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

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 and Kuwait’s massive sulk. Here are the next two

6. Match Fixing

It was one of the most cynical, shocking and infamous attempts to manufacture a result anyone can remember in World Cup history. It was so blatant it forced FIFA into changing their rules. Gijon was the venue, forty one thousand people in the stadium witnessed what became known as “The Disgrace of Gijon” on 25th June 1982. The main protagonists in this play were twenty-four players from West Germany and Austria. They have shown no remorse for their actions, and there are several people who have claimed they would have done the same, despite there being little evidence of the same instance occurring again.

Let’s just set the scene so you get the full idea of why and how it happened.

West Germany lost their opening game of the World Cup to ‘little’ Algeria who were playing their first ever match at the finals. But they saw off Chile in their second game. Austria had beaten Chile and Algeria and had virtually booked their place in the second phase. Algeria then beat Chile on the 24th June in Oviedo, so all eyes looked to the final game in the group, in Gijon.

In those days there were two points for a win, with goal difference deciding how to separate teams on the same number of points, and then goals scored if teams couldn’t be split by the previous two methods.

As the teams lined up for the national anthems, Austria were top of the group with four points and a goal difference of +3. Algeria also had four points but a zero goal difference. West Germany were third with two points and a goal difference of +2. It was clear West Germany needed to beat Austria and a one goal margin would do it. If they won by three goals or more then they would progress along with Algeria and the Austrians would be on their way home. But surely Austria would put up a fight? What about their meeting four years before?

The Miracle of Cordoba, as it came to be known, occurred in the 1978 World Cup when the two met in the second group phase. West Germany were the defending champions but their performance had been patchy and inconsistent. The two were meeting in the final group game with Austria already eliminated. West Germany could still qualify but would need to win to stand a chance of a place in their third Final from the last four. The other group game was being played simultaneously between Netherland and Italy and the Germans needed a draw in that game. If the other game was drawn then the Germans needed to win by five clear goals to get to the Final. At the very least they expected a place in the Third Place Match and would get it if the Italians lost. Austria hadn’t beaten the Germans for forty seven years. With fifteen minutes to go both games were level and then the Dutch scored. This meant West Germany would go into the Third Place Match even if they found a winner. They needed the Italians to score but even then they themselves needed to score five times. There was one more goal, but it came from Austria. Hans Krankl scored it with just three minutes to go and Austria had, not only won, beaten their neighbours, but had ensured the Germans joined them on the flight home. The Germans weren’t impressed and couldn’t understand how the Austrians could celebrate so much. Why did they even bother trying when they had nothing to gain from the match?

Back to 1982, the Germans were soon on the attack and scored within ten minutes. Horst Hrubesch, who’d scored twice to win the European Championships two years before, headed in a cross from Pierre Littbarski on the left. What followed left those who witnessed it, ashamed and disgusted. There was no violence, no sendings off, in fact there were no tackles whatsoever. Players just passed the ball amongst themselves and when an opposing player came near, they passed it back to the keeper (this was pre-backpass rule days). There was no attempt to try and add to the score as players made pathetic efforts to make it look like they were trying to score. Dremmler did have a chance just after they went in front but it was easily saved by Koncilia and as the game wore on it became even more obvious to the paying spectators neither side was prepared to score as the result suited them both.

The German commentator at one point refused to comment on the game any longer. His Austrian counterpart actually suggested the viewers turn their televisions off. The crowd became more and more hostile shouting “out!, out!” and “Algeria, Algeria”. Angry Algerian fans waved banknotes at the players. Many of the German and Austrian fans were just as angry as they were hoping for another classic encounter just like four years earlier.

The game ended one-nil to West Germany and both teams progressed to the next phase. Both teams denied any collusion. Algerian officials lodged an official protest, even criticising the referee suggesting he should’ve made the players compete. What the Algerians didn’t want to face was the fact they were three goals to the good against Chile after thirty five minutes and allowed their opponents to score two goals in the second half reducing their goal advantage over the Germans. Had they held, or even added to their three goal lead then the Germans would’ve needed a much bigger margin of victory.

