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1978 World Cup

1978 FIFA World Cup
Argentina '78
1978 FIFA World Cup official logo
Tournament details
Host country Argentina
Dates 1 – 25 June (25 days)
Teams 16 (from 5 confederations)
Venue(s)(in 5 host cities)
Final positions
Champions  Argentina (1st title)
Runners-up  Netherlands
Third place  Brazil
Fourth place  Italy
Tournament statistics
Matches played 38
Goals scored 102 (2.68 per match)
Attendance 1,546,151 (40,688 per match)
Top scorer(s) Argentina Mario Kempes (6 goals)
Best player Argentina Mario Kempes

The 1978 FIFA World Cup, the 11th staging of the FIFA World Cup, was held in Argentina between 1 and 25 June. The 1978 World Cup was won by Argentina who beat the Netherlands 3–1 after extra time in the final. This win was the first World Cup title for Argentina, who became the fifth team (after Uruguay, Italy, England and West Germany), to be both hosts and world champions. The official match ball was the Adidas Tango.

Host selection

Main article: FIFA World Cup hosts

Argentina was chosen as the host nation by FIFA in London, England on 6 July 1966. Mexico withdrew from the bidding process after having been awarded the 1970 competition two years earlier.


England failed to qualify for the second World Cup in succession, losing out to Italy. European champions Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union also failed to make it through the qualifying tournament. Newcomers to the finals were Iran and Tunisia; Austria qualified for the first time since 1958, while France, Spain and Hungary were back for the first time since 1966.


A controversial fact surrounding the 1978 World Cup was that Argentina had suffered a military coup only two years before the cup. Because of this, some countries, most notably the Netherlands, considered publicly whether they should participate in the cup. Despite this, all teams eventually participated without restrictions. Allegations that Dutch star Johan Cruijff refused to participate because of political convictions were refuted by him 30 years later.[1] More controversy surrounded the host, Argentina, as all of their games in the first round kicked off at night, giving the Argentines the advantage of knowing where they stood in the group. This issue would arise again in Spain 1982, which prompted FIFA to change the rules so that the final two group games in subsequent World Cups would be played simultaneously.

There are several allegations that Argentine military dictatorship struck a deal with the government of Peru that ensured Argentina would proceed to the final. The deal allegedly encompassed delivery of a large grain shipment to Peru by Argentina and the unfreezing of a Peruvian bank account that was held by the Argentine Central Bank. In exchange, the Peruvian team had to allow Argentina to win in their second-round match with a margin that was large enough to go the next round. That margin was four goals.[2]

Three months before the World Cup, Argentina had beaten Peru 3-1 in Lima, head to head record was 15-3 in favour of the hosting nation and Peru had never beaten Argentina away from home. However, Peru had conceded only six goals in their previous five games in the World Cup. During the first half, Peru hit the posts twice after two counters when the game was 0-0. Argentina managed to get ahead 2-0 before the end of the first 45 minutes. During the second half, Argentina was ahead 4-0 when Peru had another clear chance. Finally, Argentina kept attacking and won 6-0 surpassing the needed margin.


The format of the competition stayed the same as in 1974: 16 teams qualified, divided into four groups of four. Each group played a round-robin with two points for a win and one for a draw, and goal difference used to separate teams level on points. The top two teams in each group would advance to the second round, where they would be split into two groups of four. The winners of each group would play each other in the final, and the second place finishers in the third place match. For the 1978 World Cup, FIFA introduced the penalty shootout as a means of determining the winner in knockout stages should the match end on a draw after 120 minutes. The method, however, was not put in practice as both the third-place match and the final were decided before 120 minutes. The first World Cup to feature a penalty shootout was the 1982 World Cup, in the semifinal match between France and West Germany.


First round

The first round produced several surprises. Poland won Group 2 ahead of world champions West Germany, after holding the Germans to a goalless draw and then beating Tunisia and Mexico. The Germans then thrashed Mexico 6–0, and finally played out a second goalless draw against Tunisia. Although they failed to qualify for the second round, Tunisia made history by beating Mexico 3–1 while losing 0–1 at half time. It was the first time that any African team had won a match at the World Cup finals.

Peru pushed the Netherlands into second place in Group 4, where Scotland missed out on goal difference for the second successive tournament. Teófilo Cubillas was outstanding for Peru, scoring twice against Scotland in Peru's 3–1 win and hitting a hat-trick in their 4–1 victory over Iran. