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World Cup 1978

Mario Kempes (ARG)
Teofilio Cubillas (PER)
Rob Rensenbrink (HOL)
Leopoldo Luque (ARG)
Hans Krankl (AUT)
6 goals
5 goals
5 goals
4 goals
4 goals
Number of games
Total goals scored
Average per game
Sendings off
Own goals
Total attendance
Average attendance



    Argentina had been promised the 11th World Cup in 1966, but ten years later, a military junta headed by General Videla ousted Isabella Perón amidst charges of corruption. The country was under a state of siege and an estimated 5000 people lost their lives with many more jailed and tortured. With two years to the start of the World Cup, then, it was a worrying time for FIFA and some European countries, notably Holland, talked openly about boycotting the tournament if it was staged in Argentina. But FIFA gave the go-ahead for the final stages to take place as planned. The new Argentinian regime had guaranteed a trouble-free tournament, but the delivery of such an undertaking looked unlikely when General Omar Actis, the president of the Argentina World Cup Organizing Committee was assassinated by guerrillas. Happily, all the pre-tournament worries were unfounded and the 11th World Cup was to pass without a major incident.

     The format of the 1978 World Cup was the same as the one in West Germany four years earlier. More than 100 countries took part in the qualifying and the 15 best teams made the journey to Argentina to join the hosts in the 16 team tournament held in South America for the first time since 1962.

     The World Cup finalists from the previous tournament in 1974, West Germany and Holland arrived in Argentina without their captains Cruyff and Beckenbauer. Still they looked good enough to go all the way in this World Cup. Argentina had an exciting young attacking team, so too had Italy who infact beat the hosts in the first round. Also in that group was France, with a young Platini, but they found it too hard to go through from that group. Tunisia made history when they beat Mexico 3-1 in group B. That was the first ever victory for an African side in a World Cup match. Rob Rensenbrink of Holland was honoured to score the 1000th goal in World Cup history, when he converted a penalty against Scotland. Peru with Cubillas played some superb soccer in the early stages and topped Holland's group.

     However, in the second phase of the tournament, the star of Mundial 1978 woke up. His name was Mario Kempes. He scored both goals in Argentina's 2-0 victory over Poland, then after a violent goalless draw with Brazil he scored two more as Argentina beat Peru by 6-0 and qualified to to the final. Argentina had to win that match by four goals, otherwise Brazil would have qualified to the final instead. In the other second phase group, an all European by the way, Holland trashed Austria by 5-1, while Italy and West Germany battled in 90 minutes without scoring a goal in a drab match. When Holland held the Germans to a draw in Cordoba, it meant that West Germany couldn't reach the final. Instead Italy and Holland played a decisive match for the right to play Argentina in the final. Ernie Brandts scored an own goal, but then made it up again with a goal at the other end to make it 1-1. Then Arie Haan from over 40 yards put Holland in front with one of the greatest goals in World Cup history. Holland held on to the lead and would play in the final yet again. Brazil beat Italy in the bronzematch, once again a long range shot beat Zoff. The final itself was dramatic and went to extra time. Kempes scored two goals and became topscorer of the tournament. Holland once again beaten by the hosts in a World Cup final. Read more about the final by clicking on the "Final" link in the left column.


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