1971: Our fans wanted nothing but gold!

A first person account of the 1971 World Cup. India finished third after losing to eventual champion Pakistan in the semifinals.

Pakistan skipper Khalid Mahmood receives the trophy.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

It was the first World Cup. We were very excited. Our team was good and balanced. Imagine V. J. Philips, B. P. Govinda and V. Baskaran not being there! We had M. P. Ganesh at outside-right, Ashok Kumar at inside-left. Then Kulwant Singh (we called him Mangu) as centre-forward and Michael Kindo as full-back. We played extremely well in the league stage, defeating West Germany, Kenya, France and Argentina to enter the semifinals with an unbeaten record.

In the other group, Pakistan was in a delicate position. It beat Australia 5-2, edged out Japan 1-0 and drew with the Netherlands 3-3, but lost to Spain 2-3, which allowed the last named to reach the last four. The Netherlands, in the same group as Pakistan, was on a better wicket, having drawn with Spain (0-0) and Pakistan (3-3) and beaten Australia by a solitary goal. All that the Dutch needed was a victory against Japan to beat Pakistan to the semifinals.


As Japan was one of the weakest teams in the championship, the Netherlands was expected to make it to the last-four stage. The Pakistan captain, Khalid Mahmood, informed us that since his team was possibly out of the tournament, he, on behalf of his teammates, wanted India to win it. “The Cup should be yours,” Mahmood said.

However, in a major shock of the championship, the Netherlands lost to Japan 1-0. Enthused by the result, Pakistan was back on its feet and was doubly determined to win the title. Pakistan told us, “Now the Cup is ours.”

In the semifinals, we lost to Pakistan 1-2. We had plenty of chances, but didn’t make use of them, while Pakistan converted their chances. The first goal was scored by Rajvinder Singh and then Abdul Rashid Jr scored the equaliser for Pakistan. I think it was defender Vinod Kumar’s poor marking and goalkeeper Cedric Pereira’s mistake that cost us the first goal. Munnawar-uz-Zaman then scored the winner.

We beat Kenya for the bronze. Pakistan won the World Cup by defeating Spain. When we arrived home, there were no celebrations. The public was very angry. Such were the expectations of the Indian public then. They expected nothing but gold from our team.

Total TeamsMatches PlayedGoals ScoredWinnerRunner-upThird placeIndia's position
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