World Cup 1982 revisted: The magic of Brazilians disappeared
In June 1982, at the grand old age of 12, I was already a veteran of one World Cup.
But if Argentina 1978 seemed like some distant, happy summer daydream, Spain ’82 – I was about to discover – was football Woodstock.
The first World Cup with 24 teams. Magnificent strips. Naranjito, the smiling mascot. Scandals. Shocks. That Marco Tardelli celebration. And the greatest team to never win the World Cup.
There was no internet or round-the-clock football coverage, but my Panini sticker album promised a glorious summer.
Zico, Socrates and Falcao; single-name Brazilians were always a good sign. France’s legendary midfield of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana. Italy’s Dino Zoff and Paolo Rossi. Germany’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Zbigniew Boniek and Oleg Blokhin, respectively Poland’s and united Russia’s greatest players. And England chose Graham Rix over Glenn Hoddle.
Big things were also expected of a diminutive bushy-haired Argentine youngster we had been hearing about for two years.
On the morning of June 15, the third day of competition, the schoolyard was buzzing.
“Did you watch Brazil against the USSR [Russia] last night?”
We had. It was football from the future and set the tone for a wonderful tournament. As we gorged ourselves on the action, little did we suspect that not all World Cups would compare to this visual candy store. Bryan Robson scored after 27 seconds against France. Hungary scored 10 against El Salvador. And Brazil just scored and scored and scored.
Algeria and Northern Ireland provided two jaw-dropping shocks.
Kuwait, the first Arabian Gulf country to make the finals, briefly shone in a 1-1 draw with Czechoslovakia, a match that included a penalty from Antonin Panenka, which was not a “Panenka”.
West Germany’s passive, shameful 1-0 win over Austria ensured both progressed to what was a second group round, and knocked out Algeria. Then West German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher’s horrendous challenge on Patrick Battiston knocked the Frenchman unconscious in the semi-finals.
But, it was really all about majestic, lopsided, Brazil. Nine magicians, a clown in goal and Serginho – their version of Emile Heskey.
Their group matches were football purity. At times, perhaps for a dare, it seemed the Brazilians passed the ball only with the outside of their boots.
The 3-1 annihilation of Argentina in the second group round was a high point.
It must have been tempting for newspaper editors around the world to revisit Brazilian newspaper O Mundo’s famous headline on the morning of the 1950 World Cup final: “These are the World Champions”.
It would have been as foolish. For Brazil, and for us, the party was about to end.
The deciding second group match that would send the winner into the semi-finals, Brazil versus Italy, was refereed by Israel’s Abraham Klein and boycotted by television broadcasters across the Middle East. The next day we woke up to the news that we had missed one of the greatest matches in World Cup history, with Italy winning 3-2. Surely some mistake?
Italy, not Brazil, had progressed to the semi-finals.
Paolo Rossi became more deadly, Giancarlo Antognoni majestic, Marco Tardelli tireless, and Dino Zoff unbeatable. The defence was, well, Italian. Poland stood no chance in the semi-final. Neither did the increasingly unpopular Germans in the final, beaten 3-1.
Goals by Rossi and Alessandro Altobelli sandwiched Tardelli’s superlative strike. His fist-pumping, goosebump-inducing celebration still has the power to thrill.
The Azzuri were world champions. A month had flown by and the World Cup was over.
In the middle of the Abu Dhabi summer it was Ramadan. As it will be this year.
We ventured out with a ball into the heat to recreate the magic of Spain ’82. Some of us were Zico, others Serginho. All had caught World Cup fever, and none would ever be cured.
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Published: May 28, 2014 04:00 AM