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When Banks denied Pele

  • Published at 06:41 pm June 6th, 2020
England's Gordon Banks saves from Brazil's Pele during their World Cup 1970 match in Mexico
Banks was there to deny Pele with a mesmerizing save at the last moment, sprinting towards the line and parrying it over the bar with his outstretched right hand in a moment of sheer brilliance
The topic "Save of the century" is a hotly contested one in football as the inspired goalkeepers over the years produced countless brilliant saves which are all rightful contenders.

But one such save is right up there at the very top, and none can question its place at the summit. 

It is none other than Gordon Banks and his sprawling save against Pele's perfect header during the much anticipated group stage match between England and Brazil in the Mexico World Cup in 1970, exactly 50 years ago on June 7.

England were the reigning champion heading into the ninth edition of the tournament and their Group C clash against Brazil was rightly billed as a firecracker. 

Many said back then that it was the final before the final as the defending champion England were up against one of the greatest teams ever, and the then two-time winner in Brazil. 

England had a formidable squad including the likes of Banks, the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton, a rock-solid center-back and captain in Bobby Moore, and among others, Geoff Hurst, till date the only player in the history of the game with a hat-trick in the final of a World Cup.

Brazil, like always, had a great World Cup team featuring Tostao, Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho and not to forget, the great Pele. 

Not only that, the two sides also had decorated managers in the dugout - England had Sir Alf Ramsey, architect of the 1966 World Cup win, while Brazil had Mario Zagallo, himself a two-time World Cup winner as a player in 1958 and 1962.

England began their campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Romania but for Brazil, their opening game was a straightforward one as they breezed past Czechslovakia 4-1, Jairzinho grabbing a brace and Rivelino and Pele scoring one each.

So much hype had gathered around the game that it was brought forward to midday, amid sweltering heat and more than 5,000 feat above sea level. 

Brazil would eventually go on to have the final laugh, winning 1-0, but the match was not short of thrills and spills. 

And Jairzinho might have settled the tie with his solitary goal in the second half but the moment that went down in history came as early as the 10th minute.

Jairzinho slalomed down the right-wing byline and put in an inviting cross right in front of goal. 

Pele, stationed inside the box, rose high above Alan Mullery and planted a thumping header towards the right of Banks' goal.

Mullery later revealed that Pele uttered the word "Goal" as soon as he connected the header, so sure was he of the ball hitting the back of the net.

But Banks was there to deny Pele with a mesmerizing save at the last moment, sprinting towards the line and parrying it over the bar with his outstretched right hand in a moment of sheer brilliance.

Pele could scarcely believe his own eyes as to what had transpired as the save ultimately went down as one of the best, if not the greatest, saves of the century.
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