El Salvador

The World Cup brings attention to otherwise obscure countries – El Salvador was the typical outsider, familiar from the past, but Honduras left very good impression. The obvious development of the ‘Third world’ leads to paying more attention: both El Salvador and Honduras had long football traditions, but the scale was small and local. No famous clubs, no famous players – nothing to compare with Mexico. But both countries were more football-oriented than most Central American and Caribbean nations. Still, almost nothing could be said of their national championships, save for raw statistics.

Atletico Marte (San Salvador) won the Salvadorian championship this year. The club was quite young – founded in 1950 – but already was popular and leading one.

Practically nothing can be said about the champions – certainly they had national team players and some local stars, but the real information can be summed up in this: Atletico Marte won their 7th title.

CONCACAF Champions Cup

CONCACAF organized international club tournament since 1959. But it was difficult to organize, maintain, and even more to make it popular. North and Central America is strange region – three huge countries and many tiny ones, especially those on the Caribbean islands. Economically, even without counting USA and Canada, the differences were and are enormous – almost entirely speaking of degrees of poverty. Politically, the small countries were ruled by various dictatorships for years, often ‘complimented’ by US military presence. Cultural traditions differed as a result, including sports: former British colonies tended to develop cricket. US influence made baseball and basketball popular. Back north, football was also in disadvantage, eclipsed by baseball, American football, basketball, and ice hockey. As a whole, only Mexico and French-influenced Haiti (which has the oldest football federation in this part of the globe) were football-oriented. But Haiti was desperately poor all the time and thus unable to develop the game. Lastly, to CONCACAF belonged countries otherwise belonging to South America – the three Gayana states and some islands, which should have been South American countries if geographic location was followed. The situation made staging international tournaments difficult and records are scarce – even in 1982 the CONCACAF Cup of Champions and Sub-champions leaves empty pages: how many teams from how many countries is unknown. It is still unknown did Deportivo FAS (El Salvador) played any match at all. Only two matches from the Caribbean section are known, but apparently there were more, because Don Bosco (Dominican Republic) was eliminated, along with another club, whose name remains uncertain – Palo Seco or Trintopec of Trinidad and Tobago. The Northern and Central Section, in which Deportivo FAS was supposed to play was also a big mess: 8 teams entered on paper – 2 from Mexico, 2 from USA, 2 from Guatemala, and one from Honduras and El Salvador each. Deportivo FAS was not among these initial clubs – Independiente was the Salvadoran representative. NASL had nothing to do with CONCACAF tournaments, so the US representatives were never heard of clubs – New York Pancyprian Freedoms (as the name suggests, a club belonging to the Cypriot immigrant community) and Brooklyn Dodgers. On what basis New York local clubs came to represent USA is unknown, but they did not play at all. They withdrew along with the Mexcian Cruz Azul. UNAM (Mexico) appeared in the second round and eliminated Vida (Honduras) – 2-2 and 5-0. No problem in the third round either – UNAM eliminated Comunicaciones (Guatemala) 2-2 and 3-0, and reached the final.

The Caribbean Section produced a final between teams from far South, if Northern-American at all – Defense Force (Trinidad and Tobago) vs Robin Hood, or SV Robinhood (Suriname). Robin Hood won 1-1 and 5-2.

The tournament final was quite unequal – Robin Hood vs UNAM.

Brave name, but there were limits… whatever football Suriname ever produced is associated with Holland: families moved often to the former colonial center and the kids were Dutch – Frank Rijkard and Ruud Gullit, for instance. Suriname had no noticeable players and no chance to have any, plus money were short. So short, the club decided to play both final legs in Mexico. They ‘hosted’ the first leg in Queretaro and managed a scoreless tie. UNAM won the second leg in Mexico City with great difficulty – 3-2. It should have been an easy win – the Pumas were leading 2-0 in the 25th minute. Ricardo Ferreti scored in the very first minute and in the 25th Luis Flores made it 2-0. But Klinker scored for Robin Hood two minutes later. In the 41st minute Ferreti scored his second goal, opening again 2-goal lead – which did not lasted: Rustemberg scored a penalty in the 44th minute. Exciting first half – and nothing later. No goals in the second half, the result stayed. Robin Hood was brave finalist indeed.

UNAM won the CONCACAF Champions Cup for the second time. It was not really noticeable tournament and the victory was not easy, but was important one for the club – the team coached by Bora Milutinovic was still rising from obscurity and beginning to collect trophies. International success, however small, was important for the image – in sharp contrast to traditional Mexican power like Cruz Azul, which seemingly decided there was no good reason to spend money on CONCACAF tournament. UNAM was building prestige and trophy room, they needed it.

