By The Spotter
Of course there’s no argument that this 2014 FIFA World Cup has been quite exceptional (with the best quality of matches in living memory), but call me an old nostalgist- for sheer theatre and legends gracing the stage, the 1982 edition in Spain is still right up there; there was enough drama and controversy for about three tournaments, from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s insane charge attack on France’s Patrick Battiston, that would have got him about a twelve-week suspension if he’d been a Rugby League player nowadays, to a Kuwaiti sheikh invading the field to protest a goal.
Then there was one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history (novices Algeria’s 2-1 over West Germany could easily have been about 4-1, watch the extended highlights; the Germans were simply awful) and the presence of our gutsy All Whites for the first time after an incredible qualifying campaign. Sorry 2014, great as you have been, the ‘82 tournament still does it for me.
Oh, and did I mention these guys just for good measure: Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli, Dino Zoff, Socrates, Zico, Falcao, Eder, Rinat Dasaev, Zib Boniek, Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana…I could go on, but need I say more?
1982 also produced no small matter of perhaps the greatest World Cup finals match of all-time, plus another contender for that mantle. I am referring to the second round clash between Italy and Brazil and the France-West Germany semi-final.
Played at the now-demolished Sarria stadium (the old home of the city of Barcelona’s second team, Espanyol), the comparatively smallish ground lay more or less smack in the middle of a surburban neighbourhood and was packed to capacity for Italy versus Brazil. The Brazilians only needed a draw to progress to the semis, but only a victory would do for the Italians to go through at their expense.
This match set ‘82 alight and was an encounter of such thrust, counter-thrust and overall quality that the old TV2 here in New Zealand decided to replace its nightly highlights package and instead screen a replay of the match in full- a practically unheard of happening in those days as basically only the semis and final and a couple of other selected games were shown live on state TV. Now if that isn’t a good yardstick on the enduring quality of that match then I don’t know what is.
You can naturally find all the drama on YouTube but just to paint a picture of Italy’s marvellous 3-2 victory over the best side that never made it to the last stages of a World Cup, here is a brief rundown of the scoring action…
A tracer bullet of a header from Paolo Rossi put Italy ahead after only five minutes; a pulverising run down the left and whipped in cross from the great left fullback and predecessor of Paolo Maldini, Antonio Cabrini set up the goal. The Brazilian marking being non-existent on Rossi (remind you of anything recently)?!
There was little time to draw breath however as Brazil came back just seven minutes later with an even better goal. Delicious inter-passing with Zico at the forefront put Socrates clear in the inside-right channel. He dragged the great Dino Zoff wide of his goal before firing in low from a tight angle. 1-1.
The match was still being played out reasonably tightly before the glorious openness and uncertainty of the second half took hold, when after twenty-five minutes the usually solid and skilful Brazilian centre-back Cerezo made a horrendous pass out of defence straight to the predator Rossi, who needed no second invitations and lashed a shot past the stationary Waldir Peres in goal (who wasn’t very good anyway).
2-1 to Italy at halftime with Brazil under the hammer for the first time in the tournament. And how they responded. The Italians spent the next twenty minutes basically chasing shadows as their samba passing game exploded in full majesty. Superb covering from the faultless sweeper Scirea and the teenaged Bergomi thrawted most of the attacks before they threatened Zoff in goal and with Conti and Tardelli not pausing for breath in he midfield, the Brazilians were beginning to look a bit panic-stricken until the venomous left peg of Falcao fired one past Zoff’s right hand from the edge of the penalty area in the sixty-eighth minute. 2-2.
Ah well, surely the Italians would have nothing left to come back with now one thought after all their ceaseless second half chasing in attempting to contain the marauding Brazilians.
Wrong. The Italians rallied and set up camp in Brazil’s half. In the seventy-fourth minute a corner was swung in from the right-wing. It wasn’t cleared properly and the ubiquitous poacher Rossi stole in, poked the ball through a crowd of player in the six-yard box and Italy were on their way to the semi-finals, 3-2. Rossi had a hat-trick and personal redemption after a two-year ban for being implicated in a betting scandal. (things have never been that different in the world of pro sport really).
Italy had another from Antognoni wrongly disallowed for offside before Zoff had to make the save of the tournament in practically the final minute, clawing a header from Oscar down from behind him and somehow managing to hang onto the ball at the same time. Have a look at the video and you’ll marvel at the forty year-old’s agility. Truly a save for the ages.
So with Argentina probably laughing behind their backs, the Brazilians were packed off out of ‘82 by an Italian team that just didn’t know how to die. I know I’ll never forget it…brilliant, brilliant stuff out of a generally insipid decade in world football.
One more thing on the World Cup- today the Canvas magazine of the NZ Herald ran a small article which stated the 1990 Final was a classic. What a load of rubbish! It was about the worst final in history- a classic letdown more like. The drongoes staffing this mag had better just stick to writing about food and fashion and leave the football writing to people in the know.