1982: Rossi's golden week
Although the 12th World Cup finals in Spain saw Zico at his best for Brazil, Michel Platini shining for France and the Argentinian maestro Diego Maradona begin his love-hate relationship with the tournament, it was left to Italy's Paolo Rossi, a man who had played just three games in two years, to steal the limelight.
The surprises, as usual, started before the finals began. FIFA's decision to expand the competition to 24 teams meant that, in theory, qualifying from Europe became easier. However, the Netherlands - beaten in the last two World Cups finals - were eliminated, as were Portugal and Sweden.
The new format comprised six groups of four, with the top two in each going into a second phase of four groups of three, the winners of each contesting the semi-finals. Five nations made their debuts - Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait and New Zealand - and, encouragingly the opening match was, for the first time in 20 years, something other than a goalless draw.
Argentina, the holders, lost the curtain-raiser 1-0 to Belgium but although they went through to the second phase, guided by the mercurial Maradona, they failed to impress. Neither did the hosts, Spain - after almost losing to Honduras they did lose to Northern Ireland and only just got through to the second stage.
Algeria overcome Germany
Meanwhile, West Germany lost 2-1 to Algeria - as big a shock as the United States' win against England in 1950 and North Korea's against Italy in 1966. The West Germans then shamelessly conspired to put the Algerians out. Needing a win in their last game against Austria, the Germans went ahead in the eleventh minute, after which both teams stopped playing, knowing both would go through should the scoreline remain 1-0.
England cruised into the second phase - beating France, who nevertheless recovered to join them - but without doubt the most impressive team was Brazil. Inspired by Zico, Socrates and Falcão they brushed aside the Soviet Union, New Zealand and Scotland and when they crushed holders Argentina 3-0 they seemed poised to go all the way.
Brazil's match against Italy decided who made the semi-final. For their part, the Italians had been unconvincing in draws against Poland (0-0), Peru (1-1) and Cameroon (1-1). However, they had battled to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Argentina in the second-phase.
However, Rossi was about to have the week of his life. Banned for two years for match-fixing he had only played three games before the World Cup, and so far had failed to score. However, Italy's coach, Enzo Bearzot, kept faith with him.
Needing to beat Brazil to reach the semi-finals the Italians went on the attack and Rossi broke his duck after five minutes. Socrates drove home an equaliser seven minutes later but Rossi put Italy 2-1 up after seizing on a defensive error. A draw would have been enough for Brazil and when Falcão made it 2-2 it seemed they would get it. But 16 minutes from time Rossi completed a remarkable hat-trick and with Dino Zoff performing heroics in goal Italy marched on.
Two more for Rossi
Rossi was now unstoppable and in a limp semi-final against Poland, who were missing their talismanic Zbigniew Boniek, he scored both goals as Italy cruised into the final. The other semi-final paired France - improving with second-phase victories against Austria (1-0) and Northern Ireland (4-1) - and West Germany, who beat Spain 2-1 after holding England - who went home undefeated - to a goalless draw.
The match was the most dramatic semi-final in World Cup history. France, brilliantly orchestrated by Platini, Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana, had the better of the game and although Pierre Littbarski put the West Germans ahead, Platini equalised with a penalty.
Then after 57 minutes a long ball from Giresse put Patrick Battiston clear only for the West German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, to race out and fell him with an outrageous tackle that almost took his head off. It was ten minutes before Battiston could be carried off. Scandalously, Schumacher was not sent off and France did not even get a penalty.
Amoros goes close
Knocked out of their stride the French were pushed back as the West Germans threatened but even then Manuel Amoros was denied a winner when his last-minute shot hit the West German bar. Extra-time saw the French score twice through Marius Trésor and Giresse to make it 3-1 but the West Germans fought back with goals by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer to set up the World Cup's first penalty shoot-out, in which Schumacher saved twice to put West Germany into the final.
Not surprisingly after the way they had evicted Algeria and denied France the West Germans were not everbody's favourite side in the World Cup final against Italy at Madrid's Santiago Bernebéu stadium on 11 June.
The match was disappointing with both sides intent on preventing the other from playing, the Italians spurning the chance to go ahead when Antonio Carbrini missed a penalty. However, it was Carbrini's 56th-minute-cross that led to the breakthrough, a diving Rossi heading home for his sixth goal in a week.
Spurred on the Italians took charge and further goals by Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli made it safe, Paul Breitner's goal in the 83rd minute was merely a consolation for the West Germans. Italy, 3-1 winners, had claimed the World Cup for the third time, deservedly so having beaten en route each of the last three winners - Argentina, West Germany and Brazil.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.