African Player of the Year

The African Player of the Year award was voted in the end of 1982 and, as usually is, favoured those appearing at the last big international competition – the World Cup, in this case. And the results were fairer than usual, for Algeria and Cameroon played more than well at the world finals. Lakhdar Belloumi (Algeria) was voted third and he was the only top player still stationed in Africa – GC Mascara. Second was his compatriot Sallad Assad, playing for Mulhouse (France).

Thomas N’Kono was voted best, getting 83 points – 29 more than Assad, Hardly anybody could argue the fairness of the vote: N’Kono was voted 3rd in 1979, number one in 1979, and 2nd in 1980. The world ‘discovered’ him at the World Cup, but the Cameroonian goalkeeper was already a star in Africa. His excellent performance at the world finals got him immediately European contract and at the time of the vote he was playing for Espanol (Barcelona).

Already charming the Spaniards with his skills and trade-mark training paints he ever used instead of shorts, N’Kono replaced the Belgian national team goalkeeper Theo Custers in Espanol and at 25, he had many years to play ahead of him. N’Kono won his second continental award, a rare achievement, which, given his age and the move to solid European club, suggested more awards in the future.

The African Cup Winners Cup

The African Cup Winners Cup was almost played in full too – only Printing Agency (Somalia) withdrew without playing at ll and Gor Mahia (Kenya) decided to withdrew after losing the first leg at home against Dinamo Fima (Madagascar). Al-Mokaoulun (Egypt), Hearts of Oak (Ghana), Power Dynamos (Zambia), and Djoliba AC (Mali) reached the semifinals and here results were interesting: Power Dynamos prevailed at home 2-1 over Djoliba AC and then managed to tie the second leg 0-0. Al-Mokaoulun was seemingly on the losing end after home 1-1 tie, but surprisingly they won 2-1 visiting – not only home matches in Africa almost always were the decisive factor, but Hearts of Oak were traditionally strong team on continental scale. Anyhow, the final opposed the Egyptians to the Zambians, first leg played in Zambia. Neither club ever won a the trophy and neither club was familiar to anybody outside Africa – and perhaps not to many in Africa too.

Power Dynamos was also a very young club, established in 1971.

Al-Mokaoulun was older, but if there were familiar Egyptian names, this club was not among them. It looked like sudden rise. The boys won 2-0 visiting and repeated the same result at home – Al-Mokaoulun won the Cup Winners Cup for the first time and made Egyptian football dominant this year on club level. Well done.


The African Champions Cup

The African Champions Cup finished in December 1982. There was a sense of normalization at last – only one club withdrew, US Goree (Senegal). The other sign of normalization was the clubs, reaching the semi-finals – they represented Nigeria (Enugu Rangers), Egypt (Al-Ahly), Zaire (FC Lupopo), and Ghana (Asante Kotoko). That is, teams from the countries recognized for advanced football on the continent. Al-Ahly and Asante Kotoko qualified to the final. On the surface, the finalists were different – Al-Ahly never reached continental final. Asante Kotoko was going to its 5th final, having won the Cup once in 1970. As a whole, Ghanaian football was represented at the final for 7th time and Egypt’s – for a 3rd time. However, both countries won the trophy only once before – Asante Kotoko in the 1970s and Al Ismaily in 1969 for Egypt. Technically, Asante Kotoko should have had the edge not only by tradition, but also because Ghana just became the continental champion, but the Egyptians were economically better and since they did not participated in the last issue of the African Cup of Nations, there was no way of comparing strength.

The first leg was in Cairo and it pretty much decided the winner – Al-Ahly finished with a 3-0 lead. Two weeks later, in Kumasi, Al-Ahly tied the second leg 1-1 and won the Cup.

This is picture of Al-Ahly in 1981, which at least is a close approximation of the new cup holders. It was a great triumph for the club, but also for the country. As for the squad… nothing really can be said. May be the only thing of real import was the coming of sponsorship to Africa – in this case, the deodorant firm Old Spice. The international victory was important in another sense too – Al-Ahly was the strongest Egyptian club – since the establishment of the national championship in 1949, they won 17 titles (including 1982) in the 26 championships played. Such strong tradition needed international success and at last Al-Ahly got it.

