World Cup 1982: Rossi’s Redemption


Every World Cup makes heroes and villains. In 1982 one man arrived vilified but would turn the tournament into his own personal redemption story. His name was Paolo Rossi and Spain ’82 would (eventually) be his tournament.

Viva Espana

Spain had been confirmed as 1982 World Cup hosts back in 1966. In the ensuing 16 years much changed in Spain, General Franco was gone and the hosts wanted to showcase the new Spain. The tournament would be the biggest yet, played in 16 stadiums across 14 cities. The enlarged tournament would for the first time feature 24 teams. The new format would see six groups of four teams in the first round with the top two from each progressing into a second group phase where four groups of three would determine the semi-finalists.

109 nations entered and again several big names fell in qualifying, most notably double runners-up Netherlands, along with Mexico, Uruguay and Sweden. Five teams qualified for the first time in Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, New Zealand and Kuwait.

Maradona struggles against Belgium

Troubled Champions

Defending champions Argentina would open the tournament on 13th June at Camp Nou. They were amongst the favorites with a squad including ’78 heroes Mario Kempes, skipper Daniel Passarella, Osvaldo Ardilles and Daniel Bertoni with coach Luis Menotti also returning. There was also football’s new superstar 21-year-old Diego Maradona. The youngster was already electrifying the football world with his dazzling skill and was about to join Barcelona for a world record fee.

For all their talent, Argentina’s players had worries on their minds. Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland/ Malvinas Islands had lead to war in the disputed islands. Argentina’s forces were just hours from surrender and the nation on the brink of collapse when the footballers stepped out to face Belgium.

Belgium had made the final of Euro ’80, they had an excellent goalkeeper in Jean-Marie Pfaff, Franky Vercauteren a schemer in midfield and up front the imposing Jan Ceulemans partnered the prolific Erwin Vandenbergh. Maradona’s World Cup debut only showed glimpses of his skill, making darting runs down the middle of Belgium’s midfield. However it was Belgium making the better chances with Vercauteren pulling the strings. In the second half Vercauteren pinged a long ball from the left to pick out Vandenbergh who slotted in the opening goal. Maradona hit the bar from a free-kick but Belgium hung on and the holders were off to a losing start.

Two nights later in Elche the other game in Group 3 saw Hungary take on El Salvador. It took just four minutes for Hungary to open the scoring through Tibor Nyilasi, Gabor Poloskei made it two after 11 minutes. Lazlo Fazekas hit two long range goals and substitute Lazlo Kiss scored a seven minute hat-trick in a 10-1 rout.

Hungary now faced Argentina and the champions found their form, Bertoni blasted in the opener on 26 minutes and two minutes later his fizzing long range shot was parried and Maradona scrambled home for his first World Cup goal. Early in the second half Maradona picked the ball up and ran at the Hungary defence before unleashing a thunderbolt from the left of the box to make it 3-0. Ardilles made it 4-0 before a late consolation for Hungary. Belgium faced El Salvador who unsurprisingly played a tighter game but Belgium secured the win early when Ludo Coeck blasted home a long range free kick in a 1-0.

Belgium played Hungary in their last group game and Hungary took a first half lead when defender Jozsef Varga drove through Belgium’s defence and smashed in the opener. Belgium’s superior class eventually told and Ceulemans powered forward to tee up Alexandre Czerniatynski whose neat finish secured the 1-1 draw Belgium needed to progress, but at a cost with Pfaff inadvertently knocking captain Erik Gerets unconscious when attempting to clear a cross. It meant Argentina would only need a draw against El Salvador, Passarella struck an early penalty before Bertoni made it 2-0 and Argentina were through.

Brazilian magician Scorates

Samba Soccer Revival

Brazil arrived in Spain as favourites and had a team to compare to their 1970 vintage. The creative talent in midfield was staggering with effectively three number 10s in Zico, Socrates and Falcao all wonderful attacking players capable of individual brilliance. Add to that winger Eder, attacking leftback Junior and defensive midfielder Toninho Cerezo and this team was a purists dream. The question marks were defensive, for all their attacking brilliance could Brazil keep the backdoor shut.

