The seventh running of the World Cup was far from its most beloved. It marked a tournament so violent that FIFA almost expelled some of the teams. From the outset, this was a tournament about overcoming adversity.
Out of the Shadows
After successive World Cups in Europe, FIFA needed to return to South America for the ’62 tournament. Argentina were the obvious choice of host, but FIFA didn’t want an unopposed bid. To make a contest of the process, Chile threw their hat in the ring. When FIFA gathered in 1956 to decide on a host, it was widely assumed Argentina would win. Their advocate Raul Colombo closed his bid speech by stating, “We can start the World Cup tomorrow, we have it all”. Carlos Dittborn opened Chile’s case the next day and made an impassioned speech, pointing to his nation’s tolerance, stability and FIFA’s own statutes for developing the sport in less-developed countries. His argument prevailed and Chile were awarded the World Cup.
Eight cities were announced as venues for Chile’s World Cup, but all that changed on May 22nd, 1960. The Valdivia earthquake struck 350 miles south of Santiago and remains the largest earthquake ever recorded. The earthquake and subsequent tsunamis killed thousands and uprooted millions with four of the World Cup cities devastated. The World Cup would still go ahead in ’62, but was reduced to four host cities.
The tournament adopted the same format as ’58 with 16 teams, but with goal average used rather than playoffs to settle tied groups. A total of 57 teams entered qualification with ’58 finalists Sweden and third-placed France both missing out. Two new countries made their bow in ’62 in France’s conquerors Bulgaria and Colombia.
Superstar Injury Shocks
When the World Cup commenced on May 30th, 1962, the world’s attention focused on the world’s most famous player. Pele strode out for defending champions Brazil to open their campaign against Mexico. Brazil were largely unchanged from ’58 with Didi, Garrincha, Vava and Mario Zagallo completing the attack. Pele set up Zagallo for the opener and then danced through the Mexican defence to score the second as Brazil won 2-0.
The other group games promised to be far tougher for Brazil against Spain and Czechoslovakia. Spain were returning after a 12-year absence and sported a genuine superstar attack in Real Madrid trio Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Francisco Gento. Puskas and Di Stefano were now both aged 35 and playing for their naturalized nation, giving Puskas the odd distinction of playing the tournament for two different countries. Spain were then hit by a cruel blow when Di Stefano suffered a muscle injury and was ruled out of the tournament, he remains widely regarded as the best player not to play a World Cup.
Czechoslovakia were a dark horse in Chile, as their chief attacking threat came from midfielder Josef Masopust. The clash with Spain in Vina del Mar was close throughout, but it was the Czechs who prevailed thanks to Jozef Stibranyi’s late strike.
Spain then revived their campaign with a 1-0 win over Mexico thanks to a last gasp strike from Joaquin Piero. Meanwhile, Brazil faced the Czechs. The game was again close and the Czech backline, led by Ladislav Novak, kept Brazil at bay. Disaster struck for Brazil as Pele was injured taking a shot. It was the first major injury of his career and ruled him out of the tournament. The game ended with a scoreless draw and Brazil needed a point against Spain to be sure of going through.
Shorn of Pele, Brazil struggled to settle and Spain had the better of the first half, taking a deserved lead when Adelardo played a lovely one-two before blasting into the bottom corner. In the second half, Spain pressed for the killer second goal and thought they had won a penalty when Enrique Collar appeared to be fouled in the box, but it wasn’t given. With their campaign hanging in the balance, it was Zagallo who set up the equalizer, crossing from the left side for Amarildo to score with 18 minutes left. Spain continued to push, but with time running out, Garrincha teased and tormented on the right side before darting to the byline to float in a cross for Adelardo to head in for 2-1. Brazil, without their talisman, had survived a scare while defeat meant Spain were out. Czechoslovakia were also through.
As Puskas was exiting the tournament with Spain, his old country had found a new hero. With the ‘Magical Magyars’ now a fading memory, Hungary’s new hope was elegant striker Florian Albert. Hungary opened against old foes England. Now assured of hosting the ’66 tournament, England arrived with a young side looking to gain experience ahead of a home World Cup. Captained by Johnny Haynes, England had sprung a surprise by brining 21-year old wing-half Bobby Moore into a team that also included dynamic young attacking talents in Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves.
Less then 8,000 fans attended the game in Rancagua, with Hungary looking to stifle the dangerous Haynes. At the other end, the prolific Lajos Tichy gave Hungary the lead. England equalized through a Ron Flowers penalty, but it was Albert who proved the difference with a 71st-minute winner. In the other game, Argentina had edged past new boys Bulgaria thanks to an early strike from Hector Facundo.
