Vida El Loco: Ten Moments Which Shocked The World Cup 1982 – Part Four

World Cup 1982 is often remembered for the greatest team never to win one, Brazil, or Italy who looked barely fit to deserve a place yet recovered to win the thing. For me, it was a World Cup of incidents, shock events, OMG moments. Most have them, some more than others (2002) but Spain 1982 seemed to have more than its fair share. Here are the ten moments which shocked the World Cup 1982.

Already we’ve the farce of the draw, Argentina’s disappointing defence of their title, Hungary hitting El Salvador for ten, shock results, Kuwait’s massive sulk, match-fixing and Maradona’s rush of blood to the head. Here are the next two;

Italy’s Fall and Rise

Italians are known for their passion, their emotion, their devotion to their football. But the 1982 World Cup tested their resolve in ways few other nations or supporters experience. They came into the tournament in turmoil, they tried their best to get on the first plane out of there, and then ended up winning the thing. Other countries dream of such luck.

The build-up wasn’t great as they were still feeling the effects of the match-fixing scandal from March 1980. ‘Totonero’, as it became known, rocked the country as six Serie A clubs, Milan, Lazio, Bologna, Napoli, Avellino and Perugia, and two Serie B clubs, Taranto and Palermo, were caught up in the scandal. Milan and Lazio were relegated with the other clubs receiving points deductions for the following season. The Presidents of Milan and Bologna were sanctioned and twenty players faced suspension of between three months and six years. Italy’s star striker from the 1978 World Cup, Paolo Rossi, was the biggest name involved and he received a three-year ban, reduced to two on appeal. Throughout the whole ordeal he maintained his innocence. He missed the European Championships held in Italy in 1980, where the hosts finished a disappointing fourth. Rossi burst onto the scene in Argentina scoring three goals in the tournament. He was named in the team of the tournament, such was his impact. Italy had qualified for Spain in second place in a group won by Yugoslavia. Their only defeat was away to Denmark but it was probably being held to a draw in Turin by Greece, conceding a goal three minutes from time, which meant they wouldn’t win the group.

When Rossi was accused of being involved in the betting scandal he had been playing for Perugia, yet with his ban reduced and a chance of playing in the World Cup a possibility, he moved to Juventus where he played just three matches prior to the trip to Spain. He now became the centre of much of the criticism which surrounded the team in the build-up to the tournament with the media constantly dismissing them as serious challengers. Manager Enzo Bearzot had gradually changed the team with players such as Franco Causio and Gabriele Oriali featuring less prominently, as youngsters such as Antonio Cabrini and Bruno Conti making their mark, with Franco Baresi and Giuseppe Bergomi beginning to break through.

Their tournament got off to a very turgid start. They were drawn in Group One along with Poland, Cameroon and Peru. Poland and Peru had performed well four years before, with Poland also finishing third in 1974. Cameroon were the rank outsiders for their first appearance at a World Cup.

Italy’s campaign got under way in Vigo as they met a Poland side complete with Lato (top scorer in ’74) and Boniek (one of the best players in Europe). It was a dour affair with neither side keen to show their hand too early. There were a couple of chances, that’s all, with Tardelli going closest when he hit the bar, but generally it was a game to forget for everyone who witnessed it.

After Peru and Cameroon produced a slightly less boring draw, Italy met Peru. This game started equally as hopeless as the previous one until Bruno Conti livened things up in the eighteenth minute. The Roma winger had been given his debut by Bearzot back in 1980 but hadn’t forced himself into the regular line-up until ’82.  Antognoni found him in a central position about twenty five yards out, and he flicked it left-footed round the back of his right (a sort of half Cruyff-turn), looked up and fired it into the top right hand corner of the net past Ramon Quiroga. It was a lovely goal and we all thought this would be the start of Italy’s campaign, but we thought wrong. Peru were a good side, possibly third best in South America at the time. They contained players like Teofilo Cubillas, Juan Carlos Oblitas and ‘El Loco’ himself, Ramon Quiroga. Content to sit on their lead, Italy seemed to settle for a one-goal victory when a free-kick for Peru was squared twenty-five yards out and skipper, Ruben Toribio Diaz’s shot was deflected past Zoff for the equaliser. There were just seven minutes remaining and Italy were unable to wake themselves from their slumber. Another draw.