Brazil’s opened against a strong Soviet Union side making their first appearance at the finals since 1970. The Soviets had stars too notably goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev and a spine of the squad from Dynamo Kyiv including defender Sergei Baltacha and gifted striker Oleg Blokhin. Brazil went on the attack straight away and Dasayev saved well to deny Seringho the opener, but the Soviets were dangerous on the counter and on 34 minutes Andriy Bal’s speculative effort was fumbled by Brazil goalkeeper Waldir Peres and Brazil went in at halftime 1-0 down. Brazil dominated after the restart but through a combination of stubborn defending and wayward shooting the score remained 1-0. It was going to take something special to beat Dasayev and it finally came in the 75th minute when Socrates jinked his way into the centre of the pitch and blasted a screamer into the top left corner. With two minutes to go Brazil got the winner when a clever dummy left Eder free to thunder home with Dasayev rooted to the spot.

The other Group 6 opener saw Scotland take on debutants New Zealand. Scotland now had Celtic legend Jock Stein as manager. Liverpool’s European Cup winners ran through the spine of the team in cultured central defender Alan Hansen, midfield tyro Graeme Souness and talismanic forward Kenny Dalglish. John Wark was fine box to box midfielder and the creative Gordon Strachan added skill on the right. Scotland couldn’t afford a slow start and in the 18th minute Strachan dribbled through the New Zealand defence to play in Dalglish for the opener. Strachan and Dalglish were running the show and Wark added a quick fire brace for 3-0. New Zealand showed fight after the break and when Scotland skipper Danny McGrain dallied on the ball Scott Sumner pounced. Ten minutes later another break saw Stephen Wooddin produce a nice finish reducing the arrears to 3-2. A clever free kick routine saw John Robertson make it 4-2 to settle Scottish nerves and Strachan’s corner found Steve Archibald who headed home for 5-2.

Next up Scotland faced Brazil, again Brazil dominated possession but the Scots took the lead when Brazil were too slow closing down David Narey and the defender thundered in a drive from the edge of the box. Brazil trailed for 15 minutes, Zico levelling with a 25 yard free-kick. Brazil contiuned to pile forward but Archibald was proving a handful whenever Scotland countered, the score remained level at half-time. Just three minutes into the second half Oscar powered home a header from a corner and Brazil were ahead. Zico was orchestrating the game and Brazil made it 3-1 on 63 minutes when Serginho played in Eder who finished with a beautiful lob. In the dying minutes Socrates fed Falcao who hit a sumptuous shot for 4-1, Brazil were through.

In the other game New Zealand’s Kenny Cresswell spurned a glorious early chance against the Soviet Union. From there on the Soviet’s dominated with Yuri Gavrilov giving them a first half lead before the impressive Blokhin scored a fine second and Baltacha rounded off the 3-0 win from close range.

Scotland faced the Soviets without Dalglish and needing a win, a draw enough for their opponents. Scotland got the perfect start when Soviet skipper Alexsandre Chivadze lost possession and veteran striker Joe Jordan took advantage to score. The Scots had chances to extend their advantage in an excellent first half display but went in at half time just 1-0 up. Scotland started the second half well with Wark testing Dasayev but gradually the Soviet’s wrestled the initiative and on 59 some fine skill from Ramaz Shengelia opened the Scottish defence and Chivadze made up for his earlier error with the goal; 1-1. As Scotland pushed for the winner Hansen and Willie Miller collided and let Shengelia in for a clear run on goal and a cool finish gave the Soviets the lead with just six minutes to go. Scotland now needing two looked down and out, but moments later Souness worked an opening and angled in a fine equalizer. Scotland bombarded the Soviet penalty area but to no avail and for the third straight World Cup they were out on goal difference.

Brazil rounded the group off in Seville in a dead rubber against New Zealand. Zico scored first with a brilliant volley and added a second a few minutes later. Brazil cruised with Falcao and Serginho adding gloss to the 4-0 scoreline. Despite defensive doubts, Brazil were everyone’s favourite.

Gerry Armstrong stuns Spain

Spanish Struggles

Hosts Spain entered the tournament with high hopes of reversing their poor World Cup history. Lead by goalkeeper Luis Arconada of double league champions Real Sociedad the squad drew largely on Soceidad, Real Madrid and Barcelona with left-back Jose Antonio Camacho and forward Juanito amongst the star names, but they lacked a proven goalscorer. They opened in Valencia against unfancied Honduras, but first night nerves were evident and Honduras took advantage when Hector Zelaya broke forward and played himself in with a one-two to slot in an early goal. Spain huffed and puffed and won a second half penalty, Roberto Lopez Ufarte stepped up and burried it to earn Spain an unconvincing point.

