The world cup in Spain in 1982 was a demonstration of power of European teams: all four semi-finalists were European, and the final saw the Italian national team in its first world cup final since 1970 against the defending European champions of West Germany.
Italy were in the final against the odds given to them in the first round, where they had in fact not won a single match, becoming the first team ever to qualify to the second round without a victory. They had tied Cameroun, Poland and Perú, and had in the second round faced a difficult South American draw with the defending world champions of Argentina, and the South American favourites for the title, Brazil.
After defeating Argentina 2-1, Italy was forced to defeat Brazil in what became a legendary match. The highly criticised Paolo Rossi, who had only recently returned to football after a two-year ban, scored three goals to give Italy an unexpected victory and a place in the semi-finals where they faced Poland.
Poland and Italy had tied 0-0 in the first round of the tournament, but now Paolo Rossi was on fire, and scored both goals in Italy’s 2-0 victory.
In spite of the good results that had put them in the final, Italy were not favourites to win the tournament; West Germany were considered the stronger team, although they had become very unpopular in Spain. In the first round they had started by losing to Algeria, only to go on to the second round after first defeating Chile and then Austria 1-0 in a match that left Algeria out in what was complete lack of sportsmanship from the Germans and Austrian. In the second round the Germans had first tied England 0-0 and a subsequent 2-1 victory against Spain were enough to put them in the semi-final.
The semi-final between France and West Germany was one of the most dramatic matches in world cup history. Down 3-1 in extra time, the Germans nevertheless managed to equalize, and eventually win on the first penalty shoot-out in world cup history. This semi-final had only made the Germans more unpopular due to the ferocious attack from Harald “Toni” Schumacher on the French player Patrick Battiston, that left the latter unconcious.
The final in the Santiago Barnabeu Stadium in Madrid did not start well for the Italians, as they after only seven minutes were forced to substitute the Fiorentina striker Francesco Graziani for the Inter striker Alessandro Altobelli. Although the Germans initially dominated, the Italians quietly began to fight their way into the match, and after almost half an hour were awarded a penalty kick when the Kaiserslautern defender Hans Peter Briegel brought down the outstanding AS Roma winger Bruno Conti inside the German area.
The unpopular Schumacher seemed unshaken as the Juventus player Antonio Cabrini stepped up to take the penalty. In spite of his experience, and undoubtfully being one of the best Italian players of all time, Cabrini seemed nervous, and totally misplaced his weak shot, that went past the goal.
This was the first missed penalty in a world cup final.
The score was thus still 0-0 at half-time in a match that had been quite disappointing and overly tactical. The Germans again started the second half trying to put some pressure on the Italians, who were nevertheless too well-organised for the Germans to get any major chance. Instead, the Italians slowly began to play better and patiently to gain control over the midfield, as the German players seemed to be losing patience and increasingly resorting to fouling the Italians.
It was thus to a roar of approval from the entire footballing world when Italy finally broke the deadlock twelve minutes into the second half: a free kick for Italy was quickly taken by Marco Tardelli, who passed it to the Juventus defender Claudio Gentile on the right side. Gentile looked up and made a cross into the German area, where the defence was getting into position after the quickly taken free kick. In the center, three Italian strikers were almost running in the way of each other to get the ball, but the one who got the header and scored was none other than the previously so unpopular Paolo Rossi, who scored his sixth goal in only three games, and became the top scorer of the 1982 World Cup.
West Germany now had to attack; coach Jupp Derwall brought on an extra striker, Hamburg’s Horst Hrubesch, but the Germans were unable to force through the organized Italians, who now had the luxury to play exactly how they like it, awaiting for the counter-attack. The Germans, normally so cool, seemed increasingly frustrated, and in a situation that characterized both teams, Italy went ahead 2-0.
A German attack was stopped, and while the Italians counter-attacked, some German players stayed behind complaining to the referee. Rossi, and Gaetano Scirea combined with short passes in the German area, when Scirea passed the ball backwards to the edge of the German area, to the ever-fighting Juventus player, Marco Tardelli, who halfway shooting and tackling got a perfect shot that went into goal at the bottom right corner.
Tardelli’s euphoric goal celebration is remembered as one of the greatest moments of joy in World Cup football.
Italy were now in complete control of the match against the disillusioned Germans, who did not seem to believe that they would be able to pull such a comeback as they had done in the semi-final against France.
Ten minutes from the end of the match Alessandro Altobelli scored a third for Italy on another outstanding counterattack, where Bruno Conti had found an unmarked Altobelli in front of goal, who had coolly gone around Schumacher to score.
Altobelli, who had replaced Graziani at the start of the match, thus became the first substitute to score in a world cup final.
Although Paul Breitner scored a goal for the Germans only two minutes later, everyone knew it was just a consolation. However, with this goal Breitner, who had also scored in the final of 1974, became part of an exclusive family of only four players who have scored in two World Cup finals (the others being Pelé, Zinedine Zidane and Vavá).
Italy had won their third World Cup title, and were popular and worthy champions following their great matches against Brazil, Poland and West Germany.
- 11th July, 1982, Santiago Barnabeu, Madrid
- Attendance: 90,000
- Referee: Arnaldo Coelho (Brazil)
Goals: 1-0 Rossi (56), 2-0 Tardelli (68), 3-0 Altobelli (80), 3-1 Breitner (82)
Italy: Zoff, Cabrini, Scirea, Gentile, Collovati, Oriali, Bergomi, Tardelli, Conti, Rossi, Graziani (Altobelli) (Causio)
West Germany: Schumacher, Kaltz, Stielke, K.H. Forster, B. Forster, Dremmler (Hrubesch), Breitner, Briegel, Littbarski, Fischer, Rummenigge (H. Muller)