For those watching they had looked forward to seeing two of Europe’s best players in action in this group, Boniek and Paolo Rossi. But both were very lacklustre, especially Rossi. He looked lost, unfit and incapable of joining in with the play.

A day later Poland and Cameroon played out the fourth draw of the group and the third goalless one. Three days later Poland had to take to the field again but from somewhere they produced a performance when they thumped Peru, 5-1. Boniek finally got on the scoresheet yet unconvincing again, but at least they had finally scored. For Peru, all their hard work in getting back on level terms against Italy had just been shattered.

For the final group game Italy took on Cameroon. The Africans had gained plaudits for their free attacking style of play, despite not scoring in either match. This was the beginning of the generation which would peak in 1990, ironically in Italy. All Italy needed to get through was a draw as they had a goal advantage on their opponents and they seemed to play for this. Cameroon were considered minnows but Italy really struggled to prove this. The deadlock was broken on the hour when Graziani headed in. It was against the run of play as Cameroon had been the brighter of the two sides. But they got their reward almost immediately as M’Bida hooked in Tokoto’s flick on. The Italian’s claimed offside but this was probably more from embarrassment for being the first side to concede to Cameroon. A nervy half hour saw the Italians hang on. Poland’s four goal advantage was always going to win them the group, so Italy had to settle for second place and a place in the ‘group of death’ for the second group phase.

The second group phase was a new concept to take account of the expanded format. As there were six groups in the first phase, FIFA came up with a format which saw the top two in each group go into a further four groups of three teams. What seemed particularly inequitable was some groups had two group winners in and others had two second placed sides. Italy’s group was like this as they and Argentina (runners-up in Group Three) were pitted alongside Brazil. As the destination of the qualifiers was known pre-tournament, Brazil had every right to expect to face Poland and Belgium but they won their groups and were in together for the second phase.

As for the schedule of this new format, the only fixture we knew to begin with was the first one in each group. FIFA had added some extra complication by deciding the second fixture would involve the loser of the first match. Genius eh?

The Italian public and media could easily have drawn a line under the first phase performances and taken the view they were into the next round and two games away from the Semi-Finals stage. But, if anything, they’d become even more pessimistic than they had when the squad left for Spain. So much so that manager, Enzo Bearzot, ordered a media blackout where only he and captain Dino Zoff would talk to the press.

The game will be remembered for Gentile man-marking Maradona and the physical nature of the game. Both sides had been disappointing in the first phase, Italy more than Argentina. But this game was almost as if the Italians believed they needed to get at their opponents to really get going, so they resorted to dirty tactics to disrupt the flow of a side who were fairly lacking in confidence. It worked and you could visibly see the Italians grow. A kind of swagger was in their play as they gained the lead and then used all their defensive nous to stop the attacking intent from Argentina. Had Argentina scored first then things may have been different but few sides were as adept at defending a lead than the Italians were. Which makes you wonder how they couldn’t do that against Peru or Cameroon in the first phase.

Throughout the first phase the Italian squad had a running battle with their own media. Bearzot had ordered a media black-out and this seemed to allow him to concentrate on getting the best out of his team. Many of his players had been absurdly poor against average opponents in the first three matches but now they appeared free from pressure. Gaetano Scirea blossomed in a sweeper role with Bearzot looking for him to embrace his position in a way Bobby Moore did for England or Franz Beckenbauer had done for West Germany. In midfield Giancarlo Antognoni was now pulling the strings as his long and short range passing game finally clicked into gear. One reason for this was probably the movement of the front two was much better. Francesco Graziani had worked hard in the first matches but was struggling to get anything out of his partner, Paolo Rossi. If you didn’t see it, it’s difficult to appreciate how poor Rossi had been. But think of a charity match for veterans and players who haven’t played for many years are just slower, more ponderous and their touch is less sharp than when they were in their pomp. Rossi was doing a very good impression of this. But in this match things improved and his movement was better and now was an asset to the side rather than giving the team the problem of wondering where to hide him.

