World Cup 1978: Football’s Year of Living Dangerously


For 1978 the World Cup headed to Argentina and into a storm of controversy. There was terror on the streets yet the ticker tape image of this finals remains amongst the most enduring in World Cup history, here we look back at the two faces of Argentina ’78.

Terror in Argentina

In 1966 Argentina was announced as hosts for the next South American World Cup to take place in 1978. Argentina having narrowly missed out on hosting in 1962 and the World Cup having already taken in Uruguay, Brazil and Chile was the obvious choice. Argentina President Juan Peron raised his arms in celebration as a gesture of his nation hosting the tournament and it was quickly adapted into an official logo.

Peron died in 1974, his wife succeeding him in office, but she was ousted from power two years later and replaced by a brutal military Junta . The Junta pushed ahead with the hosting of the ’78 World Cup with many seeing a parallel with the 1934 World Cup in Mussolini’s Italy. Meanwhile thousands of Argentinians disappeared in what became known as the Dirty War. Political prisoners of the war were held captive at the infamous ESMA concentration camp, located just a mile from the River Plate stadium where World Cup matches would be held. Most of the world remained blissfully unaware of what was happening in Argentina and against this backdrop the 1978 World Cup would take place.

A record 107 countries entered the tournament and qualifying saw some notable casualties. European Champions Czechoslovakia missed out for the second successive tournament as did England and Soviet Union. Two time champions Uruguay missed out for the first time since 1958 and two countries made it for the first time in Iran and Tunisia.

The format would be the same as ’74 with a group stage followed by two second round groups with the winners progressing to the final. For all its controversies one thing universally loved about the ’78 World Cup was the official tournament ball; the Adidas Tango, widely regarded as the best ball in World Cup history.

Argentina’s controversial clash with France

Tickertape Aces

For all the unrest in Argentina their football team finally looked like contenders in 1978. The team was marshalled by centre back Daniel Passarella with Ossie Ardiles a silky playmaker in midfield and Rene Houseman a fine forward who’d shone in the ’74 World Cup. The driving force of the team came from attacking midfielder Mario Kempes. Argentina’s talisman had endured a tough tournament in ’74 but after back to back La Liga Golden Boots with Valencia he returned to his homeland as the nation’s great hope.

The draw hadn’t been kind to Argentina pitting them against Italy, France and Hungary. They started against Hungary and Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental welcomed Argentina with a barrage of ticker tape, a sight that became the signature image of the ’78 tournament. However it was Hungary who bolted out of the blocks, when Karoly Csapo slotted home from a parry by Argentina goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol. Argentina were behind for just five minutes with Kempes firing in a free kick and striker Leopoldo Luque on hand to knock home. Argentina were struggling in attack and manager Cesar Luis Menotti made a bold change, taking off Houseman for striker Daniel Bertoni. As the minutes ticked down Menotti’s move paid off with Bertoni on hand to slot home the winner. In the dying seconds Hungary lost their discipline and both their strikers saw red cards as Argentina got off to a winning start.

Italy arrived in Argentina looking to make up for the disaster of ’74. However they’d been dour in the build up despite a talented squad lead by star goalkeeper Dino Zoff. Zoff was part of a Juventus spine that ran through the national team with Claudio Gentile and Gaetano Scirea forming a legendary central defensive duo for club and country, along with promising young left back Antonio Cabrini, midfielder Marco Tardelli, winger Franco Causio and striker Roberto Bettega. France had been in the international doldrums but now had new hope in the shape of their wonderfully gifted young number 10 Michel Platini.

France got a dream start when Didier Six bolted down the left wing and delivered a deadly cross which Bernard Lacombe headed home in the opening minute. Italy were stunned but slowly wrestled the initiative and midway through the half the ball pinged around the French box for Paolo Rossi to almost accidentally pull Italy level. The Juve connection kept a tight leash on Platini and nine minutes into the second half Italy substitute Renato Zaccarelli found the target to give Italy a lead they never looked like relinquishing.

Next up Italy face Hungary and despite the enforced changes to their frontline it was Hungary who made the early chances, the ghost of ’74 seemed to be haunting the nervy Italians. However after half an hour a lucky deflection fell to Rossi who poached his second of the tournament. Hungary were rattled and some awful defending let Bettega in just a minute later to make it 2-0. Roberto Bennetti made it 3-0 in the second half before Hungary struck a late consolation.