Yugoslavia faced a Northern Ireland team making their first World Cup appearance since 1958. Yugoslavia were lead by skillful PSG midfielder Ivica Surjak and had a dangerous forward in Safet Susic. Northern Ireland had legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings at the back, a midfield anchored by European Cup winner Martin O’Neill and young Manchester United sensation Norman Whiteside who would became the World Cup’s youngest ever player, a record previously set by Pele. Whiteside’s record was the most notable statistic in a goalless draw.

Yugoslavia headed to Valencia to face the hosts. Spain got another terrible start with Vladimir Petkovic’s freekick headed in by Ivan Gudelj after just ten minutes. They were soon back on terms when Periko Alonso drove forward and was bundled over for a penalty converted by Juanito. With 27 minutes to go Spain manager Jose Santamaria sent on Enrique Saura and three minutes later Saura was on hand to poke the ball in from a corner and Spain had a much needed win. Meanwhile in Zaragoza Northern Ireland got off to a flyer against Honduras when Sammy McIlroy’s freekick caused mayhem in the Honduran box and Gerry Armstrong grabbed a poachers goal. In the second half a bullet header from substitute Eduardo Laing left Jennings no chance and Honduras snatched a point.

Going into the final round of games all four teams could still qualify with Yugoslavia playing Honduras in the earlier kick off. Honduras produced another good defensive display but Petkovic went close when his freekick hit the bar. Honduras who needed a draw to keep their hopes alive produced moments on the counter with strikers Macho and Armando Betancourt going close. As the game wore on Susic’s influence grew as Yugoslavia searched for the goal to keep their tournament afloat. With just two minutes to go substitute Milos Sestic was brought down in the box and Petkovic made no mistake to send the spirited Hondurans home.

Spain would be through if they avoided a two goal defeat against Northern Ireland who needed to win. Spain were ruffled by the intensity of Northern Ireland’s play who had the better of a fractious first half. At the start of the second Camacho gave the ball away, Armstrong powered forward to feed Billy Hamilton down the right whose crossed was fluffed and Armstrong slotted home, the crowd were stunned. Northern Ireland were top of the group, but on the hour defender Mal Donaghy was red carded and their grip looked shaky. Spain couldn’t muster a way past a stubborn defence and Northern Ireland hung on for their greatest ever result, Spain scrapped through.

Bryan Robson’s winner against France

Back with a Bang

England returned to the World Cup after a 12 year absence. Manager Ron Greenwood had a strong defensive side including two world class goalkeepers in Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence and a strong central defensive duo in Phil Thompson and Terry Butcher. In midfield Manchester United star Bryan Robson offered power alongside the silky skills of Ray Wilkins. England’s main attacking weapon remained double Ballon d’Or winner Kevin Keegan, finally playing his first World Cup aged 31. However Keegan suffered a back injury in the build up to the tournament and would miss the group games along with influential winger Trevor Brooking.

England’s first match was showdown with a talented France team. French hopes rested largely on the brilliance of midfield star Michel Platini alongside Bernard Genghini and another fine playmaker in Alain Giresse whilst Dominque Rocheteau was a dangerous forward. In Keegan’s absence Greenwood went with a front pair of Trevor Francis and Paul Mariner and they got a dream start when Butcher flicked on a long throw across the penalty area and Robson lashed in after just 27 seconds; the fastest goal in World Cup history. France hit back, on 25 minutes Gerard Soler got away from Butcher and beat Shilton with a fine finish 1-1. In the second it was Robson again who gave England the lead, heading home from Francis’ cross for 2-1 on 67 minutes. England slowed the game to see out the win but Francis continued to probe away and his deflected shot fell for Mariner who fired home to complete a 3-1 win.

The other game in Group 4 saw newcomers Kuwait take on Czechoslovakia who were also returning from a 12 year absence. The Czechs included several survivors from their European Championship win of ’76, including penalty king Antonin Panenka. Kuwait didn’t have star players but were under the stewardship of Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. Czechoslovakia made a good start and won a penalty after 20 minutes. Panenka stepped up and rolled the ball into the left corner for 1-0. That looked like being enough but just before the hour mark Faisal Al-Dakhil picked up the ball in midfield and unleashed a screamer to draw Kuwait level. Kuwait held their own and earned a point on debut.

