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1982 Spain World Cup

Written by Sebastien on 16 February 2013. Posted in World Cup History

The 1982 World Cup took place in Spain between the 13th of June and the 11th of July. The tournament took place on 17 stadiums from 14 different cities. Spain was chosen to host the tournament in 1966 when hosts for the 1974 and 1978 tournaments were also nominated. There was a deal between Spain and West Germany which stipulated that Spain would support West Germany for the hosting rights of the World Cup 1974 and, in return, West Germany won’t oppose to the bid of Spain for hosting the 1982 World Cup.


It was the first time in history when the World Cup featured 24 teams instead of 16 in the final stage. This new format made it possible for more African and Asian teams to participate in the competition. The 24 teams were divided into six groups of four teams for the first stage. Every win was awarded two points and every draw was awarded one. The goal difference was used in order to differentiate teams with equal points. The best two teams from each group advanced and the remaining twelve teams were again divided into three groups of four teams. The best team from these groups also advanced to the knock-out semi final stage.  It was the only time when this format was used because FIFA made some changes to it for the 1986 World Cup.

The Spain World Cup 1982 was the first time when Honduras, New Zeeland, Kuwait, Cameroon and Algeria qualified for the tournament. The event was also historical for the teams of England, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Belgium which managed to play in the finals after 12 years. England had its first successful qualifying campaign in 20 years. The country has also participated in 1966 World Cup as host and in 1970 as defending champions, but failed to qualify for the next two World Cups in 1974 and 1978. Northern Ireland qualified for the first time after 1958. Unfortunately, the participation of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland was threatened by the Falklands War with Argentina. It was suggested that these three countries should withdraw, given the fact that Argentina was the defending champions and had no intention to leave the competition.  In the end, the three national teams were allowed to participate in order for their absence not to be used for Argentinean propaganda.

Italy won the Spain World Cup 1982 after defeating West Germany in the final. It was the third time Italy had won the trophy, but the first time after 1938. Italy was also the first team who advanced from the first round drawing all three matches and winning none of them, and the first World Cup winner which drew or lost three matches in the finals. By winning its third World Cup trophy Italy equalized the record of Brazil. It was a tournament full of records for Italy because Dino Zoff, the captain and the goal-keeper of the team, became the oldest player who won the World Cup. He was 40 years old at that time. More than that, a low record was also set by Italy. They scored twelve goals in seven matches and up until 2010 this was the lowest average goals scored per match by a World Cup winner team.

World Cup 1982 is known as the first tournament in which the Golden Ball was awarded to the best player. The Golden Ball was given to Paolo Rossi and he also won the Golden Boot as top scorer. He managed to score six times, once in the final and he also performed a hat-trick in the second group game with Brazil.