France now faced Argentina in Buenos Aires and the rumours of political interference from Argentina’s brutal rulers became louder. It’s never been proved if the Junta interfered in matches but it’s undeniable Argentina received some very generous decisions from referee Jean Dubach. France were denied a stonewall penalty. On the stroke of halftime Argentina got a penalty of their own which Passarella put away. France equalized through Platini but with 17 minutes to go Luque struck to give Argentina the win and send them through with Italy.

The last round of group games were largely academic but both France and Hungary turned up to play with white kits forcing France to play in the green and white stripes of local team Kimberley de Mar del Plata, the French won 3-1 with young striker Dominque Rocheteau notching his first World Cup goal. Argentina faced Italy and it was the Italians who took the group with a fine defensive display and a goal from Bettega securing a 1-0 win.

Tunisia’s history making team

Old & New in Group 2

Champions West Germany opened the tournament against Poland. Helmut Schon was still in charge but could no longer call on Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller or Uli Hoeneß. West Germany had finally seen their run of tournament wins ended by Karol Panenka’s cheeky penalty at Euro ’76, but Schon had new talents to call on in strikers Dieter Muller, Klaus Fischer and Karl Heinz-Rummenigge. The team was now captained by ’74 hero Berti Vogts and retained a core of that team in the squad. Poland meanwhile had finished third in ’74 and still had a fine squad including Golden Boot winner Gregorz Lato and creative midfielder Kazimierz Deyna. The game proved a dour curtain raiser ending in a 0-0 draw.

Debutants Tunisia were largely unheralded but reigning African Footballer of the Year Tarak Dhiab was a danger man in midfield. They began against Mexico and fell behind to a penalty on the stroke of half-time. In the second half Tunisia fought back with Ali Kaabi’s shot from the edge of the box trickling in to equalize on 55 minutes. The game looked to be heading for a draw but with 11 minutes left Dhiab’s constant probing paid off when Nejib Ghommidh sprang forward down the left and fired Tunisia ahead. In the dying minutes Ghommidh cut Mexico open will a brilliant through ball to Mohktar Dhouieb who lashed home for 3-1. It was the first ever World Cup win for an African qualifier or Arabic nation.

Next Up West Germany faced the shocked Mexicans and Schon brought Rummenigge and Dieter Muller into the starting eleven. It took only 15 minutes for the move to payoff with Dieter Muller opening the scoring with Hansi Muller making it two after half an hour. Rummenigge and Heinz Flohe then bagged braces in a 6-0 romp, the champions were up and running. Poland’s tie with Tunisia now had added intrigue. Tunisia held their own in the early exchanges but Lato was always a threat. With halftime approaching Lato played a one-two with Wlodzimierz Lubanski and a defensive slip let Lato in to strike. Poland couldn’t add to their lead but the 1-0 win took them joint top of the group.

Poland were looking goal shy and for the group decider against Mexico coach Jacek Gmoch brought 22-year-old forward Zbiginew Boniek into the starting lineup. On 43 minutes Lato got away down the left and crossed with the razor-sharp Boniek lashing home for 1-0. The game burst into life early in the second half with Victor Rangel briefly drawing Mexico level to the delight of their travelling fans. Mexico were looking dangerous but Poland regained the lead from Deyna’s sumptuous volley. The game was put away in the 84th minute when Boniek found the bottom corner from a long range piledriver, 3-1 and Poland were through. West Germany needed a point against Tunisia to join them who could qualify themselves with a win. West Germany dominated but found goalkeeper Mokhtar Naili an immoveable object, the game finished 0-0 and West Germany were through. Tunisia were going home but their eye catching campaign had made its mark.

Brazil’s new superstar Zico

A New Hope for Brazil

Brazil arrived in Argentina looking to put a disappointing 1974 tournament behind them. Rivelino was now captain and remained as the final member of the glorious ’70 team in the squad. However Brazil had a new superstar in Zico. The Flamengo attacking midfielder had wonderful technical skill and was a mesmerizing dribbler, drawing comparisons with Pele. Joining Zico in midfield was the skillful Dirceu meanwhile 21-year-old Reinaldo was a highly touted young centre forward.

Brazil would start against Sweden in Mar del Plata. Sweden’s star name was again Bo Larsson, who like Rivelino was returning for a third straight World Cup. The Swedes took a surprise lead through Thomas Sjoberg but Brazil levelled on the stroke of halftime when Reinaldo got clear at the far post to equalise. The game was still deadlocked at 1-1 in injury time when Zico headed in from a corner what he thought was the winner. Brazilian celebrations were short lived when referee Clive Thomas bizarrely ruled the goal out on the grounds he’d blown the full time whistle after the corner was struck but before Zico connected.

