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Brazilian football legend Pele. [AFP]

Fifty years ago this month, modern football was born at the World Cup in Mexico, kicking and yelling, and live in vibrant colour for a global audience. 

This weekend marks the anniversary of the quarter-finals of that tournament as a star-studded cast played a thrilling series of knock-out games which built to a dazzling final when the first World Cup broadcast in colour ended with an unparalleled display by a technicolour team. 

Mexico in 1970 was not the first World Cup broadcast live. Four years earlier 400 million watched England beat West Germany in the final. But that tournament was shown in black and white. Battered Brazil, the reigning champions, limped out playing, as far as viewers could tell, in two shades of grey. 

In Mexico, their yellow, blue and green glowed in the sunshine. 

Most viewers still watched in black and white. But the games were shot in colour and when the many iconic moments are replayed, that is how they are seen. And that is how the competition is remembered, even by its greatest star.

The tournament gave Pele his third winner’s medal but the images also cemented his reputation as the world’s greatest player, partly because of three spectacular near misses: a shot from his own half against Czechoslovakia, a header saved by England’s Gordon Banks and the dummy that almost turned a Tostao pass into a goal against Uruguay. 

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“I was at my peak,” Pele said. “We had a fantastic side and everyone expected us to win, which gave me the shakes.”  

His strike partner Tostao wrote in his column in Brazilian newspaper Folha this week that Pele “wanted to end his international career with a great triumph, both individually and collectively, so no one would have any doubts that he was the best of all time.”

The quarter-finals all kicked off at noon on June 14.

Gigi Riva scored twice and Gianni Rivera once as Italy beat hosts Mexico 4-1.

Rivellino, Tostao and Jairzinho, but not Pele, scored as Brazil beat Peru 4-2. 

“There were four 10 shirts in that team,” Teofilo Cubillas, one of Peru’s scorers, said.

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