Teams in qualifiers: 75
Number of matches: 32
Notable absentees: Argentina, France, Portugal, Spain
Surprises: Morocco, the first African qualifiers since World War II
Golden Boot: Gerd Mueller (Germany) -- 10
Stats: A total of 95 goals were scored (2.97 per match), including five penalties and one own goal; Brazil (19) scored the most; 54 individual players scored, while Pele and Uwe Seeler scored in their fourth World Cup tournament
Format: Four groups of four in the qualifying stage, with the top two from each group into the quarterfinals
• This was the first World Cup held outside South America and Europe
• It was the first to be televised in colour
• Substitutes were allowed for the first time (two per team)
• Red and yellow cards were introduced, although no player was sent off during the tournament
• Fair Play Award introduced
• Teams level on points at the end of the group stage were separated by goal difference (replacing playoffs and goal average).
• Before the event, England's captain, Bobby Moore, was arrested and held in Colombia on charges of theft. He was released on the eve of the competition after England had travelled on without him
• To fit in with European viewing schedules, some matches kicked off at noon. This was unpopular with many players and managers because of the intense heat in Mexico at that time of day
• On the eve of the England-Brazil match, Brazilian fans gathered outside the England hotel and chanted and sang all night in a deliberate bid to disrupt the team's sleep
• Zambia and Sudan both won 4-2 at home in their qualifying playoff matches. Sudan went through because of a quickly-scrapped rule that the team scoring more goals in the second match would win. However, they finished bottom of their final qualification group and did not reach the finals
• Rioting marred qualifying matches between El Salvador and neighbours Honduras, and in July 1969 war broke out between the two in what historians dubbed "The War of Soccer"
• Brazilian Mario Zagallo -- who had been part of the 1958 and 1962 Brazil squads -- became the first man to win the tournament as a player and coach
• Pele became the first man to play in three World Cup-winning teams
• During the post-final celebrations, the lid of the trophy went missing. Brazilian reserve Davio retrieved it from a young spectator at the stadium exit
As with 1966, images of this tournament remain at the forefront of the football fan's memory. This was the first tournament to be televised in colour and the football played was similarly vivid. It is remembered as Brazil's finest and defining hour.
Following the woes of 1966, after which Pele had said he would never play in a World Cup again, the Brazilians took this event very seriously indeed. Coach Joao Saldanha wanted his team to play a flowing brand of football but this was to be coupled with a hard-edged physical approach, brought about by months spent in a spartan training camp. Although Saldanha would be supplanted by Mario Zagallo just prior to the tournament, the team continued to play in Saldanha's chosen image and won the trophy in the manner he desired.
Pele was tempted out of exile and was joined by thrilling wingers Jairzinho and Rivelino, playmaker Gerson, the nascent talent of midfielder Clodoaldo and skipper Carlos Alberto, a superb exponent of the art of the attacking full-back. Centre-forward Tostao was there, too, his career saved by an eye operation. Together they formed the World Cup's most thrilling attacking force.
The tournament's location was the subject of much consternation from the European teams, who worried about the 50°C heat and the breathing problems associated with high altitude. Nevertheless, the West Germans, English and Italians were involved in some of the best matches.
In the group stage, England faced the Brazilians in Guadalajara in a game many envisaged as a dress rehearsal for the eventual final. Jairzinho grabbed the goal that won it for Brazil but the game is best remembered for Gordon Banks' save from Pele's bullet-header, a Bobby Moore tackle on Jairzinho, the image of Pele swapping shirts with Moore at the final whistle -- and a late miss by Jeff Astle. Despite that defeat, England joined Brazil in the knockout stages.
But, in a re-staging of the 1966 final, West Germany got their revenge over England, when, with Alf Ramsey's side leading 2-0 and having taken off Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters to rest them for the next round, stand-in keeper Peter Bonetti fumbled a long-range shot from Franz Beckenbauer and then allowed Uwe Seeler to back-head the equaliser. England wilted in the heat of Leon and Ramsey's team, run ragged by a far fitter German side, succumbed in extra-time when Gerd Mueller, scorer of 10 goals in Mexico, scored a typically predatory winner.
Brazil, meanwhile, rolled over the unsung Peruvians, who were led by the mercurial Teofilo Cubillas, and then faced old enemy Uruguay in the semis. An early goal from Uruguay's Luis Cubilla saw the Brazilians rocked but a pep talk from Pele and a fantastic strike from Clodoaldo brought them level. The samba football soon returned and Jairzinho and Rivelino's late strikes planted them in the final.
Germany, exhausted by their efforts in Leon, now faced Italy, then fully in the bloom of the catenaccio era. But when Karl-Heinz Schellinger cancelled out a Roberto Boninsegna goal in the very last minute, luck seemed to be with the Germans. However, Beckenbauer injured his shoulder and, though he played on with one arm in a sling, the Italians won out. The score changed no less than five times in extra-time before Gianni Rivera, the golden boy of Italian football, scored a 112th-minute winner.
The superhuman efforts in the last four perhaps did for Italy as Brazil overpowered them in the final. Pele pulled the strings for the South Americans as first he leapt, in the proverbial fashion of a salmon, to head in a Rivelino cross on 19 minutes. Italy got back in the game when Boninsegna seized on a mistake from Clodoaldo to beat keeper and sometime clown Felix, and the crowd, almost all of them cheering for the Brazilians, began to worry. But up stepped chain-smoking midfielder Gerson to clatter in a goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Twenty minutes from the end, Pele headed a Gerson cross back for Jairzinho to bundle in and complete his record of having scored in every game. But the coup de grâce was added in the very last minute as Brazil took the ball the length of the field to score the fourth. Clodoaldo, rejuvenated after his early mistake, beat a couple of players and the ball eventually reached Pele. He, as ever, used his vision to play in Carlos Alberto, whose low drive drilled past the goalkeeper. As a sign off for a great side, it has never been surpassed, just as the Brazilian team of 1970 is unlikely to ever be surpassed.
For their three wins in 12 years, the Jules Rimet Trophy that Carlos Alberto lifted was to remain in Brazil permanently. Or, at least, until it was stolen in 1983 from the Brazilian Confederation HQ.