the referee drawing the winner out of a hat. Thankfully this method was not required, even with three games going beyond the regulation ninety minutes – two of them classic matches involving Helmut Schön’s impressive German side. The tournament also saw the introduction of yellow and red cards, which provided a clear and language-neutral replacement for the previous method of caution and dismissal – which had been subject to increasing problems caused by the language barrier between players and officials.
A total of ninety-five goals were scored in the thirty-two games played at an average of 2.97 goals per game, slightly up on the previous tournament in England. Having been defeated in extra time in the semi-final by Italy in what has been described as the “Game of the Century”, Germany went on to collect their second bronze medal – while their tired conquerors were roundly defeated 4-1 in the final by a magnificent Brazil side that won their third World Cup – and with it the Jules Rimet trophy outright.
Qualifying Campaign and pre-tournament build-up
As has been so often the case, Germany’s qualifying campaign saw them comfortably top their group – though it was not all plain sailing. Drawn against Austria, Cyprus and Scotland, the Mannschaft finished a healthy four points clear of the Scots with eleven points from a possible twelve – but this included a last-gasp wins against both Austrians and the Cypriot minnows as well as 79th minute winner in the home game against the Scots. While Schön’s side may have struggled to break down Cyprus in Nicosia, the home fixture saw them rack up a record round dozen goals.
Four friendly fixtures were played in 1970 leading up the finals, which saw a mixed bag of results. A 2-0 away defeat in Spain in February was followed by an equally disappointing 1-1 home draw with Romania in April, before the side slowly returned to form in the month before leaving for Mexico with wins over the Republic of Ireland and Yugoslavia.
Germany’s Tournament in brief
As ever, the inconsistent form shown between the qualifiers and the finals had no bearing on how the team performed once the real event started. After storming through the first phase with three straight wins and ten goals, they overturned a two-goal deficit against reigning champions England before being beaten by a cynical Italian side in an exciting if controversial semi-final. Two goals were scored in that game by the prolific Gerd Müller, who went on to score ten goals in the tournament – the first time anyone had reached double figures since Just Fontaine had scored his record thirteen in 1958.
By beating Uruguay by a single goal in the third-place playoff, the Mannschaft achieved their fourth podium finish in what was their seventh World Cup finals appearance.