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The story of the 1978 World Cup

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Jonathan Stevenson | 22:46 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Between now and the start of the World Cup, we are looking back at previous tournaments with the help of some of the key characters and the BBC's archive footage. Today, there's Austria's greatest moment and Archie's artistry.

Argentina, June 1978

Set against a backdrop of political uncertainty and shorn of the illuminating genius of the world's finest footballer in Johan Cruyff, the 11th staging of the World Cup was perhaps the most controversial of them all.

That it ended with a fairytale first victory for the hosts Argentina remains the subject of contention to this day, with the suggestion the country's military dictatorship aided the team's triumph continuing to cast a regrettable shadow over their achievement.

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As four-goal striker Leopoldo Luque said many years later: "With what I know now, I can't say I'm proud of my victory. But I didn't realise; most of us didn't. We just played football." It is perhaps the only World Cup win that causes unease among the victors. "There is no doubt that we were used politically," added Ricky Villa.

What the players didn't realise was the scale of Argentine president General Jorge Rafael Videla's so-called 'Dirty War'. Allegations of human rights violations and 'forced disappearances' were widespread, and together with protest groups like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, it engulfed Argentina in a very negative publicity.

Even the football world was not immune, with General Omar Actis, chairman of the World Cup organising committee, assassinated before the competition had begun - allegedly because he was set to speak out about escalating costs of the tournament.

There nearly wasn't a World Cup at all as the Netherlands led calls for a boycott, but Videla avoided the potential embarrassment by guaranteeing there would be no bloodshed during the competition. However, three-time European Footballer of the Year Johan Cruyff and West Germany's Paul Breitner both refused to take part, with Cruyff only revealing his real - non-political - reasons for not travelling 30 years after the event.

But for General Videla and his junta the tournament injected a wave of nationalist pride in a country that was being tormented from within, as the World Cup shifted the focus away from the atrocities.

During the tournament, controversy was everywhere: Welsh referee Clive Thomas blew the final whistle in Brazil's game with Sweden just as Zico was heading in, Scotland's Willie Johnston was sent home for taking a banned stimulant, and, needing to win their final second round game 4-0 against Peru to reach the final, Argentina romped to a 6-0 victory that some still believe was fixed.

The fact that Peru goalkeeper Ramon 'El Loco' Quiroga was born in Argentina did nothing to dispel rumours of a pre-arranged deal, but Luque says it is impossible to tell what really happened. "I don't know, honestly," he said two years ago. "But Videla did many bad things, much worse than bribing, so... But, we did play a tremendous game against Peru."

In amongst all the mayhem, prolific Austrian striker Hans Krankl was busy writing his name into his nation's folklore. Pitched into a group with Spain, Sweden and Brazil, the Austrians amazed even themselves by winning the group thanks to Krankl winners in their first two games.

"I think it was the greatest Austrian team of all time," the 57-year-old told me over a crackling phone line from Italy. "Qualifying after only two games was incredible. Imagine that group, with Austria coming first. Normally it's impossible in football for this to happen, but in 1978 it was true, a dream that came true."

Yet the greatest moment for Austria, Krankl and a new band of admirers that included Barcelona - who he joined after the tournament - was still to come. Defeats against the Netherlands and Italy in the second group stage meant they were already out going into their last game with holders West Germany, but their neighbours and arch-rivals still had a slim chance of getting to the final.

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Krankl has fond memories of a match that would become known as the 'Miracle of Cordoba'. "The greatest ambition of all for Austrians was beating West Germany," he said. "In 47 years it had not happened and to be honest we did not think we could beat them, because we are just their little brother. But somehow we made that dream come true too.

"I was lucky enough to score the 88th-minute winner and it was the greatest moment of my life. In Austria, people still speak about this game and will be doing so in 50 years. It's like 1966 for England - it wasn't a game for one lifetime, it was a game for three lifetimes, for 200 years, for eternity.

"In Austria the commentary by Edi Finger is played over and over again. Before Euro 2008 a keyring was made in my country and if you pushed a button you could hear it. But I never get bored of the commentary. It's from the heart, it's full of emotion and it sums up how a nation felt at that moment."

Goals were flying in from everywhere, with many of them spectacular. Archie Gemmill's solo run and finish for Scotland against the Netherlands started the feast, with Arie Haan's 40-yard screamer for the Dutch against Italy and Nelinho's physics-defying curler from the right wing that arched past a disbelieving Dino Zoff similarly worthy of superlatives.

Gemmill's moment of magic - a slaloming run through the Dutch defence that ended with a beautifully composed finish past Jan Jongbloed - is rightly considered one of the finest World Cup goals of all time. It was also the highlight of the tournament for a side that once again flattered to deceive on the biggest stage, failing to qualify from their group despite manager Ally MacLeod predicting the Scots would return from Argentina with "at least a medal".

Haan's wonder strike, meanwhile, was enough to earn the Dutch their second successive World Cup final berth where, despite the conspiracy theorists being out in force after the hosts' demolition of Peru, they were destined to meet Argentina.

As the ticker tape rained down on the Estadio Monumental pitch in Buenos Aires prior to kick-off on 25 June, the drama that had engulfed the tournament took another twist. Argentina's players, desperate for any advantage they could find, objected to a bandage worn by the Dutch winger Rene van de Kerkhof on his right arm and the start was delayed.

Italian referee Sergio Gonella was initially indecisive and the Dutch players, in an atmosphere Johnny Rep later described as "boiling", threatened to walk off. Van de Kerkhof was eventually asked to return to the dressing-room and add another layer of padding, even though he had worn the same plaster in the previous five Dutch games.

The contest itself was brutal. Gonella failed to exercise any control as the tackles went flying in and the 50-50 decisions seemed to mostly fall in favour of Argentina. Just before half-time Mario Kempes fired them ahead, only for Dirk Nanninga to head home a leveller eight minutes from time.

With seconds left the Netherlands' five-goal top scorer Rob Rensenbrink rolled a shot against the post and when the game went into extra-time, Kempes struck his sixth of the competition to pip Rensenbrink to the Golden Boot, before Daniel Bertoni rolled in to wrap it up and send the Monumental into ecstasy.

As Rensenbrink later said: "If the trajectory of my shot had been five centimetres different, we would have been world champions. On top of that, I would have been crowned top scorer and perhaps chosen as the best player of the tournament - all in the same match. That's why I keep things in perspective."

Argentina became the fifth host nation to win the World Cup. But with their campaign clouded in controversy from start until finish, history is unlikely to look upon them with the same fondness as it does so many of the other champions. "In hindsight, we should never have played that World Cup," admitted Luque. "I strongly believe that."

Watch the Top 10 goals from the 1978 World Cup (UK only)
Watch highlights of Scotland's classic match against the Netherlands (UK only)

Let me know your recollections from Argentina '78. On Friday, we look back at the iconic moments of Spain '82 with the help of a Scottish legend.


  • Comment number 1.

    I remember Tunisia, first African team to have any kind of showing.Beat Mexico 3-1 unlucky defeat to Poland and a well earned 0-0 draw with holders West Germany.

    Torocsik and Nyilasi sent off for Hungary in their first game v Aregntina. France playing in a green and white stripe shirt borrowed from a local club. Scotland losing 3-1 to Peru then drawing 1-1 with Iran.

    The legend that was Ladislao Kubala managing Spain and Menotti the chain smoking Argentinian.
    Miss of the century by Cardenosa of Spain with a gaping goal and letting the Brazilian Amaral clear off the line.

    Robbie Rensenbrink was kicked all over the pitch by Argentina, i wish that shot had gone in.

  • Comment number 2.

    The biggest fix the footballing world has ever seen.
    To any muppets who believe sport transcends politics, just look at what happened before and during the tournaments in Argentina in 1978, or France in 1938.

    How long before the mods decide that telling the truth somehow contravenes one of their rules?

    BTW these are a pretty good set of blogs, I just wish they were a little more in depth.

  • Comment number 3.

    If ever a team looked certain to win the World Cup but ultimately failed to do so, it was the glorious Dutch team of 1978.
    The squad was filled with outstanding players like Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan, Johnny Rep, Rob Rensenbrink.
    The great Johan Cruijff had retired from international football after securing the Netherlands their place in the Finals tournament and perhaps if he had decided to play the fate of the Dutch might have been different.
    As it was, they once more went out to the host nation in the Final, as they did in West Germany in 1974.
    Perhaps the greatest impact of the 1978 Finals was the decision by Tottenham Hotspur to sign the Argentinian World Cup-winning midfield duo of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.
    Their arrival in England opened the floodgates for foreign players and the lasting legacy of those pioneering signings is the fact that no fewer than 1,198 non-British & Irish Isles players have appeared in Premier League matches.
    All the facts & figures from the 1978 FIFA World Cup Finals in Argentina here:

  • Comment number 4.

    Good blog I don't think Cruyff being absent made that much difference as if Resenbrink hadn't hit the post they would have been champions. A lot of drama in that tournament but that Peru result will always be viewed with suspicion although I doubt the Argentine players will have been aware of anything untoward

    Does anyone know waht Scotland's theme tune was?

    Here is a good blog about England ones

  • Comment number 5.

    All these World Cup blogs are really helping me to get in the mood for the upcoming tournament! Great read by the way.

