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Argentina's class of '78 deserve respect

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Tim Vickery | 09:15 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

It is now 34 years ago, but the controversy over the Argentina-Peru match in the 1978 World Cup does not want to lie down and die.

Hosts Argentina, needing at least a four-goal margin to reach the final, won 6-0 and then went on to beat the Netherlands and claim their first title.

Last week, veteran Peruvian politician Genaro Ledesma added fuel to the fire. A prisoner of Peru's military government at the time, he claims Argentina's military dictatorship agreed to take custody of him and other dissidents in return for Peru throwing the match.

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There has always been talk of Peruvian collusion, with conspiracy theories involving shipments of grain from Argentina. Is there fire behind the smoke? It can hardly be ruled out. Little in the way of ethics could be expected of an Argentine dictatorship that was busy murdering thousands of its own citizens.

And then there is the fact that Peru had nothing to play for. Disastrous organisation meant that they had already effectively been eliminated, while Argentina knew exactly what they needed to do to reach the final - hardly the recipe for an honest contest.

But, purely in footballing terms, to ascribe the 1978 win entirely to skulduggery is surely to miss the point - because 1978 clearly represents a before-and-after moment for the Argentine national team.

After a golden age in the 1940s, Argentine football suffered badly from a self-imposed isolation in the following decade. By the time they returned to the World Cup in 1958, they were well off the pace. Poor again in 1962, they had a good team four years later, but failed to qualify for 1970 and were taken apart by the Dutch in 1974.

Since '78 it has been a different story. There have been disappointments, such as the 2002 World Cup. And there have been disastrous games, like the thrashing administered by Germany two years ago. But since 1978 they have also been a feared force, a national team with a secure place at football's top table. And that is not an achievement that can be attributed to the military dictatorship.

It has much more to do with a high-profile opponent of the regime, Cesar Luis Menotti, who coached the team to the 1978 triumph. Appointed after the '74 World Cup, Menotti kept his job even after the military coup of 1976 - one of the dictatorship's brighter decisions.

Menotti introduced two fundamental concepts. One was the idea of a genuinely national team, without the traditional domination of Buenos Aires. He scoured the provinces looking for players to feed into the process.

The other was a way of playing. It was not only Argentina the Dutch had humiliated in 1974. It was also Brazil and Uruguay. The high intensity football of the Dutch appeared to have rendered South American football obsolete. Brazil even confessed as much, attempting to copy the Dutch model in 1978.

Menotti, meanwhile, preached that traditional Argentine passing football could compete with the northern Europeans. But they had to up the rhythm of their play -
hence the importance of Osvaldo Ardiles to the team.

Ardiles was far from the peoples' choice to play in midfield. JJ Lopez was much more popular - he was an idol with Buenos Aires giants River Plate, while Ardiles, originally from Cordoba, was with the smaller Huracan club. Even Ardiles would probably have chosen Lopez over himself.

But Menotti went with Ardiles precisely because he offered more dynamism. His fetching, carrying and continuous quick passing set the pace at which the coach wanted the team to play.

Without home advantage, it is indeed possible that Ardiles and company might not have won that World Cup. But the suspicion that the military government might have pulled some strings in their favour does not detract from their virtues as a team. After all, Holland certainly did not throw the final in 1978.

The England World Cup-winning side of 1966 have also suffered from a lack of international credibility. In their case, it is argued that the English president of Fifa, Sir Stanley Rous, went out of his way to ensure a home victory, conspiracy theorists pointing above all to the famously controversial third goal in the final.

The "did it really cross the line?" debate is certainly valid. But the focus on this one incident overlooks the team's tactical virtues.

Brazil had gone with a back four in the previous decade, and discovered that if wingers were retained in that formation the team could be left light in midfield. The solution was for Mario Zagallo to shuttle back from the left wing and make the extra man, a role he played in 1958 and, to even greater effect, in 1962.

Four years later Alf Ramsey's England effectively had a Zagallo on either flank. Both Alan Ball and Martin Peters could set up goals like wingers. But they also got behind the ball when the team lost possession - defensive cover that left the side's most talented player, Bobby Charlton, free to attack.

Some 46 years later the 4-4-2 that England played continues to be the framework for many teams.

Could that England team have won the World Cup without home advantage? Maybe not, though the players argue they were at their best in away games, when they had more opportunity to launch the counter-attack.

Subsequent events also back them up. England's 1-0 defeat by Brazil in the 1970 World Cup was much more than a mere group game.

On the one hand it was a test of England's credibility away from Wembley - the game took place in the scalding midday heat of Guadalajara - and on the other it was of key importance in the context of the tournament. The winner of the group would have an easier ride to the final.

It produced a classic, one of the all-time great World Cup games. Although England lost, they could certainly have won, a point stressed to me by Zagallo, then Brazil's coach, and by a number of his players. Indeed, the Brazilians see this as the key game on their way to winning the tournament.

Even in defeat, England had won respect. They had shown that, irrespective of any real or imagined behind-the-scenes machinations, they were a team worthy of its place in football history.

The Argentina side of 1978 deserves that same respect.

Questions on South American football can be emailed to From last week's postbag:

Q) How come the Boca Juniors sides of 2000-2003 aren't considered to be in the pantheon of all-time greatest teams?
Rodolfo Diaz

A) I think you've partly answered your own question when you write "sides" in the plural. If it had been one continuous team that had won the Libertadores titles of 2000, 20001 and 2003, then I certainly think they would be worthy of consideration for the pantheon. But effectively we are talking about two different teams.

