GAME OF THE CENTURY: THE 1970 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL (West Germany Vs Italy)
The semi-final of the 1970 FIFA World Cup between West Germany and Italy was a historical clash. It was played on the 17th of June at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. This was the first World Cup that was not held in Europe or in South America.
The match witnessed five goals during extra time. Till today, it is a FIFA World Cup record. The nearest challenger to this record was the game between West Germany and France during the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup. 4 goals were netted.
The semi-final of 1970 started at a slow pace. Italy was the first to score. In the 8th minute, Roberto Boninsegna netted the goal through an unstoppable half-volley from 16 meters. The Italians were 1-0 up.
In a freak incident, the German defender Franz Beckenbauer dislocated his shoulder. West Germany had utilized their two permitted substitutions. Still, Franz (later he was declared player of the century for Germany) stayed on the field carrying his arm in a sling.
Germans fought in a cavalier manner. They were pushing for equalizers. The Italians held the fort quite firmly. The match entered the last minute of the second half with the same scoreline. In the second minute of additional time, the goal came from a highly unlikely source. Defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger equalled the score for the Germans. Karl was a player for A C Milan. It remained his only goal for the German team in 47 appearances. The Germans displayed their famous never say die attitude once again.
Both the teams had given everything in 90 minutes. It then became a battle between endurance and remaining stamina.
The exhausted players progressed to the next 30 minutes. They braved 33-degree celcius inside the stadium.
In the 95th minute, Fabrizio Poletti, the substitute, made a defensive error. Gerd Muller was quick to seize the opportunity. The West Germans were now leading for the first time. But their joy was short-lived. Only 4 minutes later, the Italians responded. Tarcisio Burgnich netted the ball during a free-kick. It was 2-2 in the 99th minute. Stricker Luigi Riva scored a brace. The Italians were back in lead at the 113th minute. The first half of extra time ended with a 3-2 lead for the Azzurri in exhausting conditions.
In the second half, Gerd Muller scored through a header in 110th minute. Once again, it became 3 goals apiece. Just when the TV was showing the replay, Italian Midfielder Gianni Rivera was found unmarked near the penalty area by Boninsegna. He initiated a measured cross to Rivera. He connected the ball beautifully to score at the other end.
Rivera’s goal was the last goal of this classic encounter. The Italians won 4-3. The Italian camp erupted in joy. Both the teams gave it their all. It was the extra time that was ‘Extraordinary.’ The match will be remembered for super saves by Italian goalkeeper, Albertosi.
After the game, West Germany went on to beat Uruguay 1-0 in the third-place playoff. The Italians were too exhausted after playing that energy-sapping match. They then faced Brazil in the final. Brazil won the match with ease. They scored 4-1 and became the first team to win three World Football Championships.
The West Germans were runners up in the 1966 WC. This time, they weren’t able to play another final. 2 years later, they won the European Championship and later the 1974 World Cup. The Italians won the 1934 and 1938 WC. They won the 1936 Olympic Gold under the management of Vittorio Pizzo. Since then, they have been searching for a moment of glory. After 32 years, the Italians had progressed beyond the first round of the World Cup.
Later, a monument commemorating the match was planted at the Azteca stadium. It reads – ‘El Estadio Azteca rinde homenaje a las selecciones de : Italia (4) y Alemania (3) protagonistas en el Mundial de 1970, del “Partido del Siglo” 17 de junio de 1970.
Due to sheer competitiveness, this match is widely considered as the ‘Game of the Century’. It is still regarded as the finest soccer match ever played.
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