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, I wont disagree about the controversy with Videla and the Junta. I was living in Argentina in that time, just finished secondary school. Not doubt the Junta used the team and competition for their own malicious interest. But the team won on their own merits. Our coach Menotti worked very hard for months trying many players, playing friendly matches in Argentina and in Europe, and elaborated hard to choose the final 23 players, leaving behind Maradona. Does anybody understand the pressure the man had to use Maradona in the team from the media and of course the militars. But Menotti took a choice because he believed he had the best players and the best team to win the world cup. We had seen on TV the team grow stronger, and the feeling was that even without Maradona, we had a very good team, yes, unknown players to the world, but known to us. Like Fillol, a world class keeper. Or Ardiles, a combination of something near Mascherano and Zidane.
    I don’t think many other teams understood the capacity of Kempes, the society in between Kempes – Bertoni – Ardiles – plus the strong support from Fillol - Pasarella – Tarantini – Gallego – in the back/middle. Menotti was a visionary in his tactics, and yes, Holland missed Cruyff, but the world discovered Kempes, who I think had the power and ability of Rooney and Tevez today, or more. I saw a bit of Arg – Peru online recently, and until 3-0 Peru had their good chances, while Argentina attacked with 10 man almost all the time. It was probably the best game the play in the tournament, and the pace of the game equals the pace of games of today, unlike other games of that time.
    The link to the game is here:

    And in the final, Holland and Argentina played a tight game, but we had Kempes.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have a vague memory that Peru hit the post in the game against Argentina when the score was 0-0.

    (UK only) the World Cup curse of this website.

  • Comment number 8.

    #4 - think it was something about 'We're on the march with Ally's Army' sung (stretching it a bit here!) by Andy Cameron. Awful!

    Great WC even and though I couldn't believe the draw with Iran and Masson's penalty miss, Scotland did beat Holland in a great game. As ever they should have done so much better. Still it was a very good Scotland team despite what people said about them, just as good as the 74 team. And what happened to Willie Johnson was disgraceful in hindsight: pilloried in the press and banned for inadvertently taking a stimulant. Great player who really didn't need the additional bad press.

    Best games: Scotland v Holland and Argentina v Italy. My dad had let myself and my brother watch the latter late at night and it really was some match.

    Argentina v Peru: in hindsight it probably was rigged. The Argentines approved a trade agreement with the Peruvians on the back of the result allegedly. Should Argentina really have been in that final?

    Loved Kempes what a player but gutted they beat the Dutch who still had all our sympathies from being beaten in 1974.

  • Comment number 9.

    A load of grain got shipped to Peru from Argentina afterwards reportedly.
    Not sure Breitner missed for political reasons, although he was a lefty. He was absent from several tournaments [EC '76 and 80] due to fall outs with the authorities.
    But yeah fantastic tournament [great goals and kits, positive, attacking football on the whole] the punk rock World Cup!

  • Comment number 10.

    If Maradona had been selected by the Argentinians how do you think that would have done to his legacy? Would there be more debate today about who is the greatest player of all time? - English Footballers Abroad

  • Comment number 11.

    Talking about match fixing, I remember the 1982 World Cup, West Germany played Austria in the last group B match. West German's needed to win by 1 or 2; any more, Austria would have gone out. West Germany scored in the first 10 minutes and then just kicked the ball around. This resulted in both teams advancing to next stage at the expense of Algeria.

  • Comment number 12.

    The "controversial" aspect of that WC was that it was employed for political reasons by the leaders. It is not the first nor the last time this has happened. In Britain or the US they used to censor reporting of Olympics results according to the nationality of the winner.

    The fashion the 78 WC was reported here and tends to be talked about has to do with political reasons ie. Malvinas conflict. It also followed the careful portrayal of Argentinians by the media as 'animals' since 1966.

    The consensus from on-the-field events is that the '66 WC was fixed much more than the '78 one, in more ways than one. Argentina were completely robbed vs England in the quarters there so they felt justice was made in '78 and more so in '86.

  • Comment number 13.

    This was my first world cup and I thought it was fantastic and frankly still one of my favourites todate. That competition I believe still helped Argentina as a country during really awful times. Argentina deserved to win it. The Dutch should really have been knocked out by the scots and were extremely fortunate to beat a strong Italy. Yes, Sergio Gonella was a wimp in the final but I personally hack back to the days when football was played by men and tackling - hard tackles - were still allowed. Cruyff was not missed by the Dutch. Kempes was sensational along with Passarella at the back. Fillol was a competent goalie so I refuse any attempt to diss Argentina's triumph.