The 2000-01 side was built around a spine of keeper Cordoba, centre-back Bermudez, playmaker Riquelme and centre-forward Palermo - all of whom had gone by 2003, when the title owed a lot to the explosion on to the scene of Carlos Tevez. There is not enough continuity between the two for it to be seen as part of the same evolutionary process.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice post.. Tim do you think there will be tactica changes upon the Brazilian players mentality (a lot of the reasons for Brazil tactics is that attacking players don't defend) with the common bad performances of mainly Rio de Janeiro teams against other south american ones

  • Comment number 2.

    it is argued that the English president of Fifa. Sir Stanley Rous, went out of his way to ensure a home victory, conspiracy theorists pointing above all to the famously controversial third goal in the final.

    And the deliberate appointment of northern european refs for the matches involving Brazil: Pele kicked from pillar to post.

    And the last minute intervention of Rous to shift the venue for Portugal.

    Stanley and his subtle engineering.

    And they complain about Blatter!

  • Comment number 3.

    There has always been talk of Peruvian collusion, with conspiracy theories involving shipments of grain from Argentina.

    i dont even think this qualifies as a pay off and i agree with you tim on one point though it does seem the 6-0 'epic' was a throw, but as you have already stated the dutch dont seem to throw the final, because they didnt, they wouldt they were to proud, with a footballing ethic and trying to prove a point that they do it best would get in the way of any greed or other factors.

  • Comment number 4.

    And the deliberate appointment of northern european refs for the matches involving Brazil: Pele kicked from pillar to post.
    you have set a fundamental flaw, assumption, times were different, football was a contact sport for men, ideologies were in place then that arent even dreamt in most nightmares now. he was a player, of which there werent that many, so the other fielded bodies were set tasks of how to deal with such players, take away the game and there is nothing to play therefore it becomes your rules, barcelona employ the same ethic now, instead of taking away your 'game' they take the ball, same ethics same result, different era.

  • Comment number 5.

    you have set a fundamental flaw, assumption, times were different, football was a contact sport

    And your fundamental flaw is that you think I don't know that!

  • Comment number 6.

    Pele?? Far more damaging was Nobby Stiles treatment of Eusebio, the man who dragged Portugal back from a thrashing by North Korea.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ignoring the politics (Argentina was a right-wing dictatorship supported by USA-UK) & the capitulation by Peru, Argentina were a still great football side in 1978. They have continued to be ever since & if you are a true fan of the game, they are a joy to watch (Along with Brazil, Spain, Germany & Holland). Just youtube the games & you will see they deserved to win. Another great team around that time, was Brazil. Their team of 1982 were awesome & how Italy beat them in the semi`s & went on to win the final still has me in shock (a certain Rossi made all the difference)

  • Comment number 8.

    5.At 11:34 13th Feb 2012, Rob04 wrote:
    you have set a fundamental flaw, assumption, times were different, football was a contact sport

    And your fundamental flaw is that you think I don't know that!


    hmmm..... knickers in a twist?
    from you and your obvious lack of knowledge , which you are defending when ''attacked''- (a bit softly) -you have adjuded me to be petulant and wittless good sir but for this you have made the same mistake ASSUMPTION, you assume i think you an idiot, i merely stated my point and if indeed, as you stated above, know that then it cancells out your hapless comment circa #2!
    good day sir.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Tim,

    A very good article, indeed the 1978 team deserve respect, it was a stronger team than the 86 winning team, players such as pasarella, gallegos, ardilles, kempes would grace any international team, Mennoti took a huge risk not picking Maradona and it payed off, , and with Italy beating Argentina was a blessing in disguise,the as they moved from the spacious el monumental to the compact stadium of Central in Rosario, where the crowd were very intimadating.Argentina showed the world the unique atmosphere in stadiums in world cup for me

  • Comment number 10.

    One major difference between England in 1966 and Brazil in 1970 and the Argentines in 1978 was that England and Brazil were not defeated in the whole tournament. Argentina lost to Italy and as I remember this was due to a strong referee ignoring the blatant acting and diving displayed by the Argentines throughout the World Cup. As I understand that referee was appointed to the final but the Argentine FA disputed his appointment and he was replaced. Seeing how Argentina reacted to Van Der Kerkhof's bandage to protect his injured arm (which had been used in previous games!!) at the start of the game which must have disrupted Holland , it is obvious that Argentina used every trick in the book and FIFA allowed them to get away with it. The worst World Cup ever!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Tim - interesting. There will always be dubious matches, whatever the era (South Korea vs Italy, WC 2002 comes to mind - as does, for many Africans at least, England vs Cameroon at Italia '90: the refereeing was amazingly bad), but this is quite informative. It helps that Argentina went on to win the tournament: doubts are that much more difficult to erase when a team gets through suspiciously and then gets hammered at the very next stage of the tourney.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim Vickery | 09:15 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012
    "conspiracy theorists pointing above all to the famously controversial third goal in the final."

    Wrong, they are pointing above all to "el robo del siglo", and I am disappointed it has not been mentioned especially in the context of the article.


  • Comment number 13.

    The worst World Cup ever!!

    are you sure? i believe south africa 2010 was worst ever due to the vuvuzelas and the fact that it was dominated by the top teams (in essence) with no wildcard truly standing a chance made it a formiddable andidate for your prestigious award. :)

  • Comment number 14.

    Never described your comment as 'petulant' or 'witless' at all (you did). But how knowledge of more tolerant ref practices in the 60's cancels out my original comment does not logically follow. The documented criticism of Rous in '66 was that he made sure more tackle 'tolerant' refs were in charge of games involving Brazil. And 'more tolerant' by the standards of the time.

  • Comment number 15.

    I would use the word 'petulant' however. to describe the individual who wanted to moderate my #5 post!

