So the slog continued... back across the Atlantic, this time to Spain. We also had a revamped tournament format with some additional teams. For the first time 24 teams would contest the finals. The first group round consisted of 6 groups of 4, with the top two in each going forward to 4 groups of 3, from which the winners would contest the semi finals. Got that? Good.
England were there, after a gap of 12 years - a total of 20 years if you count the last time that they were required to qualify. Joining them from the British Isles were Scotland and the team that would turn out to be quite a surprise package, Northern Ireland.
England were drawn in group 4 along with neighbours France, plus Czechoslovakia and first time qualifiers, Kuwait. It was a relatively pain free progression for England, after Bryan Robson opened the scoring on 27 seconds against the French as England won 3-1 then beat the Czechs-and-the-Slovaks 2-0 and finally Kuwait 1-0. France qualified in second place.
Scotland were handed a tough call to escape from group 6 with Brazil and the USSR along with New Zealand. That they failed in their mission was down to the 4-1 hammering that they took from Brazil - David Narey scoring the first goal with quite a strike. They comfortably beat New Zealand 5-2 and gained a 2-2 draw against the Soviets.
Northern Ireland were drawn in the hosts' group along with Honduras and Yugoslavia. Outside of Northern Ireland it was widely expected that Spain and Yugoslavia would occupy the top two places in the group. However, two draws and a win against Spain (Arconada - ARMSTRONG!), plus the Spanish inability to beat Honduras saw Northern Ireland win the group. Spain snuck through, past Yugoslavia on the basis of their 2-1 win against them.
From the other groups, eventual winners Italy were even more lucky than Spain to qualify for the second group stage. But for Roger Milla's disallowed goal for Cameroon, they would have gone through, joining Poland at the Italians' expense. In group 2, scandal reigned as West Germany and Austria both qualified from a group in which Algeria had beaten the West Germans in their opening game. And finally, Belgium and Argentina overcame Hungary and El Salvador (qualifiers at Mexico's expense).
So the second round and four groups of three. Group A consisted of Poland, th USSR and Belgium. It was a tight squeak, but the Poles ousted their much larger neighbour by virtue of having scored more against Belgium in their game than the Soviets.
Group B was the group of dearth, with the West Germans managing the only win, a 2-1 victory over the hosts. England neither scored nor lost but nevertheless went home.
In contrast the group B, the next group was the group of death and consisted of.. wait for it... Italy, Brazil and Argentina. Up first, Argentina were beaten 2-1 by Italy. Defending their title was now looking unlikely. Confirmation that they were going home was received with a 3-1 reversal to their bitterest rivals. So it was all set for the deciding, winner takes all showdown between Brazil and Italy. Because of their scores versus Argentina, a draw would be enough for Brazil. Step forward Paolo Rossi. First he put the Italians ahead, on five minutes. Then when the smoking doctor, Socrates made it 1-1 and shifted the balance of power back to the Brazilians, he popped up again to make it 2-1. After almost 70 minutes gone, Falcao gave Brazil the initiative again, before Rossi scored his third and the winner for Italy.
Group D was a cakewalk for the French - their reward for coming second to England was to get the group that Spain would have been in, but for Northern Ireland. The French beat Austria 1-0 before the Austrians drew with the Northern Irish - thus sending Austria home. All hopes of another fairytale were dashed as France thumped Northern Ireland 4-1 to win their place in the semi finals.
We were all set then for a pair of semi finals of contrasting hue. In the first one, Italy had a relatively easy job in dispatching Poland - that man Rossi again with another brace in their easy 2-0 win. The game between West Germany and France had an altogether different character. From Pierre Littbarski's opening goal, through Michel Platini's penalty spot equaliser, to the incident between the West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and French defender Patrick Battiston and then on to extra time, 4 more goals and a penalty shootout, won by the West Germans, this match had everything.
The 1982 World Cup Final
And so to the final. Unfancied, unflattering and uninspiring in escaping from their first round group, Italy would take on West Germany, lucky to have made the break from their own first round group. Played at the Bernabeu in Madrid, the World Cup Final of 1982 was something of an anti climax, especially after the monumental high points of Brazil 2-3 Italy and the West Germans epic battle with the French. Goalless at half time, Paolo Rossi (who else?) opened the scoring on the hour mark, before Marco Tardelli's shot on 69 minutes earned him the right to run screaming and shouting at the TV cameras! Alessandro Altobelli's third on 81 minutes was the first goal scored by a substitute in a world cup final and Paul Breitner's second goal in a world cup final on 83 minutes was the West Germans' consolation.
Say what you like about the Italian victory - there were teams perhaps more deserving of winning the world cup, teams who were perhaps unlucky to be knocked out, but at the end of the day, you make your own luck, you have to beat what's in front of you. This is what they did and that is what they won!
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