1962 Chile

A thigh muscle pulled second day
Meant that Pele could no longer play
Then Garrincha’s swerve
And Amarildo’s verve
Brought Brazil the World Cup in Chile

Despite an earthquake of 9.5 on the Richter scale in May 1960, Chile succeeded in preparing for and hosting the 1962 World Cup. But this was the end of innocence in football terms, as more defensive strategies came into vogue, and goals per game dropped below 3 for the first time, never to return. Cynical defending had become the norm.

What was going on in the world in 1962?

  • John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth, three times in 4 hours, 55 minutes.
  • Twelve East Germans escape via a tunnel under the Berlin Wall.
  • Marilyn Monroe is found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills and chloral hydrate
  • Nelson Mandela was arrested and charged with incitement to rebellion
  • Cuban Missile Crisis: First confrontation between the US Navy and a Soviet cargo vessel.

And 1962 saw the birth of some future famous people:

  • Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Wesley Snipes and Jodie Foster from the acting world
  • Musicians Sheryl Crow and Jon Bon Jovi
  • Steve Redgrave, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Evander Holyfield from the sports world

Back to the World Cup – The Format

This was the first FIFA World Cup without play-offs to decide who should progress when a section's second and third-placed teams finished tied on points and the first World Cup to use goal average as a means of separating teams with the same amount of points.


Two teams qualified for the first time: Colombia and Bulgaria each managed a single point to finish last in their groups; Colombia managed a 4-4 draw with the USSR, and Bulgaria secured an exhilarating 0-0 with England.

Heroes and Villains

Hero: Carlos Dittborn

In 1954, the Chilean Football Federation launched Chile's bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 1962. Dittborn travelled to many nations presenting the country as a good host for the tournament. He attended the 30th FIFA Congress, in Lisbon, Portugal, where he made a passionate speech to convince the delegates to vote for Chile. At the end, he famously pronounced the phrase "Porque nada tenemos, lo haremos todo" ("Because we have nothing, we will do everything"). This was a response to Raúl Colombo, representative of Argentina – one of Chile's opponents in the bidding -, who ended his own speech with "Podemos hacer el Mundial mañana mismo. Lo tenemos todo" ("We can start the World Cup tomorrow. We have it all").

Dittborn made four main points to promote Chile's bid:

  1. Chile's continued participations at FIFA-organised conferences and tournaments
  2. Sports climate
  3. Tolerance of race and creed and
  4. Political and institutional stability of the country (with the potential for boycott if not in South America after two European events)

Chile won the bid 32 votes to 11 against Argentina and Dittborn was selected head of the World Cup organizing committee. With full support from the federal government, work was started in Chile. However, on May 21, 1960, a massive earthquake struck the country, followed by an even bigger one the next day. The second one was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded on Earth, peaking at 9.5 on the Richter scale.

The earthquakes destroyed many cities that were supposed to host World Cup matches, such as Concepción, Talca and Valdivia. Other options, like Antofagasta and Viña del Mar, could not handle the expenses involved in being a host city. Dittborn even had a meeting with president Jorge Alessandri to return the money lent by the government. But help came from various football federations and even from FIFA, with whom Dittborn personally pleaded to keep the tournament in the country, and the organizing committee was able to put the event running again. In face of the situation, Dittborn's words at the FIFA Congress became somewhat of a slogan for Chile's recovery, as well as for the tournament.

In the face of this, Carlos Dittborn, the president of the Organization Committee, coined the phrase "Because we don't have anything, we will do everything in our power to rebuild," which became the unofficial slogan of the tournament. Stadia and other infrastructure were rebuilt at record speed and the tournament occurred on schedule with no major organisational flaw.

Dittborn would not live to see his biggest accomplishment come to life. On April 28, 1962 (one month and two days before the start of the World Cup), at age 38, he suffered a fatal heart attack. A different source, the 2010 book 1962: El mito del Mundial chileno, written by Chilean journalist Daniel Matamala, states that Dittborn's death was actually caused by severe pancreatitis. Whatever the reason, it is believed that the excessive amount of effort he put in making the World Cup ended up causing his untimely death. The World Cup venue at Arica was named Estadio Carlos Dittborn in his honour and bears his name to this day

In Dittborn's honor, each player of the Chilean national team played the World Cup with a black stripe taped under his uniform's badge. One of the stadiums used in the competition, in Arica, was posthumously named after him. In addition, a friendly tournament between Argentina and Chile was established in 1962, and it was named Copa Carlos Dittborn Pinto.