  • Comment number 16.

    "barcelona employ the same ethic now, instead of taking away your 'game' they take the ball, same ethics same result, different era."

    Not really. Kicking people has always been contrary to the rules of the game. It used to be tolerated to a far higher degree than it is today, so people could get away with kicking people out of a game, but it was still deliberately breaking the rules.

    Barcelona, on the other hand, stop you from playing by denying you the ball through a combination of magnificent possession football and relentless pressure when you do manage to get it. None of which is contrary to the rules.

    Same result? Perhaps.

    Same ethics? Not even close.

  • Comment number 17.

    the individual? again poiting a finger to which 3 point back, if indeed as you say you have a knowledge of 'the ref practices' from the 60's then how on earth could oyu make such statements as you have above?

  • Comment number 18.

    *finger (damn my fat thumbs)

  • Comment number 19.

    13. Would you say Uruguay were a wild card? I don't think many people could have imagined them making the semi-finals after their showing in qualification. I thought there were some geniunely good matches in South Africa. The worst World Cup for me was 2002. Most South American and European teams were tired or just plain awful, allowing some very average teams get to rounds they should never have made. Even Germany and Brazil looked average. The entire tournament was utter dross.

    It's interesting that you compare England and Argentina Tim. I think that these two 'dodgy' world cups weren't really that bad. Not in comparision the pre-war world cups anyway, where either Germany (even though they still didn't win) or Italy blatently cheated their way to victory at the expense of the Hungarians, Austria or the Czechs. It's a miracle that the world cup ever really took off when you consider how corrupt the early editions were.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just to clarify my point about 1978 being the worst tournament ever in that it was blatantly obvious from the defeat by Italy that Argentina were going to win the Cup using whatever means they had to their disposal.And it is all the more disappointing as the game before they lost to Italy they beat France in what I think is one of the best group games ever played in the World Cup.

  • Comment number 21.

    Nice column Tim and I think you do make a valid point; even though it seems likely there was cheating in '78 and that this was a vital part of what allowed the Argentinians to win, the team they fielded was certainly a strong one and the changes made then had a lasting impact that allowed the team to become the potent threat it is to this day.

    Having said that, I would be very curious as to hear your opinion on something that's always bugged me: what do you think the effects of '78 had on the Brazilian team? I've always suspected that the scars of '82 and '86 that have had a such lasting and terrible consequences for the way both clubs and the national team play, would have never existed, had Brazil won (or at least made the finals) at 78, as 'should' have happened.

    Oh, and as I think you've understated the case for cheating in that tournament, here are some other important things to consider: Quiroga, the Peruvian goalkeeper, was born in Argentina; Argentina had only scored 5 goals up to that point; Peru had been first in the first round in a group with the much hyped Dutch and Scottish teams (although, admittedly, Peru kind of collapsed in the second stage); Peru only let in 6 goals in the previous 5 games; the scheduling and location of games were both blatantly in favor of the home side as Argentina had to travel, if I'm not mistaken, less than a 10% than the Brazilian side.

  • Comment number 22.

    In terms of fixing world cups, surely Italy in '34 is way worse then anything that may have taken place in Argentina. I think its a real shame that the Italians still claim this as a victory.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim: your comments about Menotti changing the mindset of the national team is right on! Argentina always had good individualities, even in England 66 and Germany 74, but the changes taking place in football in the 1960's and 70's were too much for a usually slow possesion game and very defensive nationanl sides, outpaced badly. In 74 they actually got hammered twice by the Dutch, in a warmup game before the start of the cup and then in the tournament.

    Menotti did look at several players from the provinces mainly coming from Cordoba, in those days a bastion of good football: Kempes (in nobody's radar before the start of the cup!!!) , Galvan, Ardiles, Luque (who if I remember correctly was playing in the provincial second division Union of Santa Fe!!! another unknown). He had Maradona in the 25 man roster and he even played some prep matches at 17... but dropped him for Valencia, another Cordobes. This team had the best goalie of the cup, dynamic attacking backs such as Olguin and Tarantini, Passarella in his young prime (although already playing out of position as his original place was left wing back) and players from the 1973 sensational champion, Huracan such as Ardiles and Houseman. Just in case you wondered there were also powerful Bertoni and speedy lefty Ortiz, and another crafty midfielder who did not attract attention but was tactically a freat foil for so much talent: Omar Larrosa.

    I always compared Ardiles, because of such astute vision and slight build to another unbelievable skinny guy who was fundamental to Pele's heroics in Mexico: Tostao. And they both also remind me of another slightly built genius tactician with fast passing and field coverage compared to none, Andres Iniesta.

    Menotti's other 'great idea' was fitness. He predicated fast agile teams with tons of speed and endurance and quicker that usually sleepy SAmerican ball movement. He introduced the then revolutionary (in Argentina at least) concept of moving without the ball. Suddenly, you could see a left inside midfielder bearing down towards a defender in the flank and a teammate running around him towards the corner flag, giving the ball carrier an additional option. This simple play was unheard of at the time.

    While this blofg sometimes introduces us to simplistic and moralistic views on cheating, match fixing, play acting etc. writers seem to forget that this was always part of the game and always will be. More important than Peru's team letting six in, in my view doping was far less spoken about and far more insidious. For anyone wondering what I am talking about, just watch the 120 minute final once to realize that that those two teams were not only running on adrenaline.

    And for the skidmarx, who likes absolute statements a lot... you are either too young to opine or you missed USA 94 altogether...

  • Comment number 24.

    Carlos Tevez is absolutely one of the most gifted players of his generation. Not playing him is crazy-mad.

