World Cup 1978

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  • Story of Argentina '78

        The World Cup came back to South America for the first time since 1962. FIFA awarded the tournament to Argentina, but the country had suffered under a brutal military dictatorship headed by General Videla over the recent couple of years. Thousands of people had been killed and even Omar Actis, president of the World Cup Organizing Committee, was assassinated by the guerrillas. Scepticism increased among the qualified nations and many feared for their safety, but the junta guaranteed there would be no violence during the tournament. West German captain Berti Vogts stated after the World Cup he never saw any signs that Argentina was ruled by dictatorship. The tournament went by without a major incident of violence.

        Some of the greatest stars in the game bowed out of various reasons from the World Cup. Franz Beckenbauer had quit the international game shortly before, and Johan Cruyff and Paul Breitner refused to go because of the political situation in Argentina, but there were plenty of other stars ready to fill in for them. Hans Krankl,Teofilio Cubillas, Paolo Rossi, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Kenny Dalglish and Johan Neeskens made appearances with class that thrilled the spectators.

        But the most sparkling star of them all was Mario Alberto Kempes - the host nation's own hero and only foreign based player called up by coach Menotti. After a slow start Kempes began scoring in the vital matches in the second phase and scored twice and set up the third goal when Argentina beat the Netherlands in the final. Also Fillol's great goalkeeping, Passarella's leadership in defence and Ardiles' tireless running contributed to Argentina's first World Cup triumph. This was something Argentina had been waiting for ever since 1930 when they lost to Uruguay in the inaugural World Cup Final across the Rio de la Plata.

        The Netherlands once again ended up losing the final to a host nation. This time by the smallest of margins. Rob Rensenbrink's long outstretched leg almost brought Buenos Aires to silence in injury-time when his effort went against the post at 1-1. It would have been Rensenbrink's sixth goal in the series and enough to earn him the World Cup trophy and Golden Boot instead of Kempes. The trophy stayed in Argentina. The Dutch didn't qualify again for a World Cup until 1990.

        Italy appeared with many young emerging stars who would peak four years later in Spain, but also in Argentina they showed their capacity by beating the hosts and eventual winners in a first round match. France too had a young and promising side, but grouped with both Italy and Argentina, advancement to the next phase looked difficult from the start and became too tough in the end. France would also come back stronger in 1982.

        Brazil went home undefeated although their football wasn't as memorable as earlier editions. Rivelino had one last outing, but wasn't efficient and Zico spent much time on the bench, but Nelinho and Dirceu impressed with free-kicks and long range shooting - a Brazilian speciality over the years. Argentina's suspicious 6-0 demolition of Peru, meant Brazil missed out on a place in the final by goaldifference.

        Tunisia made history by becoming the first African nation to win a match in the World Cup finals when they beat Mexico 3-1. It was an important step in the right direction for African football after Za´re's poor showing four years earlier. Tunisia later held defending champions West Germany to a goalless draw, but it wasn't enough for advancement to Phase Two.

        Reaching Phase Two had been a nightmare for Scotland as well - once again Britain's sole representative in the finals. Once again a talented Scottish side had to go home after three first round matches. Only one point picked up after the games against Peru and Iran virtually killed Scottish dreams, but Ally's Army finished on a high note with a 3-2 win over the Netherlands including Archie Gemmill's fabulous solo-goal, the best of the tournament. The same match also featured the 1000th goal in World Cup history scored by Dutchman Rob Rensenbrink on a penalty.

        Argentina '78 was staged virtually without hiccups, but the match schedule needed to be modernized for Spain '82. Too many matches were played simultaneously in Argentina thus avoiding maximum live TV-audience world-wide. There was also time to scrap the 16-team format and increase the number of competing nations to 24. FIFA had plenty of new challenges to deal with over the next four years. Some were handled well, some were not.





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