FIFA World Cup moments: When Italy overcame West Germany in the 'Game of the Century' in 1970

They call it the Game of the Century. Not without reason.

It didn’t seem like it for the first 89 minutes of the match, where the score was one-nil in the favour of Italy against West Germany with a spot in the final of the 1970 World Cup on the line.

But just when you thought the match was ambling along to its logical conclusion, it — to use a modern phrase — exploded, with six goals being scored with the vim and vigour of a street boxing brawl.

The West German football team during the 1970 World Cup. AFP

The West German football team during the 1970 World Cup. AFP

In a match played in the energy-sapping heat at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Roberto Boninsegna scored the first goal of the match in the eighth minute to give the Italians the lead. The strike had come after Boninsegna played a one-two with Luigi Riva before dispatching a thunderous half-volley from 16 metres.

But any hope the fans had that the early goal would lead to more of the same were doused, at least until the 89th minute, when Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, a defender, equallised for West Germany to push the match into extra-time. Tellingly, it was his first goal in 47 appearances for West Germany.

The redoubtable Gerd Muller then seized control of the match, scoring a brace. But the image of the match was certainly the sight of the legendary Franz Beckenbauer soldiering on despite his arm being in a sling due to a serious shoulder injury. Muller’s first goal, in the 94th minute, started a period of German domination in the match where they mounted wave upon wave of attacks on the Italian citadel.

Muller’s goal, rather clumsy-looking, was soon followed by a goal by another defender. This time, however, it was an Italian Tarcisio Burgnich whose name was registered ion the scoresheet. Burgnich scored off a volley after the ball deflected kindly to him following a free-kick. The Italians seized the lead again with a counter attacking move being finished off by Gigi Riva.

Muller — who, furious that the referee had denied them penalties, famously told Beckenbauer that they were being cheated in the midst of the match — again took matters in his own hands to score his second of the match with a cleaner finish than the previous one, where the ball had just about trickled over the line.

The drama had not ended there. According to the regulations in place at that time, had the match ended at 3-3, the result would have been decided by a coin toss.

However, Gianni Rivera stepped forth and gave the Italians a famous win with a goal. The move was started by Boninsegna, who streaked down the left flank before feeding Rivera, who calmly placed the ball past German goalkeeper Sepp Maier for the winning goal.

To read about other famous FIFA World Cup moments, click here.


Updated Date: May 23, 2018 19:13 PM

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