  • Comment number 25.

    there were a series of outrageous fouls in that 1978 World Cup final, at there is no question that those exchanges were initiated entirely by the home side and without sanction from a clearly tacit official. and remember, that same official, the Italian bank manager Sergio Ganella, had been complicit in the delay of the final on the grounds of some spurious objections to rene van der kerkhoffs cast, a cast that had already had clearance from Fifa and which he'd worn in previous matches during the competition.

  • Comment number 26.

    Interesting article Mr Vickery. Just notice the contrast though between Auntie's summarising headline from the Football page, trying to get readers; "Tainted champions?", and the tone of the article itself, which concludes with;

    "The Argentina side of 1978 deserves that same respect [as the England of 1966]".

    That headline recklessly casts aspersions on Argentina imo.

  • Comment number 27.

    Just to add that the 1978 World Cup is still the best ever for me, it was absolutely spectacular at times and the whole atmosphere from the big matches that poured out of my TV set is still with me now - you just don't get anything like that these days, partly because modern commentators can't keep their mouths shut even for 5 seconds and even if they could the producers wouldn't let them.

    Still not been to a football match in Argentina but I will one day hopefully.

  • Comment number 28.

    For me, if a team corruptly influences the result of any game to their advantage (as yet unproven in this case) then the victory is surely tainted. If any person or team cheats their way to a title then that title should be stripped from them after the event. See Tour de France for example. However, it does require proof, which we don't and probably won't ever have. Argentina in 1978 were a great side, though, and would probably have won it anyway.

  • Comment number 29.

    2 - the refereeing in 66 is certainly a controversial issue. of the 32 games, an astonishing 25 had European refs, including all the knock out matches bar the Portugal-N Korea 1/4 final, which was handled by an israeli.

    And as shown by their extraordinary complacency with the violence dished out to Pele, standards were not high.

    The semi final switch - I believe this is more down to the FIFA Exec Com than to Rous - in this pre-mass TV age the box office was still important, so it was obviously tempting from a financial point of view to have the hoe side play in the stadium with the biggest capacity.

  • Comment number 30.

    Argentinians?? Cheat??

    Eeeeee............whoever 'eard of such a thing!!

    Ahhh can't believe it! Ahhh can't! Ahh mean t' say............look at that Maradona an' that Simeone. Smashin' them's not good examples but anyway, as I was sayin......yes please Arthur, ah'll 'ave another........fill er up.........that's right..............

  • Comment number 31.

    Biggest cheat was no doubt 1934, yes no 22, both the quarters and the final were clear cases of match fixing, but even that Italian side deserves some respect as they quite comfortably won the world cup away from home 4 years later.

  • Comment number 32.

    At 12:47 13th Feb 2012, skidmarx203 wrote:Seeing how Argentina reacted to Van Der Kerkhof's bandage to protect his injured arm (which had been used in previous games!!) at the start of the game which must have disrupted Holland , it is obvious that Argentina used every trick in the book and FIFA allowed them to get away with it. The worst World Cup ever!!

    It was a plaster cast, not a bandage. I don't think I'd fancy being caught by a flailing arm (however, they should have complained earlier, rather than waiting until the match was due to start).

  • Comment number 33.

    have the brazilians and argentines got worse or is everyone else in south america getting better?

  • Comment number 34.

    Bla,bla,bla they cheated,end of the story,don't try to give them honors they don't deserve.

  • Comment number 35.

    The worst World Cup ever!!

    No for me Italia '90 was the snorefest, '78 had some cracking games.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Very informative and entertaining article like always Tim.

    Ok so Argentina is characterized by a playmaker number 10 short passing style of football. Holland is characterized with a total football high pressing, constant player position change, and ball possesion. Brazil is basically the same as Holland but without the high intensity pressing and without the constant player position change(add the attacking defensive back). Italy is mostly known for a defensive, counter-attacking style. England is popularly known for long passes in their play.

    Is this right? Is there any other major style of football missing?

  • Comment number 38.

    Football will be and always was contact sport. Brazilian soccer or the whole south American soccer has to change. There should be rules in soccer or any sports as it should be no tolerance in hard fouls. What signals does that set to our youth who are watching that kind of behaviour on TV. It is had to tell the youth to play a fair game when they see all that rough play. It is still Sports and everybody should play fair. Khujo Jacken

  • Comment number 39.

    Superb blog as always, Tim, ..... sad that the BBC attracts so many little englanders among the readers and respondents.

    Please ignore them and keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 40.

    Well, interesting blog. Argentina deserving respect for 78? Well, yes and no. They really do deserve respect for being a good team with good players and being a competitive team with a real chance of winning in 78, but it ends there. They do not deserve respect for winning it. Their match against Peru being one of the reasons, of which the proof of it being a sham is the whole game itself. How about the fact that they were supposed to play this match at the same time Brazil played against Poland and not later in the evening? Doubt they would have won by a 4 goal margin then. The fact that this match was played in their country when a violent military dictatorship was present just cements this blatant robbery.

    I think Brazil would have won this World Cup had they gone through. It would have been tough against Holland in the final but I still think they would have done it. Holland were not exactly the same team as in 74, of which they did not massacre Brazil. The match I remember in 74 was a petty game of fouls and diving that started with a dutch foul on a Brazilian player. The Brazilians had their chances but did not score, the Dutch did. Although Brazil had a player sent off, Holland certainly had some challenges that were worthy of cards that were not given by the referee. Brazil had a not bad team in 74, not good enough to win it but not bad either, but a better team in 78. This team I bet would have won it.

    Tim, could you explain the statement about Brazil playing with a back four which could mean leaving the midfield a little light? I didn´t quite get it as Brazil played a 4-2-4 which did leave the midfield light.