Villains: Antonio Ghirelli and Corrado Pizzinelli

The Battle of Santiago

Two Italian journalists, Antonio Ghirelli and Corrado Pizzinelli, had written unflattering articles about the host country, especially a description of Santiago in crude terms. The Italian articles were used and magnified by local newspapers to inflame the Chilean population. The journalists, had to leave the country before the World Cup fearing for their own safety. A few days before the match an Argentinian journalist, mistaken for an Italian, was beaten up in a bar in Santiago.

The poisonous atmosphere this generated culminated in the infamous first-round match between host Chile and Italy known as the Battle of Santiago. Although only two players (both of them Italian) were sent off by the English referee Ken Aston, the match saw repeated attempts from players on both sides to harm opponents, and the Italian team needed police protection to leave the field in safety.

The first foul occurred within 12 seconds of the kick-off. Italy's Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the twelfth minute after a foul on Honorino Landa, but refused to leave the pitch and had to be dragged off by policemen. Landa retaliated with a punch a few minutes later, but he was not sent off. English referee Ken Aston overlooked a punch by Chilean Leonel Sánchez on Italian Mario David, which had come in retaliation for being fouled seconds earlier. When David kicked Sanchez in the head a few minutes later, he was sent off.

In the violence that continued, Sanchez broke Humberto Maschio's nose with a left hook, but Aston did not send him off. The two teams engaged in scuffles and spitting, and police had to intervene three more times. Chile won the match 2–0 with goals in the last 16 minutes, but had benefited from playing for more than the half game with 11 players against 9.

When highlights from the match were shown on British television a couple of days later, the match was famously introduced by BBC sports commentator David Coleman as "the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game."

Who Should Have Won but Didn't?

Brazil won and justifiably so. There were really no other standout teams. Chile did well to finish third and Czechoslovakia rode their luck to beat better teams in the quarter-final and semi-final, but really it was all about Brazil, whose main concern was the injury to Pele in the second group game, when he pulled a thigh muscle shooting, and played no further part in the tournament. But Brazil were rescued by the emergence of Amarildo, who replaced Pelé, and the brilliance of Garrincha, described as "the most extraordinary right winger football has known" in the media.

A thigh muscle pulled second day
Meant that Pele could no longer play
Then Garrincha’s swerve
And Amarildo’s verve
Brought Brazil the world cup in Chile

Tournament Features and Facts

  • Players switching countries became a trend: Ferenc Puskas, José Santamaría and José Altafini all played for a second national team in 1962. In light of this, FIFA created stipulations describing that once a player represents a nation during a World Cup or its qualifying rounds the player cannot switch to another national team.
  • Goalkeepers: The USSR's goalkeeper Lev Yashin, arguably the world's best at the time, was in poor form and his team went out to Chile in the quarter-finals, but there were heroics from Czechoslovakia goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf against Hungary and Yugoslavia, en route to the final.
  • England forward Jimmy Greaves halted a stray dog's incursion on to the field in the quarter final against Brazil
  • Fewer than 6,000 people watched the semi-final in Viña del Mar between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia after a switch of venues; it was originally scheduled for Chile v Brazil
  • Garrincha was sent off in the 83rd minute of the semi-final v Chile and had bottles thrown at him from the partisan crowd as he left the pitch. This was before automatic suspensions were introduced and Garrincha was cleared to play the final and become player of the tournament
  • Brazil came from behind to win the final 3-1 against Czechoslovakia, with Vava becoming the first player to score in two finals (1958 and 1962)

Watch highlights of the final here

Quick Facts

  • Teams: 16
  • When: 30 May 1962 to 17 June 1962
  • Matches: 32
  • Goals Scored: 89 (average 2.8 per match)
  • Attendance: 893,172 (average 27,911)

Verdict: Good, Bad or Ugly?

There were some positive features; FIFA's decision to choose Chile as host was brave given that Chile neither a developed nation nor a major football power. The decision was rewarded with a successful tournament despite the logistical challenges in the aftermath of the earthquake, in large part due to the attitude of the welcoming Chilean people. However, the football was pretty ugly, marred by violence, a focus on defence and the consequent low goals per game tally. So, overall, more ugly than good.

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