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Mexico 1970

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Let's look back at the ninth World Cup, held in Mexico in 1970 and won by Brazil. Some say this was this greatest Brazilian team ever, if not the best team ever. They clinched Brazil's third win, the first country to win it three times.

El Salvador qualified for this World Cup in a historically significant fashion. The actual history makes for fairly unsavoury reading. Suffice to say their qualifiers against Honduras were marred by riots and several deaths. The press and governments of both countries actively made things worse.

After each country won one game each, the playoff was moved to neutral territory. El Salvador triumphed 3-2 in that game. A few days later troops from both countries began assembling on border territory. On July 14 1969, war broke out. Officially it only lasted four days, but 6000 people died and the conflict dragged on for years.

There were many factors that caused this war, including a decade of tension and economic hardship. But it seems fairly clear that the World Cup qualifiers between the two countries did act as a catalyst. So perhaps George Orwell, who wrote in 1946, that "football was war minus the shooting" was not too far off the mark.

When Bulgaria played West Germany at the finals in June of 1970, Milko Gaidarski made his World Cup debut. What was remarkable about this was he was the first Bulgarian player at the World Cup finals whose surname doesn't end in a 'v'. (To date Bulgaria have played at seven finals and only one other player has matched this 'record'.)

On June 11 1970, England faced Czechoslovakia for a spot in the quarter-finals. A 2-0 loss would mean a coin toss. Anything better would put them through. Allan Clarke made his full international debut up front for England. June 11 was a red letter day for Clarke. It was his wedding anniversary, his wife's birthday and the day he transferred to Leeds for a then record transfer fee. He was so confident he volunteered to take any penalties England were awarded.

Sure enough England were awarded a penalty just before half-time with the scores 0-0. Viewers at home were expecting Bobby Charlton to step up in his record-equalling 105th appearance for England to score his 50th international goal. They were quite surprised to see Clarke step up. Needless to say, Clarke scored, England won 1-0 and June 11 is now even more special for Clarke.