African Cup of Nations

The other big international championship of the year was the 13th African Cup of Nations. It took place before the World Cup and, as ever before, did not attract any attention outside Africa, perhaps even less then before. The championship went throw preliminary stages, somewhat better scheduled than in the earlier editions, and final tournament of 8 finalists, hosted by Libya. The hosts and the current holders of the title – Nigeria – qualified directly for the finals, so the rest of the continent played for 6 places. And as ever before earlier stages were not played completely, for teams withdrew up to the finals – Benin, Uganda, Gabon in the preliminary round; Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea in the first round; Egypt in the second round. Politics played bigger role than lack of money and the political factor was entirely unpredictable, often changing in the last minute, and hard to figure out, for there were domestic political factors and international hostilities both playing role. And on top of everything – football politics, which were even more mysterious. Upper Volta did not appear at all in the first round, but went directly to the second round, for instance – possibly, it was lucky draw, for the number of countries qualifying to the first round was uneven – 23. And only in the second round Upper Volta played football – they qualified in the preliminary round without playing, for Gabon withdrew, then they apparently got lucky buy and at last played their first match in the second round against Algeria, which utterly destroyed them – 0-7. Hosting the second leg, Upper Volta managed a 1-1 tie and was out – but if they had been lucky again in this round, having to meet Egypt, instead of Algeria, they would have reached the finals without playing a single match. But who knows… against Upper Volta, Egypt may have decided to play. Since African football had no consistency so far, plus having been unknown, there was pretty much no way to judge were there any major upsets: Zaire, seemingly strong football country, was eliminated in the second round, but by Ghana, another continental ‘powerhouse’, so it was not exactly a surprise elimination. This was perhaps the only traditionally strong team missing the finals. The final 8 were divided into two round-robin groups, which played in two coastal Libyan cities on stadiums surprisingly large for anyone paying attention: of 50 000 and 80 000 capacities. That was another thing – during the late 1960s and the 70s, many African nations built large stadiums. Larger than most European stadiums. The sport was popular, but the reason for erecting large facilities was difficult to explain: yes, there was consideration of future needs, but it was also something to boast about, an easy way ‘to solve’ social and economic problems, and also to have facilities for major public political events like parades. Libya had no strong football, even by African measures, but had plenty of oil money and a dictator – stadiums were built. Anyhow, the finals proceeded game after game and when the group stage was completed, it was mostly interesting as a compliment to African performance at the following World Cup.

Group A (Tripoli)

1.LIBYA 3 1 2 0 4- 2 4

2.GHANA 3 1 2 0 3- 2 4

3.Cameroon 3 0 3 0 1- 1 3

4.Tunisia 3 0 1 2 1- 4 1

Group B (Benghazi)

1.ALGERIA 3 2 1 0 3- 1 5

2.ZAMBIA 3 2 0 1 4- 1 4

3.Nigeria 3 1 0 2 4- 5 2

4.Ethiopia 3 0 1 2 0- 4 1

The top 2 of each group went to the semi-finals. Both matches were played on March 16. In Benghazi Ghana prevailed over Algeria in overtime 3-2. It was dramatic match – Algeria was leading 2-0 in the 62nd minute and Ghana equalized just before the final whistle in the 90th minute.

In Tripoli, the hosts won 2-1. Zambia was the first to score in the 29th minute, but eventually the Libyans scored 2 goals in the 38th and 84th minutes.

The match for the bronze, played in Tripoli, went for Zambia – they won 2-0. Algeria finished 4th.

The final, also played in Tripoli, was another drama – Libya and Ghana played to a tie in the group stage, in which Ghana equalized in the last moment – 89th minute. They were first to score a goal, though, and the pattern repeated in the final – Ghana scored in the 35th minute, thanks to Alhassan. Libya equalized in the 70th minute by Beshari. Neither team managed to score another goal – not in regular time and not in the overtime. The winner had to be decided by penalty shoot-out and only here Ghana prevailed 7-6.

Ghana won the championship, maintaining its status as the most successful African team – it was their 4th.

Libya achieved its biggest success, but was unable to win even when coming very close. Most likely it was incidental success, due to home turf, large supportive audience, and the usual help officials provide to hosting nations. Murkier details are not even important: Africa was full of dictators pulling their weight, so there was nothing strange if Qaddafi did as the others. Under-the-table money were part of the game everywhere too. Visiting teams hardly ever brought supporters wit them for the obvious reason: wide-spread African poverty and lack of convenient transportation. Hosts had the advantage by all accounts and no big deal.

Ghana was another story – first of all, its record was getting long: success in the 1960s (1963 and 1965), 1970s (1978), and now in the 1980s. Strong continuity, but the successes of the national team run against international club records and the fact that the country so far did not reach World Cup finals. Because of that the players were entirely unknown and the winning team had no European-based professionals. But there were two foreign-based players: George Alhassan played for FC 105 (Gabon) and the captain Emmanuel Quarshie for Zamalek (Egypt). Africa was technically amateur as a whole, but professionalism was beginning to creep in one way or another. There was no doubt that Alhassan and Quarshie were paid for their services in Gabon and Egypt – otherwise there was no reason at all to go there, especially to Gabon, which generally was in worse economic state than Ghana. There was one more interesting case in the winning team, but it brings the coach first of all to the light:

Charles Kumi Gyamfi was and perhaps still is Ghanaian football legend, but he was also more than just football hero. As a player, he was winner of the African Cup of Nations – this is the sporting part. He was also ‘king’, one of many tribal aristocrats, which provided him with funds to travel, meet, and watch the sport’s greats – as the picture shows, he went to see the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Thus, he gathered current knowledge of the development of the game, which few African coaches had even in the early 1980s. And he had enough political clout because of his status. To a point, he was better positioned than European and South American coaches in Africa, for it was difficult for politicians to tamper his choice of players, tactics, and preparation. Yet, some would say he favoured his own people at the expense of others, but this was a reality in Africa anyway – in his case, he was in position to easily defend himself: his team won the continental championship, he was success both as a player and as a coach. Among his chosen squad was the forward Ben Kayede, playing for Aurora, not a first division club. This was a problem, because it looked like Gyamfi favored second-rate talent and the inclusion of Kayede provoked a lot of criticism from all sides. The ‘unfriendly fire’ is easy to understand, but the ‘friendly fire’ needs explaianation: Aurora was not independent club, but the second team of Ghanaian big club Hearts of Oak. A B team, a farm club, the place those either too young or not good enough were sent to get experience. So, a player not good even for the bench of Hearts of Oak was suddenly in the national team – but the boy so well and Gyamfi was right. As for the age of the hero, it was hard to say how important it was – most likely he was very young, but African teams often included teenage players in their national teams and the future internationally recognized star Abedi Pele in the Ghanaian squad was only 17 years old at the moment. Anyhow, clout and keen eye surely helped Gyamfi in the building of the winning team and not only because of Kayede case – he relegated three ‘senior’ players to the bench – Seth Ampadu, Opoku Afriyie and Joe Carr – replacing them with Sampson Lamptey, George Alhassan and Owusu Mensah. After coming back with the continental cup nobody had the guts to protest and criticize – Gyamfi was right all the way.

But it was not just Ghana to focus on: this championship was particularly interesting after the World Cup. Cameroon and Algeria reached the African championship finals. Cameroon was eliminated at the first stage, but without losing a match. However, they won none too – three ties, which they repeated the Cameroonians repeated at the World Cup a few months later to the letter: even their scoring record was the same – 1-1. Algeria won their preliminary group and finished 4th in the African championship, but only the shameful scheming of West Germany and Austria prevented them from reaching the second round of the World Cup. Suddenly, there was more to African football then ever before: take out Libya, but Ghana and Zambia were seemingly at the same level as Cameroon and Algeria – that is, pretty much at par with the European and South American teams. At last Africa came strong – the best teams were not exactly running on occasional enthusiasm, but were actually close to the best: judging by the World Cup performance of the losers of the African championship. That meant further development, boosted by more African players getting professional contracts in Europe. May be , after years of empty prophesies, African football came of age in 1982 – ironically, at continental finals nobody cared for and almost completely forgotten right away.

The aftermath

The aftermath. Commentaries and evaluations of the World Cup continued for months, as ever, and summery of them would be something like that:

Nothing particularly new was shown at the finals. Nothing revolutionary for sure – there was evolution only, into something named ‘rational football’. By now, elements of total football were a must – changing positions, covering the whole field, pressure of the opponent, physical fitness. As a whole, the defensive elements of the old total football were present, but a lot of the real strength of the it – the attacking ones, were not much in evidence. Rational football was pretty much that and it had something cold and cynical at its roots: overrun the opponent and break it down, no matter how. ‘Professional fouls’ became the norm: it was even easier to kick down the opponent and stop their attack in early stage than trying to get the ball cleanly. Only victory mattered and victory became quite a wide term after the shameless meeting of West Germany and Austria – one can get what they want even by losing. But nothing else than final victory mattered anymore, it was a war and instead of total football, there was total war.

The torn jersey of Ardiles against Italy exemplified best the new philosophy at its ugliest.

The new formula was generally seen as successful: 24 teams was not the perfect number, but it was a matter of refining only. On the positive side were the outsiders – with the exception of El Salvador, the rest played well. The biggest revelation was the wonderful performance of the African teams – they were up to date tactically and pretty much equal to the Europeans and South Americans. Asian teams obviously improved too – to give more spots to the ‘developing world’ was clearly a step in the right direction. Out of 6 ‘outsiders’ only one – El Salvador – equaled the old notion of an outsider.

Cameroon was arguably the strongest ‘outsider’ and the big discovery, coming very close to reaching the second stage, along with Algeria, which was plainly robbed of advancing, but Cameroon left stronger and more lasting impression – they were truly equal to the ‘big teams’. New Zealand, Kuwait, and Honduras lost and were still weaker, yet, they played competent football and no fear.

