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Argentina 1978

2010-05-05 09:17
Host Country: Argentina
Champions: Argentina
Runners Up: The Netherlands

For the first time in 16 years, the tournament returned to South America, and not without a little controversy. Argentina was governed by a military junta that had come to power in bloody fashion and was known to deal with its critics with little subtlety.

The 1978 World Cup was won by the host, who beat The Netherlands 3–1 after extra time in the final. This win was the first World Cup title for Argentina who became the fifth team (after Uruguay, Italy, England, and West Germany), to be both hosts and world champions.

England failed to qualify for the second World Cup in succession, losing out to Italy. European champions Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union also failed to make it through the qualifying tournament. Newcomers to the finals were Iran and Tunisia, while France, Spain and Hungary were back for the first time since 1966.

The First and Second rounds produced good football, but it was Group B which produced the most controversy: Group B was essentially a battle between Argentina and Brazil, and it was resolved in controversial circumstances. In the first round of group games, Brazil beat Peru 3–0 while Argentina saw Poland off by a score of 2–0. Brazil and Argentina then played out a tense and violent goalless draw, so both teams went into the last round of matches with three points. Argentina had an advantage that their match against Peru kicked off several hours after Brazil's match with Poland. Brazil won their match 3–1, so Argentina knew that they had to beat Peru by four clear goals to advance to the final.

Argentina managed it with what some saw as a suspicious degree of ease. Trailing 2–0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6–0. Rumors suggested that Peru might have been bribed into allowing Argentina to win the match by such a large margin (especially because the Peruvian goalkeeper, Ramón Quiroga, was born in Argentina); but nothing could be proved, and Argentina met the Netherlands in the final. Brazil, denied a final place by Argentina's win over Peru, took third place from an enterprising Italian side with Nelinho scoring a memorable goal, and were dubbed "moral champions" by coach Cláudio Coutinho, because they did not win the tournament, but did not lose a single match either.

The final, Argentina vs Netherlands, was also controversial, as the Dutch accused the Argentines of using stalling tactics to delay the match. The host team came out late and questioned the legality of a plaster cast on René van de Kerkhof's wrist, which the Dutch claimed allowed tension to build in front of a hostile Buenos Aires crowd. Mario Kempes opened the scoring for the hosts before Dick Nanninga equalized a few minutes from the end. Rob Rensenbrink had a glorious stoppage-time opportunity to win it for the Netherlands but his effort came back off the goal post. Argentina won the final 3–1 after extra time, after Daniel Bertoni scored and Kempes, who finished the tournament's top scorer with six goals, added his second of the day. The Netherlands, because of the controversial game events, refused to attend the post-match ceremonies after the match ended. They had lost their second World Cup final in a row, both times to the host nation, after losing to West Germany in 1974.

Notable Facts
The 1978 World Cup marked the only occasion during which a national team did not wear its official kit to play a match. The incident happened during the game between France and Hungary. The worldwide television broadcast of the games was in colour, but Argentina only had black and white TV equipment in place; the team's tops were indistinguishable on the older TV sets, resulting in the French side electing to wear the jerseys of a local squad from Mar del Plata, Club Atletico Kimberley; the jerseys had vertical green and white stripes.

Golden Boot
Argentina’s Mario Kempes with 6 goals

Argentinian fans throw toilet paper onto the field as they wait for the start of the final between Argentina and The Netherlands - one of the tactics the Dutch claimed was designed to put them off their game. (AFP)
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