Saturday, 26 November 2016
545 World Cup 1982
First viewed : 14 June 1982
The World Cup Finals came round again in the summer of 1982. This time it was in Spain so the matches were shown at a decent hour for UK viewing. Therefore I saw a much greater proportion of them compared to 1978. The number of teams taking part had been expanded from 16 to 24 so it was a bigger tournament all round. For us in Blighty, it started a day late as neither channel deemed it politic to screen the opening match, where the Argies as holders were beaten 1-0 by Belgium, while the Falklands conflict was still in progress. Luckily, none of the home nations got to play
Ron Greenwood's England had managed to qualify for the Finals at the third attempt although not with any great honour, scraping through a not particularly difficult group with a couple of embarrassing defeats along the way. The 2-1 defeat in Oslo was immortalised by a Norwegian commentator completely losing the plot and invoking the ghosts of British prime ministers to taunt them about the defeat " Maggie Thatcher ! Winston Churchill ! Clement Attlee !... Your boys took a hell of a beating !" I wasn't really behind them as Peter Barnes had been dropped for Arsenal dullard Graham Rix and the baleful influence of Arsenal coach Don Howe was making England boring to watch.
England's preparations were hampered by injuries to their best players, Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan. Both were in the squad but wouldn't be fit for the group games. As it was the team got off to a flyer with a 3-1 victory over France with Bryan Robson ( in his only effective World Cup; he came to the net two as a crocked passenger ) scoring the fastest ever goal in the Finals. Thereafter the team deflated like a slow puncture, winning 2-0 against Czechoslovakia to ensure passage to the next round, 1-0 against Kuwait then two goalless draws in the Second Round against West Germany and Spain. In the latter game Greenwood threw on Brooking and Keegan with 25 minutes to go . The latter had a chance with a header that he might have done better with if fully fit but it went wide. England were out and Keegan's international career was over. Greenwood retired and to his eternal resentment Keegan was left out of Bobby Robson's first squad. It was genuinely sad; Keegan had been England's only consistent performer in the dark days of the seventies and deserved a better finale.
Scotland had also qualified , for their third Finals in a row. Having dismally failed to get out of an easy group in 1978 they could hardly complain at now being faced with a very daunting group including tournament favourites Brazil and the highly-fancied USSR. They made a decent fist of it beating minnows New Zealand 5-2 and securing a battling 2-2 draw with the Soviets. In the end it came down to goalkeepers. While Brazil had to come up with two screamers to get past the Asiatic-looking Rinat Dasayev for the Soviets in a tight 2-1 victory , Scotland had amazingly kept faith with the useless Alan Rough who duly conceded four after a thunderbolt from defender David Narey had given Scotland an unexpected lead against the Brazilians. Once again Scotland were out of the World Cup on goal difference.
For good measure Northern Ireland had also qualified ( at the expense of Sweden ) with a squad featuring players from Cambridge United, Linfield and Glentoran. There had been speculation that manager Billy Bingham might find a place in the squad for George Best, now 36 but still playing ( of a sort ) in American indoor football. In the end Bingham thought better of it . The Irish unexpectedly qualified from their group after a heroic 1-0 win against Spain with ten men and then got a battling draw against Austria before a rapidly-improving France sent them home with a thumping 4-1 win.
Many football writers, wanting to pick a side they'd actually seen in action, have nominated the Brazilian 1982 team as the best side not to actually win the trophy. I disagree ; that honour must surely go to the Hungarians in 1954 and I think Holland in 1974 also have a better claim. The Brazilians had 9 great stars like Socrates, Falcao and Zico but they also had a carthorse up front in Serginho and a very suspect keeper in Waldir Peres. Nevertheless they avenged their controversial elimination by arch-rivals Argentina in 1978 by putting the holders out in a match which saw Diego Maradona sent off. However they were then put to the sword by the Italians' Paolo Rossi who'd misfired in 1978 but came good at exactly the right time four years later.
The exit of the Brazilians was entirely fair but otherwise the tournament was marred by some appalling injustices. Spain scraped through their group by means of a terrible penalty decision in their match against Yugoslavia who were caning them at the time ( though the Yugoslavs didn't help themselves with a sulky performance against Honduras in their final match ). That was nothing compared to the exit of the Algerians. Picking up the baton from neighbours Tunisia in 1978, they produced an almighty shock by defeating West Germany in their opening game. They then lost to Austria but still had an excellent chance of qualifying against already-eliminated Chile. They raced to a 3-0 lead in the first half but fatally let the the Chileans get a couple of goals back in the second. That meant that instead of the final match being a turkey shoot between West Germany and Austria for the other place, both teams could go through if the Germans won by one or two goals.
With FIFA having failed to grasp the nettle of suspect scorelines after the Argentina-Peru game four years earlier, the Germans and Austrians staged another Anschluss with both sides passing the ball around aimlessly to eat up the time after the Germans took the lead. Commentators threw their microphones down and both sides were roundly booed by their own supporters. The Algerians of course protested but FIFA allowed the result to stand. Ever since then the final group matches in tournaments have had to be played simultaneously to prevent this happening again.
France eliminated the Austrians in the next round but there was more outrage to come from the Germans who met the French in the semi-finals. This of course refers to the shocking foul by goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on France's Patrick Battiston who'd put the ball past him before the keeper's head-high challenge knocked him unconscious. How the referee could have interpreted it as anything other than a straight red card is unfathomable with the ball so far away from the point of impact . Even if the collision was unavoidable - and it wasn't - there was no need for Schumacher's feet to leave the ground. The match was an absolute cracker finishing 3-3 with the Germans winning on penalties but that can't assuage the obscenity of Schumacher reamaining on the pitch.
I hated the Italians for their negative tactics - they'd bored the world to death in the first group stage with three draws - but after beating Poland ( who'd provided some good cheer by edging out their Soviet oppressors ) in the semis, they simply had to beat the Germans for the good of the tournament and they did , 3-1. I don't think I bothered watching much of it.
Off the pitch the surprise was that ITV trounced the Beeb in its coverage. They not only had the better theme tune , they also had a secret weapon who became a major TV star overnight. Jimmy Greaves had had a rough time since his controversial exclusion from the World Cup Final team in 1966. Age and an increasing consumption of alcohol robbed him of his sharpness and he retired from the professional game in 1971. He then descended into major alcoholism, eventually resuming his career in non-league football as part of his efforts to beat the booze. In 1980 he began working as a pundit on ATV's regional highlights show but the World Cup panel was his first national exposure. It was an inspired choice. His witty irreverence and relaxed bloke-y charm made the build-ups to the matches unmissable and he was flooded with TV work of all kinds thereafter. Eventually he became a bit of an arsehole but in 1982 he was at the top of his game.