Pedro Rocha: Stylish, languid midfielder and striker whose skill and goals took him to four World Cups with Uruguay

 

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 1966 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 17-year-old in 1959, Rocha soon hit the heights, excelling as the Montevideo side won the Uruguayan championship that season, then seven more times before his 1970 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 1966.

He was a success with his new club, too, wielding immense influence as they lifted the state titles of 1971 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 1980, collected the first of his 52 full caps in 1961, scored 17 goals for his country and figured in the World Cup final tournaments of 1962, '66, '70 and '74, the first Uruguayan to complete such a quartet. Later he coached in Japan.

IVAN PONTING

Pedro Virgilio Rocha Franchetti, footballer and coach: born Salto, Uruguay 3 December 1942; played for Penarol 1959-70, Sao Paulo 1970-77, Coritiba 1978, Palmeiras 1979, Bangu 1979, Deportivo Neza 1979-80; capped 52 times by Uruguay 1961-74; coached Kyoto Purple Sanga 1997; died Sao Paulo, Brazil 2 December 2013.

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