World Cup history thumbnails (cont.)
The tournament: The finals expanded to accommodate 24 teams, making room for smaller nations such as Honduras, El Salvador and New Zealand. They all went home at the earliest opportunity, but Honduras held Spain to a draw that completely derailed the latter's campaign. Fortunately Argentina avoided a meeting with any British teams, the Falklands War having not long finished. It was West Germany that played the bête noire after a particularly dirty semifinal meeting with France, in which Patrick Battiston was knocked unconscious, losing teeth and breaking his back.
The favorite: Going on the principle that one European and one South American team would reach the final, West Germany and Brazil were the teams supposed to do it. Both won every game in qualifying.
The winner: The Germans fared better than the Brazilians, but in the end both were undone by highly unfancied Italy -- Italy 3, Brazil 2 was a classic as the pair traded blows from start to finish. In the final, West Germany couldn't compete with Italy's second-half attacks as the Italians notched three different scorers with three different providers.
The best player: In 1980, Paolo Rossi had been named in Italy's huge match-fixing scandal and suspended for three years, which later became two. Having returned just weeks before the World Cup, he inspired the Azzurri's unexpected run to the final, scoring six goals.
The tournament: Having wanted to host the World Cup finals since 1930, Argentina finally got its wish. Several star players, including Holland's Johan Cruyff, refused to travel because of the military dictatorship running Argentina at the time, but the junta kept its dark regime out of sight, lavishing a reported $700 million on the tournament. This wasn't a classic World Cup, but Holland provided more dream soccer and the host nation provided the emotive storyline.
The favorite: Nobody was quite sure who of Holland, Argentina, Brazil or West Germany might prosper. Scotland was in the mix, too, though that might have been as much due to manager Ally MacLeod's insistence that his team could win as to the exploits of Archie Gemmill and Kenny Dalglish.
The winner: There was a whiff of controversy about Argentina's second-phase 6-0 thumping of Peru, which was enough to see it through on goal difference. And the Dutch came within the width of the post of winning the final, before Mario Kempes and Daniel Bertoni sealed a cathartic victory for the host nation.
The best player: Kempes won the Golden Boot with six goals for Argentina, despite failing to score in the initial group stage. His height enabled him to plunder goals with his head, though he had "good feet for a big man." His two goals and one assist won the final.
The tournament: This year brought us a new trophy (Brazil held onto the last one) and a new group stage to replace the quarter- and semifinals. Torrential rain poured down for most of the tournament, and a sloppy pitch marred the second-phase game between the host and Poland, whose star was rising after winning Olympic gold two years earlier. England failed to qualify when it failed to beat Polish keeper Jan Tomaszewski at Wembley Stadium, previously described by Brian Clough as "a clown." With Brazil looking a shadow of its former self, aesthetes turned to the Oranje for entertainment.
The favorite: Playing their mesmerizing "Total Football," the Dutch were the ones to beat, despite their lack of World Cup pedigree. But West Germany was the sensible favorite, having won the 1972 European Championship at a canter.
The winner: Boasting the talents of Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller, West Germany overcame the aftereffects of losing to East Germany in the first group stage to go unbeaten in the second, despite Sweden's best efforts in a 4-2 showdown. Holland's casual possession play in the final cost it dearly when Müller latched onto a Rainer Bonhof free kick to score the winner.
The best player: Cruyff epitomized the effortless wonder of Holland under Rinus Michels -- when Uli Hoeness brought him down for a penalty in the second minute of the final, no German player had yet touched the ball. His skill on the edge of Sweden's penalty area became known as the Cruyff turn.
The tournament: It was widely regarded as the best World Cup ever. Opening with a dull 0-0 draw between Mexico and Soviet Union wasn't a great start, but Brazil's free-scoring run through the rounds, a scintillating semifinal between Italy and Germany and Gordon Banks' "save of the century" from Pele all made for compelling viewing. The quality of the soccer belied the baking conditions.
The favorite: Reigning world champion England and former world champion Brazil were the picks of their continents, with England the more fancied after Brazil's poor showing four years earlier. Being drawn in the same group didn't go down well but their meeting, which Brazil won 1-0, is probably the best group game ever played.
The winner: Brazil recovered from its 1966 nightmare with glorious attacking soccer, cramming Pele, Tostao, Gerson, Rivelino and Jairzinho into a ridiculously talented front line with a return to 4-2-4. Brazil's fourth goal while beating Italy in the final remains mind-bogglingly good.
The best player: Beckenbauer established himself as a sublime attacking sweeper, elegantly dismantling opposition moves and creating forward momentum for West Germany. His decision to play on with a dislocated shoulder against Italy made him a hero.
The tournament: England went into its home tournament insisting it would win, and ended up being embarrassed not by the folly of such predictions but by the theft of the World Cup trophy before things kicked off. Fortunately, Pickles the dog found it in a hedge. On the pitch, North Korea became the finals' first Asian representative in 12 years and made its mark by eliminating Italy before playing Portugal tough in a pulsating quarterfinal.
The favorite: In the run-up to the tournament, all three two-time winners, Brazil, Italy and Uruguay, were being talked up as possible champions. But Brazil and Italy went home after the groups, while Uruguay took a beating from West Germany in the quarterfinals. As host, and boasting impressive results since switching to 4-3-3, England also enjoyed short odds.
The winner: England triumphed on home soil under Alf Ramsey, who'd revolutionized the national team. The 4-2 win over West Germany after extra time in the final remains the defining moment in English soccer, though the containment of Portugal a game earlier was equally decisive.
The best player: England's Bobby Charlton took home the Golden Ball in 1966 and was voted European Footballer of the Year, too. His performance in the semifinal defeat of Portugal -- which saw tournament top scorer Eusebio leave the field in tears -- was definitive: trickery, speed and a rifle shot.
The tournament: Chile won the right to host, despite the protestations of Argentina, after a devastating earthquake hit. "We have nothing," said Carlos Dittborn, president of Chile's organizing committee. "This is why we must have the World Cup." Chile was an amiable host, but after Italian journalists described Santiago, home to the new national stadium, as a slum full of hookers, the Group B game between Chile and Italy descended into a full-scale fist fight, with the odd karate kick thrown in for good measure.
The favorite: Brazil was favorite to retain its title because the core of the winning team of 1958 remained with the addition of Amarildo, "the white Pele."
The winner: Despite the loss of Pele to injury, the Brazilians looked as dazzling as ever, overwhelming Chile 4-2 in the semifinal. The Czechs put up more of a fight in the final, but were overcome by two second-half goals. Brazil won the first back-to-back World Cups since Italy in the 1930s.
The best player: Garrincha came into his own in 1962, when the winger took over from Pele as the scorer or provider of the majority of Brazil's goals. Garrincha moved quickly but awkwardly, leaving defenders flummoxed as to his next step -- he embarrassed England's left-siders in the quarterfinal.