England now faced Argentina needing a win. Another Flowers penalty gave them an early lead. The youngsters for England were finding their feet. A fine finish came from Charlton, who scored his first World Cup goal to make it 2-0 before halftime. Greaves wrapped the game up with the third goal. Although Argentina pulled a goal back, the 3-1 win meant England had their destiny in their own hands. Meantime, Hungary were sending out a message to the rest of the field against Bulgaria with Albert scoring twice in the opening exchanges, as they raced into a 4-0 lead inside 12 minutes. Albert completed his hat-trick in the second half as Hungary booked their quarterfinal place, 6-1.
Argentina needed to win and turn around a goal average deficit if they were to progress against Hungary and put pressure on England. Hungary held firm and saw out a scoreless draw, making the final game between England and Bulgaria academic. Hungary would play the Czechs, while England would face Brazil.
Another team fancied to do well in Chile were the Soviet Union. The Soviets had won the first European Nations Cup (European Championships) two years earlier and star man Valentin Ivanov had made an impact at the ’58 World Cup. They opened against a talented Yugoslavia team, with Ivanov giving them the lead early in the second half. Viktor Ponedelnik scored seven minutes from time to secure the 2-0 win.
The other game in the group was a South American affair with Colombia making their first ever appearance against Uruguay. The new boys got a perfect start when Francisco Zuluaga converted a 19th-minute penalty, but Uruguay fought back with winger Luis Cubilla equalizing and experienced forward Jose Sasia grabbing the winner.
Next up, Uruguay faced Yugoslavia knowing a win would take them through. They were on track when Angel Cabrera gave them an early lead. Yugoslavia, who had won gold at the 1960 Olympics, were in trouble but got a break when they won a 25th-minute penalty converted by Josip Skoblar. The Yugoslavs started to click and Milan Galic soon had them ahead. A Drazen Jerkovic goal early in the second half completed a 3-1 comeback win.
The Soviets appeared to be cruising into the quarterfinals when a rasping drive from Ivanov gave them an early lead over Colombia. A fine run and shot from Igor Chislenko made it 2-0 just two minutes later. An angled drive from Ivanov made it 3-0 after just eleven minutes. Colombia pulled a goal back, but when Ponedelnik made it 4-1 on 56 minutes, the game looked over. Colombia gave themselves hope when Marco Coll embarrassed the great Lev Yashin with a cheeky goal direct from a corner to make it 4-2 after 68 minutes. On 72 minutes, Marino Klinger dribbled his way into the Soviet box, with Antonio Rada lashing it in for 4-3. With four minutes to go, Klinger latched onto a throughball, forced his way past Yashin, and slotted home to equalize to give Colombia their first World Cup point.
The heavyweight clash of the group saw the Soviets needing a point against an Uruguay team who almost certainly needed a win. In an ebb and flow game, Aleksei Mamykin gave the Soviets the lead. Sasia equalized to make for a tense encounter. Inevitably, it was Ivanov who had the final word, grabbing the 89th-minute winner. The next day, Yugoslavia made sure they’d be going through with a thumping 5-0 win over Colombia with both Galic and Jerkovic scoring twice. Uruguay, who had won both the previous South American World Cups, were eliminated.
Hosts Up and Running
The hosts got their campaign started against Switzerland in front of 65,000 fans at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago. Left winger Leonel Sanchez was Chile’s star man. The 26-year old had already accumulated 45 caps and was equally adept at scoring and creating chances. However, the expectant crowd were silenced after six minutes when Rolf Wuthrich blasted home a fine solo goal. On the stroke of halftime, Sanchez made his mark, slotting home the equalizer. Chile began the second half well and Jaime Ramirez made it 2-1 with Sanchez wrapping up the 3-1 win on 56 minutes.
The other game in the group pitted West Germany against Italy. ’54 winner Hans Schafer was still around to captain West Germany, but the star turn was undoubtedly razor sharp striker Uwe Seeler. The clash in Santiago proved a shoddy affair dominated by cynical tactics and ended in a scoreless draw. Unfortunately, it foreshadowed what was to come.
Battle of Santiago
Most World Cup tourists were supportive of Chile’s efforts to host a World Cup in adversity. However, some took a different view; most notably Italy. Ahead of Italy’s clash with Chile, two Italian journalists wrote scathing articles about the host nation, crassly criticizing the hosts and their country’s efforts to hold the tournament. Chilean journalists hit back, referring to Italians as fascists amongst a barrage of insults.
