World Cup 1978

And so we crossed the Atlantic back to the Americas, this time Argentina, to be precise. FIFA had had a tournament awarding jamboree back in 1966 and this was the last one to be awarded at that time. Argentina had been considered for the 1970 tournament, but Mexico's recent investment in facilities for the Olympics had seen them win out that time. Then of course we had gone back over to Europe to West Germany, so by the time 1978 rolled along, the Argentinian public was gagging for it.

As in previous years an elite group of 16 nations would contest the first round in 4 groups of 4 teams. Again, Scotland were Britain's sole representatives - England being edged out in qualifying on goal difference by Italy, by 3 goals.  Wales were in Scotland's group and Northern Ireland were third best in a group of four which contained Holland, Belgium and Iceland.

The 16 teams included two first time qualifiers, Iran and Tunisia.  Iran competed in Scotland's group along with eventual qualifiers Holland and Peru.  Scotland's heroic failure to qualify for the second round is part of football folklore, especially their last group game, a 3-2 win over the Dutch and in particular Archie Gemmill's goal to make it 3-1 thus giving them a lifeline, snatched away by Johnny Rep just 3 minutes later.  But in reality this was a last throw of the dice, from the dodgy world cup theme to their even dodgier manager, through Willie Johnston's failed drugs test, to a 3-1 thumping by Peru and a very poor 1-1 draw with Iran, Scotland's campaign was fatally flawed.

In the other groups, hosts Argentina qualified along with Italy at the expense of France and Hungary.  Poland and West Germany were too good (just about) for Tunisia and Mexico and in the final group, Austria and Brazil ousted Spain and Sweden.  It is interesting to note that as far as Brazil is concerned, Sweden's solitary point shouldn't have been - controversial-referee-Clive-Thomas blowing for time as a corner was swung over and converted by Zico at the end of the teams' 1-1 draw.  Good old Clive.

In the second group stage, the Dutch won the right to contest their second successive final, seeing off the challenge of Italy, West Germany and Austria.  There was a real battle of South American heavyweights in the other group, as Argentina qualified ahead of Brazil on goal difference by thrashing Peru 6-0 in their final game - incidentally, played after all the other games (starting with a goal difference of just +2 against Brazil's +5).

So we came to the final.  Played on 25 June at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, the game kicked off at 3pm local time (6pm BST) - well it should have. After some nonsensical objections raised by Argentinian officials about Rene Van Der Kerkhof's lightweight cast the game started late. A strong Dutch start was upset by Mario Kempes opening goal for the host nation. A Dutch equaliser from Dirk Nanninga (sounds more like a Bond villain than a footballer) with ten minutes remaining took the game to extra time - although Robbie Rensenbrink's shot that hit the post in the last minute had come mighty close to winning it for the Oranje.

But of course, history is history and it was down to that man Kempes to make it 2-1 for Argentina on the stroke of half time in extra time. He then set up Daniel Bertoni to secure the win with five minutes of extra time remaining. Queue ticker tape...




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