Eighty years, 18 World Cups, a million memories
Kicking off as Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon stood at No.1 in the charts, Argentina 78 was a mysterious wonderland of ticker tape, cigarette-smoking managers, exotic kits, unrecognisable names and great mops of curly hair. And that was without Kevin Keegan.
After getting over the realisation that England weren’t in the competition – again – Britain relied on Scotland to do us proud. The Scots were on the march with Ally’s army, confidence high, and were certain they were coming home with the cup (because Ally McLeod made a promise Rafa would be proud of). But someone forget to let Peru and Iran know the plan: they took four points off the Scots in the first two games.
However, Scotland managed to spare their blushes by nearly qualifying for the second stage, beating the mighty Holland 3-2 in their final game. The game caused hundreds of Subbuteo Scotland players to be brutally disfigured, receiving receding hairlines via penknife surgery after the follically-challenged Archie Gemmill scored one of the greatest ever World Cup goals, jinking past what seemed like the entire Holland side and coolly chipping the advancing keeper.
The new official Adidas Tango match ball hypnotised us youngsters, partly because of its wonderful pattern, but mainly because it was named after a fizzy drink. Nelinho, like most of his Brazilian team mates, could bend the ball like a banana and against Italy he belted in an unbelievable swerving goal with the outside of his right boot.
Children could be seen replicating the strike on the school playgrounds the next day with their own “Tango”, which wasn’t hard to do as those days the only available balls were made of plastic and flew through the air like a burst balloon.
While Scotland were failing to live up to their own hype, Britain’s other representative, Welsh ref Clive Thomas, was doing his usual job of attempting to wrest the limelight from the players – stunningly successfully.
In the final minute of Brazil’s game against Sweden, Zico nodded home the winner from a 90th-minute corner – but Thomas claimed he had blown his whistle after the ball had left the Brazilian’s head and before it had entered the Swedish net. It was no surprise that the Welshman wasn't appointed for the final – a rare moment of common sense from FIFA.
Common sense was certainly missing from Peruvian keeper Ramón “El Loco” Quiroga. In the final minutes of his side’s game with Poland, Quiroga made his way up the field in search of an equaliser but was caught out by a quick clearance. Still in his opponents' half he took actions into his own hands, rugby-tackling the Polish attacker and picking up, rem, a yellow card.
The Argentinian-born keeper was never too far away from the headlines. With hosts Argentina needing to beat Peru by four clear goals to progress to the final, he picked the ball out of his net six times, and the Argentines were on their way to their first World Cup victory.
As Olivia Newton John claimed No.1 spot in the charts with You’re The One That I Want, the hosts got their hands on their object of desire as Holland’s total football couldn’t contain the firepower of Luque and Kempes and the hosts won 3-1 in extra time.
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