Referees are always criticized, but seemingly this time there were too many mistakes – to the point that it was questionable are the referees up to date with the modern game. It is difficult to say which incident was the worst – Schumacher sending Battiston to hospital for months, almost killing him; Gentile systematically destroying the best players of the opposite team; the penalties given to Spain or the penalties not given to USSR.

Perhaps the accident of the long stoppage during the France – Kuwait match, involving the Police was the worst – the Soviet referee Stupar did the unthinkable: bending under outside pressure, changing his mind, and disallowing a goal already called a score. It was not mere mistake and it was not putting a blind eye – it was reversing a decision, because somebody from the stands said so. The shame of the meeting between West Germany and Austria, however, showed entirely new problem, going outside the rules – the teams clearly did not play, fixing convenient for both result in the very beginning. Yet, technically, there was nothing to be done – they moved the ball around. Wasting time was done for years, but as long as the ball moves… it was inside the rules.

Fans. Hooliganism was still British phenomenon, but it was developing to the point when it was actually preferred Birtish teams not to reach finals. There was no other solution so far, especially because violence happened largely outside the stadiums. The biggest threat were the English fans.

Politics. This was coming to the realm of the exotic – the Falkland Islands war had importance before the beginning of the World Cup: England considered to withdrawal, but decided to play.

The Argentines made a patriotic photo of themselves, which was almost grotesque – foorball players are supposed to smile at such photos, and they did. But a war is hardly a laughing, jolly matter. At the end, only Ardiles suffered from the conflict – he had to move to play in France for awhile, although neither he, nor Tottenham Horspur wanted that.

Two records were set:

Norman Whiteside of Manchester United and Northern Ireland became the youngest player ever, playing at World Cup finals – he bettered Pele by few months, still 17-years old in round numbers. And it is a record unlikely to be bettered.

At 40, Dino Zoff became the oldest player to appear at World Cup finals – his record was bested in 2014, but he also became the oldest world champion, which very likely is not going to be equaled or bested.

Two teams captured the minds, leaving many observers to optimistic statements – Brazil and France.

Football was alive, because of them and they introduced pleasant styles, bringing joy back to the game. But it was painfully clear that ‘rational’ football was getting the upper hand – both artistic teams were eliminated by teams with the opposite philosophy. Compared to the brutal teams, thinking of war, not of fun, Brazil and France appeared naïve. They also made very clear that the new reality required strong players at every position – may be not great players, but competent and strong above average: both France and Brazil lacked good goalkeepers and paid dearly for that – it was no longer possible to compensate a weak position by simply outscoring the opponent.

Injuries – an old and inevitable plague, but it looked like no other World Cup was so much affected by injuries. Rummenigge, Keegan, Boniek, Platini, and others were either not fit and suffering during the tournament, or missing key games. Perhaps Belgium paid the highest price – with van der Elst arriving injured and Pfaff and Gerets getting injured early in the tournament, Belgium was simply destroyed. Current football was collective and individuals seemingly mattered less, yet, it became clear that results depended mostly on key stars – without them collectivity was not lost, but the team was losing, not winning. But the new kind of players were pretty much similar work-horses and the absence of a star was getting nearly fatal – back in 1962, Brazil had enough talent to win the World Cup without injured Pele. It was no longer possible in 1982, almost no team had a player capable of replacing a star – and the coaches, without options and fearing a loss, preferred to field injured players, even when it was clear they contribute next to nothing.

Discoveries. The World Cup was still the place to find hew talent and a market place. For most of the world, it was the moment to see at last those only heard of – Socrates, Falcao, Maradona. Along with them were the entirely unknown, like Thomas N’Kono. Frankly, not much real discoveries were made and Maradona underperformed. But considering the transfer contracts, the World Cup remained the number one place to get noticed or confirm one’s worth – Platini and Boniek signed with Juventus, Pfaff with Bayern (with specific clause about behavior, for Pfaff had a record of short temper bursts and misconduct), N’Kono with Espanol, Maradona with Barcelona. Africans moved to Europe, South Americans too, the New Zealander Winton Ruffer was not missed and also got European contract – the World Cup was important and players knew it well – this was giving hope for the future, for players were going to try their best at the finals to get noticed.

Thomas N’Kono, one of the genuine discoveries of the World Cup, instantly becoming a star.