Czechoslovakia now travelled to Bilbao to face England. The game was tight, however the match turned when Czech goalkeeper Stanislav Seman dropped a Wilkins corner at the feet of Francis who couldn’t miss from close range, 1-0. Another self inflicted wound from the Czechs gifted England the game when defender Jozef Barmos deflected Mariner’s through-ball into his own net for 2-0, England had qualified.

In front of Prince Fahad, Kuwait hoped to build on their positive start when they faced a France team needing to kickstart their campaign. France took the lead through a stunning Genghini free kick and Platini quickly cut through Kuwait to make it 2-0 before halftime. Three minutes into the second half Platini played a perfect ball for Didier Six who sprung the offside trap, controlled the ball with a header and smashed home a volley for 3-0. Kuwait pulled a goal back when a quickly taken free kick saw Abdullah Al-Buloushi get clear for 3-1 with 15 minutes to play. Then a moment of high farce, Giresse knocked in a legitimate fourth goal, but the Kuwaitis protested as they’d stopped playing having mistaken a whistle in the crowd for the referee’s. As the protest intensified Prince Fahad came down from the stand to remonstrate and threatened to take Kuwait’s players off the pitch. Referee Myroslav Stupar buckled and disallowed the goal. When play resumed a late goal from Maxime Bossis sealed France’s 4-1 win.

A draw against Czechoslovakia would take France through. In Valladolid the two teams produced a dour affair but when Six scored the game looked safe for France. With time running out Czechoslovakia won a penalty, Panenka despatched for 1-1 and suddenly the game was in the balance. The Czechs produced their best football of the tournament to put France under pressure but it wasn’t enough and France would join England in round two. The final group game saw England maintain their 100% record with a 1-0 win over Kuwait thanks to another goal from Francis.

Cameroon take Italy the distance

Slow Starting Italy

Italy arrived in Spain amongst the favourites with a team largely held over from finishing fourth in 1978. 40-year-old goalkeeper Dino Zoff was already a legend, in front of the best defence in the tournament comprising Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini and Claudio Gentile. Marco Tardelli was a fine midfielder and Bruno Conti a dangerous winger but at centre forward coach Enzo Bearzot had a dilemma. Italy had some promising but inexperienced strikers and Francesco Graziani was hard working but not prolific, Bearzot shocked Italian football by turning to the disgraced Paolo Rossi. Rossi had enjoyed a promising World Cup in ’78 but two years later was found guilty in a match fixing scandal. Rossi had initially received a three year ban, later reduced to two years meaning he was able to play a handful of games at the end of the 81-82 season for Juventus and Bearzot picked him, incurring stinging criticism.

They began in Vigo against dark horses Poland. The Poles had their own star forward in Zbigniew Boniek and still had ’74 golden boot Grzegorz Lato with skipper Wladyslaw Zmuda a steady presence at the back. The game wasn’t a classic with Rossi looking rusty and both sides settling for a 0-0 draw. The other game in group 1 was little better with a veteran Peru side featuring Teofilo Cubillas fighting out a 0-0 draw with new boys Cameroon who featured livewire striker Roger Milla.

Bearzot kept faith with his misfiring attack to face Peru and was rewarded with a stunning early strike from Bruno Conti. It appeared to be enough against a lacklustre Peru but seven minutes from time a speculative strike from Ruben Diaz took a wicked deflection and left Zoff stranded, it finished 1-1 and Bearzot’s critics grew louder. Poland and Cameroon cancelled each other out in Coruna and with a game to go the group was deadlocked.

Poland faced Peru first and after a goalless first half the Poles found their mojo. Poland harried Peru into a mistake and Wlodzimierez Smolarek bagged the opener. Three minutes later a quick counter saw Lato make it 2-0. Boniek added another through a clever freekick before another lightning counter saw Andrzej Buncol and Wlodzimierez Ciotek score in a blistering 21 minute spell before Peru scored a consolation.

Italy need just a draw against Cameroon and nerves jangled in another stilted performance. Graziani eased the tension when he struck with a looping header. Cameroon weren’t done and a minute later Jean Pierre-Tokoto drove at the Italian defence, opening the door for Gregoire M’Bida to equalise. Italy kept the backdoor closed and the 1-1 draw saw them squeak through as Cameroon departed unbeaten.