  • Comment number 41.

    I was at the game in 1978 in Argentina and I am certain that there was not a 'fix'.
    Argentina gambled eveything on attack and basicially had 9 men going forward leaving one defender. It almost back-fired as the Peruvians firstly hit the post and then another goal-bound shot shaved the post. Argentina could have been 2-0 down within 10 minutes. If you are trying not to win the game then you do not go that close as Peru did (you fall over or hit the corner flag!).
    After the initial group matches where each team played 3 games the format allowed for a second round of group matches with 4 teams in each group and Peru were an old team and found the pace set by Argentina to be too fast and furious and playing their 6th game in quick succession could simply keep up with the speed of the game. I remember it well.
    I was a journalist covering the World Cup and we played the Argentine journalists on the morning of the Final in the traditional game and beat them 5-4 and they kicked us all over the place, such was their anxiety to win the game.

  • Comment number 42.

    no. 27...

    ``there were a series of outrageous fouls in that 1978 World Cup final, at there is no question that those exchanges were initiated entirely by the home side and without sanction from a clearly tacit official``

    What game did you watch? Funny, I was at that final at the River Plate stadium in 1978. In fact I saw every Argentina game live and managed opening game, three more games in group play and the bronze medal match (ahhh Nelinho!).

    In fact I watched the final a couple of more times on replays on TV or video. It is not true that there were outrageous fouls commited invariably by the home side. It was a hugely intense match, but to say that the Dutch were unilaterally victims of rude tactics with the acquiescence of a `tacit`(whatever that means) referee is baloney. The Dutch were the ones that perfected physical, aggressive borderline tackling (right through your legs stuff) and in those days this style was OK. It is a comment on how well trained Argentines were that they could withstand the speed and physical advantage of the Orange. And this was for 120 minutes!

    But of course, all of this talk of tainted wins would not be happening had Rensenbrink`s shot not hit the post and gone in a couple of minutes before the end of regulation time. That shot in the post was not scripted.

  • Comment number 43.

    I agree with Tim, it is more than fair to give the 'team' credit regardless of what may have gone on in the dressing room. None of the Argentine players wanted to cheat nor wanted Perú to fix the game, and there were some great players in that team not just Ardiles but Mario Kempes.

    I do like how often Tim has managed to get Stanley Rous' name mentioned in recent blogs, otherwise brushed under the carpet by most people in England.

  • Comment number 44.

    For the Argie hating Brits that contributed to this blog: while it is absolutely true that Argentine club and national teams were guilty of awful scenes throughout the years, at least Menotti`s era was the start of a conscious intent to win competitively, with footballing merit and not through suspicious tactics. Despite Diego`s antics at the ensuing WC`s and maybe except for the outrageously awful 1990 final vs Germany (who also did cheat with a last minute penalty dive that won the game). Since Italy 90 I would characterize Argentina`s style as far cleaner rule-wise, with a definitely positive and attacking flair. All of their coaches since Bilardo... Basile, Maradona, Pekerman and Bielsa were and still are optimists of the game and believe in creating chances and playing by the rules.

    As for calling Simeone a dirty player... well, I guess then that guys like Fenwick, Keane and Stiles should all be given honorary Argentine citizenship...

    Uruguay has also updated their outlook on the game and have come through lately with an outstanding generation of new players.

    no 21. Pedro: Argentina had scored six, not five goals on their way to the finals.

  • Comment number 45.

    Stanley Ford Rous and ethics...

    1966 WC

    Argentina - England at Wembley: W German referee, sends Rattin off, England win 1-0

    same day... Uruguay vs W Germany: English referee, sends Rocha and Troche off, Germany wins 4-0

    Final: w germany vs england... tainted goal, home team wins... business as usual...

  • Comment number 46.

    Austria v West Germany 1982 anyone ? Outrageous fix if I remember right , denying Algeria a place in the 2nd round while securing the Germans top spot which led to them knocking England out in the next round and while on the subject of " old school tackling " who remembers Schumacher not only just taking a French player out by the throat in the Semi- finals but not even receiving a yellow card and to add insult to what became a serious injury save a penalty in the shoot out which resulted in Germany reaching the final . Cause and effect , England's golden generation of the early 80s ( Keegan, Brooking, Robson etc ) would have more than likely advanced in a 3 team group ( strange format back then ) pitted against Algeria and hosts Spain ( nowhere near the calibre of today ) , a semi - final V France ( who we beat in the group stage ) and a final against Italy . Sounds ridiculous but the gravity of the Austria V Germany match fixing caused FIFA to change the rules to allow the final group stage matches to be played simultaneously

  • Comment number 47.

    Nobody's mentioned 1954. Now that was a fix if ever there was one. We can expect anything from the Italians and the Argentinos (remember the Brazilian bottles of water supposedly contaminated by Bilardo according to Maradona's confession?) so the rumour that they bought the 1978 World Cup doesn't really surprise me.

    But 1954? Probably the best national team ever - Puskas' Hungary - against an average West Germany that had lost 8-3 to Hungary in a previous round.

    The open goals that were inexplicably missed etc etc etc.

    Politically it meant that West Germany found some sense of national pride and were able to consolidate the progress that had been made after their wartime disaster.

    The price was the fixing of the World Cup.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have to agree with No 2 and 47, Stanley Rous was a corrupt organizer of FIFA tournaments. In 1966 he had an English referee in the Germany - Uruguay game who expelled Horacio Troche, the captain, 13 minutes into the game. Then he allowed dubious goals to Germany, and disallowed any protests because Uruguay had no captain. The Germans gooned it up and won 4 - 0.

