1982 Spain

With Zico and Falcao to the fore
The Brazilians were certain to score

But to stop Paolo Rossi
Would have taken a posse
So the Italians were in the last four.

The 1982 tournament had just about everything:

  • the first ever World Cup penalty shootout;
  • blatant match fixing;
  • an Emir coming on the pitch to remonstrate with a referee;
  • assault and battery on the pitch;
  • classic poaching, and
  • lessons in the dark arts of defence.

Italy won the tournament after failing to win a single game in the first round group, while England and Cameroon both went home undefeated before the business end of the tournament. Brazil may have been the most dazzling team, but the overwhelming sentiment of neutrals at the end of the tournament was relief that West Germany had lost the final after perpetrating the two of the most despicable acts in World Cup history in earlier matches.

What was going on in the world in 1982?

  • The Falklands war begins in April
  • HMS Conqueror sinks the General Belgrano, killing 323 sailors
  • CDs go on sale to the public in Germany
  • Poland bans the Solidarity movement
  • The first US execution by lethal injection is carried out in Texas

Back to the World Cup – the format

The tournament was expanded to 24 teams, to include more teams from Africa and Asia. There was some consideration given as to whether England, Northern Ireland and Scotland should withdraw from the tournament due to the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. It was decided to allow the British national teams to participate because a boycott could have been used for propaganda purposes by Argentina.

With the expansion to 24 teams, the second round was for 12 teams to go into a second round groups of 3 teams, with the winners progressing from there into the semi-finals.


Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait, and New Zealand qualified for the first time. New Zealand, Kuwait and Honduras all finished bottom in their groups; New Zealand had 3 defeats, including a loss to Scotland, Kuwait managed a 1-1 draw with Czechoslovakia, and Honduras picked up two draws with Northern Ireland and hosts, Spain.

However, the two African rookies both made an impact. Cameroon drew all three group games, failing to qualify on goals scored by one goal to Italy who went on to win the World Cup. Algeria made the biggest splash, opening up their campaign with a 2-1 win over West Germany, and also beating Chile. In the final group game between West Germany and Austria, a day after Algeria had beaten Chile, Algeria were denied a place in the second round in a blatant case of match fixing as West Germany beat Austria 1-0, a result which saw both progress. This match has been dubbed Schande von Gijon "the scandal of Gijon" and is covered further below.

Tournament Facts and Records 

  • First World Cup penalty shoot out took place in the semi-final between West Germany and France
  • This was the first World Cup in which teams from all six continental confederations participated in the finals, something that did not happen again until 2006
  • At 17 years and 41 days, Northern Ireland forward Norman Whiteside was the youngest player to appear in a World Cup match.
  • Italy set a record for Champions, failing to win any match in the group (draws with Cameroon, Peru and Poland)
  • England and Cameroon were both eliminated without losing a game.
  • El Salvador became the first side to ship ten goals in a FIFA World Cup game, losing 10-1 to Hungary for whom substitute Lazlo Kiss struck a hat-trick in record time (between the 69th and 76th minutes). Hungary failed to qualify through the group despite this
  • Italy equalled Brazil's record of winning the World Cup three times
  • Italy's total of twelve goals scored in seven matches set a new low for average goals scored per game by a World Cup winning side, subsequently exceeded by Spain in 2010 and Italy's aggregate goal difference of +6 for the tournament remains a record low for a champion, equalled by Spain.
  • Italy's 40-year-old captain-goalkeeper Dino Zoff became the oldest-ever player to win the World Cup

Who should have won but didn’t?

Brazil were the most stylish team, although France also had some wonderful moments too. Italian journalists and tifosi criticised their team for their uninspired performances in the first round group that managed three draws. Their squad was reeling from the recent Serie A scandal, where national players were suspended for match fixing and illegal betting.

However, the Italians certainly improved in the second round and the match against Brazil, which would have graced any final, is widely regarded as one of the finest World Cup matches ever. So, on this basis, Italy's win has merit and most importantly West Germany did not win, which would truly have been a travesty.

Controversies – Match Fixing

With a win over West Germany, a defeat to Austria and finally a win over Chile, Algeria finished on 4 points. Austria were also on 4 points and West Germany on 2 points as they went into the last group game. A narrow win to West Germany would see them progress with Austria and Algeria would go out; any other outcome and Algeria would go through. After 10 minutes of all-out attack, West Germany scored through a goal by Horst Hrubesch. After the goal was scored, the two teams kicked the ball around aimlessly for the rest of the match. Chants of "Fuera, fuera" ("Out, out") were screamed by the Spanish crowd, while angry Algerian supporters waved banknotes at the players. This performance was widely deplored, even by the German and Austrian fans. One German fan was so upset by his team's display that he burned his German flag in disgust.

Algeria protested to FIFA, who ruled that the result be allowed to stand, although FIFA introduced a revised qualification system at subsequent World Cups in which the final two games in each group were played simultaneously.