The other teams in the group were Spain under the stewardship of Barcelona legend Ladisao Kubala and an Austria team featuring Barcelona’s new striking sensation Hans Krankl. The teams exchanged early goals but deep into the second half Barca fans got their first look at their new man when Krankl struck the winner. Next up Austria faced Sweden and Krankl again proved the difference, putting away a first half penalty for a 1-0 win. Spain and Brazil then fought out an attritional battle that ended in a 0-0 draw, guaranteeing Austria’s qualification.

Brazil faced Austria knowing a draw would likely be enough to go through. Manager Claudio Coutinho rang the changes which including benching Zico as Brazil searched for a first win. A goal from Roberto Dinamite in the first half settled matters as Brazil topped the group. Spain beat Sweden in a largely academic encounter with skipper Asensi giving Spain a consolation win.

The Rise and Fall of Ally’s Army

The BBC’s ‘Top of the Pops’ music show witnessed many weird and wonderful moments in its 42 year run on British television, but few were as odd as one witnessed in March ’78. At the height of punk rock up stepped Scottish comedian Andy Cameron tunelessly warbling Scotland World Cup anthem ‘Ally’s Army’, which included the lyrics “We’ll really shake them up, when we win the World Cup…’cause Scotland are the greatest football team.” However the notion that World Cup glory was preordained for the Scots didn’t originate with Cameron, that idea came from Scotland manager Ally MacLeod. As soon as Scotland qualified MacLeod carried himself of with all the confidence of Muhammad Ali, proclaiming Scotland would win the tournament. Confidence only increased when the draw put Scotland in a group with unfancied Iran and Peru alongside a top-class Netherlands.

McLeod’s optimism wasn’t without some merit. Scotland’s star turn was striker Kenny Dalglish, coming off a spectacular debut season at Liverpool that concluded with Dalglish scoring the winner in the European Cup Final. There was silkly midfielder Asa Hartford, midfield tyro Graeme Souness and Manchester forward duo Lou Macari and Joe Jordan. However MacLeod’s plans suffered a major blow in the build up to Argentina when towering centre-back Gordon McQueen was injured, forcing a defensive reshuffle. Outwardly Scottish self-confidence reached a crescendo with a going away party at Hampden Park complete with the soon to be victorious team paraded on an open top bus.

The opener would be against Peru and MacLeod let slip he hadn’t scouted Scotland’s opponents, focusing instead on his own team. Peru may not have been the glitziest opponent but were reigning South American champions and they had their own star striker in ’70 World Cup hero Teofilo Cubillas.

Scotland got the perfect start when a parried shot from Bruce Rioch was turned home by Jordan. Peru gradually got a foothold in the game, on 43 minutes Cesar Cueto broke through the Scottish defence and slotted past Alan Rough; 1-1. The second half was tense but when Rioch was up-ended in the box Scotland had a penalty. Don Masson stepped up, but Peru keeper Ramon Quiroga pulled off a fine save. The game was swinging Peru’s way and Cubillas picked up the ball on 71 minutes and drove in a stunning long range strike to put them ahead. As Scotland pushed forward they were exposed defensively and a foul on the edge of the box handed Peru a free kick, smashed home by Cubillas to complete a 3-1 win.

Things got even worse for Scotland in the aftermath when it was revealed winger Willie Johnston had failed a post-match drugs test. With the ever critical British press on his case MacLeod was on the defensive as Johnston flew home and rumours of squad unrest circulated. MacLeod made changes with Rioch and Masson unavailable to face Iran, but remarkably he persisted in leaving out Souness. Against the supposed no-hopers Scotland turned in a shapeless performance, but their luck finally seemed to have turned when they took the lead through a bizarre own goal from Andranik Eskandarian. Yet Iran fought back in the second half and on the hour Iraj Danaeifard pushed forward down the left and fired past Rough to equalize. Scotland couldn’t find a way back and the 1-1 draw left their qualification hopes dangling by a thread.