    Stanley Rous at the same time, a German referee in the England - Argentina game which finished 1 - 0 after the Argentine captain Ubaldo Rattin, was sent off. The refereeing was distinctly onesided.

    The worst thing Stanley Rous did was in 1970, changing the site of a match in less than 48 hours. It had been agreed that the first semifinal would be played in Puebla by the draw, this was Uruguay - Brazil. Stanley Rous ordered the match changed to where Brazil was playing so Uruguay had to travel by bus for 8 hours to the new site, Guadalajara, over the mountains. This because curiously all the aeroplane flights had been taken or were cancelled. The hotels were full when they arrived, one day before the game, and they had to live far away from the stadium. Uruguay had earned the the semifinal in Puebla, by wining their group and by the random draw of the tournament.

    This list of corruption could continue, in 1966, footie became a business to be manipulated rather than a true sport.

  • Comment number 49.

    What nobody has mentioned here, regarding Argentina`s campaign during the 1978 WC (maybe James Autar could confirm?) is how ugly the Argentina-Brazil game really was. It was in this match that Brazil did have a chance to win and make the final, as a tie would mean goal difference would be the deciding factor in winning the group. Brazil played better and was unlucky not to take the two points. Argentina relinquished their attacking game plan and played with too much fear, committing incessant fouls and attempting to slow down play. Was lucky to get out with a draw...

  • Comment number 50.

    Thank God he went with Ardiles and not Lopez... JJ Lopez always struck me as a pompous windbag --- which sort of was on the money given his part in River Plate's relegation.

  • Comment number 51.

    Great blog as usual Tim. Shame it is put below clowns like Bond and Mcnulty.

  • Comment number 52.

    Always worth reading your blog Tim, but I must take issue with your conspiracy theorists, who appear to be inhabiting cloud cuckoo land again. Rous may well have manipulated a lot of things, but how on earth could he have contrived to produce Hurst's shot onto the bar and into one of the most controversial points in the history of the game? Whatever he may have whispered into the ears of refs and linesman, I really don't believe he saw that goal line as the obvious tip-off to guarantee an England win. Suggesting he was the phantom whistler before the fourth goal would surely have more credibility.

  • Comment number 53.

    39. I love it when people smear an entire nation for the comments of one or two. Good work!

    48. Rous was indeed a corrupt pr....person and maybe it was the time when football became a marketing tool. However, remember that before this, fottball had been used by countless dictatorships as a propaganda machine, and was continued to be used in this way for at least two decades more. Argentina 1978 was perhaps an example, but clearer ones would be the 1964 European Championship winning Spanish team, Mussolini's Italy or the USSR team. They were all completely corrupt in the worst possible way. This was no longer a sport but a war, so to be honest, I'd take marketing over this kind of match manipulation. Italy should have been strip of they first two World Cups IMO.

  • Comment number 54.

    to the author:

    how can you fail to connect the dots to the Final, played under possibly the most dubious circumstances of any WC Final?!
    please tell me this is merely part 1 of your look at that '78 team that you feel has been unfairly judged. (roll eyes)

  • Comment number 55.

    Suggesting he was the phantom whistler before the fourth goal would surely have more credibility.

    Only if fantasy has any credibility at all.

  • Comment number 56.

    Interesting read, thanks. '78 was a spectacular world cup! The chanting, the ticker tape, the muffled commentary, the football. I watched as many games as I could (on tv). I loved the weay Argentina swept forward in attack, they moved the ball forward so quickly and directly, with Luque and Kempes at the pointy end. I remember the first time I saw Ardiles, he looked more like an accountant than a footballer, but a great player, superb skills, some of which I'd never seen before. They looked the best team in that tournament.

  • Comment number 57.

    I think prior to 1990, a great many World Cup Group games had elements of collusion and subterfuge. Austria vs Germany in 1982 is an even more obvious and blatant attempt at both teams playing for a result.

  • Comment number 58.

    Great Blog thanks. Do people remember the impact the throwing of ticker tape had on the English game? Standing on the terraces at Bootham Crescent York in the late 70's emulating the Argie atmosphere where 50 hardy souls tore their free programmes to shreds to emulate estadio monumental atmosphere is captured forever in my heart. Groundstaff across England must have hated that tournament

  • Comment number 59.

    I absolutely agree with #41 James Autar. like he, my father and uncle were at that Argentina-Peru game in Rosario in 1978 and I remember as a youth watching it on TV. The brutal dictatorship in Argentina make for an easy fall guy and there are now multiple theories of how the game was supposedly fixed (grain deals, help from Colombian drug lords and now this poltical prisoner exchange) yet none have any verifiable facts to back them up and they all ignore what James Autar pointed out, Peru came at Argentina and twice nearly scored before Argentina put their first goal up on the board. Argentina knew they needed multiple goals to win and they played with reckless abandon in going at Peru. Fortunately for we Argentines, the team won big but they also risked conceding several goals too. Peru have always been known for wildly fluctuating results in tournaments. Look at 4 years later at Espana 82 where Peru drew it's first 2 games with Italy and Cameroon and entered the final one with Poland with a chance to qualify for the next round. Instead they lost 5-1.

    Marcelao, Kempes was hardly an unknown in 78, he was already a star at Valencia, and the only European player on that 78 World Cup team. Others like Quique Wolff, Osvaldo Piazza and Carlos Bianchi were not on the team because their European clubs would not release them to train for several months in Buenos Aires before the World Cup began. A 20 year old Kempes by the way also was on the 1974 Argentina World Cup team.

  • Comment number 60.