Algerian star Lakhdar Belloumi

Enterprising Algeria

European Champions West Germany were hot favourites in Group 2. Hans Peter Briegel was a standout at the back, Paul Breitner a world class midfielder. In attack Horst Hrubesch had scored the winner at Euro ’80 whilst Pierre Littbarski was a tricky winger, but the star was reigning two time Ballon d’Or Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. A lack of creativity was a concern with the loss of brilliant but difficult playmaker Bernd Schuster, but West Germany were widely expected to brush aside Algeria in their opener.

West Germany made the better start with Littbarski teasing down the left, but Rummenigge couldn’t apply a killer touch and the scores were level at halftime. Algeria weren’t intimidated by their opponents and their attacking play looked threatening. On 54 minutes African Footballer of the Year Lakhdar Belloumi was played through, Toni Schumacher’s save fell to Rabah Madjer who poked in the opener. It took 13 minutes for West Germany to hit back when Felix Magath’s cross found Rummenigge to make it 1-1. Algeria fought back and Salah Assad darted down the left to set up Belloumi for the winner, Algeria had pulled off an incredible upset.

The other game in Group 2 pitted Chile against Austria. The Austrians still had ’78 hero Hans Krankl and he was now partnered with the prolific Walter Schachner. It was Schachner who made the difference with a brilliant glancing header to secure a 1-0 Austria win. Chile now faced the wounded West Germans and Rummenigge was on fire, smashing a hat-trick in a 4-1 romp that saw a World Cup debut for a certain Lothar Matthaus. Algeria looked jaded in their second match against Austria. Schachner was on hand again a blocked shot fell kindly to him to give Austria the lead early in the second half. On 67 minutes Austria had the game in the bag when Krankl hit a superb drive for 2-0.

Algeria faced Chile in their final group game. They got a dream start, the lively Assad was on hand to finish a slick move after just seven minutes. Before halftime Algeria had added to their lead when Assad forced Elias Figueroa into an own goal. Early in the second half Tedj Bensaoula hit a low drive for 3-0 and Algeria were cruising. Chile showed fight, reducing the deficit from the penalty spot before a fine individual move from Juan Carlos Letelier made it 3-2. Algeria held on, their enterprising football exemplified by Belloumi and Assad looked to have booked a historic place in round two.

The Disgrace of Gijon

When Austria and West Germany kicked off in Gijon, Algeria’s result had been confirmed meaning both teams knew what they needed to progress. West Germany had to win, if they won by less than three goals Austria would also go through. Austria had ended West Germany’s hopes of making the ’78 final by beating them 3-2 in ‘The Miracle of Cordoba’ in what was for them a dead rubber. Nobody expected any skullduggery when the teams took the pitch in Gijon.

The first ten minutes saw frantic West German attacking and a goal from Hrubescch gave them the lead, meaning both teams were through at Algeria’s expense with 80 minutes to play. What followed was neither team attempting to score, for the remaining 35 minutes of the half, both teams attempted to keep the ball in their own half, rarely venturing forward and nobody putting in a tackle. The crowd were quick to spot what looked like collusion and as the halftime whistle blew a chorus of boos and chants of “Argelia!, Argelia” <Algeria! Algeria> and “Que se besen!” roughly translated “Let them kiss!” reverberated around the stadium.

The second half was no better with the odd theatrical shot from distance but again neither side made a serious attempt to score. One player who did put himself about was Schachner who was booked for his trouble. Austrian and German fans in the stadium joined the booing whilst appalled TV commentators back home encouraged fans to switch channels. The game ended 1-0 and Algeria immediately lodged a complaint. FIFA held a three hour review and found no evidence of collusion, despite all the tears and the protests the result stood; West Germany and Austria were through, Algeria were out.

Platini skips through against Northern Ireland

France Firing

The second group phase kicked off on 28th June at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid with the controversial Austrians facing France. France were without star man Platini but with the tigerish Jean Tigana partnering Giresse in midfield they dominated the game, almost taking the lead when Genghini’s vicious long range strike smacked the post. Having already had a sighter Genghini got his goal on 39 minutes with a brilliant free-kick. France’s quicksilver attack was in full flow and Genghini had a goal ruled out as France held on for a 1-0 win.

Next up Austria faced a must win clash with Northern Ireland. It was Northern Ireland who took the lead when Armstrong powered down the right wing and fired in a cross for Hamilton to open the scoring. Just after halftime Austria levelled when Ernst Baumeister’s free kick was directed in by Bruno Pezzey. Austria then took the lead when substitute Reinhold Hintermaier knocked in a free kick from the edge of the box. Northern Ireland pressed forward and Jimmy Nichol’s cross was headed home by Hamilton for a 2-2 draw and Austria were out.