The best of the finals were both obvious and controversial – yes, there were discoveries and players performing more than well. Lato, for example, who got a second wind. Others did not satisfy at all. Yet, no matter what people saw and what journalists commented during the tournament, the team of the World Cup displayed something else: Dino Zoff (Italy), Luizinho (Brazil), Junior (Brazil), Claudio Gentile (Italy), Fulvio Collovati (Italy), Zbigniew Boniek (Poland), Falcao (Brazil), Michel Platini (France), Zico (Brazil), Paolo Rossi (Italy), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (West Germany). The new World champions got most players, as ever, but some were here on reputation, rather than actual performance, or because there were no really great players as some posts. The very system – 4-4-2 – suggested the change, favouring ‘realistic’ football – fewer strikers. Paolo Rossi was voted best player of the tournament, which was a bit suspect – like in 1978, there was no really fascinating and great player from start to end, and those playing well at the last stages were preferred. Rossi also was the best scorer – with 6 goals, all scored in the last three games. Not much… no more great scorers, was the sad conclusion.

Maradona and Socrates – both out of the best 11, but voted among the top 15 players of the championship. Socrates was great, Maradona – almost nothing. He particularly failed a s leader and many felt he was greatly inflated player. That was also a brief summary of the finals – highs and lows, fulfilled and unfulfilled expectations, and the sad reality of ‘realistic’ football – both players went home early. The third player of similar fame and caliber – Platini – fared differently:

He performed as expected, coming to his peak. He led France as a true leader and to a higher point than Brazil and Argentina. And he was a problem in the same time, noticed well before the finals – France was often stronger and certainly more collective without him. Without him, France was losing leadership, some creativity, and scoring power. With him it was not so together and was a weaker fighter. Peculiar problem for Michel Hidalgo, but also a general problem with the establishment of ‘realistic football’ – artistry was becoming liability and there was no real place for imaginative players. Better play like the Germans – no fun workaholics, extracting positive result at the end.

More or less, that was the summary of the 1982 World Cup.



The big final at last. Italy vs West Germany. The early German crimes turned a lot of people against them, but sentimental wishes have nothing to do with reality. So far, West Germany was not convincing on the field and Italy vastly improved after very weak beginning. Small plus for Italy in terms of plying the game, but nobody was forgetting the special German ability to deliver when mattered most. There was no doubt that both teams will be highly motivated, but exactly here the Germans had the edge. Italians played dirty when in trouble, but not only the Germans showed similar ability, they also showed that could be entirely ruthless. Their pressure was relentless and were physically stronger than the Italians. On the other hand, Italy was by far the more technical team and had more players capable of improvising. Antognoni, Rossi, the brightly improving every next match Conti, plus generally intelligent teammates was much more than what West Germany had – practically, only Breitner for interesting constructive attacks, eager Littbarski and may be Stielike, if Breitner let him. West Germany was very strong, but also very straight-forward and predictable in this version. They were going to attack and Italy most likely was going to depend on counter-attacks, which may not be lethal against German defenders and goalkeeper like Schumacher. It was 50-50… sentimentality preferred Italy somewhat, unless they started playing ugly. Gentile was a starter after all. But not Antognoni… injuries were the plaque of this championship and the last victim was Antognoni, unable to play at the final – which made Bearzot fielding a 5th defender in his place, thus seemingly giving the edge to the Germans in advance. As for Derwal… either blinded by the goal Rummenigge scored against France, or just scared, but he decided to start with unfit Rummenigge instead of trying something else. Magath was benched. Unpleasant picture emerged as a strong possibility: Gentile chopping down Rummenigge, thus leaving the Germans with practically 10 players and greatly reducing the German attacking power. But all that was still possibilities, arguments, suppositions – they lasted until the referee gave the start of the final.

Quickly became clear that West Germany could hope only for a miracle – the Italians not only neutralized the German assault, but matched them in speed and mobility. Of course, defense was their primary concern, but they executed perfectly their tactical plan and moved forward, creating danger in front of the German net. Lacking imagination, the Germans lost the battle relatively early and the inevitable happened in the 25th minute, when Briegel brought down Conti in the penalty area.

Cabrini stepped in and… missed the penalty shot. This, seemingly, was crucial moment: it was supposed to inspire at last the Germans and perhaps crush the spirit of more fragile mentally Italians. But the opposite happened – Italy was unshaken, even more determined, and West Germany was the same. It was tough match, of course, and no mercy was shown, yet, it was not a dirty match.

It was almost painful to watch Breitner trying to create something, but was never understood by his simple-minded teammates.

Rummenigge, closely marked, as expected, was a pale shadow of himself. As time passed, it was increasingly clear that Derwall made a mistake starting with Rummenigge. Perhaps his biggest mistake. Italy, on the other hand, never did anything wrong. Strikers moved back to help their defenders, but were quick to go into attacks – unselfish, collective approach, which turned the scales entirely in Italian favour. One thing Italy was a big master of was patience – the first half ended 0-0, but they already controlled the match and the result was not a bother. As for West Germany, only lucky strike would helped them – the best what possibly would happen was to keep the tie, including in extra-time, and hope to win the penalty shoot-out. No such luck.

