Pelé was called to the national team in early 1969, he refused at first, but then accepted and played in six World Cup qualifying matches, scoring six goals. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was expected to be Pelé’s last. Brazil’s squad for the tournament featured major changes in relation to the 1966 squad. Players like Garrincha, Nilton Santos, Valdir Pereira, Djalma Santos and Gilmar had already retired. However, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad, which included players like Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão and Clodoaldo, is often considered to be the greatest football team in history.
The front five of Jairzinho, Pelé, Gerson, Tostão and Rivelino together created an attacking momentum, with Pelé having a central role in Brazil’s way to the final. All of Brazil’s matches in the tournament (except the final) were played in Guadalajara, and in the first match against Czechoslovakia, Pelé gave Brazil a 2–1 lead, by controlling Gerson’s long pass with his chest and then scoring. In this match Pelé attempted to lob goalkeeper Ivo Viktor from the half-way line, only narrowly missing the Czechoslovak goal. Brazil went on to win the match, 4–1. In the first half of the match against England, Pelé nearly scored with a header that was saved by the England goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Pelé recalled he was already shouting “Goal” when he headed the ball. It was often referred to as the “save of the century.” In the second half, he controlled a cross from Tostão before flicking the ball to Jairzinho who scored the only goal.
Brazil played Italy in the final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Pelé scored the opening goal with a header after out jumping Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich. Brazil’s 100th World Cup goal, Pelé’s leap of joy into the arms of teammate Jairzinho in celebrating the goal is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in World Cup history. He then made assists for Brazil’s third goal, scored by Jairzinho, and the fourth finished by Carlos Alberto. The last goal of the game is often considered the greatest team goal of all time because it involved all but two of the team’s outfield players. The play culminated after Pelé made a blind pass that went into Carlos Alberto’s running trajectory. He came running from behind and struck the ball to score. Brazil won the match 4–1, keeping the Jules Rimet Trophy indefinitely, and Pelé received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. Burgnich, who marked Pelé during the final, was quoted saying “I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else – but I was wrong”. In terms of his goals and assist throughout the 1970 World Cup, Pelé was directly responsible for 53% of Brazil’s goals throughout the tournament.