Just as four years before Tottenham had little interest in the 1978 competition. There were of course two players in the Argentine squad that would later move to White Hart Lane. The only British team that qualified was Scotland. Like four years before their squad included Joe Jordan who would later join our coaching team and he scored one goal.
This time there was also Graeme Souness. A former Tottenham youth who made just one appearance for Spurs who was then at Middlesbrough.
Scotland lost to Peru and drew with Iran. Souness played in their last game with Holland who only had to go through the motions and Scotland won by one goal before heading home. Scotland’s campaign was a disaster from start to finish and had a player fail a doping test.
This was the first competition in South America since 1962. The overwhelming image from 1978 was the blue and white confetti that greeted the entry of the host nation. In the Group stage Tunisia became the first African country to win a game in the Finals beating Mexico. The Brazil V Sweden game ended 1-1. The match will forever be remembered for the Brazilian’s being denied by Welsh referee Clive Thomas. Zico had headed the ball goal wards and it went into the goal The Brazilians thought they had won. However whilst the ball was in flight Thomas had blown for full time. The Brazilians were very unhappy! Why he did not blow a few seconds earlier or waited to see where the ball ended up is unknown. There were wide spread calls at the time for Football to adopt the Rugby idea of the whistle goes when the ball goes dead. Watch the clip below and you decide.
Once again the top two teams in the four groups progressed to a second group stage. The winners of these would meet in the Final. Knock out games leading to the Final were still in the future.
Brazil were the only unbeaten team in the competition, they drew with Argentina. Both teams went into the last game with a chance to reach the Final. Brazil beat Poland 3-1. Later that evening Argentina kicked off knowing they had to beat Peru by 4 goals. They won 6-0. There was an outcry that the game had been fixed. This was one of the games that would finally convince FIFA that the last group games should all kick off at the same time.
The Argentine coach had omitted from his team a 17 year old called Maradona and in his place called up a player called Ossie Ardiles who became one of his sides stars. One British newspaper described him at the time as looking slight of frame but as deadly as Michael Corleone (Al Pacino's character in the Godfather films).
Ardiles started six of his countries seven games, missing Peru in the second stage. Returning for the Final when he was booked. While Ricki Villa was a substitute coming on against Poland and Brazil (in this game he replaced Ardiles).
The start of the Final was delayed when the Argentina's players, desperate for any advantage they could find, objected to a bandage worn by the Dutch winger Van de Kerkhof on his arm.
A fairytale ending for the host nation but a competition that was played against a political backdrop and harsh dictatorship following a military coup two years earlier. Many of the Argentine players reflected on this in later life four goal hero Leopeldo Luque said “ With what I know now, I can't say I'm proud of my victory. But I didn't realise; most of us didn't. We just played football." It is perhaps the only World Cup win that causes unease among the victors. "There is no doubt that we were used politically," added Ricky Villa. Even the football world was not immune, with the Chairman of the World Cup organising committee being assassinated shortly before the competition. Holland had led a call to boycott the World Cup and it was only avoided when the government promised there would be no bloodshed during the competition.
Three-time European Footballer of the Year Johan Cruyff who had been receiving kidnap threats if he went to South America and West Germany's refused to take part. While Franz Beckenbauer had quit the international game shortly before the competition.
Back in N17 - Tottenham finish third under Keith Burkenshaw in Division Two and return to the top flight.
Images - Top & 1 - FIFA, 3- Daily Mail, Thanks also to - FIFA, BBC, The Times, The Telegraph, ESPN, and Planet World Cup,
further reading - Connections, Argentina.
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