1978: Marred by political differences and corruption charges

The tournament was marred by further corruption charges as Peru went down rather ingloriously to Argentina in its last league game, providing a safe passage for the host into the knockout phase.

Argentinian fans throw rolls of paper all over the stadium as they wait for the start of the World Cup final between Argentina and the Netherlands, in Buenos Aires, on June 25, 1978.   -  AFP

Argentina in 1978 wasn’t a fun place to be for pro-democracy, free-speech supporters. The military junta in power there was happily rounding up people and making liberal upstarts go missing when the World Cup arrived in the middle of the year. With already a slew of players pulling out because of political differences (including Johan Cruyff), the tournament was marred by further corruption charges as Peru went down rather ingloriously to Argentina in its last league game, providing a safe passage for the host into the knockout phase.

Needing six goals to overrun Brazil on goal difference, La Albiceleste did exactly that and with the Argentine-born Ramon Quiroga guarding the Peruvian goal, the win had the fingerprints of the brutal regime all over it, but nothing has ever been proven. The host, thankfully, drew inspiration from that victory and went on to win its first World Cup, untarnished by any more absurdities.

The high-flying Dutch were again the casualties, losing the final 1-3, though bringing some relief to forward Johan Neeskens who famously observed after losing, “If we had won, we would not have left the stadium alive.”

Held in the fiercely guarded River Plate’s El Monumental stadium, the game ended on a stalemate at the end of regulation time after a goal from Mario Kempes was cancelled out by Holland’s Dick Nanninga.

Host: Argentina

Teams: 16

Matches: 38

Goals: 102

Attendance: 15,45,791

Winner: Argentina

Golden Boot: Mario Kempes (ARG) — 6 goals

Best Goalkeeper: Ubaldo Fillol (ARG)

Best Player: Mario Kempes (ARG)

Extra time followed and Kempes made the breakthrough in the first period before Daniel Bertoni made it 3-1 on a counter-attack as the packed stadium erupted in joy, signalling a home victory and some respite for the wary visitors.

The 31-year-old Scotsman Archie Gemmill should also be remembered for his moment of brilliance in the same competition. With a surprise loss to Peru and a draw with debutant Iran, a win over the Dutch by three goals was necessary to push the Scots to the next round. Kenny Dalglish scored one on half-time to cancel out Rob Rensenbrink’s early penalty and Gemmill converted from the spot to keep the Scots within striking distance. Gemmill again scored in the second session, with a stupendous effort. He collected the ball in the midfield, dodged past a Dutch player and danced through two more before slipping it past the ’keeper. The mind-boggling goal received instant cult status. But despite Gemmill’s splendour, Johnny Rep scored soon to keep Holland safe on goal difference and inflict another early heartbreak for the Scots.

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