It is difficult to understand the Austrians motivation other than to defer to the Germans. Austria went into the same group as France and Northern Ireland for the next group phase, but at the time they only knew they would meet France as the Spain/Northern Ireland group hadn’t been decided. By winning the group the Germans would meet England in the next phase.

Later that evening Northern Ireland beat Spain with the hosts going into the same group as England and West Germany. The Irish had won by a solitary goal but there was no question of the two teams colluding to produce a result as the hosts were desperate not to lose, especially to a team ranked as low as the Irish.

FIFA ultimately did nothing to punish either West Germany or Austria as they hadn’t actually broken any rules. But what they did do was alter their schedule so the final games in each group kicked-off simultaneously.

7. Maradona Red Card

1982 was to be the tournament Diego Maradona would emerge as the greatest player in the World. He had some competition, not least from Argentina’s bitter rivals, Brazil. Zico, the black Pele, was at the height of his powers along with his captain, Socrates. Michel Platini was pulling the strings of a French team which would arguably peak two years later and West Germany boasted Karl-Heinz Rumenigge. But Maradona had the ability to stand above them all. He had just signed for Barcelona from Boca Juniors ten days before the tournament for a world record fee of £5m. With the World Cup being held in Spain this was seen as a match made in heaven with the Spanish public getting a ringside seat of a precocious talent the like of which they wondered if they’d ever see again.

This was to be Maradona’s first World Cup. He made his debut for the national side when he was aged sixteen and four months. This was February 1977, when manager, Cesar Luis Menotti, sent him on as a substitute for Luque in a 5-1 win over Hungary. The match was played at Boca Juniors stadium where Maradona played his domestic matches. He had made his debut for Boca a year earlier. Menotti ultimately decided against selecting him for a World Cup they were hosting, believing the young man to be too young. He had played just four times for his country before the 1978 World Cup. By the time the 1982 came around he had represented them thirty times and was already considered an icon in his own country, mainly thanks for his performance in the 1979 World Youth Cup where inspired his side to victory in a tournament he was voted Best Player.

Having made his international debut at his home ground, he was now to take his World Cup bow at his new home, the Nou Camp, Barcelona. But Argentina were lacklustre as they were beaten by Belgium with Maradona coming in for some pretty rough treatment at the hands of his opponents. The ploy was clearly, stop Maradona-stop Argentina.

In their next game they were more like the reigning champions they were supposed to be as they cruised past a Hungarian side who had thumped ten past El Salvador a few days earlier. Maradona scored twice and announced himself on the world stage. Their final group game was against El Salvador and they just spent the whole game kicking lumps out of any player in light-blue and white. It was an ugly game which Argentina eventually won 2-0, but nothing to what was to come.

Through to the next round yet far from convincing, Argentina now had the prospect of meeting Brazil and Italy in the second group phase. A Brazil v Argentina was manna from heaven for FIFA. Maradona had yet to finish on the winning side against Brazil having met them twice, although he scored in their last meeting in the ‘Little World Cup’ played in Uruguay in January 1981 to celebrate fifty years of the World Cup. Argentina were first up against Italy, back in Barcelona in Espanyol’s stadium. The Italians had been even less convincing than Argentina as they’d stuttered their way through a weak group. The game was a desperately savage encounter with football distinctly anonymous.

This is where Maradona was introduced to Claudio Gentile. Gentile was the complete opposite of gentle and was employed simply to kick the best player in the world out of the tournament. Normally used as a full-back of limited talent, Gentile was able to just follow a player and kick him every time the ball got near him. In fact his only apparent quality was the ability to look innocent once he’d upended his target. Gentile later revealed he had spent two days studying videos of Maradona and worked out his strategy which was to stop him getting the ball, in whichever way he could without getting sent-off.