A draw in the decider would take France through against Northern Ireland. Platini was back and the French were on fire, the diminutive Giresse dominated the midfield and opened the scoring on 33 minutes. Rocheteau struck a fine solo goal to make it 2-0 and then weaved his way through the box to make it 3-0 to end the game as a contest. The teams traded late goals but the emphatic 4-1 sent France to the semis.

Boniek destroys Belgium

Boniek Brilliance

The second round format meant one brilliant display could put a team firmly in control of their group, the Camp Nou was about to witness one from Poland superstar Boniek. Facing a Belgium defence missing Gerets and the dropped Pfaff it took just four minutes for Boniek to open the scoring, lashing home Lato’s pullback from the edge of the box. Poland were pulling the Belgians around with their slick passing and a fine team move played Boniek in whose cushioned header made it 2-0 after 26 minutes. Early in the second half Boniek started another flowing attack with Wlodzimierz Smolarek running at the Belgium defence and a intricate change of passes with Lato put Boniek through to complete his hat-trick, 3-0 and Poland had one foot in the semi-finals.

Belgium boss Guy Thys changed goalkeeper again for the do or die clash with USSR. Belgium lacked the fluency they’d shown earlier in the tournament and a fine Soviet move instigated by Yuri Gavrilov saw Khoren Oganesian volley in the winner. Belgium were out whilst the Soviets had to win a grudge match with local rivals Poland. The Poles were cautious knowing a draw would do, keeping the Soviets at arms length throughout whilst Boniek’s willingness to run at defenders provided a threat at the other end, the game was feisty with 5 yellow card but the Poles hung on for a draw. However it was victory at a cost, Boniek’s booking meant he would miss the semi-final.

Zico opens the scoring against Argentina

Maradona Red Faced

The most eye-catching of the second phase groups pitted holders Argentina with favourites Brazil and the underperforming Italians. Argentina would start against Italy, the Italians knew they had to contain Maradona, Bearzot opted to play Gentile as a man marker on the burgeoning superstar.

Gentile deployed every trick in the book and Maradona was neutered in a defensive masterclass. In the second half Italy’s attack started to click, a quick move saw Tardelli played in and he fired in from the left. Ten minutes later Rossi found himself one on one with the ‘keeper but again he couldn’t convert, in the melee that followed Cabrini kept his cool and slotted home for 2-0. With time running out Passarella dragged Argentina back into the game with a piledriving freekick, but it wasn’t enough and Italy held on for a 2-1 win.

Argentina now had to beat bitter rivals Brazil to have any hope of progressing in a match up of classic number tens Zico and Maradona. It was Brazil’s ten who got the opener, tapping home the rebound after Eder’s freekick smashed the crossbar on 11 minutes. Maradona showed flashes of brilliance as Argentina poured forward in search of a goal. However Zico ran the show for Brazil, crossing for Serginho to head in a second on 67 minutes and as Argentina were run ragged Zico split their defence for the onrushing Junior to slam in the third. Maradona was red carded with five minutes left for kicking out, his first World Cup ending in shame, Ramon Diaz got a late consolation but Argentina’s reign was over, Brazil had one foot in the last four.

Littbarski punishes Spain

Spain Slump

The last group to get under way was Group B comprising the hosts, the unpopular West Germans and England. The opener saw West Germany renew their old rivalry with England at the Bernabeu. Both teams were cautious, Robson forced a fine save from Schumacher in the first half whilst Shilton was forced into action by Breitner. The best chance came at the death with a vicious strike from Rummenigge cannoning off the the England bar, 0-0 a fair result.

Next up Spain faced West Germany knowing a win would put them in control of the group. 90,000 packed the Bernabeu hoping for a Spanish triumph but West Germany looked the sharper. Manager Jupp Derwall was forced into changes, hooking the injured Rummenigge but just five minutes into the second half they were ahead when Arconada spilled a speculative long range effort at the feet of Littbarski who tucked away. Breitner was excellent in midfield and his driving run set up Littbarski who teed up a tap in for Klaus Fischer; 0-2. Santamaria had failed to blend a team from the superstars of the La Liga giants and although Spain were given late hope by Jose Maria Zamora’s late header the 1-2 defeat meant they were out. The Spanish however would still hold West Germany’s fate in their hands when they faced England in the final game of the group.