    Despite coming 3rd Brazil stuttered. Zico was iffy, while Rivelino was already washed up. They did beat Poland and could easily have made the final but hey the rules were already made that Argentina would play Peru later that evening. If Brazil had taken their chances and defeated Argentina in that group the Arg/Per game would had no significance! Later I watched some matches on VHS and I must say Rossi and Cabrini and Scirea were just great to watch. Very good competition all in all.

    Stevo, God Bless you for these blogs!! Just make them a bit longer please.

  • Comment number 14.

    Fascinating WC, surely one of the most controversial. Every host nation seems to benefit from its home advantage though of course in different ways. England certainly did in 1966 and Argentina was no exception. Dubious penalties, unpunished fouls, handballs missed.....

    Some of my abiding memories include the following

  • Comment number 15.

    South Korea surely have to have had the most benefit from fixing? Their games against Italy and Spain in 2002 were unbelievable...

  • Comment number 16.

    The first World Cup I can really remember. As a Scotland fan I always blamed the fact that Scotland wore blue shorts (not being too serious) in the two horrible games against Peru and Iran, but went back to the tradional white against the Netherlands. I'm glad someone pointed out the game where France wore green and white stripes, a shirt borrowed from the local team. For many years I always thought I had made that up! A tournament that would have been played during the Argentinian winter, just as it will be played during the winter in South Africa. Playing a World Cup in winter doesn't sit right with me!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Yeah sport and politics don't mix, right!

  • Comment number 18.

    The Peruvian government were given huge 'donations' (bribes) of food prior to the game (manily corn if i remember correctly), and it is well known the goalkeeper of Peru was from Argentina. On top of this there is evidence to show that several players also received large sums of money after the game. I studied this as part of my dissertation.

    Without doubt the 6-0 result was one of the biggest fixes in footballing history.

    But this was nothing new.

    Leeds were cheated out of the European Cup Final in 1975 and even Beckenbauer admits this. The referee admitted taking a bribe some years later! Did the trophy get awarded to Leeds in retrospect - NO, of course not. Let the cheats keep it!

    Football has been rigged for decades, and still is today, which is sad, very sad.

  • Comment number 19.

    Oh and lets not forget the 1973 Cup Winners Cup Final, which was again rigged, and evidence was provided after. What happened? NOTHING. Milan keep the trophy, Leeds get screwed.

    Is Lord Triesman telling the truth?

    History would suggest YES.

    FIFA and UEFA are a bunch of crooks, and even when evidence is supplied of match fixing, they dont do anything about changing the results!

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm too young to remember the actual finals but I've read and watched a lot of it over the years. Argentina were a good team with a fine tactician in Menotti but I do have a feeling that they wouldn't have won the tournament had it been played in another country, you can say the same about England in 1966.

    It's a real shame that that great Dutch team reached 2 World Cup finals and had the misfortune to come up against the host nation in each, think of the super soft penalty that the Germans got in 1974!

  • Comment number 21.

    The paranoia of the average English fan is ridiculous! 1978 was not fixed the best team won. Also whilst talking about conspiracies Rattins sending off in 1966 and somewhat 'generous' refereeing throughout the tournament certainly assisted England..........

  • Comment number 22.

    The Final of 1978 was incredible. The image of all that graffiti falling was memorable indeed. Then, once again the famous Orange shirts of the Dutch taking the field for another final, lining up against the blue and black of the home side, taking the match into extra time which produced two more goals. Did recent World Cups produce memories like that? Even if there was controversy surrounding the advance of the Argentinians, the images of that final are for ever etched in memory. Plus, the standard of football then was much better than any international match played today.

  • Comment number 23.

    i never knew 78' was so controversial, wonder if cruyff had been playing whether netherlands would have won. some cracking goals in the tournament though.

  • Comment number 24.

    I believe there was also suggestions of a conspiracy in the Scotland v Netherlands game.

    Had the Netherlands won the game, they would have been playing in the same group as Argentina & Brazil in the second round. The suspicion was that they chose to avoid this by playing for a narrow defeat, ensuring that they finished 2nd in the group and ended up in the easier of the second round groups.

  • Comment number 25.

    It's difficult to understand how the Argentina players must feel. The greatest moment of their careers tainted, and representing a government who acted the way they did.

    As for Scotland, it was a typical tournament. Thumped by Peru, only to then beat the Dutch. Glorious failure as usual.

  • Comment number 26.

    I don't remember any of that political stuff- was too young to care maybe.
    All I remember was Argentina's breathtaking football, I thought to myself, now that's how it should be played and Kempes was my hero.

  • Comment number 27.

