Spain 1982

2010-05-05 09:40
Host Country: Spain
Champions: Italy
Runners Up: West Germany

Espana 82 was an expanded, and rather unwieldy tournament with 24 places now up for grabs for the qualifiers and a changed structure. There was to be a second group stage once again but with the re-introduction of a semi-final stage.

The tournament was won by Italy, after beating West Germany 3–1 in the final. Italy equalled Brazil's record of winning the World Cup 3 times. For the first time the World Cup was expanded to feature 24 teams, 8 more than in the previous tournament 1978.

The format of the competition changed from 1978: for the first time, 24 teams qualified, divided into six groups of four (1 through 6). The top two teams in each group advanced to the second round, where they split into four groups of three (A to D). The winners of each group advanced to the semi-finals. This was the only World Cup to be played under this format. The decision to expand from 16 to 24 teams came from FIFA to give the opportunity to more teams to participate, especially teams from North America, Africa and Asia.

The first round was marked by a series of surprisingly strong showings by these supposedly weaker teams, including Cameroon, who held Poland and Italy to draws. Group 2 saw one of the great World Cup upsets on the first day with the 2–1 victory of Algeria over reigning European Champions West Germany. This famous result for the Algerians put the Germans in grave danger of failing to qualify for the next round. This led to many people believing that the final match in the group between West Germany and Austria was fixed, as Algeria had already played their final group game the day before, West Germany and Austria knew that a West German win by 1 or 2 goals would qualify them both, while a larger German victory would qualify Algeria over Austria, and a draw or an Austrian win would eliminate the Germans.

The fourth team in the group, Chile, were eliminated regardless of the outcome. After 10 minutes of all-out attack, West Germany succeeded in scoring through a goal by Horst Hrubesch. After the goal was scored, the two German-speaking teams went into an unspoken agreement and just kicked the ball around aimlessly for the rest of the match. Chants of "Fuera, fuera" ("Out, out") were screamed by the appalled Spanish crowd, while angry Algerian supporters waved banknotes at the players. This performance was widely deplored, even by the German and Austrian fans who had hoped for a hot rematch of the 1978 FIFA World Cup match in which Austria had beaten West Germany. 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, but events led to FIFA introducing a revised qualification system at subsequent World Cups in which the final two games in each group were played simultaneously.

Group 3 yielded a major upset with Belgium beating defending champions Argentina 1–0 (new star Diego Maradona did not perform to expectation).  Group 4 opened at record speed with England midfielder Bryan Robson's goal against France after only 27 seconds of play. England won the game 3–1 and qualified along with France over Czechoslovakia and Kuwait, though the tiny Gulf emirate created yet another sensation by holding Czechoslovakia to a 1–1 draw.

Coming in the wake of Italy's spectacular second round elimination of the Brazilians and on the heels of the monumental French-German semifinal, the final seemed anticlimactic. The Italians were fresh and confident following their easy win over Poland, but the West Germans were tired and had not recovered from the bruising epic in which they had been involved only days earlier against one of the tournament's toughest teams. After a scoreless first half during which Antonio Cabrini fired a penalty wide of goal, the fresher legs of the Italians and the confidence gained from their previous two victories began to make the difference between the teams. After a deliberate foul just outside the area by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Italian central defender Claudio Gentile raced upfield to set the ball and initiate the quick restart, catching the German Goalkeeper Schumacher out of position and the German defence unprepared.

Paolo Rossi scored first for the third straight game by heading home Gentile's bouncing cross at close range. Once behind, the Germans threw more men forward at the expense of defence in the hopes they could equalise quickly without having to exert too much control. This choice was problematic for them, in their tired condition, and left large gaps at the back for Italy to counter-attack. Exploiting the situation, the Azzurri scored twice more on quick counter-strikes, all the while capitalising on their best-in-the-world defence to hold the Germans. With Claudio Gentile and Gaetano Scirea of Juventus holding the centre, the Italian strikers were free to counter-punch the weakened German defence.

Marco Tardelli's splendid shot from the edge of the area (and his legendary shouting and arm-pumping celebration) beat Schumacher first, and Alessandro Altobelli, the substitute for injured striker Francesco Graziani, made it 3–0 at the end of a trademark solo sprint down the right side by the stand-out winger Bruno Conti. Italy's lead appeared secure, encouraging Italian president Sandro Pertini to wag his finger at the cameras in a playful "not going to catch us now" gesture, overcoming an initial reluctance from the Italian crowd to declare victory early after West Germany's famous comeback in the semi-final. In the 83rd minute, however, Paul Breitner managed to put a small scare back into the Italians by driving home a goal against the otherwise spectacular Dino Zoff but it was never enough and Italy claimed their first World Cup title in 48 years, and their third in total with a 3–1 victory.

Notable Facts
Group 4 was also the stage of a farcical incident during the game between Kuwait and France. As Les Bleus were 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, as the French player was in a suspicious, arguably offside position, 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 onto the pitch to give the referee a vociferous piece of his mind. The visibly shaken Stupar countermanded his initial decision and disallowed the goal to the understandable 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 due to this incident, and Al-Sabah received a $10,000 fine.

Golden Boot
Italy’s Paolo Rossi with 6 goals

Paolo Rossi scores for Italy to start their 3-1 victory over West Germany.
Read more on: italy

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