FIFA World Cup

A brief history of Fifa World Cup: Spain 1982, when Brazil thrilled the world but Italy won the cup

The greatest team to have not won the World Cup? Brazil in 1982 would, arguably, top the list.

It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

Into the famous 80s, and the one where Brazil did everything but win the trophy.

Spain 1982

The number of entrants increased to 24 and two round-robin stages were used to determine the semi-finalists.

Tele Santana’s Brazil are widely considered the South Americans’ best side since 1970, and arguably, the greatest side to have not won the World Cup, and their strengths lay in a multi-talented midfield that featured Zico, Falcao, Socrates and Eder.

Brazil, with Zico, Eder and Socrates in full flow, caught the eye in the early stages, while Italy limped into the second round with three highly uninspiring draws. Suddenly the Italians – and recalled striker Paolo Rossi – sparked to life, beating Brazil 3-2 to reach the semi-finals, where they defeated Poland 2-0.

West Germany edged past hosts Spain and England into the semi-finals, where they faced France in a contest that left a bitter taste. The match, which finished 3-3 after extra-time, was marred by a diabolical challenge from West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on Patrick Battiston.

Incredibly, Schumacher stayed on the pitch and proceeded to make the saves that earned his side a 5-4 win in the penalty shootout.

Rossi’s predatory skills were too much for West Germany in the final, however. He opened the scoring in the second half, and the Italians won 3-1, matching Brazil’s achievement of winning three World Cups.

And the tournament, for all its controversies, is remembered for Marco Tardelli’s iconic screaming-in-tears celebration in the final.

“It’s a bit like when they say you’re going to die and you see your own life,” Tardelli is quoted as saying. “I returned to see when I began to play football as a child.

“The joy of scoring in a World Cup final was immense, something I dreamed about as a kid. My celebration was a release after realising that dream.”

Stats and trivia

  • Italian captain and goalkeeper Dino Zoff, at 40, became the oldest player to wear the World Cup winners’ medal and retains the record till date. As an interesting aside, the difference of 21 years and 10 months between 18-year-old Giuseppe Bergomi and 40-year-old Zoff, the second-youngest and oldest players to have played in a World Cup Final respectively, is the biggest till date.
  • First World Cup to feature 24 teams, with the total number of matches going up to 52.
  • Penalty shootouts were introduced for the first time to decide semi-final and final matches, with France’s Alain Giresse scoring the first ever spot kick in a shootout. The French lost to West Germany in the semi-finals though. 
  • Step aside, Pele. Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside, at the age of 17 years and 42 days, became the youngest player to appear in the tournament finals. And his team provided one of the main shocks by beating Spain 1-0 to reach the second round.
  • SIX: That’s how many goals Rossi finished the tournament with, earning him the golden boot. But this was more than just a tournament for the Italian, it was redemption. Rossi had just returned from a two-year ban from football – the result of his involvement in a match-fixing scandal – when the tournament began and what more, he failed to find the net in any of Italy’s three group games, all of them drawn. 
  • Leading goalscorer: Paulo Rossi (Italy) – 6 goals
  • Total number of goals scored in the tournament: 102 (2.7 goals per match) 

For your viewing pleasure

The final



1982 rewind...

Official poster


With AFP and inputs

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