Rossi scored in the 57th minute and after that Tardelli and Altobelli finished the Germans – 3-0 in the 81st minute. Derwall made changes – Hrubesch replaced Dremler in the 63rd minute and Hansi Muller substituted Rummenigge in the 71st minute, but it was felt that the changes were too late to make any difference. Still the Germans managed to score – Breitner, in the 83rd minute, but he got no consolation from it. It was nice to see the revered veteran of 1974 and the only interesting player the Germans had score, but West Germany lost the final already. As for Italy, Bearzot fielded Causio a minute before the final whistle – it looked like a nice tribute to one of the greatest Italian players of the 1970s, who was no longer starter and surely was not going to play at another World Cup. It was also a tribute to a long road of development, of shaping a team for many years, and Causio was key player of the earlier years of building. Italy won 3-1, fair and square, to the relieve of many, who so the Italian victory as a revenge, righting the wrongs West Germany did to the sport. Looked like football triumphed at last against brutal scheming.

Italy lifted the World Cup and who deserved it more than Paolo Rossi, the top scorer of the championship?

Enzo Bearzot, that’s who. The coach endured years of heavy criticism, sticking stubbornly to his vision, trusting his players, answering cruel questions. There was whole army insisting he must be fired because the team was not winning, the players were too old, few changes were made. Bearzot smoked his pipe coolly until his boys conquered the world.

West Germany got silver, which many considered undeserved. What happened to the wonderful team of only two years back? There was not a trace of it. Yes, there were injured players, particularly Rummenigge; yes, the players were tired and had very short training camp. Yes, Bernd Schuster refused to play for the national team. And yes, Derwall screw up. So much so, he had to step down. May be too soft and bending to the dictatorial whims of ‘Bayern mafia’, namely Breitner and Rummenigge. May be just having no guts, for, from aside, Derwall appeared scared of taking risks even when plainly nothing was going right. He played unfit and clearly useless Rummenigge. Stielike was given mostly defensive functions. The team used only two strikers most of the time and it was more than questionable how effective Fischer and Rummenigge could be – one out of form and the other an English kind of centre-forward, who rarely got high balls to fight for, win, and score. Hansi Muller and Magath were not starters most of the time, thus limiting further already limited creativity. West Germany were just strong robots going to a war – but tactically impoverished, they produced only massive dull assault to everything that moved. Silver medals were too much for this team.

Italy became world champion for a third time, equalizing Brazil. It was a long, long wait – since 1938. They were deserving champions too, but also strange champions. Yes, they eliminated Argentina, Brazil, and West Germany, the biggest favourites before the start of the championship and in the case of Brazil – the team almost everybody saw as the new champions until the match with Italy. But in the first phase Italy was more than sluggish and qualified to the next round more or less by chance. It was almost 50-50: three weak games and 4 strong ones, hardly the most convincing winners. And observers had a hard time to distinguish players – individually, the Italians were not the top players at any position. They also did not endear fans and specialist – there were villains among them, particularly Gentile. Tactically, Italy was a step back too – seemingly, moving away from total football and into improved and covering the whole field 1960s tactics: defense first, counter-attacks, personal marking. Paolo Rossi was the hero not just because of his goals, but largely because he did not play organized football for two years and until May of 1982 – his form was a miracle. But his play was not better than before, may be even weaker than the one displayed in 1978. Perhaps the only player who was a discovery at this championship was Bruno Conti. Italy was strong as a collective following the required tactics to the letter and having enough skills to improvise if there was an opportunity. Yet, they were fair winners, outplaying the Germans at the final and even pleasing the crowds.


3rd place


The match for the third place should be mentioned largely for aspects of the evolution of the perception of the game. Michel Hidalgo started with his reserves – only 4 regular players were in the starting eleven – Amoros, Tresor, Janvion, and Tigana, Later Six came as a substitute. On the surface, it looked like as a fair decision – let’s give a chance to the unused players, those who only watched so far, to taste world cup football. It was never done before, so it was also revolutionary decision. On the surface. Under it laid real reasons, none too good: the interest about the ‘small final’ was already thinning out, replaced by the new philosophy that only first place matters. France was not really interested in third place… it was nothing. It is not clear, but many observers wrote that the match was silver and bronze medals – if so, FIFA was not helping in preserving the importance of this match: if both teams were getting medals anyway, so why playing at all? There was no real stimulus. The development of this world cup made the match anti-climactic – the losses of Brazil and France killed the thrill. Somehow, it did not matter at all and France confirmed that by fielding its reserves, which immediately suggested that they were not interested and the match was almost a protocol. Poland, however, took it seriously and that further diminished the interest, for there was not going to be equality on the field and Poland appeared to be sure winner. And it was… the French second-stringers were pleasant to watch and since Poland was not greatly superior anyway, for a while the game was fairly equal and mildly entertaining. The French scored first, but hat was pretty much all they did – Poland started dominating and scoring, helped by the mistakes of the French goalkeeper Castaneda. If anything, his play made painfully clear one essential problem of the French team – no strong goalkeeper. Hidalgo said that much before the beginning of the championship, but it was more than obvious now: Baratelli practically refused to play from start, claiming nerves, Ettori was adequate at best, and Castaneda… was nothing.