Rossi grabs the opener in a classic

Rossi Reborn

Brazil needed only a draw to progress to the semis. Italy were underdogs and the pressure was increasing on slumbering striker Rossi. Bearzot stuck with Rossi to face the favourites. Most expected a repeat of the ’70 final where Catenaccio was trumped by Samba soccer, the stage was set for an all-time classic.

Italy made the better start and after five minutes Cabrini found himself with time to pick out a perfect cross for Rossi who headed in, he jumped for joy the pressure visibly lifted from his shoulders. The game was end to end and on 12 minutes Brazil were level when Socrates burst forward and beat Zoff at his near post. Brazil pushed for the second goal and Gentile took an early booking, but the Italian defence held. Then disaster struck for Brazil, Cerezo made a casual backpass and the razor sharp Rossi was onto it in a flash, he ran on goal and smashed in a gift of a goal; 2-1. Brazil were dominating the ball but Zoff was in commanding form and even an enforced defensive substitution couldn’t break the Italian rearguard, they lead at half time.

The second half started at a high tempo and Falcao went close but again Zoff was catching everything Brazil could muster. Serginho then went close but at the other end a guilt edged chance fell to Rossi but with a hat-trick at his mercy he put it wide. Gentile and Zico were fighting a ding-dong battle and it seemed Brazil were getting frustrated, then a moment of brilliance saw Falcao hit a sensational shot from the edge of the box and Zoff was finally beaten; 2-2.

With 22 minutes to play Brazil needed to manage the game to progress on goal difference but scenting blood they pressed for a winner. Then on 74 minutes some more awful Brazilian defending saw a tame clearance from a corner rolled back into the box and Rossi was waiting unmarked to make it 3-2. Brazil pushed frantically and Eder pulled a free kick just wide. With just four minutes to play Giancarlo Antognoni smashed in a fourth goal for Italy, incorrectly chalked off for offside, Brazil were still in with a chance. As the seconds ticked down Eder floated in yet another free-kick, Oscar found a bullet header, but Zoff made a miraculous goal line save to preserve the lead. Italy had done it and Rossi was suddenly a national hero.

Keegan goes close for England

Keegan’s Agony

The last match of the phase saw England face the eliminated hosts. England would progress with a two goal win, anything less and West Germany would qualify. The goals had dried up and England needed the talismanic Keegan back. Keegan’s back injury hadn’t heeled and in a last ditch effort to get him fit, he was spirited away from the team base to see a specialist in Germany. The move worked and for the Spain game Keegan was fit enough to be named on the bench alongside returning winger Brooking.

England looked compact but toothless in attack with a Robson header the closest they went. As the second half wore on and the game remained goalless England seemed to be running out of ideas and on 63 minutes Ron Greenwood rolled the dice and brought on Keegan and Brooking. England suddenly looked dangerous with Brooking probing and Keegan leading the line. Brooking forced a good save from Arconada and then Mariner played in Robson who sent in a cross for Keegan who seemed to have a simple header, but short of match sharpness he put it just wide and the game finished goalless. England left unbeaten but it was West Germany who headed to the semi final.

Rossi takes flight

Paolo The Great

Italy were now favourites as they entered the Camp Nou to face Poland. Gentile was absent but with Giuseppe Bergomi now in the defence Italy looked stable and without Boniek Poland’s attack looked blunted. The Italians were now brimming with confidence and on 22 minutes Antognoni swung in a free kick and Rossi pounced for the opener. Antognoni was forced off injured midway through the first half but Italy were in control and it remained 1-0 at the break.

Rossi had always been a penalty box sniffer and with his sharpness back Italy looked dangerous. Poland pushed forward in search of an equaliser but lacked inspiration without Boniek and on 73 minutes Conti broke down the left and crossed for the waiting Rossi to bag the killer goal. Italy were in the final, Rossi had five goals in two games. Poland went on to win the third place playoff for the second time in three World Cups.

Toni Schumacher commits the most infamous foul in World Cup history

Schumacher’s Shame

The other semi final was an evening kick-off in Seville with West Germany facing France. Rummenigge was still struggling with a hamstring injury and started on the bench against a rapidly improving French team. West Germany made the stronger start and Breitner opened France up with a driving run, Klaus Fischer’s shot was saved but Littbarski powered home the rebound on 17 minutes. France soon countered and Bernd Forster held Rocheteau back in the box, Platini sent Toni Schumacher the wrong way to equalise on 27 minutes. The game settled and the scores remained level at half time.