The two teams walked out to a tense atmosphere in Santiago. It took just 12 seconds for the first foul. On eight minutes, Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini was sent off for a dreadful challenge. Ferrini refused to leave the pitch and was forced to go by law enforcement. Sanchez incredibly escaped a sending off when in retaliation for a foul, he threw a punch at Mario David. English referee Ken Aston was struggling to keep control. When David tried to kick Sanchez in the head, Aston was left with little choice other than to send him off.
With Italy down to nine men and more than half the game left to play, incredibly Chile continued the violence with Sanchez breaking Humberto Maschio’s nose. Unbelievably, he wasn’t even booked. The fighting continued throughout with the police called onto the pitch another three times. Late goals from Ramirez and Jorge Toro won the game for Chile, but the result was irrelevant in the most appalling match in World Cup history. West Germany won the next day and beat Chile in their last group game. Seeler scored in both games to ensure they progressed.
The four quarterfinals kicked off simultaneously on June 10th. Chile, having being pipped to by West Germany in their group, were forced to leave Santiago for Arica to face the Soviet Union. It was a more composed Chile team than the one that faced the Italians with Sanchez back to his best, rifling in an early free kick to give Chile the lead. The Soviets levelled when Chislenko turned home a rebound. Minutes later, Eladio Rojas hit a screamer from 30 yards out to seal a 2-1 win.
In Rancagua, Czechoslovakia faced Hungary in an even contest. Tichy spurned a glorious early chance for Hungary before Adolf Scherer drove down the left side and smashed home to give the Czechs a 13th-minute lead they never surrendered. Meanwhile in Santiago, West Germany took on Yugoslavia. West Germany had the better of the first half and Seeler twice went close to opening the scoring. Yugoslavia stuck doggedly to their task and in the 85th minute, Peter Radakovic arrived late in the German box to thunder home the only goal of the game.
The tie of the round saw Brazil take on England. Brazil may have been without Pele, but in his absence, it was right winger Garrincha who stepedp up. Brazil’s ‘Little Bird’ opened the scoring in Vina del Mar, but England soon equalized through Gerry Hitchens to keep the scores level at halftime. Garrincha was heavily involved again as Vava restored Brazil’s lead on 53 minutes. Six minutes later, Garrincha settled the tie with a beautifully-arrowed shot from the edge of the box that glided in for 3-1.
The semifinals couldn’t have been more different. The first saw Czechoslovakia take on Yugoslavia in front of less than 6,000 spectators in Vina del Mar. With Masopust pulling the strings, the Czechs made the brighter start, but the game was goalless at halftime. The Czechs opened the scoring early in the second half through Josef Kadraba. Yugoslavia levelled through a Jerkovic header on 69 minutes. With momentum on their side, Yugoslavia pushed for a late winner, but the Czech’s produced a brilliant counterattack to play in Scherer for 2-1. With five minutes left, the Czechs won a penalty which Scherer put away to send his nation into their second World Cup Final.
In Santiago, 76,000 fans packed the Estadio Nacional hoping to push their side to the final. Garrincha had other ideas, as he first lashed home from the edge of the box to give Brazil a ninth-minute lead. He then headed in a corner for 2-0. Chile found a response just before the break when Toro smashed home a free-kick for 2-1. Two minutes into the second half, Vava headed in to restore Brazil’s two-goal cushion. A Sanchez penalty gave Chile hope, but Brazil were not to be denied. Another Vava goal made sure of a 4-2 win. Chile went on to win the third-placed playoff to record their best ever World Cup finish.
For the Final, Brazil took on the team that held them to a draw in the group phase. However, most expected Brazil to retain their title against Czechoslovakia. Just as they had four years earlier, Brazil fell behind early when Masopust latched on to Scherer’s through-ball to slot home on 15 minutes. With a lead to defend, much would depend on the performance of Czech goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf, who had been exceptional in his team’s run to the Final. However, Schrojf was deceived by a hopeful shot from the right side from Amarildo to gift Brazil the equalizer. The teams went in at halftime level.
Brazil pushed for the winner, but the Czechs held firm. The pressure told in the 69th minute when midfielder Zito rose to head home a floated cross for 2-1. The game was decided by another calamity from Schrojf, who dropped Djalma Santos’ hopeful cross at the feet of Vava, who slotted the ball into an unguarded net and Brazil were champions again.
1962 remains the runt of the World Cup litter. It was a tournament down on goals and up on fouls. A lack of dramatic matches was also an issue, with the infamous ‘Battle of Santiago’ still the tournament’s most talked about incident. That said, Brazil were magnificent, as were Czechoslovakia and Garrincha was magical. Simply holding the tournament in the aftermath of a national tragedy was a triumph for Chile and for all the tournament’s faults, that should never be forgotten.