    Maybe the 6-0 was fixed
    But MAYBE it wasn't.
    The lack of credit Argentina is given shocks me. Yes, they had home advantage (England '66, Germany '74, France '98 did too, to name a few), and I'm sure a few of the 50-50's DID go their way (like Korea in '02?). But they still had an amazing team.
    In Argentina, the squad is seen as one of the best Argentina teams ever. Passarella, Fillol, Bertoni, Gallego, Kempes, Bochini... All great players. Maybe they weren't as well known in Europe, but class players nevertheless.
    Give Argentina some credit.

  • Comment number 28.


    Ally McCleod's team arrogantly taking the lead through Joe Jordon ... and then (to the delight of England fans in my house) the South American ambush. Dazzling quick possession, lightning fast wingers ... all orchestrated by 2-goal Peruvian maestro Teofilo Cubillas. I fell in love with Peru that day with those red sash across the white shirt's, so much soo I visited the country at first opportunity in adult life.

    I recall '78 as a good world cup. Super group phase match between Holland and Scotland with wonder goals from Archie Gemmill and Johnny Rep... All that ticker tape when the host nation was playing (adopted on the English terraces the following season). An attacking Argentinian side the best team in the tournament and deservedly winning the cup.

  • Comment number 29.

    A brutal authoritarian military regime wanted to host the biggest sporting event in the world, and whipped up nationalist fervor around it.

    But they didn't help the team who barely squeaked by, on several occasions, as this blog showed.


  • Comment number 30.

    Very interesting article - it's the first world cup I ever watched, and even at 9 years old I could spot a thrown match when I saw one.

    However, I'm not sure it's true, as you say, that "It is perhaps the only World Cup win that causes unease among the victors". I imagine the Italian team of 1938 might have later had misgivings about the Fascist shirts, the referees hand-picked by Mussolini and the death threats.

  • Comment number 31.

    "South Korea surely have to have had the most benefit from fixing? Their games against Italy and Spain in 2002 were unbelievable..."

    I'm amazed this is still brushed under the carpet. The game against Italy in particular was a disgrace, probably the worst display of bias I've seen as a football fan. If it had been against England we'd still be moaning about it in 30 years.

  • Comment number 32.

    There was nothing particularly tainted about Argentina's victory. Almost every game has some controversies and World Cups are no exceptions. Look at how France got into South Africa ... and didn't Italy benefit from some clever and outrageous diving in the penalty box in 2006?

    The other thing that folks must remember is that the world was at war in the 70s. The west vs the communists. The blog has a link to an article that refers to leftist guerilla groups in the US, German and Italy. But guess what??? There were such guerilla groups in South America as well ... and the Argentine military dictatorship was a reaction to that. And that is why, by the way, the US was helping Pinochet in Chile. Let's not be ignorant kids about this and think too simplistically that 'there were bad men in argentina'. The world is more complicated than that.

    So congrats to the great Argentine players who won. They were the best that year !

  • Comment number 33.

    The 1978 final was a disgrace. Argentina delayed coming out of the dressing room for a long time so that the Opposition had to warm up in front of a very hostile crowd (incidenally exactly the same tactic employed by Racing Club when Celtic played them in1968 in Buenos Aires). Then they complained about the bandage, which had already been approved by the officials. All tactics to upset the opposition and then a 'homer' of a ref let them get every decision going. If you were too young to witness it and want a taste of what it was like, read Brian Glanville's History of the World Cup.

    If you are surprised FIFA let them away with it all and the Peru match fiasco then don't be. Read 'Foul' by Andrew Jennings. John McBeth was spot on about FIFA in everything he said, the UK media should have supported him not forced his resignation.

  • Comment number 34.

    I would not wish to take anything away from Argentina but I don't think they deserve praise. It is rumoured as well that "vitamins" were being used, hey, it's said Diego took "vitamins" too and he was booted out of the '94 World Cup. I would too, not just call Argentina's regime, "political stuff I was too young to remember", it was a very repressive regime. You add up all of the curiosities of '78 and one wonders. Yes, one can wonder indeed about '66 and '06, '54, '34, '38, '86, yes about most Cups in fact.

  • Comment number 35.

    "The 1978 final was a disgrace. Argentina delayed coming out of the dressing room for a long time so that the Opposition had to warm up in front of a very hostile crowd"


    A sneaky tactic, "disgrace" might be pushing it, though.

    The "godly" Brazilians did the same thing after half-time against England in 1970. Making them wait and re-warm-up in an equally hostile (anti-English, pro South American) Guadalajara stadium.

    I usually link 'disgrace' and 'world cup final' to Italia 1990. A horribly negative spectacle from both sides for sure, the Argentinian's got all the rap. What about the blatant German diving all though that match and the decisive, pathetic penalty decision ? No wonder the Argentinian's cracked, lost it with two players sent off at the end.