Archie Gemmil weaves his way through the Dutch defence

Unhappy Holland

Scotland weren’t the only unhappy team in Argentina. 1974 runners up Netherlands began amongst the favourites but the camp was rife with disharmony in ’78. The twin tentpoles of Dutch ‘Total Football’ coaching genius Rinus Michels and superstar forward Johann Cruyff had both departed the national team. Austrian coach Ernst Happel was now struggling to get the best out of a hugely talented squad. There was still a strong core from ’74 including Ruud Krol, Arrie Haan, Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep and Rob Rensenbrink. There were also the midfield van de Kerkhof twins Willie & Rene who’d been squad players in ’74 but were now key players in Happel’s more conventional system.

The Dutch started well, thrashing Iran 3-0 with Rensenbrink grabbing a hat-trick. Then came Peru coming off their impressive win over the Scots. The game ended in stalemate meaning Peru only needed a point against Iran to qualify while the Dutch only needed to avoid an unlikely three goal defeat to Scotland to progress.

In Cordoba Peru got a dream start when Jose Valasquez gave them a second minute lead. A pair of first half penalties from Cubillas put the game away at 3-0. In the second half Cubillas rounded off his hat-trick in a 4-1 romp.

Meanwhile in Mendoza, MacLeod had changed around his team to face mission improbable against Holland. Scotland made a bright start and the retuning Rioch’s fine header rattled the crossbar. However Stuart Kennedy gave away possession to Repp and then brought him down to concede a penalty. Rensenbrink put the spot kick away and the Dutch lead after 34 minutes. Scotland’s slim hopes looked cooked but they pushed forward, on the stroke of halftime Souness crossed, Jordan nodded into the path of Dalglish who fired home the equalizer.

At the start of the second half Dalglish turned provider, crossing from a short corner and Souness was brought down for another penalty, Archie Gemmill despatched to give Scotland a deserved lead. Souness and Harford were bossing the midfield as Scotland pushed and on 68 minutes Dalglish tried to trick his way into the penalty area only to lose the ball. It fell to Gemmill on the edge of the box who got away from one defender, then passed a second, nutmegged a third and cooly slotted the ball over the diving Jan Jongbloed to score a spectacular solo goal, 3-1 and Scotland suddenly just needed one more to go through.

The Dutch needed to regain some control and three minutes later Rep played a one-two with Krol to run through Scotland’s midfield and fired a rocket from 30 yards that left Rough clutching thin air, 3-2 and Netherlands were through. Scotland had turned in a big display too late and were going home, whilst the Dutch were through but few were predicting another run to the final.

Mario Kempes downs Poland

Kempes Makes His Mark

The surprise results of the group phase had placed the three South American sides in Group B alongside Poland. Having finally found a winning formula in their previous game Brazil, Coutinho opted for an unchanged side to face Peru.

Brazil started the better and the inventive Jorge Mendonca drew a clumsy foul on 15 minutes, up stepped Dirceu to blast home a stunning long range free kick to give Brazil the lead. Mendonca was pulling the Peruvian defenders around and on 27 minutes the ball fell to Dirceu who blasted another long range effort past the hapless Quiroga, 2-0. Brazil were in complete control and when some more awful defending saw Dinamite held in the box they had a penalty. Zico who’d only been on the pitch a few minutes stepped up and stroked home to complete a 3-0 rout.

Having finished second in their group, Argentina were forced to leave Buenos Aires and play their second round games in Rosario. To face Poland, Menotti made changes recalling Houseman but questions remained over star man Kempes who’d now failed to score in six World Cup matches. Playing in a rejigged 4-3-3 Argentina looked smoother and after just 16 minutes Bertoni’s inviting cross from the left was powered home by Kempes who finally had lift-off. Kempes then almost turned villain when he handled the ball on his own line handing Poland a penalty. Deyna stepped up but fired a weak shot too close to Fillol who saved. The second half was end to end with Fillol preserving Argentina’s lead. On 71 minutes Argentina struck the killer blow when Ardilles ran at the Polish defence and played in Kempes who brilliantly beat a defender and blasted in for 2-0.

Next up Poland edged past Peru thanks to a second half strike from Andrzej Szarmach, meaning Peru were out. The remaining South American contenders met in Rosario with both Brazil and Argentina knowing a win would almost certainly take them through but defeat meant elimination. What was hoped to be a festival of football turned into a scrappy bad tempered game. Referee Karoly Palotai remarkably showed just four yellow cards whilst Dinamite went closest to breaking the deadlock. The 0-0 draw meant Brazil and Argentina would go into their final game level on three points from two games.

