“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily lives off our souls.”
– Pablo Picasso
There are good teams at a World Cup, there are winners who’re remembered and revered forever, there are teams like Rinus Michels’ Netherlands from 1974 who evoke awe to this day and then there were Tele Santana’s Brazil at the 1982 World Cup. Most people who saw that lineup in full flow, would describe them with something like.. ‘Just..how?’.
Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Eder. All of them brilliant on the ball, but not one of them was similar to another. Though less celebrated than the aforementioned Dutch team, they were certainly a close second when it came to the best teams to not win a world cup. In their first group stage, Scotland and New Zealand were beaten with aplomb. The Soviet Union did give them a scare, but the Selecao came back to win it 2-1. And once they beat Argentina 3-1 in the second group phase(red card for some diminutive left-footer going by the name Diego Armando Maradona), they needed only a draw against Italy to advance to the semi finals. As the match kicked off, not many would’ve bet against Socrates lifting the World Cup in another week’s time.
The Italians were coming on the back of a match-fixing scandal in 1980, which had affected most of the big clubs and players. Some of the convicted players were banned for up to three years. Among them, was Paolo Rossi of Juventus. His selection in the squad raised a lot of eyebrows, but by the time he was done with his match against Brazil, disbelief seeped through every pair of eyes witnessing this tournament. ‘Just how could Brazil not go through? Just how could Paolo Rossi of all people get a hat-trick?’
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Rossi followed it up with two goals against Poland in the semis and one in the final against West Germany to end as the top-scorer of the tournament. What a story, eh? Return from an unsavoury ban and score 6 of your team’s 8 goals in knockout matches to win the darn thing. Although the Germans came into the tournament with a 100% win record in their qualifiers and made their second final in three editions, they were facing a 3-0 lead before even getting into gear. Paul Breitner found the net as consolation, but couldn’t forge a comeback. Dino Zoff became the oldest captain to lift the World Cup at 40 years of age and a team that was a shambles a short while ago, had become the world champions.
This, unlike the last edition, was an extremely memorable tournament. That Spain could even host a world event just four years into their democracy was an immense achievement. A total of 24 teams made it the biggest World Cup so far. Quality-wise, it was ridiculously good. While Michel Platini was beginning to stamp his class upon the world, two young turks were stepping onto a stage that would make them immortal. One of them was Lothar Mattheus, a 21 year old central-midfielder from Borussia Monchengladbach. Two substitute appearances against Chile and Austria was all he could manage in this tournament, but history has it that he didn’t do too badly. Won’t talk about the other one, he gets enough coverage on the next edition.
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