After its South American neighbors (Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile), Argentina finally had the chance to host the 1978 World Cup. And contrary to what happened in Brazil and Chile, their story had happy endings.
Mario Kempes finished the 1978 World Cup tournament as top scorer, and the celebration took over the streets of Buenos Aires, with blue and white slips of paper thrown from buildings after the South Americans had beaten the Dutch in the final.
However, even though the fans were a show apart, there has never been a more controversial World Cup than the one hosted by Argentina in 1978.
Brazil Think Its A Fix
The tournament had as its background the oppressive military regime led by General Jorge Videla. In addition, the Brazilians could not come to terms with the fact that they had not won the World Cup, despite being the only undefeated team in the tournament.
Complaints began in the first round. In the match against Sweden, a 1-1 draw seemed as if it would persist until the end, when after a corner, Zico headed the ball into the net.
However, Welsh referee Clive Thomas alleged that he had blown his whistle to finish the game before the ball crossed the line. As a result, the goal was disallowed, and the match ended 1-1.
Then came the Battle of Rosario. The match between Brazil and Argentina in the World Cup’s second round could decide one of the finalists.
Under the watchful eyes of Dictator Videla, the Argentinians wanted to win using whatever means possible and started fouling the Brazilians, who began doing the same.
1978 World Cup Violent Tackles
The result was one of the most violent matches in history, where the protagonists were not big-name players like Zico and Kempes, but the famous tackles dished out by Chicão and Oscar on the Brazilian side and Galván and Osvaldo Ardilles for the Argentinians.
In the end, the goalless draw left the decision of who would make it to the final to the last match. The problem is that Brazil and Argentina played at different times.
The Brazilians beat Poland 3-1. Therefore, when the match between Argentina and Peru started, the hosts knew they needed a goal difference of four to finish ahead of Brazil and make it to the 1978 World Cup final.
The match may be summed up by the Argentinians attacking and the Peruvians defending, and as Peru had no chance of qualifying, they ended up collapsing and losing 6-0.
The Brazilians complain until today, and Brazil manager Cláudio Coutinho went as far as dubbing Brazil the tournament’s “moral champions” after they beat Italy in the third match playoff with a cracking goal from Nelinho.
Africa Gets Their First Win
Although controversial, the 1978 World Cup had memorable moments. For example, in their first FIFA World Cup, Tunisia became the first African team to win a game in the tournament, beating Mexico 3-1.
In addition, first-timers Iran managed to get a draw out of Scotland, the only British representative.
Although the 1978 World Cup was in another continent, the Europeans proved strong. Italy, with players such as Paolo Rossi and Dino Zoff, impressed with convincing victories and a well-deserving fourth-place finish.
In addition, they finished the 1978 World Cup as the only team to have beaten the Argentinians.
1978 World Cup Without Johan Cruyff
One of the most controversial points of the World Cup in Argentina was that the Dutch arrived without Johan Cruyff. Considered one of the best players in the world, Cruyff decided not to participate in the 1978 World Cup.
At the time, many people thought that the reason for the player’s decision was a protest against Argentina’s dictatorship.
Others believed that he had fallen out with the Dutch football association. However, many years later, Cruyff revealed that a crime committed against him and his family in Barcelona, where they lived, was what motivated his decision.
According to him, men broke into his house and tied up him and his family at gunpoint. The crime, which took place months before the World Cup, left the player in low spirits, and he decided not to play in the 1978 World Cup.
Argentina, which had nothing to do with this, made the most of it. At a packed-out Monumental Stadium, the hosts beat the Dutch 3-1, with two goals from Mario Kempes, and lifted the trophy, becoming world champions for the first time.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!