Teofilo Cubillas pictured celebrating against Morocco at Mexico 1970
The Peruvian scored five in four games and was named Best Young Player
Pele declared: “I have a successor and his name is Teofilo Cubillas”
Peru and Morocco fall into the latter category, with their recent success in qualifying for Russia 2018 bringing to an end 36 and 20-year waits respectively. The pair have met before at the World Cup, as this picture proves, and their 1970 meeting – in the Mexican city of Leon – helped establish one of that edition’s true stars.
Teofilo Cubillas made his mark on the match in ten scintillating second-half minutes, during which he scored twice and set up another as Los Incas swept Morocco aside. The above image shows him celebrating the first of those three goals, and Cubillas would end the tournament having scored in all four of Peru’s matches.
Of those five strikes, which led to him finishing as Mexico 1970’s third top scorer, his favourite was a dramatic winner in their group opener against Bulgaria. “We won 3-2 after going 2-0 down,” he explained. “There’d been an earthquake in Peru just a few days earlier and we found out just before we went out to play that 50,000 people had died. Knowing that we’d brought a little bit of happiness to the country was a feeling that is impossible to put into words.”
Cubillas continued bringing joy to Peruvians throughout that hot Mexican summer, firing the team through to the last eight, where they met their match against an irresistible, iconic Brazil side. Such was El Nene’s (The Kid) contribution, in fact, that he was named the 1970 World Cup’s Best Young Player.
An even higher compliment was paid after the tournament’s conclusion, when Pele was asked if he would be returning in 1974 to dazzle the world for a fifth time. “No,” he replied, “but don’t worry. I have a successor and his name is Teofilo Cubillas.”
Of course, as it transpired, Peru failed to qualify for the ‘74 edition and Cubillas – then 26 and in his prime – was denied an opportunity to live up to Pele’s prediction in West Germany. It was a reminder, not that anyone in Peru will require it in Russia, to make the most of World Cups whenever they come along.
Did you know?
Cubillas visited the FIFA World Football Museum in March of this year, and it was no surprise that one particular image in the Mexico 1970 showcase caught his eye.