Japan 1979: All hail Maradona
Argentina proved unstoppable in this tournament, deploying their "toque" one-touch football to devastating effect. In terms of footballing talent and virtuosity going forward, the Albiceleste were in a class of their own, with Diego Maradona, Gabriel Calderon, Ramon Diaz and Osvaldo Escudero all grabbing their share of the headlines. Aside from the already peerless "Pibe de Oro", Diaz demonstrated a deadly acumen in front of goal, invariably popping up in the right place at the right time. Solid at the back, notably thanks to Juan Simon and Hugo Alves, as well as lethal up front, Cesar Luis Menotti's men left Poland, Yugoslavia, Uruguay and the USSR flailing in their wake on the road to the title. In the Final against the Soviets they showed their mettle by coming from behind to win 3-1, with inevitable goals by the incomparable Maradona and Diaz. The tournament statistics speak for themselves: with 20 goals for and only 2 against, Argentina were worthy winners indeed.
The quality of football played at this second FIFA World Youth Championship was excellent, and for once, there were no major upsets; the four semi-finalists, Argentina, Uruguay, USSR and Poland, were all pre-tournament favourites.
Algeria did look as if they might challenge the existing hierarchy when they reached the quarter-finals after draws with Mexico and Japan and a win against Spain. Tough to break down and with two outstanding front men in Derradji Bendjaballah and Rachid Kheloufi, the North Africans showed buckets of promise - until they ran into Argentina, who gave them a footballing lesson to remember (5-0).
Player of the Tournament:
This tournament heralded the arrival of a truly exceptional talent; Diego Armando Maradona. Goalscorer (second best marksman in the tournament with six goals), free-kick specialist, deft passer, Maradona had it all. He was a fine crosser of a ball too, with a change of pace that would leave the best defenders bewildered, and a never erring first touch of the ball, as the footballing world would discover to its cost a few years later. After leaving Boca Juniors and his native Argentina, he moved to Barcelona in Spain , before a world-record transfer to Napoli in the south of Italy. Seven years after this tournament in Japan he led his country to glory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico¿, scoring two of the most talked-about goals in football history.
Gabriel Calderon (ARG), Ramon Diaz (ARG), Diego Maradona (ARG), Joszef Nagy (HUN), Antal Roth (HUN), Andrzej Buncol (POL), Jacek Kazimierski (POL), Fernando Alvez (URU), Ruben Paz (URU), Viktor Chanov (URS), Aleksander Zavarov (URS), ...
Japan 1979 stats:
Roll of honour:
83 (av.: 2.59)
Argentina, 20 goals.
- Ramon Diaz (ARG), 8 goals
- Diego Maradona (ARG), 6 goals
- Andrzej Palasz (POL), 5 goals
Kobe, Omiya, Tokyo, Yokohama
454,500 (Final: 52,000)
Indonesia hold the unenviable record of having conceded the most goals at a FIFA World Youth Championship. The Asian youngsters let in 16 goals.