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The exquisitely skilful Uruguayan attacker Pedro Rocha was billed as the man most likely to deal an early blow to England's dreams of footballing glory in the opening match of the World Cup finals at Wembley. In the event the contest was a drab, goalless stalemate which Alf Ramsey's men placed thankfully behind them on the way to confounding their countless doubters and lifting the Jules Rimet trophy on home soil that summer.
But there were enough stylish touches from Rocha — who was prominent in Uruguay's progress to the quarter-finals, where they lost to West Germany — to underline his burgeoning reputation as a world-class talent. Whether performing as a midfield link man or as an out-and-out striker, the Uruguayan moved with a casual and sinuous grace, at his best seeming to drift past opponents at will, displaying control, imagination and precision at the creative core of the team.
There was dynamite as well as silk in the Rocha repertoire, and he was capable of erupting suddenly and explosively, delivering powerful shots with either foot. His critics accused him of slowing the play unduly, but if his style could seem languid, still it was a delight to the eye.
Having entered the senior game with Penarol as a year-old in , Rocha soon hit the heights, excelling as the Montevideo side won the Uruguayan championship that season, then seven more times before his switch to Sao Paulo of Brazil. His Penarol haul also included three triumphs in Copa Libertadores, South Amercia's leading club competition, and victory over Real Madrid in the world club championship of He was a success with his new club, too, wielding immense influence as they lifted the state titles of and '75 and took the national crown for the first time in '77, after which his career wound down with brief stints at three more Brazilian clubs — Coritiba, Palmeiras and Bangu — and Deportivo Neza of Mexico.
Rocha, who retired in , collected the first of his 52 full caps in , scored 17 goals for his country and figured in the World Cup final tournaments of , '66, '70 and '74, the first Uruguayan to complete such a quartet. Later he coached in Japan. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Start your Independent Premium subscription today. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium.