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Mundial: An alternative history of the Football World Cup

To give a tease for the next update, the 1978 world cup (like OTL) is highly controversial, but more due to host selection than a tournament being organised for the benefit of a brutal military regime (though regime in question is certainly not a pleasant one.)

Pinochet's Chile? The Soviet Union?
It's not in Latin America or Europe this time around

With the notable exception of Iran, whose Shah funded a one-off club competition in 1971 to commemorate both the anniversary of the Iranian monarchy and the celebration of Iran being awarded the 1978 finals, albeit in highly controversial circumstances, which will be covered later in this book.

Oh boy.

It's closer to OTL South Africa than OTL Qatar, given the sprinkling of references to Iran as a contender for Asia's one spot, but it's still a very weak host with an authoritarian government, albeit one with enough flare for pomp that the opening ceremony should look nice.
Might lead to a few positive knock-on effects for the Middle Eastern game, as well.
1978 - White Revolution
1978 – Iran

Host selection and background

Has there ever been a tournament as contentious as the 1978 finals? The world cup, and FIFA, much like the Olympics and the IOC, were no strangers to controversial tournaments, with 1934, 1938 and 1970 hosted in authoritarian nations under regimes attuned to the political capital of sport, but 1978 is perhaps the apotheoisis of this. From controversies over the host selection vote of the executive committee, to the vast sums spent on the tournament by a monarchy with a love of pomp and ceremony, to the usual badinage of foul play and the odd weak referee, the tournament which marked a number of firsts, remains one of the most controversial in the history of the finals.

Iran’s selection as host at the 1970 FIFA General Congress, which coincided with the Shah’s regime announcing a one-off tournament to be hosted in Tehran in 1971 between five club sides and an Iran Select XI, to the cost of $7.2 million.[1] The Executive Committee vote has never been fully unearthed, due to FIFA’s archives not yet releasing all material, but much of it hinges on a series of payments made by the Iranian Sports Ministry to members of the Executive Committee, as part of a series of bilateral deals between those members from Latin America, Asia and Africa who were aligned with Washington (and thus by extension Tehran), including a series of loans and in one notorious case, revealed by a defector from the country’s oil ministry, an oil deal between Iran and the Portuguese junta, saw the Portuguese switch votes from Mexico to Iran.[2] The winning vote, passed by 12-7 against Mexico (who were bidding to host for the second time) and confirmed that the tournament would be held in the Middle East for the first time, a region where football had grown in popularity, but outside of North Africa had yet to be really represented on the world stage.

Iran, under the firm hand of the Shah who had ruled since succeeding his father in 1944, was a country with a deep love for football, and with the state involved in most levels, with most top-flight sides run by organisations associated with the state. The national side, were one of Asia’s stronger representatives, frequently reaching the final stages of the Asian section of World Cup qualification, and winning the Asian Nations Cup three times in succession from 1968-1976. Having been awarded the tournament, the government confirmed a major programme of stadium building and expansion in Tehran, the northeastern border city and former capital Mashhad, the economic hub Esfahan and the northwestern city of Tabriz, which like Mashhad bordered the Soviet Union. The stadium building drive, saw the country’s already endemic corruption become even more egregious as the royal family, their associates and the various organs of state skimmed money from almost all aspects of the construction budget, with the tournament ending up somewhere around £250 million over budget, with reports of the various firms involved having to pay far above normal to begin construction.

The tournament, held at the tail-end of the 1970s, a decade characterised by economic slowdown, compared to the postwar boom years and a see-saw between détente and escalation between the two superpowers as various regional conflicts operated on the pull-push axis. Iran, firmly in the American sphere, had provided covert support for the US and western interests in the region, maintaining a strong army and aiding the Aghan royalist government in crushing an attempted coup in 1972. Iran, also embroiled herself in the Arabian Gulf, supporting British efforts in Aden and signing an agreement (mediated by the Americans and British) with the newly independent United Emirates of Eastern Arabia[3] over territorial rights and maritime trade. Increases in the price of oil, also bolstered the regimes coffers, and saw Iran pursue a policy of hosting grand events, including sporting ones, as well as an audacious bid for the 1984 Olympics.

Similarly to the Argentine regime of 1970, the concentration of resources (including the use of military conscripts) saw the bulk of stadiums completed on time, including the extravagant Aryamehr Stadium which formed part of a larger sporting complex designed with the Olympics in mind, was designed in a way to call to mind the epic constructions of the Persian Empire of the ancient era. Similarly to previous tournaments, it was decided that groups would be divided geographically, with Tehran hosting all games from the semi-finals onwards. As part of the negotiations between the Iranian government and FIFA, so as to ensure as many games as possible (and thus maximise revenue) a new format would be introduced for 1978, the last tournament to be held as a sixteen-team tournament before expansion to twenty-four from 1982 onwards. As such, there would be no straight knockout games until the semi-finals, with four groups of four, followed by two groups of four (replacing the previous straight knockout quarter-finals) and then semi-finals, third-place game and final.


The Netherlands and Iran qualified automatically leaving fourteen places to be decided – one each for Asia and Africa, four for the Americas and eight for Europe.

In Europe, there were some surprises, though in contrast to 1974 no debutantes. The Soviets and Hungarians again failed to qualify as did the Czechoslovaks and Yugoslavs leaving Poland as the sole Eastern European side at the tournament, comfortably qualifying ahead of 1966 runners-up Portugal. England, fist under the management of Jimmy Adamson who had succeeded Bill Nicholson, but had resigned following failure to qualify for the 1976 European Nations Cup (Wales being the sole British representative) and then the caretaker Joe Mercer and Ron Greenwood failed to qualify being knocked out by their bogey team Germany who beat them home and away to ensure England failed to reach the finals for the first time since returning to FIFA in the 1940s.

However, Britain was still represented as Scotland qualified for consecutive finals for the first time since the 1950s under the management of Tommy Docherty who had led them four years earlier. The Scots, surprise qualifiers ahead of Yugoslavia, further added salt into English wounds by completing a hat-trick of Home Nations Championships, including a 2-1 win over England in Glasgow. Elsewhere, France returned to the tournament for the first time since 1966, while Sweden qualified for the first time since 1958. Italy, Spain and Austria also qualified to ensure that with the exception of the English, the majority of the teams who had participated in 1974 participated again.

In the Americas, Mexico qualified for the first time since 1966, aiming to improve on a generally woeful tournament record under the new management of former international Raúl Cárdenas. Despite the growth of popularity of the sport in the U.S., thanks to the rise of the American Soccer League, which had seen several high-profile moves from Europe and South America (as well as Africa) to the fledgling competition, the national side remained something of a minnow, as did their cousins in the north, whose own Canadian Soccer League had undergone a similar process of attracting overseas talent.

In South America, Brazil, Argentina and Peru qualified ensuring that Uruguay failed to qualify for consecutive tournaments for the first time. Brazil, now under the management of Osvaldo Brandão, who had previously managed the national side in the 1950s, had shifted to a more functional style of play, easily qualified ahead of Peru and Paraguay, while Argentina, who had changed manager in 1974 eased past Chile and Urugay. The qualification format, two groups of five teams saw Peru and Uruguay finish second in their respective groups, who played off for the final South American spot, which Peru won 2-1 to qualify for the third time.

In Asia, Korea qualified ahead of Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait and Iraq to reach the finals for an Asia-Pacific record extending fourth time, led by Cha Bum-kun, who was one of the country’s few overseas professionals, with German side Darmstadt. The Koreans, despite a surprise draw to the New Zealanders in Wellington eased to first place in the group with a run of five successive wins to comfortably qualify, and deny Australia a third straight appearance at the tournament. While Korea’s qualification was relatively straightforward, the qualifying rounds featured a minor diplomatic incident as Emirati players suffered the ill-effects of tear gas during one of the Iraqi government’s periodic suppressions of the pan-Arab Ba’athist movement, sparking a brief suspension of relations between the U.E.E.A and the Iraqi government.[4]

In Africa, the nearly men of South Africa, finally made good on their potential and qualified for the tournament for the first time, coinciding with the 1977 general election victory for Colin Eglin’s Progressive Party which formed the first government not to feature the United Party since the 1930s.[5] Under the coaching of former international John Hewie, and with a squad with solid overseas experience, the South Africans finally reached the summit, finishing ahead of Tunisia, Egypt and Nigeria to qualify for the first time, with Patrick Ntsoelengoe’s winning goal against Egypt to seal qualification, drilling home a Jannie Mofokeng cross, creating scenes of delirium in Johannesburg, much to the chagrin of the some of the Afrikaner nationalist press, due to the side’s predominantly black make-up.[6] South Africa’s qualification made themselves and Iran the only debutante side at the finals, one of the lowest numbers in the tournament’s history.

Participating nations

  • Iran (hosts – debut)
  • Netherlands (holders)
  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Korea
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Scotland
  • South Africa (debut)
  • Spain
  • Sweden
While the tournament format changed, the seeding system did not with eight seeded teams and eight unseeded. The seeds were: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Iran (hosts), Italy, Netherlands (holders), Poland and Spain.

The draw, held on March 14 1978, was as follows:

Group 1: Iran, Argentina, France, Scotland

Group 2: Germany, Poland, Mexico, Korea

Group 3: Netherlands, Italy, Peru, South Africa,

Group 4: Brazil, Spain, Austria, Sweden

Tournament summary

Group 1

Group 1, hosted in the capital Tehran, paired the hosts Iran with Argentina, France and Scotland in a group viewed as broadly competitive. Argentina, under the management of José Varacka (assisted by Vladislao Cap and César Luis Menotti) had transitioned to a style of play influenced by the Dutch side which had beaten them four years earlier, though it was less fluid than the Dutch version, influenced by the attacking style Menotti had developed as a coach at Huracán, coupled with Varacka’s own tendency to pragmatism. France, returning to the finals after a long absence, had an exciting young side, led by former Ajax manager Romanian Ștefan Kovács.[7] Scotland, a hard-running side built around traditional British virtues, were competitive, while Iran, despite widespread state investment were something of a wild card under Heshmat Mohajerani.[8]

The opening game, which followed an opening ceremony that resembled a Bacchenalian nightmare, as the 2,500 anniversary of the monarchy celebrated in 1971, was recreated on a smaller scale, featuring performers dressed as Persian warriors playing a game of football rendered absurd by being performed on horseback. The stadium itself, was ringed with troops and military police, as the Shah, who was an increasingly hated figure watched in the Aryamehr Stadium’s specially designed royal box. The match, which saw the hosts face Argentina, was over as a contest by the hour mark, as Argentina eased into a three goal lead, courtesy of strikes from Osvaldo Ardiles, Mario Kempes and substitute Oscar Ortiz, subduing the crowd, though Iraj Danaeifard was able to capitalise on a mistake from Ubaldo Fillol to fire the ball under the Argentine’s dive and score Iran’s first ever goal at the finals.

In the other match, played at the Shahbanu Farah Stadium, in the east of Tehran, saw France ease to a 3-1 win over the Scots, with Joe Jordan’s opening goal coming against the run of the play. The game, like most at the finals, was played in intense summer heat, hampering sides who played a more physical style, as France’s patient passing eventually wore the Scots down with Nancy’s Michel Platini (on as a second-half substitute) setting up goals for Bernard Lacombe and Dominique Rocheteau before scoring the third himself in the eighty-seventh minute.

The second round of fixtures saw Argentina and Scotland draw 1-1 as Kenny Dalglish’s free-kick cancelled out René Houseman’s opener. The game, a stop-start affair, was not a classic, but Scotland were indebted to their goalkeeper, Partick Thistle’s Alan Rough for a superb double save from Kempes and Leopoldo Luque, the latter, a split-second reaction to divert the ball over the bar, later voted the save of the tournament. Elsewhere, France beat Iran 2-0, as goals from Olivier Rouyer and Jean-Marc Guillou in either half saw off the limited threat of the Iranians, in a game which saw Iranian defender Andranik Eskandarian sent off for two bookable offences, though the second, controversially would prove to be a case of mistaken identity, as the referee, Austrian Erich Linemayr, meant to send off Nasrollah Abdollahi, much to the chagrin of the Iranians.

In the final round of fixtures, Argentina and France drew 2-2 in an entertaining game which was marred by an injury suffered by Argentina goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol who was stretchered off following a mid-air collision with French midfielder Dider Six. His replacement, Héctor Baley, would save a late penalty from Platini to ensure the game finished even, though France’s equaliser was a goal of beauty as their midfield interchanged passes, to take the ball into the Argentine box, before Marc Berdoll gracefully chipped the ball over Fillol to finish the move. Scotland and Iran, two sides who had rarely flickered at the tournament, played out a thriller with the Scots eventually triumphing 3-2, including a superb goal from Nottingham Forest’s Archie Gemmill, who exchanged a one-two pass with Dalglish, sprinted past the despairing lunge of the Iranian left-back and blasted the ball past Nasser Hejazi to put the Scots 3-1 up, before Iran’s captain Ali Parvin made it 3-2 in the eighty-fifth minute. While Scotland had flickered too late, Gemmill’s goal would live long in the memory. The result meant that Iran would become the first host-nation to fail to qualify from the group stage, as well as the first to fail to win a game at the finals.


2 June Iran 1-3 Argentina

2 June France 3-1 Scotland

6 June Argentina 1-1 Scotland

6 June Iran 0-2 France

10 June Argentina 2-2 France

10 June Scotland 3-2 Iran

Group 2

Group 2 (hosted in Tabriz) paired 1974’s bronze medal competitors, Germany and Poland with Mexico and Korea in a group that was largely expected to be a fairly easy one for the two European sides. Germany, who had changed coach with Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Hannes Weisweiler taking over from Georg Buschner in 1976, following the disappointment of that tournament.[9] Poland, now coached by Jacek Gmoch were enjoying the efforts of a truly brilliant generation, having finished third at the previous tournament. Korea, had some emerging talents including two players based in Europe in striker Cha Bum-kun who played for Darmstadt in the Bundesliga and Huh Jung-moo who played for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven (both of who had been signed in the 1976/77 season respectively.) Mexico, returning to the finals for the first time in twelve years, were hoping to make amends for a truly dreadful record at the finals, had a young side with no players aged over thirty in their squad.[10]

The opening round of fixtures saw Germany and Poland play out a 1-1 draw, as Zbigniew Boniek’s strike from outside the area cancelled out Klaus Fischer’s opener. Germany, a side in transition with players such as Beckenbauer and Netzer having retired after the 1976 European Nations Cup alongside stalwarts such as Gerhard Müller, were more functional than their previous incarnations, favouring a five man midfield with a lone striker (usually the explosive Schalke 04 forward Klaus Fischer) supported by the wily (if aging) Bernd Hölzenbein, struggled to break down the Poles who played a fast passing style which caught an aging German defence on the hop. Germany’s goal came against the run of play, with Fischer running onto a long-pass from Horst Blankenburg to fire past Jan Tomaszewski in the Poland goal. Boniek’s equaliser, deftly chipping Jürgen Croy (starting in place of Josef Maier who had suffered a stomach upset before the game) was a thing of beauty, the arc on the ball sending it spinning far beyond the reach of Croy to continue Poland’s unbeaten run against the Germans.[11]

Elsewhere, Korea secured their first ever win at the World Cup, defeating the Mexicans 2-1 thanks to a double from Cha Bum-kun, the second of which, a penalty box finish hit with real venom, would lead to his nickname as the “Hyundai Howitzer” having begun his career with the manufacturer’s works team. Mexico, despite starting brightly, opening the lead through Arturo Vázquez struggled with Korea’s intensity, as the Koreans under Soviet manager Valentin Nikolayev adopted a similar (if not as intricate style) to the Dynamo Kyiv side which had begun to dominate Soviet football in the 1970s. Korea’s win put them in the history books, as the first Asian side to win a game at the finals after forty-eight years of effort.

In the second round of fixtures, Germany defeated Mexico 4-0, with the Mexicans reduced to ten men following a brutal tackle on Rainer Bonhof from Leonardo Cuéllar. Already a goal down, Mexico as so often before, wilted, conceding three goals in a fifteen minute spell either side of half-time to Germany and unassailable lead. The game, played in a stadium that was two-thirds full (an issue for most matches outside of Tehran) saw eighteen year-old Bernd Schuster make his debut, becoming the youngest German debutant at the finals (as well as one of the youngest in tournament history), where his technical ability (against admittedly limited opposition) caught the eye of Barcelona. Poland and Korea, in the other fixture (played to a crowd of around eight thousand or so) played out a drab game ruined by an awful pitch and high temperatures, with the Poles eventually winning 1-0 thanks to a Grzegorz Lato strike.

In the final round of fixtures, Germany beat Korea 2-0, with Fischer and Joachim Streich scoring in either half. The game, fairly limited as it was as a contest, was notable for the long delay to the second half following what sounded like an explosion near the stadium (which turned out to be a car backfiring, though this didn’t prevent the poor motorist being beaten by SAVAK troops), one in a series of moments which painted a tournament in a country on the edge. With regime personnel making up a significant portion of the crowds across the games at the tournament, the pictures of uniformed troops taking up row after row of empty seating became a resonant image across the globe. In the other game, Poland and Mexico drew 1-1 with the Mexicans fortunate that French referee Robert Wurtz failed to spot a blatant handball in the build-up.


2 June Germany 1-1 Poland

2 June Korea 2-1 Mexico

6 June Germany 4-0 Mexico

6 June Poland 1-0 Korea

10 June Korea 0-2 Germany

10 June Mexico 1-1 Poland

Group 3

Group 3 paired the Dutch holders with Italy, Peru and debutantes South Africa. The Dutch, coached by George Knobel, had refreshed their side, but were still largely built around the 1974 championship winning squad which had dazzled the world with totaalvoetbal. Italy, despite their club sides continued competitiveness, had endured a difficult decade, the 1970 bronze medal winning side notwithstanding, having failed to make a mark on the 1974 tournament or either the 1972 and 1976 European Championships. Under the veteran, if somewhat rigid management of Ferruccio Valcareggi, who had succeeded Edmondo Fabbri for his second spell as national team manager in 1974[12] the Italians were expected to be tough to beat if not particularly inspiring to watch. Peru, who had been an entertaining side at an entertaining tournament in 1970, returned to the finals after failing to qualify in 1974, with a squad containing numerous veterans of that tournament, The final side in the group were South Africa, who had a strong core of overseas internationals (largely either in the United States or Britain) and players from one of Africa’s stronger domestic leagues, and unlike the largely white rugby union and cricket sides, the football side (though they played in the same springbok green) was multiracial. Coached by former international Eddie Firmani, they had finally made good on their promise after years of choking to make the finals for the first time.

In the opening round of fixtures, the Dutch and Peru played out a 0-0 draw, with Peru’s Argentine-born goalkeeper Ramón Quiroga making a superb save to deny Arie Haan an opening goal. The game, played on a poor pitch at the new stadium built in Esfahan, was also hampered by the heat, even with the game being played at a relatively late kick-off time of 7.30pm.[13] Elsewhere, Italy managed to see off a spirited South Africa, captained by Ipswich Town’s Colin Viljoen[14] thanks to a superb goal from the young Vicenza striker, Paolo Rossi, who after catching a botched clearance on his chest, volleyed it beyond the reach of Motsau Setlhodi in the South African goal.

In the second round of matches, Arie Haan scored a forty-yard piledriver to settle a tense game with the Italians, who had taken the lead following an own-goal from Ernie Brandts, before settling into their luchetto rhythm. The game itself, once the Dutch finally found their groove, was a good one, as their intricate passing style and sudden movement forced the Italians to press more aggressively than their usual blanket defence allowed. The Dutch equaliser came from substitute Hendrik Cruijff’s moment of brilliance, as he (playing in a more withdrawn role than 1974 due to a series of injuries suffered in the years in between with Barcelona) feinted to shoot, leaving his marker for dead before threading a perfectly weighted pass for Johan Neeskens to slot home past the onrushing Dino Zoff. Elsewhere, Peru and South Africa drew 1-1, with Simon Lehoko’s bullet header from a Jomo Sono corner securing the African side’s first ever point at the finals, following an opening goal from Teófilo Cubillas, which saw him skip past the challenge of Steve Wegerle before firing past Setlhodi. The game would sadly see an unpleasant injury suffered by the South African keeper, as his foot caught in the turf as he rose to claim a ball, which saw nineteen-year-old Gary Bailey come on for only his third cap.[15]

In the final round of games, Italy and Peru drew 0-0 in a game of stultifying dullness, as the Peruvians, hampered by an injury suffered by Cubillas in the first half, struggled to break down Italy’s massed defence, while Italy, struggled to find any rhythm with the result leaving both sides level on points and goal difference, with Italy qualifying by the virtue of having scored more goals than the Peruvians. In the other game, played at a municipal stadium, the Dutch came back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with the South Africans who had Bailey and the rock-solid Johannes Mofokeng to thank for stealing a point from the world champions, as Rob Resembrink cancelled out Andries Maseko’s opener for the African side. As a result the Dutch topped the group, while South Africa finished bottom, though they could return home with a huge amount of pride.

South Africa302123-12

2 June Netherlands 0-0 Peru

2 June Italy 1-0 South Africa

6 June Netherlands 2-1 Italy

6 June Peru 1-1 South Africa

10 June Italy 0-0 Peru

10 June South Africa 1-1 Netherlands

Group 4

The final group paired perennial favourites Brazil with three European sides: 1974 hosts Spain, Austria and Sweden who were returning to the finals after a long absence. Brazil, highly physically fit, if not as joyous as some previous sides, played a more mechanised version of the Dutch style (part of the greater trend towards systemised football in South America, which had originally emerged in the 1960s) and were in good form heading into the tournament, while both Spain and Sweden represented functional, disciplined sides. The dark horses were Austria who’s young side had warmed up for the tournament by beating both England and Italy in home friendlies.

In the opening round of matches, Brazil and Sweden drew 1-1, with Reinaldo’s opener being cancelled out by Sweden’s veteran substitute Bo Larsson. Brazil, who’s squad only contained two surviving members of the 1970 title winners, found themselves unable to breakdown Sweden’s hardened defence, though Roberto Rivellino’s role as deep-lying playmaker and captain was a breath of fresh air. In the other game, Austria eased to a 1-0 win over the Spanish, thanks to a penalty from Hans Krankl, who would join Valencia after the tournament.

In the second round of games, Austria defeated the Swedes 2-1 thanks to a brace from Walter Schachner, cancelling out Thomas Sjöberg’s opener for the Swedes. The game, a tight contest overall, hinged on a controversial decision not to penalise Austrian captain Robert Sara for a high tackle on Benny Wendt, with Sara winning the ball back (despite leaving Wendt crumpled) and hitting a long diagonal ball for Schachner to belt home. If Austria and Sweden’s game had a touch of controversy, Brazil and Spain was a deathly contest bereft of any life, with neither side fashioning much in the way of quality or chances. The result, an inevitable 0-0 draw, was decried in both countries as not befitting either of their respective football cultures, but was emblematic of a tournament which was low on goals.

In the final round, Brazil finally came into their own to see off an Austrian fightback and win 2-1 to qualify for the knockout stage alongside the Austrians, who had reached the knockout stage for the first time since 1954. Spain meanwhile finished their campaign with a 2-0 win over the Swedes, in a result which saw both teams exit at the first round.


2 June Brazil 1-1 Sweden

2 June Spain 0-1 Austria

6 June Austria 2-1 Sweden

6 June Spain 0-0 Brazil

10 June Brazil 2-1 Austria

10 June Sweden 0-2 Spain

Second Group Stage

The change in format saw the previously straight knockout quarter-finals replaced with a second group stage, which was drawn on June 11 as follows:

Group A: France, Poland, Netherlands, Brazil

Group B: Germany, Austria, Argentina, Italy

Group A

The opening game of the second round saw the Dutch and French draw 1-1 as Johnny Rep’s opener (superbly assisted by Cruijff) was cancelled out by French defender Christian Lopez, who bundled the ball home past Jan van Beveren in the Dutch goal. The game, saw Cruijff hobble off with an injury sustained in an accidental clash with Henri Michel, which brought his tournament (and international career, as he had announced he would be retiring after the finals) to a sad end.

Elsewhere, Brazil saw off Poland 3-1 with two goals from Vasco da Gama striker Roberto and a third from right-back Manoel Cabral, putting the game beyond the reach of the Poles who had taken the lead through teenager Adam Nawalka. In contrast to the group stage, these games were better attended, though the phalanx of armed police and the muted atmospheres meant that the football often felt like it had its own ethereal reality.

In the second round of fixtures, Brazil and the Dutch played out a 0-0 draw, in a game which saw two different versions of a similar tactical style cancel each other out. The Dutch, lessened by the absence of Cruijff were perhaps unlucky not to win, with Émerson Leão saving superbly from Neeskens, and a further attempt from Ruud Krol being cleared off the line, but the Brazilians clung on to earn a draw. In the other game, France beat Poland 2-1, with Michel Platini and Dider Six on the scoresheet, with Lato netting Poland’s late consolation.

In the final round, the Poles pulled off a surprise result, clinging on to beat the Dutch 3-2 with Boniek’s exquisite free-kick clinching the win in the final minutes. The game, played at a quick tempo despite the summer heat, was a classic, though the somewhat shambolic defending on display rendered it more of a basketball clash than a tight footballing contest. Nevertheless, Poland’s win meant that they and the Dutch both failed to qualify for the semi-finals, leaving France and Brazil to contest the final spot. In contrast to the helter skelter nature of the game between the Dutch and Poles, Brazil settled the game with France a by a single, if controversial goal, with Dirceu appearing to score the winner from an offside position. Despite the controversy, the result saw both sides through to the semi-finals, with France making that stage for the first time since 1958.


14 June France 1-1 Netherlands

14 June Poland 1-3 Brazil

18 June Netherlands 0-0 Brazil

18 June France 2-1 Poland

21 June Netherlands 2-3 Poland

21 June Brazil 1-0 France

Group B

On paper, a tougher group than Group A, Group B opened with the Argentines easing to a 2-0 win over Austria with Mario Kempes striking in both halves to seal the win. The game, which saw extended theatrics by both sets of players, was a scrappy affair and saw Walter Schachner and Argentine defender Alberto Tarantini sent off after a scuffle on the hour mark. The other match, a sterile, joyless contest between two sides playing pastiches of themselves saw Italy see off the Germans following a late penalty, awarded for a foul on Marco Tardelli by Bernard Dietz. The game, which saw lethargic attacks smothered by blanket defences was so dull that even the Iranian troops crammed into the running track appeared to be wilting from the boredom.

In the second round of games, Italy saw off Austria 1-0 thanks to a Paolo Rossi goal, after Austrian goalkeeper Fredi Koncilla spilled a Franco Causio cross into the striker’s path. Austria, perhaps overawed by the occasion, struggled to get into the game, and Italy held on to secure the win. Germany and Argentina played out a 2-2 draw, with Klaus Fischer and Dieter Kaster (who had set the record for most goals in a Bundesliga season in 1976/77 with 34 in 34 games) cancelling out Leopoldo Luque’s brace for the Argentines. While the game was played on a rutted pitch, which hampered attempts to play a passing game, the relatively cool temperature allowed both sides to play a more direct game, much to their strikers’ strengths.

The final round saw Italy and Argentina draw 1-1 as Mario Kempes cancelled out Roberto Bettega’s opener, in a rare moment where he was able to break away from the man-marking of Claudio Gentile to slot home. Austria, meanwhile gained some pride with a 2-1 win over their neighbours Germany, with Hans Krankl and a Berti Vogts own-goal seeing them hold on for a famous win, despite a superb consolation from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, which became immortalised in famous commentary by Edi Finger after Krankl sealed the victory in the eighty-seventh minutes (“Tor! Tor! Tor! Tor! Tor! Tor! I wer' narrisch”) to send both sides out at the second group stage.


14 June Austria 0-2 Argentina

14 June Germany 0-0 Italy

18 June Italy 1-0 Austria

18 June Argentina 2-2 Germany

21 June Argentina 1-1 Italy

21 June Austria 2-1 Germany


The semi-finals paired Brazil with Italy and France with Argentina, with both matches played in Tehran. The game between Brazil and Italy, saw the Brazilians triumph on penalties after Dirceu had equalised for Brazil, following Patrizio Sala’s first half opener for Italy. The game, which saw a slightly less cautious Italy than previously wasn’t a classic, but was compelling in its own way – though maybe less for the otherwise excellent Gaetano Scirea who missed the decisive spot kick.

In the other semi-final, Argentina eased to a 2-1 win, with José Daniel Valencia taking advantage of a rare error from French captain Marius Trésor (the first black international to captain the French side) to fire home the opener. France’s equaliser was a superb goal, Dider Six latching on to a mishit pass from Osvaldo Ardiles, to run almost the full length of the pitch before squaring for Bernard Lacombe to equalise. Argentina’s winner, a deflected shot from substitute Daniel Bertoni, was enough to see off the tiring French and send Argentina through to a third consecutive final.

In the third place playoff, France held their nerve to see off the Italians 1-0 thanks to a goal from Michel Platini to secure their best finish to a tournament since their runners-up spot in 1958.


24 June Brazil 1-1 Italy (Brazil w. 4-2 on penalties)

25 June Argentina 2-1 France)

Third-place playoff

June 27 Italy 0-1 France


The final, a re-run of the 1970 edition, was the fourth all South American final in the competition’s history and one that paired a more mechanised Brazil with a more technical Argentina. The game itself began as a farce as the two sides were prevented from taking to the pitch due to the closing ceremony (this being the first tournament to utilise one) overrunning due to part of it being organised as a military parade. Kicking off under a farce, the Brazilians initially pressed Argentina back into their own half, but were unable to make the breakthrough with Ubaldo Fillol making a string of saves to deny Gilberto Alves and Roberto the opening goal. Argentina would instead open the scoring, against the run of play through Leopoldo Luque, who skipped past the challenge of Oscar Bernardi to slot home past Émerson Leão. Despite the setback, Brazil continued to attack, but were denied by a superb clearance from Argentine captain Daniel Passarella on the stroke of half-time to keep the Argentine advantage.

Brazil would, after a sustained period of pressure, equalise through substitute Tuzico (who would move to Italy after the tournament) who drifted infield before driving the ball beyond the reach of Ubaldo Fillol. The equaliser, would take the game to extra time, and many in the press box assumed that Argentina’s history of fragility in finals would come to bear, as Brazil continued to attack in waves. And yet the Brazilians couldn’t score and would concede the winning goal in farcical fashion, as a deep cross from Ardiles was cleared by Justino Amaral to be met by Houseman, who’s pinged cross richoccheted off of several players before finding Bertoni who fired past the unsighted Émerson Leão to secure the victory for Argentina.

How then should we remember 1978? It was certainly not a classic tournament, with no real clear cut example of one side being on a different plane to everyone else as in 1970 or 1974, but there were moments of joy nonetheless – Iran’s ruling regime’s hubris, the sheer explosion of joy as Korea won their first ever match at the finals, Austria’s delirium at beating Germany in a meaningless game, and the occasional brilliance of the Dutch and French.

And yet – has any world cup been held in an environment of such disregard for basic human rights and dignity? Certainly the fascist tournaments of the 1930s, and Argentina’s own marquee in 1970 were held to the benefit of violent, autocratic regimes, but nowhere was such opulence contrasted with the brute images of authoritarianism, as the Shah’s police and military formed an unending vigil in stadiums across the tournament. Much like his huge celebration of the Persian monarchy in 1971, 1978 was a scene of endless hubris – but one that marked the apotheosis of a regime soon destined to fall into anarchy.

28 June Argentina 2-1 Brazil

[1] This was part of the 2,500 year celebration of the Iranian monarchy, an orgy of kitsch, attended by the world’s great and good, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, French Prime Minister Félix Gaillard, King Idris of Libya, King Mustafa II of Tunisia, Indian foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Malagodi. The tournament, played at the Iranian national stadium paired Santos, Benfica, an Iranian Select XI, Egyptian side Zamalek and Uruguayan side Nacional, saw Santos comfortably win. The tournament, would inspire the expansion of the Intercontinental Cup.
[2] It has been rumoured, that the deal was part of a broader Washington-led policy of supporting anti communist regimes indirectly under the Democratic and Republican administrations of John F. Kennedy and George Romney respectively, with the Soviets and their bloc supporting various communist groups in opposition.
[3] These consisted of the Trucial States, Bahrain and Qatar in a loose federation and added a further Western bulwark against the Soviet aligned (if not necessarily Arab socialist) regimes in Syria and Iraq.
[4] The pan-Arab socialist movement, despite some ideological ties to communism, was in Iraq at least, a movement that shape-shifted with the political winds, enjoying ties with both blocs in the Cold War. Iraq, following a period of instability in the 1960s, which saw various coups and counter-coups had stabilised by the 1970s under a series of civil-military governments which largely aligned with the Soviets, much to the chagrin of the Americans.
[5] The United Party, similarly, to the Liberals in Canada, dominated South African politics from the 1930s onwards, but by the 1970s were gradually splintering under internal and external pressures – while South Africa had largely liberalised on race, with the country finally reaching universal suffrage by the passing of the 1968 constitutional amendment on voter rolls, an increasingly militant trade union movements and a coalescing of black African movements on the left behind the Congress Party splintered the UP vote on the left allowing the Progressives, Labour and the ANC to pick up votes, while the right wing of the party splintered off to merger with the left-wing of the hard-right National Party to form the National Democratic Party.
[6] Though South Africa’s side was multiracial – the Wegerle brothers were both key members of the squad, while reserve goalkeeper Gary Bailey, who would move to England in 1979, would become a key player in the 1980s, while Colin Viljoen, who spent most of his career in England, captained the side.
[7] Kovács became the first foreign manager to oversee France at a major tournament – his assistant, Michel Hidalgo would take over after the tournament would build on his work to great success.
[8] Mohajerani, was a rare Iranian coach with experience outside of Asia, having spent several years as an assistant coach in Spain and Portugal, working as an assistant coach at Barcelona before taking the national job in 1975.
[9] The Germans, having qualified for the semi-finals ahead of the Soviets on goal-difference lost to Yugoslavia 3-1 and then lost to the Dutch in the bronze medal match, bringing Georg Buschner’s reign to an end.
[10] This included Hugo Sánchez who would move to Spain after the tournament, joining Athletic Club de Madrid from UNAM for a record Mexican fee of $475,000.
[11] Having defeated them to take bronze in 1974, Poland drew with the Germans in three matches played between 1974-78, including their group stage fixture in Tabriz.
[12] Fabbri had left the job in 1966 following the World Cup in England, but returned in 1968 after Valcareggi had returned to take over Fiorentina, and remained national coach until 1974, where he was succeeded (for the second time) by Valcareggi.
[13] A post-tournament report by FIFA would find that the newly built stadia’s pitches had been rushed to completion, meaning that they were often of quite poor quality.
[14] Who in 1978 had become the first African international to captain a side to FA Cup glory as Ipswich Town saw off Arsenal to win the cup for the first time.
[15] Much to the chagrin of Orlando Pirates supporters who rated their goalkeeper, the highly unorthodox Patson Banda as the best keeper in Africa. Bailey, however was a superb goalkeeper, establishing himself as an English top-flight mainstay with Manchester United and remaining South Africa’s first choice for another fourteen years.
It's closer to OTL South Africa than OTL Qatar

Lol, and lmao, even.

The pluck of Korea--perennial group-stage all-loser finally scoring a win against one of the 'traditional' greats--and South Africa--newly integrated and drawing against their former colonisers who are now world champions--does sit in stark contrast to the follies of Iran's fire-tending white elephant.
Argentina were controversial winners in OTL, benefiting from home advantage, playing all their games after the other fixture in their group, biased refereeing, the match against Peru. I'm somewhat surprised that they triumphed here, even with an easier group in the first round. I probably would have been betting on Brazil. Did Diego Maradona make the squad here? Part of the reason he was left out in OTL was that Menotti felt the pressure of a home World Cup would be too great for a 17 year-old. Here Menotti's not in charge and the World Cup is in distant Iran, so it's reasonable that Maradona travels with the squad. Even a cameo performance could alert European clubs to his existence - teenage Maradona to Madrid or Juventus?

I'm also surprised Peru do so much worse - I suppose they don't travel very well, Iranian summer being a different proposition to Argentinean winter.

Interesting to see South Africa at a tournament. The question of what a non-Apartheid state could have achieved is an interesting one. With the earlier start and more money around, South Africa could become an regional footballing superpower, a southern counterweight to the Mediterranean countries. Is [Southern] Rhodesia still a minority-rule hellhole though? Presmuably not either.
Yeah ITTL 1978 is very much a tournament where no side really stands out so the winner is essentially the last man standing, due in part to the extended format they use here for the knockout stages.

Maradona isn't in the squad due to injury but is on Argentina's radar and is very much the star man at the 1979 World Youth Championship.
I am not looking forward to when wins becomes 3 points.


I was going to say South Africa is one of the best debutants in history, but actually they're part of a sizable group that managed to get 2 points (joining Wales, Morocco, Ireland Republic, Poland, Soviets and the Netherlands), and behind England, Portugal, Costa Rica, (Italy and Czechoslovakia, if you disregard the format advantage in terms of how far into the tournament they got)

The Party at the top is tiring. Surely Brazil will suffer one day. Surely.
I am not looking forward to when wins becomes 3 points.

I was going to say South Africa is one of the best debutants in history, but actually they're part of a sizable group that managed to get 2 points (joining Wales, Morocco, Ireland Republic, Poland, Soviets and the Netherlands), and behind England, Portugal, Costa Rica, (Italy and Czechoslovakia, if you disregard the format advantage in terms of how far into the tournament they got)

The Party at the top is tiring. Surely Brazil will suffer one day. Surely.
Poor Mexico so far from God so close to conceding a 100 goals.

Just a heads up, Australia have a point, having drawn 0-0 with Israel in 1974.
Also a very quick breakdown of confederation qualifying slots for 1982 (the first 24 team tournament):

Europe - 12 teams (including hosts)
Africa - 3 teams
Asia-Pacific - 3 teams
South America - 3.5 teams (including holders)
North America - 2.5 teams

There will be several debutantes as well - Ciao Italia!
Poor Mexico so far from God so close to conceding a 100 goals.

Just a heads up, Australia have a point, having drawn 0-0 with Israel in 1974.
This is what threw me off, Somehow didn't realise that this contradicted the results when I was confirming the results.
1982 - Bella Ciao
1982 – Italy

Host selection and background

1982, despite the expanded tournament, marked a return to some normalcy, as Italy became the second country to host the tournament twice. In contrast to the widespread allegations of corruption that had soured the mood around Iran’s hosting, Italy had won largely unopposed after Greece and Turkey had withdrawn their somewhat long shot bids. Similarly to Spain eight years earlier, the Italians had a select group of stadiums ready (with some widespread refurbishments planned) as well as the construction of a new 35,000 capacity stadium in Bari.

Despite the agreed list of host cities, Italy’s often chaotic political system and the general years of militancy in the 1970s as far-left and far-right clashed with each other (with the latter often supported by members of what was termed the “deep state” opposed to any Communist involvement in government) hampered the stadium projects, with a notorious example being the failed bombing attempt on the renovations of Bologna’s stadium by a fringe neo-fascist organisation. Following a long series of negotiations, a change in electoral law to a mixed-majoritarian system enabled greater stability within Italian politics, allowing Mauro Ferri’s Socialist government, elected in 1976, and returned again in 1980 to see the projects through.

Away from the political arena, there were also concerns, particularly in the south, that the stadium renovation projects would suffer some Mafia influence, and while never conclusively proven, there were rumours that the construction of the new San Nicola stadium in Bari was overbudget due to Mafia payments. The renovation projects, were nevertheless broadly successful, and by then time of the finals Italy was ready, though the total cost greatly exceeded the original budgets, seemingly par for the course of Italian infrastructure projects. Part of the reason for the cost increase was the need for more host cities and venues than previously, as the tournament expanded to twenty-four teams from sixteen, as had been promised by Carlos Dittborn upon his ascension to the Presidency in 1974 (as part of the compromise which saw him succeed Stanley Rous.)

The tournament also took place during a period of increased hooliganism and disorder within the sport across Europe, as sporting infrastructure designed for a different era began to buckle under violence and increased strain. While initially viewed as a British problem, there was growing recognition that it was becoming an increasingly pan-European issue, with a notorious incident at the second leg of the 1979 Federation Cup final between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Red Star Belgrade where seventeen fans from both sides and hundreds of others were injured in clashes with each other and the German police. This and a general trend for disorder in both domestic and continental matches, saw an increased cooperation between police forces across the continent, and saw Italy recruit extra police for the finals itself.

1982, also saw a new format, following complaints about the sterility of the second group stage in 1978, with a round of sixteen after the group stages (composed of each group winner, runner-up and four best third placed teams) to bring back some form of knockout jeopardy. Similarly to Spain in 1974, the groups were split between the twelve venues geographically, so as to ensure limited travel and reduce the risk of hooliganism. The commercial partnerships that had become an increasing hallmark of the tournament post-1970 were also increased as virtually every consumer sector found itself represented in some form, with car manufacturers, alcohol, fashion and luxury goods, soft-drinks and consumer electronics well represented across the board in a tournament of glorious technicolour.


Italy and Argentina qualified automatically, leaving twenty-two slots to be decided. As part of the expansion, Africa and Asia-Pacific gained two additional spots to get three each, Europe had twelve, while North and South America had two automatic slots each (with the final slot to be decided via a playoff between the third-best North American side and the worst finishing South American group winner.)

In Europe, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Soviets all returned after a long absence. England, under the management of former Leeds United and Birmingham City manager Don Revie (who had previously been an England assistant in the 1960s) returned after missing out on 1978, with former manager Bill Nicholson (as FA Director of Coaching) part of Revie’s staff. Scotland also qualified, giving the finals a British tinge.[1] Belgium and Yugoslavia also returned to the finals after missing previous tournaments, giving the European qualifiers a somewhat familiar feel. Belgium’s qualification came at the expense of the Dutch, who despite the emergency return of Hendrik Cruijff[2] failed to fire and found themselves dumped out of qualifying some eight years after winning the world cup.

In the Americas, Brazil and Chile qualified comfortably (maintaining Brazil’s proud record of having never failed to qualify for the finals) while Peru saw off the challenge of Uruguay to secure the playoff spot against North America’s third best side, condemning the Uruguayans to a third straight failure to make the finals. While South America, failed to spring many surprises (with Uruguay having struggled for most of the 1970s), in the North, Honduras, Canada and El Salvador made Mexico’s usually serene path to the finals trickier than usual, with the Hondurans topping the group to win the North American Championship and qualify for the first time. Mexico’s final round victory over El Salvador saw them snatch the second spot, condemning El Salvador to the playoff with Peru which they would lose heavily.

It was Africa and the Asia-Pacific where the expansion of spots, saw some surprises as South Africa were joined by Cameroon and Algeria, two sides who had begin to make their mark on the Africa Cup, and the continent’s club competitions. Cameroon, like many postcolonial African states, a federal republic largely built around linguistic and ethnic divisions, had a number of players in former colonial power France, as did Algeria who had begin to challenge the traditional North African powers of Morocco and Egypt. In contrast to previous final rounds in Africa, which had gone down to the wire, the three sides qualified comfortably, though South Africa’s final qualifier away in Angola had to be moved to neutral Botswana due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country, as the civil war gained pace.[3]

In Asia, the political situation in Iran[4] precluded their involvement, while the Iranian regime’s wish to re-establish their previous strategic hegemony saw relations with both Iraq and the U.E.E.A decline. As a result of Iran’s absence, the Middle Eastern half of the draw was more open than in recent years, allowing Kuwait (who had long been backed with the Emirate’s financial clout) to make the final round, where they alongside Korea, topped their group to qualify for the first time. The final Asia-Pacific slot, was taken by New Zealand, who surprised Australia and the Republic of China to make the final qualifying playoff (held in Singapore) where they held on to defeat Saudi Arabia 2-1 to make the finals for the first time.[5]

Participating nations

  • Italy (hosts)
  • Argentina (holders)
  • Algeria (debut)
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Cameroon (debut)
  • Chile
  • Czechoslovakia
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Honduras (debut)
  • Hungary
  • Korea
  • Kuwait (debut)
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand (debut)
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Scotland
  • South Africa
  • Soviet Union
  • Spain
  • Yugoslavia
The draw, held in Rome on 16 January 1982, saw a new seeding system introduced, with the number of seeds reduced from eight (as had been the case for every tournament from 1954 onwards) to six with one seeded team per group. Italy as hosts, and Argentina as holders were seeded automatically, leaving three of the slots to be filled the 1978 runners-up and bronze medallists. The final two slots, were taken by Germany and Poland, though it was assumed that if the Dutch had qualified, they as the most recent European World Cup winners would’ve been seeded in place of the Poles. The draw was as follows:

Group A Italy, Spain, Honduras, Peru

Group B France, England, Mexico, Hungary

Group C Brazil, Yugoslavia, Scotland, New Zealand

Group D Germany, Czechoslovakia, Korea, Algeria

Group E Argentina, Belgium, South Africa, Kuwait

Group F Poland, Soviet Union, Chile, Cameroon

Tournament summary

Group A

Group A, hosted in Rome and Florence, paired hosts Italy with Spain, debutantes Honduras and Peru. The Italians, now coached by Enzo Bearzot who had spent the bulk of his coaching career within the Italian FA, had refreshed their side, but had suffered from the revelation of a match-fixing scandal in Serie A and Serie B, which had seen Milan relegated and several players, including Paolo Rosi banned (though most of the player sentences were reduced on appeal), which had seen Italy enter the tournament under a cloud. Spain, who had reached the quarter-finals as hosts in 1974, were a competitive side, built around a robust defence, were coached by former Uruguayan international José Santamaría, who had been a member of the 1954 championship winning side. Peru, were an aging team, but one which still had flashes of brilliance, while debutantes Honduras were largely regarded as minnows.

The opening game, between Italy and Spain, was a deathly dull 0-0 as Italy’s defence smothered Spain’s attackers, though the Spanish were perhaps unlucky to see Miguel Alonso’s goal bound effort diverted behind by the heel of Gaetano Scirea. The result, which saw widespread booing, and negative press coverage would see the beginning of Italy’s media blackout as the squad retreated from the limelight so as to combat the negativity. In the other game, held in Florence, and watched by FIFA Vice-President Artemio Franchi (a Fiorentina fan and the Italian FA President), Peru saw off a spirited Honduras thanks to a late goal from substitute Teófilo Cubillas, who rode two challenges before firing past Julio César Arzú, to secure Peru’s first win since 1970.

In the second round of fixtures, Italy, still not quite firing, despite the packed out Stadio Liberazione[6], managed to cling on to a less than impressive 1-0 victory against the Peruvians, with Alessandro Altobelli’s late winner sealing the victory. Peru, playing a more defensive style than in the 1970s had become a hard team to beat, but a more adventurous Italian side should’ve been able to ease past their aging defence. In Florence, Spain eased to a 2-1 victory over Honduras, recovering from the shock of Héctor Zelaya’s opening goal for the Hondurans, taking advantage of a Luis Arconada mistake at a corner to tap home to score Honduras’s first ever World Cup goal.

In the final round of games, Italy finally spluttered into life, a Paolo Rossi brace, and goals from Daniele Massaro, Francesco Graziani and Giancarlo Antognoni easing them to a 5-1 win over a depleted Honduras, who due to a stomach bug which had swept their camp[7] were denied a full-strength team, though their key-man Gilberto Yearwood (who based in Spain, was their only overseas international) was able to net a late consolation. Spain and Peru, played out an entertaining 2-2 draw as Peru’s veterans Percy Rojas and Teófilo Cubillas cancelled out Roberto López Ufarte’s double.[8] The result saw Spain and Italy qualify automatically for the second round, with Peru’s qualification dependent on results in other groups.


13 June Italy 0-0 Spain

14 June Peru 1-0 Honduras

18 June Italy 1-0 Peru

19 June Spain 2-1 Honduras

22 June Honduras 1-5 Italy

22 June Spain 2-2 Peru

Group B

Group B was split between Naples and Bari, and paired France, who had finished third in 1978, with England who were returning to the finals after failing to qualify in 1978, Hungary themselves returning to the finals for the first time in twelve years, and Mexico.

England, coached by former Leeds United and Birmingham City manager Don Revie (who had also worked as a part-time assistant at the 1962 and 1966 tournaments with the FA) had improved since their late 1970s nadir, but were in dreadful form going into the tournament, despite winning the 1981-82 Home Nations Championship. France, who had impressed with their technical attacking style in 1978 had a superb side, while Hungary had rebuilt and were again competitive having easily finished ahead of the English during qualifying. Only Mexico, perennial whipping boys, were viewed as not offering much.

The opening match, played in the baking evening heat of Naples, saw the French and English play out a 1-1 draw, as Revie’s decision to play a five-man midfield to counter France’s technical excellence largely worked, though it made for a stultifying spectacle, though the introduction of the gifted Spurs playmaker Glenn Hoddle, as a second-half substitute added a depth of technical quality to the English midfield, which with the exception of Ray Wilkins, was deeply workmanlike. Revie’s decision to stick with Ray Clemence was also vindicated as the veteran goalkeeper twice saved from Michel Platini to preserve the point. The other match, played in Bari’s new stadium (a glorious architectural achievement, but one that works due to it’s limited capacity) saw Hungary add further to Mexico’s miserable world cup record, as a hat-trick from substitute László Kiss, alongside goals from captain Tibor Nyilasi, Gábor Pölöskei and Sándor Müller saw the Hungarians crush Mexico 6-1, with the Mexicans unable to deal with Hungary’s physicality, continuing Mexico’s dreadful record at the finals.

The second round of matches saw England ease to a 2-0 win over Mexico, as the English struggled to find much fluidity in the summer heat. Mexico, improved from their shellacking at the hands of Hungary, were a limited threat though Hugo Sánchez, their key player (and one world-class performer) operated on a different wavelength and caused issues for England’s defence, though the decision of Revie to have Viv Anderson curb his natural attacking game and instead man-mark Sánchez reduced his influence over the course of the match.[9] Revie’s decision to deploy Hoddle from the start, also allowed England’s midfield to gradually get a hold of the game, and if it hadn’t been for a superb display by José Pilar Reyes in the Mexican goal (including a brilliant point blank reaction to deny Kevin Keegan) the score probably would have been more. France and Hungary played out a 1-1 draw in Naples, with Hungary’s Gábor Pölöskei, cancelling out Gérard Soler’s opener. The game, while not a classic, did see one moment of incredible quality, as Internazionale’s Michel Platini, skipped past two challenges before delicately chipping a pass into the path of Dider Six, who’s shot was saved by Hungarian goalkeeper Ferenc Mészáros.

The final round of games saw England defeat Hungary 2-1, with Trevor Francis, Britain’s first one-million-pound player, scoring a brace after László Fazekas’s surprise opener. Despite the victory, England were more pedestrian than brilliant, though the ability to ground out results was something they’d lost in the post-Nicholson era. Nevertheless, the game was memorable, from an English perspective at least, for an excellent assist from Ray Wilkins, who’s perfectly weighted lob caught out the Hungarian offside trap and allowed Francis to fire home. In the other game, France eased to a 3-0 victory over Mexico whose poor record at the finals continued.[10] The result saw France and England through as the top two teams in the group, with Hungary waiting to see if their results were enough to secure qualification to the next-stage for the first time since 1966.


16 June France 1-1 England

17 June Hungary 6-1 Mexico

20 June England 2-0 Mexico

21 June France 1-1 Hungary

25 June England 2-1 Hungary

25 June Mexico 0-3 France

Group C

The third group, played in Turin and Genoa, paired two-times champions Brazil, with the technically excellent, but often inconsistent Yugoslavia, Scotland and debutantes New Zealand. Brazil, had changed style from 1978, appointing Telê Santana, who had won a series of league titles in the 1970s with a technical, passing style of style play – Brazil’s highly technical midfield flourished in the 1979 South American Championship, winning the trophy for the first time in thirty years, raising hopes that after two tournaments of highly mechanised football, Brazil might be champions. Yugoslavia, who had had an inconsistent decade in the 1970s had a strong side, coached by Miljan Miljanić, who had led the side in 1974.[11] Scotland, under the stewardship of former Celtic manager Jock Stein, were a solid side with more creativity than some of their previous squads, while New Zealand, coached by former Yugoslav assistant Milan Ribar, were a competitive if somewhat limited side.[12]

In the opening round of fixtures, Brazil and Yugoslavia played out a game of technical excellence, with the Brazilians eventually triumphing 2-1, thanks to two late goals, the second of which from captain Sócrates Brasileiro, was a superb goal, drifting in-field and volleying the ball beyond the reach of Ratko Svilar. Despite the victory, Yugoslavia played well, with Safet Sušić shading the creative midfield battle, setting up their opener in the first half for Velimir Zajec to head home. Despite the quality on display, the game was also notable for an injury suffered by Paulo Roberto Falcão, which left Brazil with an unbalanced midfield. Scotland and New Zealand, grouped together in Genoa, played out a thriller, which while lower on quality, did not lack for entertainment, as Scotland nearly threw away a two-goal cushion to eventually win 3-2. The game, played at a fast pace saw Kiwi teenager Wynton Rufer nearly seal immortality only for Alan Rough in the Scottish goal to deflect the ball clear.

The second round of matches saw Brazil take the Scots apart 4-1, with their fluid midfield proving too much for the Scots to handle in the second half, though Scotland had taken a surprise lead through veteran Kenny Dalglish. Brazil’s second goal, which saw Éder Aleixo dink home following a move that saw seventeen completed passes was later voted goal of the tournament, and with Scotland flagging in the face of the yellow wave, two late goals settled the tie decisively in Brazil’s favour. In Genoa, Yugoslavia eased to a 2-1 victory over New Zealand, who were perhaps unfortunate to have a penalty claim for handball turned down, while Yugoslavia’s goal came from an arguably offside position, a recurring issue for smaller nations at the finals.[13]

In the final round, Brazil scoring twice in either half, blew the New Zealanders away with a display of attacking virtuosity, as Sócrates Brasileiro scored twice and set up the other two (including one for Brazil’s much maligned battering-ram forward Sérgio Bernardino) to see the Brazilians ease into the second round with a perfect record, averaging just over three goals a game. In Turin, Scotland and Yugoslavia played out a see-saw 2-2 draw, with Ivan Gudelj’s seemingly late winner cancelled out by Graeme Souness to see the two sides finish level on points.

New Zealand300339-60

14 June Brazil 2-1 Yugoslavia

15 June Scotland 3-2 New Zealand

18 June Scotland 1-4 Brazil

19 June New Zealand 1-2 Yugoslavia

23 June Scotland 2-2 Yugoslavia

23 June Brazil 4-0 New Zealand

Group D

Group D, split between Milan and Bologna, was contested by Germany, Czechoslovakia who were returning to the finals after a lengthy absence, debutantes Algeria and Korea. Germany, under the management of Udo Lattek, who had enjoyed great success at club level were European champions, having triumphed over Czechoslovakia in 1980, while the Czechoslovaks, were hoping to convert their strong record at continental level onto the world stage. Korea, who had become the first Asian side to win a game at the finals, four years prior were a competitive side, while Algeria, had a strong core of European-based players (predominantly based in former colonial power France, as Algeria took advantage of FIFA’s rule changes on eligibility and were in strong form going into the finals, having finished third at the 1982 Africa Cup and warming up with a series of draws against Eastern European opposition.

The opening round of games saw Algeria pull off a surprise, holding onto a late lead, despite taking a battering, to cling on to a famous victory over the Germans. Algeria’s winner came from a piece of inspiration from Rabah Madjer, who on as a substitute, flicked the ball over the head of Hans-Pieter Briegel before dinking the ball into the path of Abdelmajid Bourebbou, who volleyed past the prone Harald Schumacher. The result, at a time of increasing economic problems, due to a botched liberalisation effort, saw widespread joy erupt in Algiers. In the other match, Czechoslovakia eased to a 2-0 victory over Korea, with Tomáš Kříž scoring both goals, in a game where poaching instinct made up for the general lack of chances.

In the second round of games, Germany recovered from their shock defeat to beat Korea 4-1, aided by an error-strewn performance from the usually reliable Cho Byung-deuk in goal, who gifted two goals due to handling errors and gave away a penalty after upending Horst Hrubesch. The game, despite the scoreline, is infamous for a racist gesture from the German bench to Korean star man Cha Bum-kun (who himself played in Germany) resulting in widespread condemnation within Germany, if little censure from FIFA itself. Algeria, meanwhile, were brought down to earth by Czechoslovakia who won 3-1, thanks to a superb midfield performance from captain Antonín Panenka, who dictated the play from a deep lying role, setting up all three Czechoslovak goals with deft passing play. Although able to claw a consolation back through Paris FC’s Mustapha Dahleb, the Algerians looked spent after their efforts against Germany.

In the final round of fixtures, Algeria beat Korea 1-0, thanks to a goal from Lakhdar Belloumi, who powered a header home from Dahleb’s corner, though Korea were aggrieved that their late equaliser was ruled out for a less than obvious foul on Noureddine Kourichi in the build-up. Germany, who had struggled in their opening game, before improving somewhat against Korea, won 2-0 against a surprisingly subpar Czechoslovakia, who rested several players, perhaps with an eye on the second round. The result, ensured that all three European teams finished on four points, a genuine rarity.[14]


16 June Germany 1-2 Algeria

17 June Czechoslovakia 2-0 Korea

20 June Germany 4-1 Korea

21 June Algeria 1-3 Czechoslovakia

24 June Czechoslovakia 0-2 Germany

24 June Korea 0-1 Algeria

Group E

Group E paired holders Argentina with a Belgian side blessed with a superb generation, South Africa and Middle Eastern debutantes Kuwait, who had taken advantage of Iran’s absence (as well as very generous state funding) to qualify. Argentina, now coached by 1978 assistant César Luis Menotti, had refreshed their squad with Diego Maradona, the star man of the 1979 World Youth Cup, becoming a key player.[15] Belgium, returning to the finals after a long absence, had a superb squad, finishing runners-up in the 1980 European Nations Cup and comfortably knocking out their neighbours (and 1974 champions) the Netherlands in qualifying for Italia ’82. South Africa, retained a strong core, with veteran Colin Viljoen still captaining the side, which contained several British-based players. Kuwait were the main unknowns, though they had established a coaching setup with strong ties to Europe, thanks to increasing sporting ties between the Middle Eastern monarchies and their European allies.

In the opening round of games, Belgium held on to a 1-0 win over Argentina, thanks to a thunderbolt from West Ham United winger François Van der Elst, who had come on as a substitute. Despite their array of talent, the Argentines found it hard to break down Belgium’s 3-5-2 formation, with Maradona in particular growing increasingly frustrated at Argentina’s lack of cutting edge. In the other game, South Africa beat Kuwait 2-1, thanks to goals from Nelson Dlada and Brian Stein after Faisal Al-Dakhil gave Kuwait an early lead in Verona. The game, is memorable for two moments of racist abuse, directed at players from both sides, as monkey chants provided the backdrop, giving an indication of the growing militarisation of terraces across Europe, as radical and criminal movements began to establish firmer ties within fan groups.

The second round of games saw Argentina improve to beat South Africa 3-0 in Udine, as Maradona revelled in the space afforded him by South Africa’s high defensive line, to score the opener and set up the second for Mario Kempes, before substitute Jorge Valdano bundled the third home from a corner, despite protests from Gary Bailey that he was fouled in the build-up, following a clash in midair with Daniel Bertoni. In Verona, Belgium eased to a 2-0 win over Kuwait, with goals in either half from Alexandre Czerniatynski settling the game. The match, despite Belgium’s routine win, remains infamous in World Cup history for a half hour delay in the second half starting as the Kuwaiti team had to be persuaded out for the second half following an intense debate from the Kuwaiti FA head and the officials.

In the final round Argentina cruised to a 4-1 win over Kuwait, with goals from Daniel Passarella, Bertoni and a brace from Ramón Díaz seeing them through, as Kuwait wilted, despite a late consolation goal from Abdullah Al-Buloushi. Belgium and South Africa played out a 1-1 draw with Jomo Sono’s late equaliser rescuing a point for South Africa after Jan Ceulemans opener. Sono, who had become one of the star players in the American Soccer League, would in a twist of fate, move to Anderlecht following the tournament.

South Africa311135-23

16 June Argentina 0-1 Belgium

17 June South Africa 2-1 Kuwait

20 June Argentina 3-0 South Africa

21 June Belgium 2-0 Kuwait

25 June Kuwait 1-4 Argentina

25 June Belgium 1-1 South Africa

Group F

The final group, split between Sardinia and Sicily, paired Poland and the Soviets, at a time of increasing tensions within the Warsaw Bloc, with South American side Chile and African debutantes Cameroon, who similarly to Algeria had several players based in France.

Poland, who were enjoying a period of sustained international success, due to a superb generation of players, saw off the Soviet Union 2-1, thanks to goals from Włodzimierz Smolarek and Andrzej Buncol cancelling out Andriy Bal’s opener, giving the Poles a first win over the Soviets in nearly thirty years. The game, taking place during a period of increasing dissent within Poland towards the country’s communist regime[16] saw Poles defying suppression of movement laws to celebrate the result. In the other match, Cameroon and Chile played out the dullest match of the round, as neither side could fashion much in the way of chances, with the game finishing 0-0.

In the second round of games, the Soviets improved to beat Chile 3-0, with Dynamo Kyiv’s Oleg Blokhin scoring a second half brace to the put the game beyond the reach of the South Americans, whose poor record at European tournaments continued. Cameroon, built around a strong defence, negated Poland’s attacking menace, with a display of defensive doggedness which would’ve made an Italian proud, with Michel Kaham man-marking the Zbigniew Boniek out of the game, with the Cameroonian efforts seeing them applauded off the pitch at the end, despite having had to face the usual chorus of monkey chants which greeted black players across Europe.

In the final round of games, the Soviets and Cameroon drew 1-1 with Albert Milla scoring a late equaliser to net Cameroon’s first ever goal at the finals, after the Soviets had taken the lead through Aleksandre Chivadze, after the usually unflappable Thomas N'Kono made a hash of a cross from Yuri Gavrilov and spilled the ball in Chivadze’s path. In the other match in Palermo, Poland eased to a 3-1 win over Chile, with Grzegorz Lato scoring a hat-trick after Carlos Caszely had opened the scoring for Chile against the run of play, with the result seeing Poland top the group.

Soviet Union311153+23

14 June Poland 2-1 Soviet Union

15 June Chile 0-0 Cameroon

18 June Soviet Union 3-0 Chile

19 June Cameroon 0-0 Poland

23 June Poland 3-1 Chile

23 June Soviet Union 1-1 Cameroon

Ranking of third placed teams

ESouth Africa311135-23

The new format for the finals, which saw the four best third-place finishing teams from the group stage join the top two finishers in a straight knockout round of sixteen necessitated a new drawing system for the eight second round matches, which were drawn following the conclusion of the group stage on June 26 in Rome. The draw was as follows:

Match 1 – A1 vs. D3 – Italy vs. Algeria (Rome)

Match 2 – B2 vs. F2 – France vs. Soviet Union (Naples)

Match 3 – E1 vs. D2 – Belgium vs. Czechoslovakia (Bari)

Match 4 – C1 vs. B3 – Brazil vs. Hungary (Milan)

Match 5 – D1 vs. A3 – Germany vs. Peru (Genoa)

Match 6 – A2 vs. C2 – Spain vs. Yugoslavia (Turin)

Match 7 – F1 vs. E2 – Poland vs. Argentina (Verona)

Match 8 – B1 vs. F3 – England vs. Cameroon (Bologna)

Round of Sixteen

The opening match in Rome paired the hosts with surprise packages Algeria, who had pulled off the shock of the tournament with their victory over Germany in Milan in the first round. While many were hoping for lightning to strike twice, Italy who had somewhat flattered to deceive in the group stages, found their groove to ease to a 3-1 win, with Paolo Rossi scoring twice to settle any nerves after Salah Assad had equalised for Algeria against the run of play, after a rare error from Italian captain Dino Zoff. The victory, in front of a capacity crowd in Rome, saw the Italian squad break their media silence to celebrate the result.

In Naples, France, who had spluttered during the group stages, met the Soviets in a game hampered by Naples’s summer heat, despite the match kicking off in the evening. The game, played at a subdued pace appeared to be heading to a penalty shootout before Alain Giresse’s late strike settled the tie in the final minutes of extra-time. The game saw the Soviets left aggrieved by the decision not to award a goal to Khoren Oganesian after his shot appeared to cross the line before being cleared by Marius Trésor, with the referee adding further fuel to the Soviets anger by overruling his linesman.[17]

In Bari, Belgium and Czechoslovakia played out a classic, with the game see-sawing as both sides took, lost and retook the lead, before Belgium eventually triumphed 3-2 thanks to a late winner from Ludo Coeck, who headed home from veteran Wilfried Van Moer’s floated freekick. The match, which saw a superb goal from winger Marián Masný, who burst through two tackles before burying the ball beyond the reach of Jean-Marie Pfaff in the Belgian goal. Belgium’s win saw them reach the knockout stages for the first time since 1930.

Brazil, who had been the best side to watch in the group stages, proved far too strong for Hungary, seeing off the former powers 4-0, thanks to two penalties as Hungary found themselves unable to deal with Brazil’s fluid midfield, with the Hungarians indebted to veteran goalkeeper Ferenc Mészáros for keeping the score down. Brazil’s victory, saw a superb goal from Tuzico, who drifting inside, flicked the ball over two Hungarian markers, exchanged a one-two pass with Antônio Cerezo before drilling the ball from the edge of the area out of the reach of Mészáros to add gloss to a superb performance.

In Genoa, Germany who had improved after being shocked by the Algerians in their opening match, eased to a 2-0 victory over Peru, with goals from Pierre Littbarski and the maverick Paul Breitner, a Marxist whose frequent comments on German politics and society drew the ire of the more conservative elements of the German press.[18] The game, while a fairly routine German win, marked the end of several international careers for Peru, including Teófilo Cubillas, captain Héctor Chumpitaz and Percy Rojas, seeing the end of a generation which had brought a sustained period of success to the Andean nation.

Facing each other in Turin, Yugoslavia held on to a late goal in extra-time to knockout Spain from substitute Stjepan Deverić, who was making his debut in doing so. The game, while not a classic, had a degree of tension as both sides cancelled each other out in a display of mutual neuroticism.[19] The game, which had seen Enrique Saura’s scuffed shot equalise for Spain after Vladimir Petrović had given the Yugoslavs the lead after a mix-up between Luis Arconada and Andoni Goikoetxea left an unguarded net. Yugoslavia’s winner, after the ball had ricocheted from a failed clearance summarised the quality on display.

Argentina and Poland, meeting in a re-run of 1974, saw the champions lose on penalties after a sterile game of mutual paranoia rendered any thoughts of a contest muted as Maradona, who had enjoyed a somewhat subpar tournament was marked out of the game by Polish captain Władysław Żmuda. The game, which saw few chances, went to penalties with Argentina’s decisive kick blazed over the bar by the usually reliable Passarella to send the champions out at the second round.

The final match, pairing England, who had been consistent if not spectacular in the group stages, with Cameroon who had qualified for the group stages with a rock-solid defence, was a classic, with England coming back from a surprise Cameroonian opener scored from Paul Bahoken to win 2-1 thanks to two goals from Bryan Robson, who’s box-to-box midfield performance won the tie, though a late save from Clemence ensured England won the tie, much to the joy of the watching England fans who were somewhat outnumbered by locals backing the underdogs from West Africa.[20]


28 June Italy 3-1 Algeria

28 June France 1-0 Soviet Union (a.e.t)

29 June Belgium 3-2 Czechoslovakia

29 June Brazil 4-0 Hungary

30 June Germany 2-0 Peru

30 June Spain 1-2 Yugoslavia (a.e.t)

1 July Poland 0-0 Argentina (Poland 4-2 Argentina on penalties)

1 July England 2-1 Cameroon


The quarter-finals paired hosts Italy with France, favourites Brazil with Belgium, Germany with Yugoslavia and Poland and England, in a round dominated by European sides.

The opening game between Italy and France was a classic, with the Italian defence pitted against France’s technically gifted midfield. Italian defender Claudio Gentile, a man-marker almost without peer was pitted against Michel Platini, and marked him out of the game by fair means or foul, in a display of defensive brilliance rarely seen on the world stage.[21] Paolo Rossi, who had emerged as Italy’s main attacking threat opened the scoring through a cross from Antonio Cabrini, leaving Jean-Luc Ettori no chance. Italy’s second goal, from an error from Jean Tigana, seemed to put them in control, before two quick-fire goals from Didier Six restored parity. As the French grew increasingly into the game, Italy were indebted to Dino Zoff for a superb double save to keep the scores equal. With the match seemingly heading to extra-time, it was left to Paolo Rossi to fire home the winner after a poor clearance from the otherwise excellent Manuel Amoros to send Italy through and a deflated France home. In contrast to the thriller in Rome, Brazil eased to a 3-1 win over Belgium, with Brazil’s intricate midfield play too strong for the Belgians, with the game over as a contest by the hour mark thanks to three quick-fire Brazil goals, as the Belgians struggled to contain Brazil’s fluidity, as the Brazilians continued their generally brilliant recent record at the finals (having made the final twice in the 1970s.)

In Milan, Germany’s functionality saw them ease to a 1-0 win over the Yugoslavs, in a game marred by bad tempers and poor officiating as the German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher flattened Yugoslav substitute Predrag Pašić without punishment, requiring Pašić to be substituted himself some ten minutes after coming on. Yugoslavia, having a late equaliser ruled out for a foul on Schumacher by Vahid Halilhodžić added insult to injury, and led to claims of conspiracy in the Balkans, as the Germans marched on. In Naples, England’s tournament came to an end as their pedestrian midfield, shorn of Ray Wilkins due to injury and seeing Bryan Robson hobble off after half-an-hour following a pulled hamstring, struggled to create anything, despite Revie’s late introduction of Glenn Hoddle. Poland’s victory, inspired by Zbigniew Boniek who settled the tie with a deft chip over Ray Clemence, brought Revie’s reign as England manager to a sad end.[22]


4 July Italy 3-2 France

4 July Belgium 1-3 Brazil

5 July Germany 1-0 Yugoslavia (ae.t)

5 July Poland 1-0 England

Semi finals

The semi-finals paired Italy with Brazil and Germany with Poland, with the Italians facing Brazil in Naples, and Germany and Poland hosted in Turin. The first semi-final was a classic, with Brazil triumphing thanks to a late winner from Éder Aleixo to win the tie 4-3 as Italy, perhaps uncharacteristically, played a gung-ho style, in an attempt to counter Brazil’s midfield excellence. The game, which saw a second consecutive hat-trick from Paolo Rossi, who would sadly never quite hit the same heights internationally again, appeared to be heading Italy’s way before Sócrates Brasileiro, Brazil’s captain and a player of extraordinary brilliance, played a perfectly weighted cross foe Aleixo to run onto, firing the ball past Dino Zoff to settle the tie and send Brazil into a second consecutive final.

In the other game, Germany’s functional style ground out a result, as their defence nullified the unpredictable Grzegorz Lato. Poland were further hampered by the absence of Boniek who had received a one game suspension after picking up a third yellow card in the quarter-final with England. As a result, Germany eased to a 2-0 win, with Klaus Fischer belying his age (but not his poaching ability) scoring both after coming on as a substitute for Bernd Schuster, who had been surprisingly underutilised during the finals.[23]

The third place playoff saw Italy defeat Poland 2-0 to finish third, as a side which had played more joyfully than had been expected reconnected with their fanbase following the match fixing revelation of 1980.


8 July Italy 3-4 Brazil (a.e.t.)

8 July Germany 2-0 Poland

Third-place playoff

10 July Italy 2-0 Poland


The final, pitted the tournaments most eye catching side in Brazil, who’s free flowing football caught the global imagination with the side’s most consistent team, who had ground out result after result to make the final, shock defeat to Algeria notwithstanding.

The final, held in Rome and watched by a global record audience of some 1.3bn people, was the first to pit two former champions against each other, with the 1958 and 1970 victors facing the 1962 champions. Most people expected Brazil’s fluidity to seize the day, though Germany’s “tournament mentality”, which saw them consistently reach the final stages of international tournaments was not to be discounted.

The final, while not a classic was not light on drama, with the goalless first half seeing a number of chances and half chances. Lattek’s decision to start Bernd Schuster and Felix Magath in midfield, as a playmaking duumvirate and revert to a four-man defence, with Paul Breitner reverting to left-back ahead of Hans-Peter Briegel, had been met with surprise in Germany, with most commentators expecting the Brazilians to overpower Germany’s lighter midfield. In contrast, Germany’s greater mobility on the ball caused Brazil problems, as did the battering ram forward play of Klaus Fischer and Horst Hrubesch, with Brazil’s defence unable to cope, as Lattek had noted in their difficulties in dealing with Paolo Rossi in the semi-finals.

The match itself was largely over as a contest by the seventy-seventh minute, as Fischer, having given Luiz Carlos Ferreira, who had otherwise enjoyed an excellent tournament a torrid time, bullying him in the air and on the ground to score twice, though the second goal was aided by a mistake from Waldir Peres, who miskicked a clearance straight to Fischer who fired home. The second goal, is particularly famous in Germany for the appearance on television of President Annemarie Renger, the first woman to hold the position, wagging her finger at the TV cameras from the stands in a playful gesture. Despite a late flurry from Brazil, including a late goal from Carlos Renato, Germany held on, with Schuster scoring the third and final goal in the eighty-ninth minute to ensure German delirium.

How then should 1982 be remembered? Certainly compared to its immediate predecessor, it was a much better tournament, with three great sides in Brazil, France and the hosts, as well as several classic matches, and the joy of debutantes Algeria and Cameroon both making a case for African football in making the knockout stages. And yet this a tournament, where the winning side, a largely functional team with the ability to grind out results triumphed, though it should be said that in Udo Lattek they did have a superb coach and mentality to win, While blighted by monkey charting and intimidatory policing from the heavy-handed Italian state, the finals were more joyous than perhaps expected as the World Cup passed without major off-field incident.


11 July Brazil 1-3 Germany

[1] Scotland were perhaps lucky to qualify, securing the point necessary with a blatantly handled goal against Israel in Tel Aviv.
[2] Cruijff, like his contemporary George Best, had a somewhat itinerant career after leaving Barcelona, spending a season in the ASL with the Los Angeles Aztecs, before moving to Dordrecht in the Netherlands, Levante in Spain and in a surprise move Second Division side Leicester City, where he faced off with George Best, who had swapped Fulham for Chelsea. With Allan Simonsen playing for Charlton the English second tier had a claim to having more Ballon D’Or winners than any other in Europe.
[3] South Africa’s own involvement, despite constant cadging from the Americans, was largely cosmetic, with South Africa supplying surplus weaponry to the Democratic Front which was backed by the US and Congolese governments in opposition to the Soviet aligned government which had emerged in the aftermath of the Portuguese withdrawal. Despite pressure, the South African government of Colin Eglin, which had won re-election in 1981, refused to allow the Washington backed rebels use of South-West Africa as a staging post, for fears of potential domestic spillover.
[4] Long simmering resentment against the Shah’s rule burst into the open in the tail end of 1978, and a period known as the Anarchy saw long suppressed groups, including Communists, Islamists and Secular Liberals vie for control. None of these, however, were as well organised as the army who after several months of parliamentary deadlock and failure to agree a new constitution, staged a coup and established a new junta which formed a Regency Council (essentially continuing the imperial state without the Shah.) While less autocratic, and ending some of the worst excesses of the later 1970s, the new junta were no less authoritarian in leanings than their predecessors.
[5] New Zealand’s qualification, alongside the national cricket team becoming competitive, managed to briefly unseat the national rugby side for press attention and oxygen, a feat only sporadically achieved since.
[6] Including Crown Prince Victor Emmanuel, a controversial figure within Italy, for his frequent pronouncements on politics and society.
[7] The Hondurans, due in part to cost, were one of the last sides to make it to Italy, and were staying in fairly basic accommodation with limited cooking facilities, upon which the bug was blamed.
[8] López Ufarte, was, in contrast to previous decades where the Spanish FA naturalised numerous foreign players for the national team, the only non-Spanish born member of the squad, having been born and raised in Morocco by Spanish parents. Despite overtures from the Moroccan FA, he declared for Spain, and made his debut in 1977.
[9] Anderson, becoming the third non-white English international and second black England international to feature at the World Cup after Paul Reaney in 1970, at a time of heightened racial tension in Britain was often viewed as a watershed, though in many ways it marked the growing recognition within British football that BAME players were an increasingly important part of the game in Britain. Outside of England, Scotland had taken Paul Wilson to the 1974 and 1978 finals.
[10] Mexico’s poor record at the finals would see the government support a programme to overhaul the country’s youth and senior football teams, resulting in the side becoming much more competitive on the global stage.
[11] Miljanić’s appointment in 1980 coincided with the death of former President and Supreme Leader Josip Broz Tito, who was succeeded as President by Edvard Kardelj – his first game, a friendly with the Soviet Union cementing the long-growing détente between the two former rivals, with Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov in attendance.
[12] Similarly to their Australian neighbours, the New Zealand side contained some players with overseas experience including former Brentford midfielder Brian Turner and Norwich City teenager Wynton Rufer, who would move to Switzerland following the tournament. The squad itself had a significant number of overseas-born (largely British) internationals. Billy McClure, who had become the first overseas international in Iran in 1977 was, alongside Rufer, the only member of the squad to play outside of Australasia, playing for Greek side PAOK Salonika.
[13] While FIFA’s technical reports had long shown that the quality of refereeing was genuinely high, the scale of inconsistent decisions often going in favour of more established nations, was becoming an increasing bugbear at FIFA’s various congresses.
[14] David Lacey, The Guardian’s main football correspondent, would describe the group as prosaic but one that remained compelling due to each team’s respective strengths and failings.
[15] Maradona, who had begun his career with Argentinos Juniors, was one of the rare beasts, who played for both River Plate and Boca Juniors, joining the former before their financial problems, saw him rejoin Argentinos who sold him after a season to Boca, thus circumventing selling him directly.
[16] The Eastern Bloc had seen a greater liberalisation in the 1970s, as the Soviets as part of a period of economic liberalisation and greater freedom (while still maintaining stricter party control) had largely allowed greater autonomy for the Warsaw Pact members, resulting in greater expressions of dissent within the Eastern European bloc. However, there were countermovement’s against this, with alarm in the Polish military and state security apparatuses at the growth of anti-regime movements which had coalesced into a broader front. With the Soviets declining to deploy troops, but covertly increasing troop build-up in the border regions, the Polish military assumed control of the party and government under the troika of Józef Użycki, Florian Siwicki and Wojciech Jaruzelski.
[17] Whilst no evidence of wrongdoing has ever been found, the referee Germany’s Adolf Prokop, was stood down from the next round.
[18] Breitner, who had begun his career with Bayern Munich, had a somewhat itinerant career, playing in Spain, Italy and France for various clubs, before returning to Bayern in the 1980s.
[19] Both Spain and Yugoslavia had well deserved reputations for being brittle, self-doubt often getting in the way of victory.
[20] England’s victory, coincided with a series of high-level European meetings hosted in Rome, with British PM Dennis Healey meeting the squad at their base in Emilia-Romagna during the tournament.
[21] For all the disquiet over Italy’s defensive game, their defence had supreme technical ability, with the Italian side broadly comfortable with using the ball, as opposed to the traditional view of a blood-and-thunder British centre-back.
[22] Revie, who had long wanted to return to club football, had agreed with the FA that he would step down after the conclusion of the tournament, with Bill Nicholson taking temporary charge until a permanent successor could be found.
[23] Schuster had suffered an injury in Germany’s final warm-up match with Austria, and while he was still selected for the tournament, he was largely used as an impact substitute by Udo Lattek until the knockout stages.
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Will say writing this update really did confirm my feelings on 24 team tournaments being stupid, working out the 2nd round was torture.
I really don't know anyone who would like them? It must be miserable for the teams involved having to go "Well we'll see if we make it I guess? I think we had a pretty good performance despite being 3rd" and the organisers have to waste valuable time that could be used swimming in their money pools to make the system for how you determine the top 3 teams.

And that's leaving the viewer experience of "who knows" aside entirely.
I really don't know anyone who would like them? It must be miserable for the teams involved having to go "Well we'll see if we make it I guess? I think we had a pretty good performance despite being 3rd" and the organisers have to waste valuable time that could be used swimming in their money pools to make the system for how you determine the top 3 teams.

And that's leaving the viewer experience of "who knows" aside entirely.
Tbf the actual 1982 format was a lot worse, what with 12 teams divided into groups of 3.
A surprise to me that Italy were unable to win on home turf - presumably not having the second group stage ends up penalising them to some extent. I would have fancied a stifling England team to overcome Poland too, but a tight 1-0 seems right. I wonder who'll be manager come 1986. I noticed that all the players mentioned in the post were West Germans. I suppose this is helped by the relative population density and wealth of the west versus the east even before the Cold War. Surely a space for Wolf-Rüdiger Netz somewhere?

PS, you say of group D that "all three European teams finished on four points", but one of these is Algeria.