I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
(‘Daffodils’ – William Wordsworth)
It started deep inside the Brazilian half, the Seleção playing at walking pace, the orb in their thrall. The sun beats down on Mexico City’ s Azteca Stadium; the grass cowers from the incandescent barrage but Brazil’s golden shirts seem gloriously imbued with sunlight. Time moves slowly. The seconds that tick by are incidental.
Without warning, the pace is raised. Clodoaldo receives the ball from Piazza and bursts into life, his body twisting and morphing as he wriggles away from four azure Italian shirts, approaching the left touchline before again slowing the pace and offloading to Rivelino. The Corinthians legend takes a single, immaculate touch to bring the ball under his influence, takes a cursory glance up the line and plays a pinpoint pass straight to the effervescent Jairzinho.
Running directly at Giacinto Facchetti with an enthusiasm and energy that borders on the threatening, the Botafogo winger drops his right shoulder in the blink of an eye, cuts quickly infield and plays a square pass to the feet of Pelé. Time stands still once more, O Rei waits with the ball. To the mere mortal it looks as though Brazil’s momentum may have been lost, but the finest marksman the game has ever seen is living in the future.
Before he had even received the ball Pelé had spotted the run of right-back Carlos Alberto from deep, his masterful footballing mind waiting for the exact moment at which to release the ball to his captain. A nonchalant pass, a flash of gold, the net ripples. Applause please.
Indeed, so perfectly judged was the pass that Alberto – having run the length of the field – wasn’t even required to break stride as he lashed the ball into the far corner to make the score 4-1 and seal a third World Cup title for Brazil.
To watch this goal is to witness football being played in a way that was previously unimaginable. Despite the move being exceptionally technically demanding and almost impossible in its beauty, there is a strange and compelling inevitability to the conclusion when we watch it back. Harmonised, exuberant and – dare I say it – poetic, the artistic mastery of Brazil 1970 will surely remain as the game’s aesthetic high-water mark for generations to come.