Football World Cup - 1978: Argentina
Created | Updated Jun 6, 2013
The World Cup: An Introduction
| 1930: Uruguay
| 1934: Italy
| 1938: France
| 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea
There had often been petty squabbles over the politics of football in the run-up to previous World Cups. This time, serious real-world politics was the issue. Many people called for a boycott of the tournament in Argentina in protest at the totalitarian government led by General Videla, which stood accused of major human rights abuses. No nations withdrew because of the political situation in Argentina, but the great Dutch player Johan Cruyff refused to take part in the tournament.
England failed to qualify for the second World Cup in succession, narrowly losing out to Italy. Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union also failed to make it through the qualifying tournament. Newcomers to the finals included Iran and Tunisia, and France were back for the first time since 1966.
The first round produced several surprises. Poland won Group 2 ahead of world champions West Germany, after holding the Germans to a goalless draw and then beating Tunisia and Mexico. The Germans played out a second goalless draw against Tunisia, and only redeemed themselves with a 6-0 thrashing of Mexico.
Although they failed to qualify for the second round, Tunisia made history by beating Mexico 3-1. It was the first time that any African team had won a match at the World Cup finals.
Peru pushed the Netherlands into second place in Group 4, where Scotland missed out on goal difference for the second successive tournament. Teofilo Cubillas was outstanding for Peru, scoring twice against Scotland in Peru's 3-1 win and hitting a hat-trick in their 4-1 victory over Iran. Rob Rensenbrink of the Netherlands also scored three times against Iran, scoring all the goals as the Dutch won 3-0.
The biggest surprise of all came in Group 3, where Austria finished ahead of Brazil. The Austrians beat Spain and Sweden, while Brazil were held to draws by the same two teams. Brazil needed to beat Austria in their final group game to be sure of progressing to the second round, and managed a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from the wonderfully-named Roberto Dinamite. Brazil and Austria thus finished with the same number of points and the same goal difference, but Austria won the group by virtue of having scored more goals.
Group 1 had the strongest line-up of teams in the first round, featuring Italy, Argentina, France and Hungary. The two places in the second round were claimed before the final round of games, with Italy and Argentina both beating France and Hungary. So the Italy-Argentina game decided who topped the group, and a goal from Roberto Bettega midway through the second half was enough to give that honour to Italy.
In the second round, the Netherlands got off to a flying start by thrashing Austria 5-1, Jonny Rep scoring two of their goals. The Dutch then drew 2-2 with West Germany, who had previously shared a goalless game with Italy. The Italians beat Austria 1-0, and so the Netherlands faced Italy in their last group game knowing that the winners would reach the final.
It was certainly a memorable game for the Netherlands' Erny Brandts, who scored for both teams. His 18th-minute own goal put Italy ahead at half-time, but he made up for his mistake by scoring at the right end in the fifth minute of the second half. Adrianus Haan got the winner for the Dutch with 15 minutes remaining, and the Netherlands had reached their second successive World Cup Final.
The other group was essentially a battle between the hosts and Brazil, and it was resolved in controversial circumstances. In the first round of group games, Brazil beat Peru 3-0 while Argentina saw off Poland 2-0. Brazil and Argentina then played out a tense goalless draw, so both teams went into the last round of matches with three points. In a game that kicked off at 4.45pm on 21 June, Brazil beat Poland 3-1. Argentina's game with Peru kicked off at 7.15pm on the same day, so they went into it knowing exactly what they had to do to reach the final: beat Peru by four clear goals.
It looked like a tall order, but they managed it with what some saw as a suspicious degree of ease. Trailing 2-0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6-0. Dark rumours suggested that Peru might have been somehow illicitly induced not to try too hard; but nothing could be proved, and Argentina met the Netherlands in the final.
Mario Kempes put the hosts ahead in the 38th minute, but Dick Nanninga equalised for the Dutch with eight minutes left. But the Argentines were not to be denied, and Kempes put them ahead again. Daniel Bertoni scored a third goal for Argentina with five minutes to go, and Argentina had won the World Cup.
Scotland had a strange tournament, beginning with two bad results and ending in heroic failure. After losing to Peru, they were held to a 1-1 draw by Iran, which left them needing to beat the Netherlands by three clear goals in their final match in order to go through. It was a daunting task, and it looked all over for Scotland in the 34th minute of the game when a Rob Rensenbrink penalty put the Netherlands ahead.
But Kenny Dalglish equalised before half-time, and a penalty from Archie Gemmill early in the second half put the Scots ahead. Then Gemmill scored a sensational goal to make it 3-1, beating three Dutch defenders before lobbing over goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed. For three minutes the Scots stood within one goal of reaching the second round - but then Jonny Rep scored for the Netherlands. The game ended 3-2, and Scotland had narrowly missed out once again.
For The Record
Third Place Play-Off
Brazil 2 : 1 Italy
Argentina 3 : 1 Netherlands after extra time
Tournament Top Goalscorer
Kempes (Argentina) - 6 goals
Other Entries in This Project
- The Football World Cup - An Introduction
- Football World Cup, 1930, Uruguay
- Football World Cup, 1934, Italy
- Football World Cup, 1938, France
- Football World Cup, 1950, Brazil
- Football World Cup, 1954, Switzerland
- Football World Cup, 1958, Sweden
- Football World Cup, 1962, Chile
- Football World Cup, 1966, England
- Football World Cup, 1970, Mexico
- Football World Cup, 1974, West Germany
- Football World Cup, 1982, Spain
- Football World Cup, 1986, Mexico
- Football World Cup, 1990, Italy
- Football World Cup, 1994, USA
- Football World Cup, 1998, France
- Football World Cup, 2002, Japan and South Korea