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Spain 1982

Previous: Argentina 1978Next: Mexico 1986

Let's look back at the twelfth World Cup, held in Spain in 1982 and won by Italy - their third win, the second nation to win it thrice.

For the first time FIFA increased the number of teams at the finals from 16 to 24. Round one became six groups of four. Round two was four groups of three. The winners of each group progressed to the semi-finals.

Some titbits:

  • Bryan Robson scored for England against France after just 27 seconds, the then fastest goal at the finals.
  • Norman Whiteside played for Northern Ireland at age 17 years and 41 days, still the youngest player ever to play at the finals.
  • England were eliminated without losing a game.
  • Scotland were eliminated on goal difference for the third finals in a row.

The game between El Salvador and Hungary, won by Hungary 10-1 (HT 3-0) produced several records:

  • This is the only time double figures have been reached in a finals match.
  • This is the equal largest winning margin (nine).
  • Hungary are the only team to score seven goals in a half.
  • Laslo Kiss came on for Hungary in the second half and scored a hat-trick in just seven minutes. This remains the fastest hat-trick at the finals AND Kiss remains the only substitute to have scored a hat-trick.

When Kuwait played France they were down 0-3 at half-time. An early second half goal gave them a sniff at 1-3. However France replied almost immediately and the referee awarded the goal. But. The Kuwaitis hesitated at the final pass. They surrounded the referee and insisted they'd heard a whistle in the crowd and pleaded for a reprieve. No chance you'd think.

Well with a wave of his hand, a robed Sheik called his team from the field. For 10 minutes play was delayed. The Sheik entered the field. No-one knows what was discussed but eventually order was restored. Everyone was gob smacked when the goal was cancelled and play resumed with a drop-ball. The Sheik was fined £8,000. The referee never refereed another finals game. France still won.

Group 2 consisted of Algeria, Chile, West Germany and Austria with the latter two expected to progress. However, when Algeria shocked Germany 2-1 anything was possible. Once again FIFA played its part by continuing to play group games on different days. The last game of Group 2 was between West Germany and Austria, the day after Algeria played Chile in the penultimate game. A draw or win for Austria would eliminate West Germany and Austria and Algeria would go though. A win for West Germany by three, would eliminate Austria and West Germany and Algeria would go through. But a 1-0 or 2-0 win for West Germany would eliminate Algeria and Austria and West Germany would go through.

West Germany started at fever pitch and scored after just ten minutes, with Pierre Littbarski (yes the former Sydney FC coach) laying on the final pass. And that was it - both teams effectively stopped playing. For the remaining 80 minutes the ball was passed around, often at walking pace, with no side making any genuine attempt to score. Algerian supporters at the game howled and waved bank-notes implying the fix was in. The Algerians went out on goal difference.

Algeria protested furiously of course, but FIFA could do nothing: "There is no FIFA rule saying that teams cannot play as they wish." Thankfully, FIFA finally did see the light though, and all "related" games are now played simultaneously at the finals.

The semi-final between France and West Germany is long remembered for one man: Harald Schumacher. At this point 644 finals matches had been played and some 13,000 fouls recorded, but Schumacher is remembered for what is often described as the World Cup's worst foul.

French substitute Patrick Battiston raced clear onto Michel Plattini's through ball. Schumacher raced out wildly and took out Battiston in a sickening collision. Incredibly not only did Schumacher remain on the field, but no foul was awarded. Schumacher went on to save two penalties in the shootout as West Germany progressed to the final.

As for Battiston, he lost two teeth and suffered a fractured vertebrae. He was stretchered off unconscious. Several spectators actually believed he was dead. As it was, he spent several weeks in hospital. In a French newspaper poll, Schumacher was voted the most unpopular man in history. Hitler came second.

There was some justice though. Schumacher played in both the 1982 and 1986 finals, lost both and was widely blamed for the 1986 loss.