This second phase format was new to all the teams so they weren’t sure whether to really go for the win or try and settle for not losing. After a goalless first half Italy took the lead with a typical sucker punch. They soaked up the Argentinian attack and countered ruthlessly. A ball from the right-wing looking for Kempes just outside the area was intercepted by Scirea and the ball went as far as the centre-circle where Rossi picked it up, laid it off to Conti and they were on the attack. Conti was able to gain quite a few yards before passing left where Tardelli left it for Antognoni, then ran round him to receive the ball and from just inside the left-hand corner of the area he passed his shot into the opposite corner of the net. Argentine keeper, Fillol, had been expecting a shot to his near post and was wrong footed by Tardelli choice of target. But unlike the goals they had scored previously where they were almost a relief, you could sense the Italians gain in confidence and you felt there were more to come.

Soon after, Zoff made a good save from point blank range from Bertoni. As mentioned in Point Seven, Maradona was assaulted by Gentile throughout the game. Someone counted eleven fouls the Italian committed against the most talented player of his generation in the first half alone. As so much of the Argentinian play looked to go through Maradona, this stifled nearly every attack. Just after going behind, Maradona finally found himself free of his shadow as they had a free-kick just outside the area. He beat the wall, he beat Zoff but unfortunately he couldn’t beat the goal as the woodwork saved Italy.

Then Zoff palmed the ball onto the bar from a Gallego header at the far post from yet another free-kick. This sent Italy back on the attack and they manoeuvred their opponents expertly round the pitch switching the ball from the touchline on the left to the far right. Tardelli was again involved as he drew players towards him allowing Rossi to make the perfect run to his left where all the space was. Tardelli played him in and here was his big chance, one-on-one with Fillol. Two touches took him into the area as the keeper didn’t stray too far from his six-yard box. When a cool finish was required, Rossi stabbed at the ball and it hit Fillol. His big moment to wipe out all of the banality of his play from the past couple of weeks seemed to have gone. Cabrini had come up from the back and he and Conti combined to keep possession. Conti managed to tempt Fillol from his line in an attempt to block a shot from wide left, then he pulled it back for Cabrini to fire in the sort of shot his golden-boy striker should’ve done. Two goals in ten minutes and suddenly the whole tournament looked so different for the Italians.

With seven minutes left, the great Daniel Passarella fired in a free-kick from twenty yards out to give Argentina a consolation goal but they had little left to force an equaliser. Instead of an equaliser the next big moment was a red card for Americo Gallego. In a game where some of the tackles should’ve come with a health warning, it seems odd a red card was given for a push but maybe the Romanian referee had by this time decided the next misdemeanour would earn one.

Two hundred and seventy minutes without winning a game and then when it really mattered they were able to pull it out of the bag. As it turned out they were probably very lucky to come up against Argentina rather than Brazil. Brazil, by this time were flying yet Argentina were still uncertain, hesitant and with the squad split into two factions.

Argentina’s World Cup exit was sealed when Brazil eased past them in the next game and so it was winner-takes-all between the beauty of Brazil and the beast of Italy. Brazil’s 3-1 win over Argentina gave them the advantage in the group as a draw would be enough for them. But this Brazilian side were the best attacking team the world had seen for years or generations, yet they had a gung-ho nature about them which meant they just relied on scoring more goals than their opposition.

The world knows it as the greatest World Cup match ever. Surely the Italians didn’t have enough to beat the Brazilians? Surely the great Brazil side of Zico, Socrates, Eder, Falcao and Cerezo would have far too much guile, too much attacking strength, too many ideas. After all, Gentile could only kick one player around the pitch, couldn’t he? But which one?

We’ll cover this match in the next edition but suffice to say Italy managed to produce the performance of their lives and where Rossi was blunt, hesitant and toothless in his previous matches he suddenly converted every chance he had. A hat-trick when his country needed him completely wiped out all that had gone before, even the alleged cheating.