The second half ebbed and flowed and France made an early change bringing on Patrick Battiston after 50 minutes. A few minutes later Platini played a defensive splitting pass into Battiston’s path, he only had Schumacher to beat but the goalkeeper came tearing off his line and smashed into Battiston, leading with his side. Battiston was barely conscious, losing two teeth, cracking three ribs and suffering vertebrae damage in what was at best a cynical foul, at worst assault. Yet incredibly referee Charles Corver awarded a goal kick and Schumacher who should have been red carded wasn’t even booked. Worse still Schumacher looked impatient wanting to resume the game as Battiston left on a stretcher.

Both teams created chances and France almost won it when Manuel Amoros smashed a long range effort onto the crossbar, whilst a Breitner shot forced Jean-Luc Etorri into a double save as Fischer tried to put away the rebound, extra time would be needed.

Two minutes into extra time a French free-kick from the right found Marius Tressor unmarked to hit a spectacular volley to put France ahead. Derwall played West Germany’s last card and threw on Rummenigge but a minute later France struck again when a nice interchange of passes set up the on-running Giresse to smash in for 3-1. West Germany weren’t about to give it up and four minutes later Rummenigge made his mark, darting in front of a defender to pull a goal back, 3-2 at halftime in extra time.

France with no subs left were tiring and West Germany were in the ascendancy, Littbarski’s cross was flicked into the centre of the goal for Fischer to hit a spectacular bicycle kick and the game was level at 3-3. Neither team could find another goal and for the first time ever a World Cup match went to a penalty shootout. Both teams put their first two kicks away, but Uli Stielike’s tame effort was saved by Etorri to give France the edge. France’s advantage evaporated when Six’s strike was saved by Schumahcer and Littbarski drew West Germany level. Platini and Rummenigge scored and it was sudden death. Up stepped Bossis who fired too close to Schumacher and Hrubesch rolled in the winner. West Germany had won one of the greatest games ever played, sadly the game will always be remembers for the Battiston assault.

Tardelli’s iconic celebration

Forza Italia

Italy entered the Madrid final in the unfamiliar position of the neutrals choice, West Germany had cut a bad figure in the tournament from the Disgrace of Gijon to Schumacher’s assault. Gentile was back for Italy whilst Rummenigge was fit enough to start for West Germany and was tied with Rossi in the golden boot race. It was hoped the two would serve up a repeat of their 1970 classic, but the game was tight and tactical with little attacking fluency in a poor first half, Italy forced into an early change when Graziani was injured and replaced by Alessandro Altobelli.

Twelve minutes into the second half Italy won a free kick, the alert Tardelli took it quickly to feed Gentile on the right and the defender whipped in a dangerous cross that Rossi bundled in for the opener and won himself the golden boot. West Germany were forced to commit players forward and Scirea broke up an attack and set Italy in motion, he combined well with Conti and played the ball to Tardelli on the edge of the box who smashed home for 2-0 and ran off on an iconic goal celebration. Rummenigge’s race was run and substituted, nine minutes from time the game was settled for good when Conti broke away and found Altobelli who slipped away from Schumacher and rolled into an empty net 3-0. West Germany grabbed a late consolation through a Breitner volley but it was over, Italy were champions.

Dino Zoff lifts the World Cup


Superstars, controversy, shocks, classic encounters and brilliant attacking football; Spain ’82 had it all. The huge controversy over the West Germany/Austria match lead to all final group games being played simultaneously, whilst Brazil’s shock exit caused a national trauma on the level of the 1950 final and lead to a more streetwise defensive approach. Few tournaments have ever showcased so many brilliant attacking players; Platini, Maradona, Blokhin, Zico, Socrates, Rummenigge, Dalglish and Boniek to name a few. Champions Italy were an amazing story a team featuring the best defence ever assembled who richly deserved their medals. Yet for all their defensive brilliance it was Rossi who stole the show, his razor sharp finishing handing Italy the title in an amazing act of atonement and providing the story of a fabulous tournament.

Team of the Tournament (Unofficial): Zoff (Italy)- Amoros (France), Gentile (Italy), Scirea (Italy), Cabrini (Italy)- Breinter (West Germany), Falcao (Brazil), Zico (Brazil), Boniek (Poland)- Rummenigge (West Germany), Rossi (Italy)

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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