Home sweet home for Argentina

Home sweet home for Argentina

Mario Kempes was a revelation for Argentina netting six goals in the 1978 World Cup.

Master tactician Giovanni Trapattoni’s belief that Argentina would not have even crossed the first round had the tournament been held elsewhere, summed up the 1978 World Cup.

In 1966, Argentina were selected to play hosts to the 1978 edition. What seemed an innocuous decision at the time turned out to be just the opposite come showtime.

A military coup in 1976 had shattered the nation with many homeless, dead or missing. It was hardly the ideal setting for a showcase event that was capturing the imagination of millions around the world. There were a host of players, including Dutch wizard Johan Cruyff who decided to give the event a miss.

Horrific refereeing, intimidating crowds and rising tensions took centre-stage as the ugly side of the beautiful game was on full view.

Amid all the sub-plots rose the well-built Valencia striker Mario Kempes. Argentina weren’t equipped with a world class side but their resilience and optimum utilisation of home conditions would take them to the summit. A flurry of tempestuous affairs reigned throughout the tournament with punches and kicks seemingly the norm around toothless match officials.

Argentina’s route to the final was a controversial one, the most glaring aspect being their final game of the second group phase. Needing to beat a gritty Peru side by four goals to usurp Brazil and move into the final, the hosts put six past their South American rivals, raising eyebrows.

Holland, with their ‘Total Football’, once again won plenty of hearts but that wasn’t enough as they faltered at the final hurdle for the second straight time.

The prolific Kempes triggered off ecstatic scenes at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires but the parity was restored through the boot of Dirk Nanniga with eight minutes left to play.

Another final, another bout of extra time and heartbreak again for Holland as Kempes and Daniel Bertoni ended the contest. 

Final result: Argentina: 3 bt Holland: 1.