He fouled Maradona eleven times in the first half alone. There is a moment midway through the half when Maradona receives the ball just outside the area on the left, he turns Gentile who just kicks him up in the air as he can’t reach the ball. To the surprise of their own supporters, Italy won 2-1 as the holders were more intent of retribution and retaliation than football. Maradona did have a shot on goal without the attention of Gentile, but this was only because it was from a direct free-kick which hit the post.

The rules of the second group phase were such the losers of the first game would play immediately again in the next game with just two day’s rest, and for Argentina this meant Brazil, a side playing the most samba of Samba football. They were the Harlem Globetrotters who’d cruised through their group without seeming to break sweat. Argentina’s grip on the trophy was slipping and they desperately needed their talisman to find his form.

Argentina hadn’t beaten Brazil since 1969 and things began badly as Eder fired an outrageous drive from a free-kick thirty yards out which thundered against the underside of the crossbar and Zico was on hand to stab it in. In the second half a beautiful passing move swept across the pitch involving Eder, Socrates, Zico and Falcao when Serginho headed in his first of the tournament. The third goal was simplistic in it’s efficiency as Junior made a run forward from left-back and Zico played a gorgeous pass which took out the Argentinian defence and Junior just passed it into the net.

Maradona had cast a sorry figure in a game he just couldn’t find a way to influence, and this time it was different to being kicked out of the game. Free from having a dog nipping at his heels, Brazil looked to close him down as soon as he got the ball. But what they did very well was defend their zone and all the tricks, flicks and touches Maradona played ultimately came to nothing as teammates were dispossessed. The Brazilians generally stayed on their feet, figuring a quick interception would keep the ball alive and allow them to divert defence to attack with alarming speed. He was being beaten by a better footballing team.

It’s interesting watching Maradona in this game and comparing him to four years later. Arguably this Argentina side, despite their age, were a better side than the one which lifted the trophy in Mexico. But what Maradona did more of four years later was keep hold of the ball rather than lay it off, which drew opponents to him leaving his teammates with more space. But in 1982 perhaps he was more respectful of who he was playing with.

He should’ve had a penalty in the second half when he skinned Junior, who got a firm challenge in but as the world discovered four years later, you have to get all of the ball when tackling Maradona, or take him out, as he’ll stay on his feet and keep going. His low centre of gravity just allowed him to skip past challenges. Junior made the mistake of going to ground to try and get the ball, but Maradona just shifted it from one foot to the other and carried on. After Junior’s initial ‘nibble’ Maradona continued on and the Brazilian tried again but Maradona was ahead of him and slightly shielding the ball so the only way the Brazilian could get at the ball was to take the man first. These days he’d probably get the decision but referees were more lenient back then and so the decision was to award a corner.

His frustration was growing for all to see and as the game wore on the tackles became slightly later as players grew tired.

But for all the beauty and magnificence of the play from Brazil, most people mention this game for one moment. It involved Maradona but not in a way he, or his country, would’ve wanted. The game was gone and with five minutes to go he received the ball in midfield from Olguin wide on the right and played it forward for Daniel Bertoni who attempted to head it back. But Batista came in with his foot high and as Bertoni went down clutching his head, Batista’s momentum took him on towards Maradona who, riled by what he saw as a bad challenge on a teammate, retaliated by lunging his boot into Batista’s thigh. He was late, the challenge was reckless, but what did for the him was he carried on with the challenge to impose the maximum pressure on the thigh. Suddenly the referee blew the whistle and waved a red card in Maradona’s direction. Batista’s challenge went unpunished but the young Diego was forced to make the long trudge off the pitch consoled by Alberto Tarantini.

It was an ignominious end for a team looking to defend their title, but three defeats in five matches was nowhere near good enough. Afterwards there was talk of divisions in the camp. Menotti had gambled on much of the same squad who had served him so well in ’78 but then they had luck and home conditions in their favour. This time round they had neither. Maradona would redeem himself four years later but it wouldn’t be the last time he crashed out of the World Cup with his name on the front pages rather than the back.

Next up – Italy’s fall and rise, and the assault

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