  • Comment number 36.

    Obviously politics and sports are very closely linked, and the WC of 1978 bears testimony to that. However, like a previous poster said, the world isn't black and white, therefore, while it is comforting to equate the Argentinian regime at the time as bad (which is actually undoubtedly true), the west cannot act whiter than white over its actions in the cold war period and especially the 70s. Again, take note of the USA's backing of the contras in Nicaragua, and of the free market fundamentalist Pinochet in Chile. So there is always a degree of hypocrisy when analysing politics of South America, from some in the West (not talking about anyone on this blog btw). The classic example is obviously some of the West's positive response to Pinochet, even though his authoritarian and dictatorial tendencies were at least as excessive as some of the Communist leaders in the USSR. Yet, because Pinochet adhered to the free market philosophy, he found friends in Thatcher and Reagan who were willing to overlook gross human rights violations just because Pinochet adhered to the extreme free market doctrine advocated by them.

  • Comment number 37.

    I usually link 'disgrace' and 'world cup final' to Italia 1990. A horribly negative spectacle from both sides for sure, the Argentinian's got all the rap. What about the blatant German diving all though that match and the decisive, pathetic penalty decision ? No wonder the Argentinian's cracked, lost it with two players sent off at the end.

    Well said, and it's not surprising that the Argentinians got all the flack. There is a strong anti-Argentina sentiment in this country (which is undoubtedly cooled recently) and it's easy to portray the Argentinians as cheaters and as a team who play in a dishonest way. This is partially a reflection of the attitudes of some in this country who hold this stereotype of Argentinians in general, not just their football team (even though a lot of people protest that this isn't the case). I'm not saying that the Argentinian football team doesn't cheat (every team unfortunately cheats these days, some more than others), but some of the anti-Argentina bile you at least used to hear was beyond the pale and politically motivated.

  • Comment number 38.

    England won their ONLY World Cup on home soil - do you really think they weren't gifted all of the 50-50 decisions? Countless decisions went against the other teams, such as Argentina's own Rattin being sent off. Why? Because the ref didn't like his face. You were even given a goal that didn't fully cross the line!! Argentina may have done many things wrong, but you English have done the same, so PLEASE get off your high-horse and accept it. Argentina has won another World Cup, not on home soil (yes, I know, the Hand of God, but we still had the world's best player), while England has got what to show for their troubles? Not even a lost final.
    Really puts things into perspective doesnt it?
    For the record, Italy were gifted a penalty last WC, South Korea reached the final thanks to some dodgy refereeing, even saintly Brazil has done some not-very-fair things... see Rivaldo in 2002. Every tournament has been biased towards or against a team - 1978 in favour of Argentina.
    And, by the way, since when is letting the other team warm up in front of your hostile fans illegal?

  • Comment number 39.

    Sorry, semi finals.... my bad

  • Comment number 40.

    1978 was the first world cup when I saw most games live. The memories I took away were Cubillas, Arie Haan (the greatness of his goal augmented by David Coleman's matter of fact Haan .... 1-0), Nelinho (the greatest world cup goal ever?), Krankl and all that paper.

    More serious business ... music
    We're on the march with Ally's Army / Oli Ola by Rod Stewart (rhymes with 'We're going to bring the world Cup from over tha' and Argentine Melody, not the greatest sports theme ever but the first notes always give me goosebumps in memory of Peter Jones (the greatest commentator ever?) setting the scene in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza or wherever before a key 11pm kickoff.

    Finally if anyone wants to know more about the background to this world cup - read Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kupar (the netire book is excellent, the best footy book ever?), tells the story of bulldozing the slums between the airport and football stadium so the officals would n't have to see any povery. Or listen to Patrick Barclay, Brian Galnville or Tim Vickery (best footy journalist on the radio?)

    (ok, probably not the most insightful comments ever?)

  • Comment number 41.

    Muchas gracias, terrific series this world cup blog of yours. Looking forward to the '82 entry, the first world cup I actually remember watching as a kid.

  • Comment number 42.

    Back before TV I have heard this logic, it was in the interest of the organisers to see the home team do well because of crowds. But well after TV of course, we see the host nation get breaks, Spain did in 1982, check the game versus Yugoslavia and of course, as mentioned, similar incidences at other World Cups. This was basically down to revenue. If the host were not playing, there was not as much interest and low crowd attendances. This could be part of why we see I believe Sweden in the 1958 final but I don't care to take away any credit away from any team, at least hard working honest team.

  • Comment number 43.

    Poor South Africa, in group A with Mexico, France and Uruguay stand a good chance to not advance. Would this be the first time a host team did not advance out of the group stage? Probably. Chile '62? Spain '82? As said many times, those countries comprised the host nation's group in 1966 too (minus South Africa and add in England as host).

