World Cup – Brazil v Italy, 1982

July 28, 2018 0 By MisterPBLW

This classic encounter was a re-match of the 1970 final, in which Brazil, inspired by Pele in his last international, swept aside the Italians and were acclaimed as the greatest team the world had seen. That claim can still be defended today, but had the 1982 Brazilians won the trophy, it would be a close argument between them. For fans of a certain age, like myself, watching their first World Cup and never having seen or even heard of many of these players before – pre-Internet, when international football coverage in the UK was limited to the home nations and major tournament finals – this match remains a touchstone for the thrills of the beautiful game. Brazil v Italy, 1982, was undoubtedly one of the World Cup’s most dramatic 90 minutes

Brazil team photo, 1982

From the start of the tournament in Spain, it was apparent that an array of flamboyant talents – Junior, Socrates, Falcao, Eder, Zico – was prepared to simply out-score the opposition. Having defeated the Soviet Union with two spectacular goals, they swept aside Scotland and New Zealand before dismantling their arch-rivals Argentina in the second group stage (infuriating a young Diego Maradona into getting himself sent off). Despite fielding the lumbering Serginho at centre-forward, they had scored thirteen goals in the process of winning those four games – comparing more than favourably to Spain’s champions of 2010 (eight goals in seven matches), or the long-awaited Brazilian triumph in 1994 (eleven in seven). Their Achilles heel was the lack of defensive organisation and the shortcomings of goalkeeper Waldir Peres behind them.

Italy’s progress in 1982 had been unimpressive, drawing each game at the first group stage, including with first-time finalists Cameroon, and their star striker Paolo Rossi (banned from the 1978 Finals for his part in a match-fixing scandal) was misfiring. The much-maligned second group stage was abandoned after these finals but on this occasion the format set up the ideal fixture, with the Italians needing a win and the Brazilians knowing they only needed to avoid defeat to reach the semi-finals. They had no intention of playing for a draw however…