    Two of the best playmakers in Argentina's history were Ricardo Bochini and Norberto Alonso, each are legendary players at their respective clubs, Independiente and River Plate and although each were World Cup winners, Bochini in 1986 and Alonso in 1978, neither played a significant role on those title winning teams. Two great players who were victims of circumstances which kept them from playing often for Argentina.

    I think they didn't have as big a role on the national team because first Cesar Luis Menotti preferred playing Mario Kempes as a deep lying forward 'media punta' leading up to and at World Cup 1978. By doing so there wasn't really room in Menotti's eyes for a traditional playmaker and thus a traditional "8" like Osvaldo Ardiles and a defensive midfielder like Americo Gallego were played behind Kempes while two wingers like Bertoni and Ortiz/Houseman were played out wide with Leopoldo Luque as the center forward. Thus in 1978 Alonso was on the World Cup team but primarily was used as a substitute and due to injury he didn't see as much playing time as his talents would have suggested.

    And post 1978, Diego Maradona of course was the team's playmaker so again neither Bochini nor Alonso were first choice on the national team. Bochini, who was Maradona's idol, was a sub on the 1986 team but only saw action late in the semifinal against Belgium. But as he entered Maradona famously told him, "Go to work maestro!"

    But even without much national team play both Bochini and Alonso were fantastic players who won many national and continental titles in their careers. They were two magical players who are well remembered in Argentina but probably not well known outside the country.

    I know I have linked this forum before but for those interested in reading more about this era of Argentine futbol and a pretty interesting discussion of the players who were ignored by Argentina's disorganized coaching 'triumvirate' at the 1974 World Cup take a look at this discussion:

    And the page before the one I linked.

  • Comment number 61.

    I enjoyed the '78 World Cup and couldn't really care less if Argentina 'fixed' one result or not. Such fixing has always gone on - and still goes on - and many teams in Europe (including England) have been guilty of it.

    In 1978 Argentina played great football. It was an enjoyable tournament with some top games. And overall, they deserved to win. As simple as that.

  • Comment number 62.

    I'd like to give greate credit to Tim for always creating interesting blog entries. One of the strengths of this blog is that it is always analytical, and not superficious, like so many other blogs. Whenever my non-portuguese speaking friends ask about south american football, I always point them to this site.

    Obvoiusly, some of the comments are also very interesting. Credit to rosarino, James Autar and Marcelao!

  • Comment number 63.

    The animosity being shown here is not because Argentina was controlled by a military junta and a dictatorship and ergo the football must be "bad"! Am I not correct that Brazil in 1970 was controlled by a dictatorship and that did not affect how we remember the 1970 Brazil team (the best ever or at least the most entertaining ever??) and there was never any protestations about how they played! They used everything to their advantage e.g. playing England at noon (when the Sun is at its highest and hottest) was not their fault but delaying their return to the pitch after half time leaving the english to bake in the Sun was...but who cares, the memories they gave was what football should be all about.

  • Comment number 64.

    42 it appears you misunderstand. the fouls in that match were outrageous, but my point isn't that Holland didn't join in, it's that they would rather have not had to.

  • Comment number 65.

    Kiwis are famous for crow-barring any tenuous link to Godzone into a topic - and this is no exception.

    In 1981 the All Whites travelled all the way to Saudi Arabia needing 6 clear goals to qualify ahead of China for the 1982 Finals. The All Whites were 5-0 up at half time ( against a side who they could only draw against at home ). Even though they couldn't get the additional goal and ended up playing China in Singapore, the fact that they had won by such a margin away from home led the Chinese to allege a "fix". Quite what we were going to bribe the massively wealthy Saudis with was anyone's guess ( a trip for two to Milford Sound, a Fisher and Paykel fridge freezer, some pictures of Angela D'audney in a bikini??) Sometimes weird stuff happens.

    As for the tournament itself, it was played with a heavy whiff of sulphur pervading the atmosphere but the Argentina side was a good one. The Dutch were the width of a post from winning the Final ( which would have been great until it came time to go to customs on the way out of the country - cavity search Senor?)

  • Comment number 66.

    Trawler: you can find the entire match in youtube... I believe it is broken up into 14 segments but you can play continuously... by my count (I did last night as I am extremely anal about accuracy) Holland started fouling hard and often 30 seconds into the match. By the end of the first half the count was 12-3 for the Dutch, and these were the typical hard trips once beaten, knocks from the back and late hits once the ball had been released by the opponent. The second half was more balanced as the men in orange were pressing to get the equalizer, using the time honoured method of putting four tall guys in the box, opening the ball wide to either side and crossing (a very German method might I dare say...). It was a match full of antagonism, but to say that Holland ``would rather have not had to`` is totally inaccurate. See for your self... type in Argentina - Netherlands, FULL MATCH, World Cup 1978, Part 01/14

  • Comment number 67.


    I do not doubt that Kempes was a star in Europe before 1978. But back then in Argentina and in general (maybe not the case in Rosario...?) he flew under the radar, mainly because there was no TV coverage of European leagues at all. Menotti chose all players out of local teams and called in Kempes quite late, raising a lot of concerns among media and pundits, to the point where he had to especially defend his choice quite stubbornly. My point is that Menotti did not have a lot of supporters and in his very personal style went out of his way to call up surprise players, or in other words choosing players that were not idolized by the public. I can remember the debate between his choice of either Valencia or Maradona... many people did not believe in the coach then. As it turned out, he was right, although Maradona could have been in the roster and they still would have won it. The big players in that team were the middle spine: Fillol, Pasarella, Gallego, Ardiles, Kempes. A special mention should go for Luis Galvan who absolutely played the match of his life against the Dutch... smaller, slower but still waht a performance!