Netherlands put Austria to the sword

Dutch Coup

Group A brought together four heavyweight European sides in West Germany, Austria, Italy and Netherlands. The opener saw Austria face the Dutch in Cordoba but what nobody realized at the time was the unhappiness in the Netherlands camp had lead to a coup with Happel removed as coach in favour of assistant Jan Zwartkruis. Remarkably the move was kept secret and Happel would be sat on the bench for the remainder of the tournament, but Zwartkruis was now calling the shots, the move didn’t become public knowledge until Zwartkruis published his autobiography 30 years later.

Zwartkruis was more in line with Michels’ philosophy but the change was more personal than tactical with Zwartkruis an easier presence than the sulky Happel, one major team change Zwartkruis did make was recalling goalkeeper Piet Schrijvers. The new attitude paid an early dividend with Ernie Brandts heading in the opener on six minutes. The Dutch rediscovered the zip in their passing game and Austria were overwhelmed. On 35 minutes Rensenbrink fired in a penalty and Rep made it three a minute later when he lobbed over the goalkeeper on the edge of the box. Rep made it four early in the second half before Austria mustered a 80th minute consolation. The Dutch weren’t finished and a wonderful counter attack saw Rensenbrink open Austria up and hand Willie van de Kerkof a tap in, the Oranje were back!

In Buenos Aires Italy faced West Germany in a repeat of the classic 1970 semi-final. West Germany made the better start and Zoff made a fine save to keep the scores level. Just as it seemed Italy were in trouble Bettega burst forward and rounded Sepp Maier only to see his shot cleared off the line. The game was end to end but neither could find the breakthrough with Tardelli going close for Italy. The game had everything but the goal and finished 0-0, West Germany had yet to concede a goal in the tournament.

Now came a rematch of the ’74 final with Netherlands taking on West Germany. This time West Germany made the fast start, one of the survivors of ’74 Rainer Bonhoff saw his early free kick parried into the path Rudiger Abramczik who opened the scoring after two minutes. The Dutch fought back and Haan hit a piledriver from 30 yards to level the scores. Both teams produced chances but West Germany looked to have won it when Dieter Muller headed home on 70 minutes. West Germany had the chance to finish the Dutch off but couldn’t find a third and with eight minutes to go Jan Poortvliet found Rene van de Kerkhof who brilliantly fired in the equalizer. Another thriller had ended in a fair 2-2 draw.

The other game saw a shell-shocked Austria take on Italy. Italy got the early breakthrough when Rossi played a fine one-two with Causio to open Austria up and score the only goal of the game. With a game each left to play the group was a three horse race, but the Dutch had the edge on goal difference.

Hans Krankl ends the reign of West Germany

The Miracle of Cordoba

The second group format had left six teams with a chance of making the final. Group A ‘s deciding games would be played simultaneously with Netherlands facing Italy in Buenos Aires and West Germany taking on Austria in Cordoba.

Austria were already eliminated and were expected to fall to the holders, the main question seemed to be could West Germany score enough to guarantee a place in the final. It seemed to be going that way when Rummenigge gave West Germany the first half lead. Meanwhile Italy scored first against the Dutch when Ernie Brandts’ attempt to stop Bettega ended in an own goal. Worse still for the Dutch goalkeeper Schrijvers was injured in the collision with Brandts and had to be replaced, at halftime Italy were heading to the final.

Austria made a positive start to the second half and an extraordinary ten minutes of football began when the ultra reliable Vogts scored an own goal for the Germans. Krankl now took centre stage, he picked up Eduard Kreiger’s cross with his first touch and volleyed in a beauty with his second 2-1 to Austria. West Germany immediately hit back through Bernd Holtzenbein. A draw wasn’t going to be enough for West Germany and as they pushed for a winner they left holes at the back, late on Krankl got a run on defender Manfred Kaltz, turned past the defender and hammered in the winner. West Germany’s reign was over and Krankl had delivered ‘The Miracle of Cordoba’.

In Buenos Aires, early in the second half Brandts made amends for Netherlands when he fired in from long range,1-1. In a physical encounter Italy thought they had a penalty but the game was settled 14 minutes from time Haan hit an audacious shot from 30 yards and beat Zoff with the help of the post. it was goal worthy of winning any game and it sent Netherlands to a second World Cup final.

Conspiracy Theory

Controversially Group B’s kick off times were staggered, with Poland facing Brazil in the afternoon and Argentina playing Peru in the evening. It all meant Argentina would go into their game knowing exactly what they needed to do to make the final.