Years later Bearzot would reveal he picked Rossi because he didn’t believe he had a viable alternative. Rossi had played well with Bettega in 1978 but now with Graziani he struggled. Who knows what would’ve happened had Bearzot grew impatient after the first phase and gone with Altobelli instead?

Italy were through to the Semi-Finals and up against the first team they had played in Spain, Poland. Like Italy, Poland had only really turned it on for two matches when they thumped Peru, 5-1 to win Group One in the first phase and then they took the Belgians apart when Boniek scored a hat-trick to take control of the second group phase. But the two sides which met at the Nou Camp were completely different to the ones which lined up in Vigo three weeks previously. The Italians had a confidence and a swagger about them and also a determination to defend any lead. They took the lead midway through the first half when an Antognoni free-kick wide on the right was turned in by Rossi in the six-yard box. Replays showed how he’d found a little space and the ball seemed to be attracted to him, much like it had been against Brazil. It was all going for him now and few could believe it. Antognoni then went off injured but Poland just didn’t get close enough to have a decent shot on goal.

Rossi completed the win when Conti broke clear down the left and his cross to the far post eluded Zmuda and fell sweetly for Rossi to head it home. Five goals in two matches had him top scorer in the tournament and now they were into the Final. Runners-up in 1970 they now had an opportunity to redeem themselves.

The 1982 World Cup Final would be between Italy and West Germany. Two sides who could conceivably been knocked out in the first phase. Two sides who had failed to beat the African debutants, Cameroon and Algeria, yet had beaten the two most attractive sides in the competition, Brazil and France.

The game went as many had predicted, it was a tactical, turgid affair with both sides cancelling each other out. The breakthrough finally came when Oriali engineered a foul in midfield and Tardelli took it quickly to bring in Gentile on the right. His ball into the area was missed by Altobelli, a first half sub for Graziani, and Rossi followed on behind him and bundled the ball over the line. He could do no wrong now, the ball was just finding him and this was his sixth in the last three matches.

Twelve minutes later they doubled their lead with a goal which summed up their tactics during this tournament. Soak up the pressure, let your opponents onto you then hit them on the break. Perhaps fittingly it was one of the most elegant players of the whole competition, Scrirea, who made it. He nicked the ball off Breitner just outside his own area and then surged forward. Conti and Oriali joined in and then Scrirea, who had made it to the penalty area, played the ball back to Tardelli on the edge of the box. One touch with his right foot and then he fired it with his left into the bottom left hand corner of the goal. His celebration said everything about the moment, the emotion, the theatre, what it was like to score a goal in a World Cup Final. The Germans were done. A minute later Rummenigge was replaced by Hansi Muller and this felt like a submission. With ten minutes to go Conti ran freely down the right, passed the ball to Altobelli on the penalty spot. He drew Schumacher to him, feinted right and went left and passed it into the net. It seemed to rub the German noses into it and no doubt brought great cheers from London, Paris and Algiers. Paul Breitner got one back for West Germany but there were no celebrations, they knew they were beaten.

Italy had pulled off an astonishing victory. For all those supporters whose teams start poorly in a tournament they could point to the Italians of ’82. Were they lucky? Yes definitely, but had they won their opening group they would’ve met Belgium and USSR in the second phase and you’d still back them to win those matches and so you must applaud the fact they took the hardest possible route to the Semis and then emerged a much improved side when the Poles looked tired and spent. The Germans too were very lucky to reach the Final but in the end Italy’s momentum just took them on.

The Assault – Schumacher and Battiston

People often use battle themes when describing football moments. The French and Germans have been at war many times down the years and although one should never belittle the sacrifice and death of people with a sport where twenty two men run around a field kicking a ball, in footballing terms this was a battle. The Semi-Final of Spain 1982 between France and West Germany had everything and seemed to leave the watching public as breathless as the players. The setting was Seville with seventy thousand supporters packed in. Again in footballing terms, this was a real slugfest, a proper heavyweight contest which would’ve been a more suitable encounter than the Final was.

