The English dominated the early going, moving deliberately in the white, hot sun. Their defense was superb. It was almost 10 minutes before the Brazilians had a reasonable shot at goal, and when they did, Gordon Banks, the veteran English goalkeeper who is generally regarded as one of the best in the world, made an astonishing, acrobatic save on a header by Pelé. The goal that gave Brazil a 1-0 victory came 14 minutes into the second half, as the result of a lovely bit of team play involving what is probably the strongest trio of attackers in all of soccer—Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé), Jair Ventura Filho (Jairzinho) and Eduardo Goncalves de Andrade (Tostao).
Tostao started it, moving against the right side of the English defense, dribbling the ball carefully under pressure from three English defenders. Without looking, he tapped the ball sideways to Pelé. "I didn't see Pelé while I was dribbling," he said later, "but I knew where he would be because every time I go to my left he covers the center. I wasn't wrong."
Pelé took the ball directly in front of the English goal, well within shooting range, and might reasonably have taken the shot. But he saw two English defenders moving over to block him, so he sent a gentle, beautifully accurate pass wide to his right, to Jairzinho. "I didn't shoot because I saw the road was closed," he said. "And I saw Jairzinho was placed better."
Jairzinho took one step, then rocketed the ball past Banks—who had come out of the goal mouth in a desperate attempt to deny Jairzinho an angle. "Tostao and Pelé, with their talent, were the authors of the goal," Jairzinho said. "I just took the shot, putting everything I had in it, all my heart. With my teammates, I can score many goals. It's marvelous playing beside men like Pelé and Tostao. They can be off most of a game, then have an instant of genius, which is enough."
Late in the game England missed at least two clear opportunities to score. Said Sir Alf, "The best team did not win today. Brazil was a very good team in an even match. They took their one chance and we failed in ours."
The Brazilian victory, coupled with Mexico's 4-0 win over El Salvador in Mexico City, set off a night of riotous carnival all over Mexico. Guadalajara, a modern, clean city that looks as if it had been transplanted from Southern California, went berserk. Normally a dignified community, it is also the home of the mariachi band, an affront to the eardrum consisting of guitars of various sizes, violins and trumpets. The trumpets dominated the sound, and Sir Alf and the English team probably slept little that night.
The Mexican victory over El Salvador hardly seemed reason enough for the madness that lasted all night in Mexico City. An apocryphal story making the rounds of the bars in the city before the match indicates what small chance El Salvador was given to beat anyone. The El Salvador coach is supposed to have approached Sir Alf and said, "Sir Alfred, we are a poor nation, struggling to get along. Could you give me some tips on training?"
"The secret is work, work, work." Sir Alf told him. "When we practice, we set up 11 garbage cans as an obstacle course for our players to work around."
A week later Sir Alf ran into the El Salvador coach again. "How did it go?" he asked.
The coach shook his head sadly. "The garbage cans beat us two in a row," he said.