In German, this match is known as Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón (non-aggression pact of Gijón) or Schande von Gijón (disgrace of Gijón), while in Algeria it is known simply as the Anschluss.

Justice would have seen Algeria qualify for the second round with both West Germany and Austria being kicked out of the tournament for cheating. but justice did not prevail.

Controversies – an Emir on the pitch

In the game between Kuwait and France, with France leading 3–1, France midfielder Alain Giresse scored a goal vehemently contested by the Kuwait team, who had stopped play after hearing a piercing whistle from the stands, which they thought had come from Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar. Play had not yet resumed when Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, brother of the Kuwaiti Emir and president of the Kuwaiti Football Association, rushed on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee. Stupar countermanded his initial decision and disallowed the goal to the fury of the French. Maxime Bossis scored another valid goal a few minutes later and France won 4–1. Stupar lost his international refereeing credentials as a result of this incident, and Al-Sabah received a $10,000 fine.

Great World Cup Matches – Italy v Brazil

Brazil vs Italy was the final second round group stage match for Group C. Brazil had won all four of their matches prior and were the pre-tournament favourites, led by midfield general Socrates, ably supporting by Falcao and Zico. Given Italy's poor form in the first round group, it was surely a foregone conclusion that Brazil would win. But in a match which ebbed and flowed, Italy won 3-2, with Paolo Rossi scoring a hat trick, backing up an impressive 2-1 victory over Diego Maradona's Argentina in the previous match. Rossi had barely returned from a two-year ban from football, the result of his involvement in a match-fixing scandal, and had failed to score up to that point, so there was considerable debate about whether he should be picked.

The disappointment in Brazil was palpable, and this defeat was labelled by Brazilian press as the 'Sarrià Stadium Tragedy'.

With Zico and Falcao to the fore
The Brazilians were certain to score

But to stop Paolo Rossi
Would have taken a posse
So the Italians were in the last four

Heroes and Villains

Hero: Claudio Gentile

It seems too easy to choose Paolo Rossi as the 1982 hero, and indeed it seems right to celebrate the defensive aspects of Italy’s win. So the accolade of hero goes to Claudio Gentile, an old school defender known for his uncompromising style. Gentile’s performances against Argentina and Brazil in the second round group games have been described as the finest example of man marking ever seen. It was certainly no easy assignment. You can imagine the sinking feeling you would get when the coach says: “Claudio, next game you’ll be man marking Diego Maradona; and the game after that, I want you to keep Zico quiet”.

He did his job fantastically well, as Italy won both games, although in each match he did have to take a yellow card for the team, thereby missing the semi-final against Poland through suspension. Gentile obviously relished his task as, after the Argentina game, when interviewed about his performance against Maradona, he said that “football is not for ballerinas!” His return for the final was a successful one, and his reactions to take a quick free kick caught Schumacher out of position and set up the first goal for Rossi.

Villain: Harald Schumacher

The choice of villain is very straight forward and comes straight from a pantomime. West Germany’s goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, committed probably the most heinous act in World Cup history, leaving Patrick Battiston unconscious and missing two teeth during the semi-final encounter between West Germany and France. No foul was called; no disciplinary action was taken either at the time or retrospectively.

In the second half a long through ball sent French defender Patrick Battiston racing clear towards the German goal. With both Battiston and the lone German defender trying to be the first to reach the ball, Battiston flicked it past German keeper Harald Schumacher from the edge of the German penalty area and Schumacher reacted by jumping up to block. Schumacher completely missed the ball, however, and clattered straight into the oncoming Battiston – which left the French player unconscious and knocked two of his teeth out. Schumacher's action has been described as "one of history's most shocking fouls", an understatement! The ball went just wide of the post and Dutch referee Charles Corver deemed Schumacher's tackle on Battiston not to be a foul and awarded a goal kick. Play was interrupted for several minutes while Battiston, still unconscious and with a broken jaw, was carried off the field on a stretcher.

It should have been penalty and a red card and a lengthy ban for Schumacher, but no action was taken.

Watch Schumacher’s villainy here:

France went 3-1 up in extra time, but West Germany fought back to take the match to a first ever World Cup penalty shoot out. And we all know what happens when the Germans are involved in a penalty shout out.

Following this disgrace and the match-fixing against Austria, it is no wonder everyone was firmly rooting for an Italy win in the final. Thankfully, they obliged, winning 3-1.

Quick Facts:

  • Teams: 24
  • When: 13 June 1982 to 11 July 1982
  • Matches: 52
  • Goals Scored: 146 (average 2.8 per match)
  • Attendance: 2,109,723 (average 40,571)

Verdict: Good, bad or Ugly?

This was nearly a great World Cup. Many of the ingredients were exactly right, but it was marred by the controversies involving West Germany: the match-fixing and Schumacher's act of thuggery. In neither case was justice done, and the only redemption was that Italy won the final. The iconic celebration of Marco Tardelli after scoring in the final seems to express the relief felt by all fair-minded people that the Germans had not won.

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