Spain 1982 World Cup

The thirteenth FIFA World Cup saw the competition return to Europe and was awarded to Spain. Once again FIFA decided to change the format from previous World Cups.

This time twenty four teams qualified. The teams were split into six groups of four, from which the top two teams would qualify. The remaining twelve teams would go into a second group stage from which the top team would progress to the semifinals. FIFA expanded the numbers from sixteen to twenty four to allow more teams to qualify especially those from North America, Africa and Asia. 

The teams from the “weaker” footballing continents created a number of upsets in the first group stages. Cameroon took points from both Italy and Poland and failed to progress from the group on goal difference. Algeria, in one of the World Cup’s biggest shocks defeated reigning European Champion’s West Germany by two goals to one. This result would lead to another hugely controversial match between West Germany and Austria. Algeria had already played their final game and a West Germany win by one or two goals would see both the Germans and the Austrians proceed to the next round. A larger German win would see Algeria progress instead of the Austrians and an Austrian win or draw would see the Germans eliminated.

The German’s began the match at a frenetic pace and were a goal to the good after ten minutes. The two teams then went into a period of play where they passed the ball happily amongst themselves for eighty minutes to ensure both teams qualified. The fans were outraged. One German supporter was so embarrassed by his team he burned the German flag in protest. As a result FIFA changed the rules for the next tournament so that the last games would be played simultaneously. Elsewhere, Kuwait held Czechoslovakia to a draw and Northern Ireland beat Spain and knocked out Yugoslavia.

Brazil was drawn in a group with the USSR, Scotland and New Zealand. Brazil had assembled, arguably, their best squad since 1970. Spearheaded by Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Eder they were widely expected to win the tournament. They began in exciting style, coming from behind to beat a strong soviet side by two goals to one with goals from Socrates and Eder. The next two games were a formality as the brilliant Brazilians hit four goals past both Scotland and New Zealand to finish top of the group, having scored ten and conceded two, to qualify with the Soviet Union.

In the second round, Brazil was drawn in a group of death with Italy and defending champions Argentina. The Italian’s made a dream start to the group beating the defending champions by two goals to one in an ill tempered match. The World Champions were on the brink of elimination and needed a win over rivals Brazil to stand any chance of qualifying. After their controversial elimination in 1978, the Brazil team wasn’t in a charitable mood and dispatched their neighbours 3 -1 with goals from Zico, Serginho and Junior. All Argentina could do was score a last minute consolation goal through Diaz.

So yet again a group had come to a last match shootout to determine who would progress to the semifinals. In what would amount to a shock result it was Italy who would emerge triumphant. Italy twice led through Paulo Rossi goals only for Brazil to peg them back with goals from Socrates and Falcao. Each time the Brazilians equalized they were expected to go on to take hold of the match.

But it was Italy led by Paulo Rossi who completed his hat trick to send the Italian’s through and the Brazilians home. This Brazil team is widely regarded as the best team never to win the World Cup.

In the other groups, Poland would top group A ahead of the Soviet Union and Belgium. West Germany would take advantage of some wasteful finishing from England in their final match against Spain to top group B. England had begun the tournament in great fashion. In their first group match against France they had scored after just 27 seconds, a record which would stand until 2002, but were unable to continue their momentum due largely to injuries to key players Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking. In the final group, D, France ran out easy winners to join the other three teams.

In the semifinals, galvanized by their victory over Brazil, the Italians dispatched Poland with a routine 2 – 0 victory with both goals coming from Paulo Rossi on his way to the golden boot. It is interesting to note that Rossi had not scored a goal before the meeting with Brazil. West Germany and France would contest one of the most memorable matches in World Cup history. The game, apart from the result, would become famous for two reasons, the first being the assault on the pitch by German goalkeeper ‘Toni Schumacher. The game was tied at one apiece, following goals from Pierre Littbarski of Germany and Michel Platini.

French defender Patrick* Battiston was sent through on the German goal. He managed to flick the ball towards the goal despite the attentions of the onrushing Schumacher. After the ball had gone, Schumacher flattened the Frenchman in what can only be described as the worst foul known foul in the history of football let alone the World Cup. The ball misses and inexplicably, the Dutch referee awarded a goal kick to the bewilderment of the French. Battiston remained on the field, unconscious, for seven minutes before he could be carried off. The game resumed and went into extra time where the French took a 3 – 1 lead.

The Germans fought back and with goals from Rummenigge and Fischer tied the game at three apiece. So, for the first time in World Cup history, a game would be decided by a penalty shoot out. Like so many times to come, the Germans held their nerve and triumphed in sudden death by five goals to four to advance to a final with Italy.  In the third/fourth play off, Poland would overcome France to equal their highest ever finish.

The final saw two sides desperate to equal Brazil’s total of three victories.

The final however, didn’t live up to the hype as an inspired Italy ran a tired West Germany ragged emerging victorious with a three goals to one win. The game was tied zero to zero at halftime due largely to a missed penalty by Cabrini. In the second half, Italy would come to life and opened the scoring once again through Paulo Rossi. What followed the second goal is one of the most memorable celebrations the World Cup has known. Marco* Tardelli scored from the edge of the area and set off on a run, fists clenched, arms waving, eyes bulging and screaming. To many it symbolizes just how much it meant to score in a World Cup final and to have given your country the chance to claim the title. The German’s desperate for anyway back into the match threw caution to the wind but were caught on the counter attack by Alessandro Altobelli to all but wrap up the Azzurri’s third title. Paul Breitner bagged a late consolation goal for the Germans, but the game was won and Italy had made it three World Cup victories and had leveled with Brazil.


Matches: 52
Goals: 146 (average 2.8 per match)
Attendance: 2 109 723 (average 46 530)
Golden Boot Winner: Paulo Rossi (Italy) 6
Golden Ball Winner (tournament best player): Paulo Rossi (Italy)
Fair Play Award: Brazil

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