Brazil and Poland kicked off in Mendoza but the recalled Zico was forced off after seven minutes. Six minutes later Nelinho rifled in a free-kick to put Brazil ahead. On the stroke of halftime an awful mix up in the Brazil defence let Lato in to make it 1-1. In the second half Dinamite scored when poked home a rebound and Brazil looked to add to the score. A strange passage of Brazilian pressure saw them repeatedly hit the woodwork before Dinamite bagged the the third. 3-1 to Brazil had them top of the group, but would it be enough?

Argentina kicked off against eliminated Peru knowing they needed to win by four goals. Peru hit the post early but on 21 minutes Kempes powered through the middle to give Argentina the lead. Just before halftime defender Alberto Tarantini headed in from a corner for 2-0. Kempes made it three just after the break and on 53 minutes a diving header from Luque gave Argentina the required four goal cushion. Houseman came off the bench to tap in the fifth and a fine finish from Luque rounded off a 6-0 landslide, Argentina had done it.

Brazil beat Italy in the third place playoff to maintain their unbeaten record in the tournament and declared themselves moral victors. The Argentina/Peru game had long been the subject of dirty tricks rumours, with the performance of Peru goalkeeper Quiroga (born in Argentina) arousing suspicion. An unnamed Argentine civil servant would claim Peru threw the game in exchange for grain shipments and in 2012 a Peruvian Senator gave evidence the game was fixed as part of a deal between the two regimes. Whatever the truth Argentina were into a home final.

Kempes strikes in extra time

Super Mario

As in ’74 there was a hostile atmosphere between the sides as Argentina and Netherlands stepped out at the Estadio Monumental. The pitch was awash with tickertape from the stands and the game was delayed, the Dutch accusing Argentina of doing so in order to whip up the fervent crowd into a frenzy. Argentina meanwhile questioned the legitimacy of a cast on Ren van de Kerkhoff’s arm. The Dutch were forced into a change of goalkeeper with the unlucky Schrijvers failing to recover from injury.

Argentina made the better start but Rensenbrink had the best early chance at the other end. On 38 minutes, Ardilles swept forward and drew defenders and a quick exchange of passed with Luque unlocked Kempes in the centre who applied a trademark poacher’s finish 1-0. Rensenbrink had a glorious chance to equalize on the stroke of halftime but was denied by the feet of Fillol.

Both teams created chances early in the second half with Jongbloed diving at the feet of Luque to prevent a second goal. Netherlands made a huge call by taking off Rep and brought on striker Dick Nanninga, meanwhile Kempes went close for Argentina. The Dutch were looking dangerous and started pulling Argentina around but the Dutch couldn’t seem to conjure the clear chance. With just eight minutes to go Rene van de Kerkoff’s deft cross was met by Nanninga and the substitute powered home for 1-1. The trophy was up for grabs as normal time ticked down, a long Dutch ball to the left deceived Argentina’s defenders and Rensenbrink got their before Fillol, but his tight angled shot hit the post. Argentina survived and the referee blew for extra time.

Argentina regained their composure but the tackling from both sides became nastier. Kempes was driving Argentina and just before halftime he burst forward , evaded two Dutch defenders and got away shot. Jongbloed parried but the ball took a fortunate bounce for Kempes who managed to get a touch into the goalmouth and it trickled in for 2-1. When the game restarted Bertoni looked to have settled the match but struck the crossbar. Housman then found the side netting as Argentina tried to press home the advantage. As the game became stretched but one final driving run from Kempes saw him play a one-two with Luque, the ball ricocheted back to Luque whose improvised finish made it 3-1, Argentina were champions.

Passarella celebrates


There will always be two faces of the ’78 World Cup, one showed the brilliant football and ticker-tape but the other the glad handing of a brutal regime and the stench of corruption. None of the later is the fault of Kempes or Ardilles who were magnificent for Argentina.

The tournament did produce some incredible drama and an array of stunning goals notably from Gemmill, Krankl and Haan. The Dutch turnaround was joyous and the width of a post from nirvana for the Oranje who wouldn’t return to the finals for 12 years. The final word should go to Kempes, who delivered under intense pressure, Argentina would produce more gifted players in the decades ahead but ‘El Toro’ was the first who conquered the world.

Jonathan Fearby

Jonathan Fearby is a United Kingdom native. Prior to joining The Athletes Hub as a staff writer, he founded and operated Football England.

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