  • Comment number 44.

    I once found a website that said the 1938 World Cup had a game with such poor officiating that there was a pitch invasion. I have never found confirmation of this. If anyone knows of this, please tell us.

    We all know the books out there, Glanville, Kuper. I believe one of the best sources out there because I met a Czech guy who read German and he told me all about it, is this series in German with a separate book on each World Cup, I have seen them and they look rather extensive.

  • Comment number 45.

    In 1978 I was just a laddie of 18. Me and my mate Robbie saved up for a year and came up with 300 quid each. Took a bucket flight to Caracas and hitched across a continent. Tell you how prepared we were - we just had our kilts and Scotland tops, nae jackets, it was summer here when we left and we didn't know it would be cold down there. After three weeks of planes trains and automobiles (no I didn't wash my face with Robbie's pants), and getting relieved of our Traveller's Cheques at gunpoint in Bolivia, we arrived in Cordoba just the day before Scotland's first game. All the kids in the backwater towns we travelled through would see our kilts and should "Escocia, Joe Jordan, Kenny Dalglish" as we strode by. It ended badly for Robbie who got amoebic dysentery and an air ambulance home to the UK, but luckily he made a full recovery. I met a beautiful girl from Brazil and stayed on to support them. Saw their games against Peru and Poland. Couldn't get a ticket for that game v Argentina for love nor money so watched it in a bar somewhere in BA. If only they'd been more up for it against Argentina they might have won the Cup. That Brazilian bird dumped me after that game and went home. Fond memories of all the cheap wine in Mendoza and bunking up at this guy's farm. We did a few odd jobs and got paid with food and board and all the red wine we could drink (which was plenty in those days). The football at that WC was a great disappointment, especially the Scotland games, but the experience lives on in my memory as if it were yesterday.

  • Comment number 46.

    'I once found a website that said the 1938 World Cup had a game with such poor officiating that there was a pitch invasion. I have never found confirmation of this. If anyone knows of this, please tell us.'

    This may refer to the Brazil-Czechoslovakia match during which 3 players were sent off and another two suffered broken limbs.

  • Comment number 47.

  • Comment number 48.

    Ah memories, the first World Cup i can remember. Everything about it seemed memorable, even if it all wasn't.
    Regarding the Peru game, won by Argentina 6-0 - just look at some of the 'defending'.
    As for the goals, hell, has there been a World Cup with better goals, and better long range goals? The 2 Arie Haan blockbusters, Nelhino, Dirceu, Cubillas, etc

  • Comment number 49.

    Good story babychunder, #45!

    The '78 world cup was a real spectacle, the Argentinians were so powerful, Kempes and Luque up front were awesome. Great gamne between Scotland and Holland, just too late for the sweaties.

    Gutted Cruyff didn't play. You didn't get to see the world's best players in those days apart from at the world cup or a European game if an English team was involved. That's the biggest difference between world cups these days and 25/30 years ago.

    I seem to remember Cruyff not going becasue he disagreed with the Dutch manager, and it was reported at the time, not sure what you mean about only revealing it 30 years later.

    What an idiot Clive Thomas made of himself.

  • Comment number 50.

    I had just turned 11 when the World Cup kicked off in Argentina and therefore still young enough to be told by mum to get a bath at half time in the Scotland-Holland game cos I had school teh following morning. I missed the penalty at the start of the second half but thankfully I made it downstairs for Gemmill's wonder goal.

    And I am grateful to the the Argentinians for objecting to Van der Kerkhof's cast. On that night my dad sent me to the shops to get him a bottle of pop to help cure his hangover. That was back in the days of limited shop opening hours on Sundays. The shop opened at seven and there was a massive queue in front of me.

    Another thing that was exciting about the '78 World Cup was that played at night time in the UK. I was allowed to stop up late on Fridays and Saturdays to watch the matches. What a treat!

  • Comment number 51.


    'What an idiot Clive Thomas made of himself.'

    Was that when he blew up just as Zico scored in the Brazil-Sweden game? Terrible by Thomas.

    'I seem to remember Cruyff not going becasue he disagreed with the Dutch manager, and it was reported at the time, not sure what you mean about only revealing it 30 years later.'

    If you click the link to this above, it tells you the full story.

  • Comment number 52.

    12. At 11:30am on 19 May 2010, nibs wrote:

    What a surprise, nibs comments on an article that has nothing to do with the English and yet still the comment is solely designed to have a dig at English football.

    You sir are a one-in-a-million.

  • Comment number 53.


    What a story..

    I remember reading press articles at the time in '78 about Scotland fans who had tried to get to Argentina by any means possible but I must admit its the first time I've ever read an account of someone who did it. Great post.

