On this day 25 June 1978 (Exactly 41 years ago) Striker Mario Kempes scored a brace as Argentina beat the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time to win their first FIFA World Cup title.
Losing finalists at the very first FIFA World Cup tournament, Argentina’s footballers reached the pinnacle on home soil 48 years later, propelled by the goals of Golden Shoe winner Mario Kempes and the fervour of their impassioned followers, whose snowstorms of shredded blue and white paper, swirling inside the stadiums in Buenos Aires and Rosario, offered a defining image.
Amid Argentina’s celebrations, there was sympathy for the Netherlands, runners-up for the second tournament running, following a 3-1 Final defeat at the Estadio Monumental.
After Dirk Nanninga’s header had equalised Kempes’s first-half opener, the Dutch came within a whisker of winning when Rob Rensenbrink struck a post in the dying seconds of normal time.
Destiny beckoned a reprieved Argentina, however, and Kempes and Daniel Bertoni seized the glory with extra-time strikes.
Kempes, the only foreign-based player in Argentina’s squad, entered the tournament as the leading scorer in Spain with Valencia, and ended it with six goals – this despite his failure to find the net in the first round.
He was not alone in a stuttering start: Cesar Luis Menotti’s hosts defeated Hungary but were then fortunate to overcome France 2-1 before surrendering top spot in the section by losing 1-0 to Italy.
Yet Menotti, who had omitted the 17-year-old Diego Maradona from his squad, would eventually earn the optimum reward for a philosophy of skilful, attacking football embodied by graceful little midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles.
The 1978 FIFA World Cup
The opening phase witnessed a first African victory in the FIFA World Cup – debutants Tunisia beating Mexico 3-1
– while fellow newcomers Iran gained a point against Scotland. The only British representatives, Scotland recovered to defeat the Netherlands 3-2 in their final group fixture in Cordoba.
Archie Gemmill conjured up a magical goal after a slaloming run around three defenders yet the Scots still departed early, the Dutch squeezing through on goal difference.
If Scotland’s campaign was marred by Willie Johnston’s failed doping test, this was a tournament touched by a bigger controversy, taking place as it did against the backcloth of Argentinian leader General Jorge Videla’s oppressive military regime.
There were other upsets: Brazil’s players were unhappy when Welsh referee Clive Thomas blew for full time an instant before Zico’s header crossed the line in a 1-1 first-round draw with Sweden; off the pitch, Argentina attacker Leopoldo Luque opted to play on despite the death of his brother in a car crash.
Arguably the best team to head home early were France, who caught the eye for more than the unfamiliar green-and-white striped shirts – loaned to them by local club Kimberley – which they wore against Hungary after a mix-up over kits.
The 21-year-old Michel Platini, in particular, served notice of his impressive ability, striking his first goal on the world stage against Argentina.
As in 1974, the last eight teams split up into two sections and from Group A, it was the Netherlands who advanced to the final.
Coached by the Austrian Ernst Happel, a former European champion with Feyenoord, they were missing Johan Cruyff – their long-time inspiration had chosen to miss the finals – and Wim van Hanagem, a last-minute withdrawal, yet only Kempes delivered more goals than Dutch forward Rensenbrink and after they had beaten Austria and held holders West Germany, the Oranje came from behind to overcome Italy in their final, decisive group match.
Ernie Brandt scored at both ends before Arie Haan’s long-range drive sent the Dutch through.
On the same day, Hans Krankl fired Austria to a first victory for 47 years over the eliminated West Germans.
Enzo Bearzot’s Italy earned experience here that would serve them well four years later in Spain – and striker Paolo Rossi’s three goals offered a hint of things to come from him – but they were denied bronze by the tournament’s one unbeaten team, Brazil.
The South Americans boasted a striker named Roberto Dinamite – not to mention a full-back, Nelinho, capable of outrageous, swerving strikes – but they had to settle for third place after being outgunned by arch-rivals Argentina in Group B.
After playing out a bad-tempered stalemate, the South American pair went into their deciding fixtures with three points each, and Brazil’s subsequent 3-1 victory over Poland left Menotti’s men needing to beat Peru by a four-goal margin later that day to reach the Final.
With Teofilo Cubillas prominent, the Peruvians had beaten Scotland and held the Dutch in the first round but now they were already eliminated and Argentina ran riot, recording a 6-0 win.
Among the scorers were Kempes – whose scoring touch had returned with the team’s second-round relocation to his home city of Rosario – and Luque with two apiece.
Events that night ensured that in future, final group matches would kick off at the same time. The immediate consequence, however, was an Argentina-Netherlands Final on 25 June 1978.
“Tulips in the Pampas?” asked French newspaper L’Equipe on the eve of the game. Instead it was tears once again for the team in orange as La Albiceleste captain Daniel Passarella became the first Argentinian to hold aloft football’s most famous prize.
On this day 25 June 1994 (Exactly 25 years ago) Claudio Cannigia of Argentina scored the 1,500th goal of the FIFA World Cup playing against Nigeria in Boston.
On this day 25 June 2014 (Exactly 5 years ago) Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored the 50th hat-trick of the FIFA World Cup playing against Honduras.
On this day 25 June 1988 (Exactly 31 years ago) The 1988 UEFA European Championship concluded pretty much as it had begun, with a meeting between the Soviet Union and the Netherlands – on-song Marco van Basten ensured there would be no repeat of the USSR’s group stage triumph, though.
Van Basten was left out of the 1-0 defeat, but had become the first name on the team sheet since and was at his inspirational best in the Munich final.
His gravity-defying header set up Ruud Gullit for the opener before a moment of poise and class that will inspire admirations for decades to come, lashing in a stunning volley from the acutest of angles.
It sealed a 2-0 victory and the Oranje’s long-awaited first major title.
A final packed with players of the highest class – eight of them from FC Dynamo Kyiv – was slow coming to life.
For the Soviet Union it never really did, from the moment Gennadiy Litovchenko beat a man but hit his shot straight at Hans van Breukelen. Within two minutes the Netherlands were in front.
Erwin Koeman took a corner on the right; when it was headed out, he crossed to the far post. With the defence coming out to play offside, Van Basten craned his neck to square towards the unmarked Gullit, whose own header beat Rinat Dasayev for power rather than accuracy.
The game went back into its shell, with few real chances – but how the Dutch took theirs on 54 minutes.
A bad touch by Olexandr Zavarov allowed Adri van Tiggelen to intercept and feed Arnold Mühren, playing his last international match, wide on the left.
His instant high cross went deep across the Soviet penalty area and when the ball reached him, Van Basten was eight metres from goal and only five or six from the right-hand goal line, with no obvious option except a cross towards Gullit.
Instead, full of confidence, he hit an astonishing top-spin volley over the head of the best goalkeeper in Europe and just inside the far post. Even the ‘neutral’ West Germans, whose own aspirations were ended by the Netherlands in the last four, rose at the Olympiastadion to applaud; yet to their credit the USSR refused to lie down.
They could have halved the deficit when Van Breukelen needlessly brought down Sergey Gotsmanov. The goalkeeper made amends, as 1986 European Footballer of the Year Igor Belanov’s long run-up did more to upset his own rhythm than terrify Van Breukelen, who blocked the low shot.
A month earlier, his penalty save had won the European Champion Clubs’ Cup for PSV Eindhoven. This time he had to make do with a key support role in the Van Basten show.
STORY: GEORGE MAHAMAH