Brazil: the unfinished samba
As the FIFA World Cup that saw the number of participating nations leap from 16 to 24, Spain 82 confirmed the expansion of the global sport and enabled New Zealand, El Salvador, Honduras, Cameroon, Algeria and Kuwait to visit the dizzy heights on Iberian turf.
Despite Hungary's humiliation of El Salvador (10-1), the decision to welcome more teams to the finals was more than justified when Algeria marked their first appearance in the world's showpiece tournament with a 2-1 victory over West Germany on 16 June in Gijon. The reigning European champions had been undefeated for four years.
That defeat would not prevent the Germans from reaching the semi-finals, where they came up against an exciting young French side. The game in Seville, besides being a breathtaking spectacle (3-3), would enter FIFA World Cup history as the first match to be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
These landmark events notwithstanding, it was three-time world champions Brazil who attracted the focus of attention after their relative disappointments in the two previous tournaments (4th in 1974 and 3rd in 1978).
In Junior, Cerezo, Falcao, Socrates and Zico, Télé Santana, an evangelist of the beautiful game, had assembled the most talented group of disciples since 1970. Santana dreamed of artistic football and magical goals, all played in the best spirit of fair play. A little too ambitious perhaps to overcome the opportunistic Italians in the crunch match of the second round; an accusation Santana would have to live with for years to come.
The tournament started positively for the Brazilians, who followed up a somewhat laborious 2-1 victory over a stubborn USSR with two sparkling exhibitions against Scotland (4-1) and New Zealand (4-0) in Group 6.
However, the South Americans' effortless qualification was rewarded with a place in Group C, by far the most difficult second-round draw, which saw them matched against arch-rivals Argentina and a typically uncompromising Squadra azzurra. Only the top team in this group of death would qualify for the semi-finals.
The Seleçao made a perfect start to the second round by demolishing Argentina: Zico struck first after just 11 minutes, with further goals from Serginho (66') and Junior (75') putting the contest beyond doubt. A late Ramon Diaz goal would have no impact on the result and, with the Brazilians clearly superior to their continental rivals; a young Diego Maradona lost his composure and was deservedly dismissed for a kick on Batista. "Poor Batista. I really kicked him out of spite," Maradona later admitted in his autobiography.
Italy also defeated Argentina by a more modest 2-1 scoreline, meaning that Brazil needed only a draw in their showdown with the Squadra to advance to the semi-finals. But with just one player plying his trade abroad (Falcao), Brazil were not cut out to play a containing game. And Paolo Rossi and his team-mates didn't allow them to do so. In the 5th minute, Cabrini crossed, Rossi headed and Waldir Peres picked the ball of out his net for the first time. Fans inside the old Sarria Stadium in Barcelona were about to witness a truly memorable clash of cultures.
A throbbing ache for an generation
In the 12th minute Zico lost his marker Claudio Gentile for the first time and fed Socrates who feinted a cross and deceived Dino Zoff with a twisting shot. The scores were level but still few observers favoured the goal-shy Italians. An alert Rossi had other ideas, intercepting an under-weighted pass from Cerezo to Socrates before firing his team back into the lead (25').
Now playing text-book catenaccio football, Italy could allow the Brazilians to come at them and hit on the counter-attack, especially since the 40-year-old Zoff was at the peak of his powers and making some exceptional saves. However, the deadlock was broken in the 68th minute when a Cerezo dummy allowed Falcao to unleash a 20-yard rocket and breath new life into the epic encounter.
Brazil now cast all caution aside and poured forward in waves. A cardinal sin against Italy who won their first corner on 74 minutes: Socrates closed down Tardelli who played a deft ball into the heart of the penalty area where Rossi was waiting to steer the ball past Peres.
That would be the final twist in the plot, leaving Brazil to console themselves with the fact they were beaten by the future world champions. However, Santana has no regrets. "The best Brazilians available were in Spain. If I had to do it all again, I would use exactly the same methods, perhaps refining some points, but remaining faithful to my style and my principles and defending the beautiful game to the death."
Brazil have redeemed themselves since, but Spain 1982 remains a throbbing ache for an entire generation.