June 14, 1970, Leon, Mexico


England are world champions for the next week and then they will have to relinquish the title they cannot retain following a bitterly dramatic defeat, losing to West Germany here in the heat of Leon today.

The eagerly anticipated quarter-final of what is rapidly becoming a magnificent tournament featured the 1966 World Cup finalists in a rematch – they even wore the same colour of shirts as at Wembley four years ago – that promised plenty of excitement, and that is what we got in a game that featured five goals and was only settled deep in extra-time.

The shock news of the day was issued by manager Alf Ramsay before the match – talismanic goalkeeper Gordon Banks would not be between the sticks for England after a bout of food poisoning. At two hours’ notice, Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Bonetti replaced Banks and though he is one of England’s finest, he clearly could not have been match fit or match ready, having not played competitively since the FA Cup Final replay on April 29 during which he was injured.

Bonetti looked to be at fault for the first two West German goals, but in truth England should never have lost the two-goal lead they had established, as manager Alf Ramsay admitted ruefully afterwards. Having won the clinching group game against Czechoslovakia by a single goal from the penalty spot and without ever reaching the heights, England came out of the blocks looking more like their old swashbuckling selves, and anyone who doubted the competitiveness between the two sides had that notion dispelled when Francis Lee, who against Brazil had become the first England player to be yellow-carded in the World Cup finals, saw yellow again after just 10 minutes, while referee Angel Norberto Coerezza evened the account by booking West Germany striker Gerd Muller after 18 minutes.


Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer both had a go from long range to no avail, but it was England who were in charge for most of the first half, with Charlton and Alan Ball bossing the midfield. England deservedly took the lead just after the half-hour mark. Keith Newton was having a fine match attacking from right-back, and Alan Mullery found him on the wing with a pinpoint pass. The Everton man’s move forward was strangely not covered by Wolfgang Overath, the Cologne player hanging back and allowing Newton to cross deep into the West German box where the inrushing Mullery completed a long-range one-two by crashing his shot past Maier.

England’s defence was, as always, superbly marshalled by Bobby Moore, and Uwe Seeler and Muller were kept quiet. Lee had a decent shout for a penalty turned down after a typically brusque tackle in the box by Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, but there were few real chances before half-time.

England looked to be in the ascendancy and that feeling increased just five minutes into the second half when Newton again got free down the right and crossed to the far post where Martin Peters ghosted in to hit his shot low into the West German net, Maier getting a hand to the ball but unable to stop the goal.

England looked comfortable, despite the heat and altitude, but West Germany pulled one back after 69 minutes. The English players seemed distracted when Lee fell to the ground after being on the end of a Klaus Fichtel thumper, and Overath pounced to send Beckenbauer free into the right side of the England penalty area. Mullery could not match the tall German’s speed and allowed Beckenbauer to fire a low shot across the goal and under Bonetti. The goalkeeper should certainly have saved the shot, but now it was West Germany with their tails up.

Substitutions proved crucial. Helmut Schoen had already put on the winger Juergen Grabowski before the West German opener and the super sub proceeded to roast Terry Cooper and cause all sort of havoc. Much more mystifying was Ramsay’s decision to take off Charlton in the 70th minute, with Colin Bell of Manchester City replacing Charlton who was having his 106th cap yet seemed sprightlier than ever.

After Bell saw Geoff Hurst head narrowly past the post from his good cross, and after Muller was brilliantly foiled by Bonetti, West Germany’s equaliser came in bizarre fashion after 80 minutes. Schnellinger’s cross to the left of the English defence was going nowhere until Seeler leapt and back-headed the ball over Bonetti and into the right-hand side of the net.

Both sides attacked and had chances, but extra time duly arrived, and with West Germany now the better side, Beckenbauer almost scored from distance with a shot that skimmed the bar. The winning goal was scored from point-blank range, however. Grabowski skinned Cooper again, and his deep cross was intelligently headed back across the goal by Hannes Lohr to Muller who volleyed the ball past Bonetti.

What appeared to be a clear penalty won by Bell was refused by the referee, and no matter how England pressed they could not gain the equaliser. Their time in Mexico was over and they were going ‘Back Home’.