  • Comment number 54.

    #22 Berryave

    The Final of 1978 was incredible. The image of all that graffiti falling was memorable indeed.

    Falling GRAFFITI????? Shurelee shume mishtake my friend. I think you meant to say CONFETTI .....

  • Comment number 55.

    Great story babychunder, #45!

    Would you agree. A strong Scotland squad from that era only played anywhere near it's world cup potential in that Holland group name.
    Gemmill, Souness, Rioch, Hartford in midfield, Jordan and Dalglish up-front.

    What Scotland (or many teams for that matter) would give for some of those names in their current line-ups.

  • Comment number 56.

    From a historical perspective, I'm never sure what to make of the 1978 World Cup. The Argie win will always be tainted by the talk of match fixing(of which there appears to be a lot more evidence than the conspiracy theories surrounding the 1966 tournament, the incidents there sound more like the result of grudges/stupidity from individual officials than an organised fix).

    The Dutch weren't at full strength without Cryuff. I'm not sure if any of the major countries fielded a vintage squad. From what I've seen of the West German side for example it looked like a mix of past-their-best 1974 veterans and young players that would hit their peak next time around. Probably sums up the tournament.

  • Comment number 57.

    I bought the Panini sticker album even though England didn't qualify. The book remained two thirds empty cos the newsagents obviously had little demand.
    Some of the games were played quite late. I remember sneaking downstairs to watch Argentina - Poland.

  • Comment number 58.

    The first football match I remember was the 1978 final.

    Recently, via youtube I watched the full match for the first time in 32 years.

    I was shocked at how bad the officials were. The Dutch were called offside for no reason on at least 5 occassions. One of them would've put them through on the keeper. I'm not talking hairline decisions here, I remember one guy being at least 10 yards onside.

    Also the handballs. I think it was the little guy Houseman who jumps up and catches the ball to stop it reaching Neeskens. No card given!

    Another Argentinian does it again late on. Nothing! The Argentinians flew into some terrible tackles and nothing was done. The Dutch couldn't go near the Argentinians without giving away a foul.

    Quite simply the Dutch were never going to win as I honestly believe the officials were either threatened by the junta, paid off or both.

    To me the real winners were either Brazil or Holland.

    The tournament was a joke and the reason why sport and politics do sometimes go together.

    You can't have dictatorships hosting events like the World Cup.

  • Comment number 59.

    This was my 2nd WC, and a great one too. I think those lucky enough to see it will never forget the ticker tape greetings for Argentina. There may be more than a whiff of corruption in the air, but Argentina 78 were a great team with some truly world class players. Luque's goal against France will live long in the memory.

    At the time I remember the pundits purring over Ardiles - seems strange these days when our league is full of foreign internationals, but when Ardiles joined Spurs it was akin to winning the lottery. That man put bums on seats all over the UK the following season, including mine at Norwich City (I'd never seen the place full until he showed up). What a player.

    Haan's goals against Germany and Italy, Nelinho and Dirceu's brilliant goals for Brazil, Peru beating Scotland, Scotland beating Holland (oh Gemmill, what a goal), Argentina v France in the first round........ what a world cup.

  • Comment number 60.

    Some interesting things i found out about the worldcup

    All of Argentina's games kicked off at night, giving them the advantage of already knowing other results in their group ahead of their own games. As a result, FIFA changed the rules ahead of the 1982 event

    • Netherlands refused to attend the post-match ceremonies after the final because of what they claimed were deliberate stalling tactics by the Argentineans before the start

    • In the dying seconds of a first-round match between Brazil and Sweden, Brazil's Zico headed home a corner-kick. But referee Clive Thomas disallowed the goal, insisting he had whistled to end the match while the ball was in the air. The final score remained at 1-1

    • Brazil failed to reach the final despite not losing a match

  • Comment number 61.

    Maybe World Cups should always be held in countries who have no chance of winning?
    Either that or FIFA withdraw their bizarre/suspicious policy on TV refs.

  • Comment number 62.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 63.

    The World Cup returned to South America in 1978, but political instability in Argentina almost derailed the tournament from taking place before a ball was even kicked.

    Whereas FIFA was concerned in 1974 about the possibility of Arab terrorism in West Germany in the aftermath of the Munich Massacre, in 1978 it was the threat of violence from within Argentina that worried soccer's world governing body the most.

  • Comment number 64.

    It was a fantastic year for Argentina - can't think of more deserving winners :)

  • Comment number 65.

    How many times can the Netherlands come close to winning the World Cup, but not actually get there. They almost did it again last year - one of these days... If only Robin van Persie had scored in July...

  • Comment number 66.

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