  • Comment number 68.

    Yes Kempes was well known in Rosario pre 1978 for his play with Central (previously he was teammates with Ardiles at Instituto Cordoba) although to be honest he was not too popular pre 78 in half the city of Rosario, including my half! LOL

    You are right Kempes was the one foreign player included on the 1978 World Cup team because while Menotti felt he had domestic based players who could fill the roles of other foreign based players like Wolff, Piazza and Bianchi, he felt Kempes' role was irreplaceable and that was why he was included in the team even if he could not practice for four months prior to the World Cup like the rest of his teammates did. In hindsight El Flaco Menotti was right as we all know Kempes went on to be the player of that World Cup.

    As someone from the interior of the country, I was pleased Menotti opened the team up to players from outside Buenos Aires like Kempes, Ardiles, Gallego, Valencia, Killer and Oviedo. That really was a break from the past. I know it was many years ago but I do not recall Menotti being unpopular prior to 1978. He was very beloved because of the stylish way his Huracan team played in winning their one and only league title in 1973. And his political views were known to be contrary to those of the ruling junta which is why some wondered whether he would actually coach the team in 1978.

  • Comment number 69.

    At the time there were two distinct schools of thought, nothing new really but coaches that were 'resultadistas' a la Mourinho (Lorenzo, Labruna, etc) were very popular and not-so-secretly envied Menotti's flair and lyricism. These coaches had the backing of several prominent and somewhat skeptical journalists who thought that lyricism would get Argentina nowhere. Not in vain he was nicknamed El Lirico, as he often went against the prevailing currents. Choosing players from Cordoba or Santa Fe-based was hard to digest for most of the Buenos Aires-centered press. Let's not forget that he had a very short trajectory as a coach. The Huracan phenomenon was a bit of a fluke as he had been coaching only for a year or two before 1973. He had just retired and was a very young coach. AFA took a gigantic gamble then, undeniably. Yes, Menotti had detractors indeed. And as we all know, or at least who are old enough to remember, his views were not widely divulged until after the regime left power and at the time of the WC, a brainwashed majority of the population were sticking decals on their cars reading 'los argentinos somos derechos y humanos.'

  • Comment number 70.

    I wasn't too sure about this piece - it comes in on the Genaro Ledesma stuff, which gives it currency, but then i wondered if it might prove too historical and obscire - needn't have worried - it's provoked some wonderful and enlightening comments, which I'm very grateful for. Thanks!

  • Comment number 71.

    And in its own small and humble way, i think it's fulfilled some sub-conscious desire to bring Argentina and England together in the midst of all the '30 years ago' stuff.

  • Comment number 72.

    Tim: I really appreciate your last observation/confession: Argentina has always been torn by opposites and the thing with/against the English has always been love-hate, more or less following the extreme polarization of society and its political inclinations. I for one, am Buenos Aires-born and living in an Anglo-saxon based society since exactly (and ironically) April 1982.

    I have written extensively in other, previous posts about the influences that have permeated and affected who we are as a modern nation. In fact, whenever I go to BA (I now split my time 50/50 as I approach semi-retirement) I stay in very English Olivos, play tennis at the hundred years old Olivos Tennis Club (founded by British railway workers), live close to the English built railway station and have tea with my buddies, all St Andrew's of Scots alumni. Despite what some may believe, the two cultures have meshed and fed and engrossed each other, and I invite you to enjoy this symbiosis at this or a few other places like Temperley, Lomas, Hurlingham or Banfield (or Fisherton... can't forget mentioning Fisherton as Rosarino is reading this...) whenever you visit... at your convenience...

    I couldn't but smile when Tevez dove into the arms of West Ham supporters a few years back, or when Ricky Villa's goal was deemed the best FA Cup goal ever scored or better still... seeing Everton's Denis Stracqualursi bringing balls down for his mates with his head a la Hurst, in the quintessential English way,... the aerial ball.

  • Comment number 73.

    This veil of suspicion and mystery hanging over Argentina's 78 victory is part of WC folklore, so it will not go away, even though it's easily refutable for several reasons.

    1) Let's just say for argument's sake that Peru did sell their soul to Videla's military devils. Did the Netherlands do the same? Because they were beaten fair and square. Although some are questioning that victory now.

    2) If you've seen the game recently and are not relying on what you remember from 78, it'd be hard to find anything suspicious about it. Peru started strongly an almost scored first, but then Argentina took over and took care of business.

    3) The clincher: this Peru side was very good and was able to play 2 WC in a row. In 78 they lost badly against Argentina when they had nothing to lose. In 82, when all they needed was a tie, they lost horribly again --this time against Poland, 5-1.

    I know that secret conspiracies are more interesting than a talented but weak-minded team losing horribly twice, but the evidence is there for everybody to see. Argentina were legitimate winners. Perhaps Brazil and Italy, and even the NL, were better teams but an inspired Kempes and greats like Passarella, Fillol, and Ardiles did what they had to do ON THE FIELD to win it all. The rest is fairytale stuff.

  • Comment number 74.

    Rosarino: Resultadistas? ha! how could I forget to mention Zubeldia! Menotti was playing with Pele at Santos, when Zubeldia was being hailed as the genius of whatever butchery Estudiantes performed: win at any cost. In that context, what he did at Huracan was incredible. And I was so sad to see Cappa's boys losing that final game to Velez couple of years ago!

    Interesting read:

  • Comment number 75.

    I see that Tottenham have signed Bruno Uvini from Sao Paulo... He is very young for a Centre Back... but i guess him and Sandro will help each other settle etc. Do you think he'll get any game time at Tottenham next season or is he one for the distant future....


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