Pierre Littbarski opened the scoring after some great work by Breitner in midfield and then Fischer should’ve beaten Ettori, before Littbarski did. The French then won a penalty when Rocheteau threw himself to the ground desperately hoping Kaltz would grab hold of him to make it look authentic. The Dutch referee bought it (no that’s not another War reference) and pointed to the spot. Platini converted the penalty and the teams were level going into the break. The French were a delightful side to watch although they peaked two years later, with players such as Platini, Tigana, Giresse and Genghini. They were poor in 1978, didn’t qualify for Euro ’80 yet were now back with a bang. They were fluent, inventive and ingenious compared with the Germans who were functional, precise and ordered.

Five minutes into the second half France manager, Michel Hidalgo, made a change when he took off Genghini and brought on Patrick Battiston. Battiston, usually adopted as a full-back, was pushed into midfield. Ten minutes later France had the ball on the right just inside the Germans half. Bossis played it to Platini and this was Battiston’s signal to make a run from his starting position in the centre circle. The Germans were wide open at the back, with Stielike having ventured forward and both full-backs covering wide players, allowing Battiston to run into space. Platini’s weight of pass was perfect as Battiston didn’t have to check his stride at all. The ball bounces once and Battiston meets it just inside the area. Sensing the danger, and judging the pass, German keeper Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher rushes off his line. But he misjudges it. He misjudges the weight of pass, Battiston’s run and his ability to get there first. Battiston has time to allow the ball to pass across him so he can hit it with his left foot. He must’ve seen the keeper out of the corner of his eye and so he doesn’t strike it particularly hard just places it, presumably believing he’ll just pass it into the empty net.

The camera picks up Schumacher surging from the right of shot and we see Battiston get to the ball and place his shot. The camera then follows the ball as it bounces agonisingly wide. But we don’t get to see what happens when Schumacher reaches Battiston. All we see is a picture of Battiston prostrate on the ground barely moving. It’s only the replays which reveal the full extent of what happened.

Schumacher charged off his line but was not quick enough to get to the ball before Battiston. It appears he realised this so instead of looking to block the shot he just continues his run and barges into the Frenchman. But instead of just your normal shoulder barge, he actually jumps off the ground and into Battiston. His forearm smashes into Battiston’s head which flaps back at an alarming angle. He is probably out cold before he hits the ground. It is a sickening sight.

The game was held up for about ten minutes as Battiston received treatment on the pitch. He was surrounded by concerned teammates and some of the German players too, but one glaring omission was his assailant. Schumacher just stood waiting to take the goal-kick looking quite impatient at the hold-up. He never made any attempt to find out how the player was. Battiston was eventually stretchered off. He suffered three broken ribs, lost two teeth and still has a damaged back to this day.

France had to bring on a second substitute (the maximum allowed those days) with Christian Lopez coming on. The game restarted with a goal kick and there was no punishment for Schumacher. One of the most outrageous fouls in world football in front of a huge audience and no yellow card.

Eventually, the game continued and went into extra time. France soon raced into a 3-1 lead only for West Germany to draw back level and take the game into penalties, which the Germans won. Few have forgotten this incident and both incumbents have been remembered for little else. Battiston revealed years later that he doesn’t bare any grudges and he had actually signalled to teammates before he came on, he observed the German keeper being ‘wound up’ from the start of the match. Schumacher has since explained he didn’t fully understand how bad the Frenchman was until he was stretchered off. Of course had he gone over to check when the player was lying on the ground he may have realised sooner, but it appears his desire to help his side get to the Final was foremost in his mind and nothing was going to distract him from it. The Dutch referee, Charles Corver probably remains one of the villains of the peace but being a referee he either doesn’t have to, or isn’t allowed to give his side of the story.

Next up is the final part. Rather than scandal or controversy, it’s simply the best World Cup match ever!

About the Author

Pete Spencer
Just turned 50. Been Supporting Liverpool since 1976 (Paisley's first title). Write a lot about football from days gone by. There's so much available online about football today and over the past twenty years but incidents from the past often get forgotten