Szarmach equalized in the 41st minute, then Majewski scored (on the picture) scored in the 45th minute, only Kupciewitz making it 3-1 in the 47th minute. Match finished. Couriol scored a second goal for France in the 73rd minute, but it not important – it was clear by now that France had no heart and no means of winning. Seemingly, did not aim at winning from start. Poland won 3-2 and justly got 3rd place – or silver medals, depending on who was telling.

France – 4th.

Poland – bronze medalist.

The semi-finals

West Germany – France. The Germans played nothing so far and the memory of the disgrace against Austria was fresh, so France was the preferred and desired winner. Besides, France was the most entertaining team after Brazil. Platini was back, so France had its finest team. Derwall made adjustments – disappointing Rummenigge was benched and Magath was a starter. Also Littbarski. Both teams started with 4-4-2 schemes, more pronounced in the German team. It was dubious approach for the Germans to start with only two strikers – Littbarski and Fischer – but it was also clear by now Derwall run out of options. Thanks to the French, the match was entertaining and dramatic. The Germans did what they could – heavy pressure, excellent physical condition, attacking minded. They scored first, in the 18th minute. Pierre Littbarski proved his worth. This was perhaps the most important moment of the match, for France was known for bending under pressure and losing concentration. Not this day.

Platini equalized from a penalty in the 28th minute. The game was fast and France was seemingly the better team, but the minutes were running out without a second goal. The Germans were not very effective in their own attacks and Hrubesch came out, replacing Magath, but it was desperate move, for Fischer and Hrubesch were identical center-forwards. But earlier in the second half the second German disgrace, overshadowing even the shameful game with Austria, happened – deliberately and brutally Tony Schumacher almost killed Patrick Battiston.

It was not a questionable moment where two players fought for the ball – the ball was away and going behind the German goalkeeper, who did not run for it, but for Battiston and hit him with all his massive weight. The Frenchman was down, out, and in hospital for months. It was doubtful he will ever play again. Schumacher just walked away unconcerned, untroubled, even impatient with the lengthy stoppage of the match. The referee was absolutely silent – no card, not even verbal warning. Nothing. A telling point of the 1980s football – even murder was permitted. France was not broke down by the awful incident, but he regular time ended 1-1. Technically, the result was right: Fischer was denied of goal by excellent save by Ettori and in the very last minute Amoros hit the crossbar. Could have been 2-2, was 1-1.

This was the end of France, many felt – no matter how good, there was no way stopping the Germans in extra-time, because they were capable of running in high speed for ever. The French were physically weaker. Yet, the extra-time was not Germans rolling over the French – both teams seemingly increased the already fast tempo and abandoned all caution, moving into spectacular attacks. Tresor scored in the 92nd minute and in the 98th Giresse made it 3-1 for France. May be too much too early… it was time France to kill the speed, to start wasting time, even to play dirty, and keep the ball in midfield, but it was not a team capable of such tricks – France repeated the Brazilian approach, which appeared naïve and reckless in retrospect: they kept the tempo and continued to attack. But Germans are never mentally destroyed, no matter the result, and their physical superiority and determination was important and started to show. Rummenigge was fielded in the 96th minute and it was him scoring a second German goal in the 102nd minute. France was still leading at the end of the first half of extra-time, but Germany was more dangerous and quickly equalized after the start of the second 15 minutes: Fischer scored in the 109th minute. France practically lost by trying to outplay West Germany. The Germans extracted the maximum of this match, in which they were poorer in football terms.

Penalty shoot-out is really gambling – there was no ‘better’ team, anyone could win, luck plays a big role. When it came to shoot-out… the Germans had the edge, having better and intimidating goal-keeper, plus nerves of iron. The French had weaker mentality, affected by losing their lead of 2 goals, by missing some scoring opportunities, by the brutal destruction of Battiston. Six missed his penalty and Bossis immediately after him. Hrubesch scored. France was out. West Germany reached the final. It was truly a moment of mourning, for the game lost and brutality won – the Germans had no friends, but that was the final result, nothing to be said about it – they scored their penalties and the French did not. A war of nerves the Germans never lost.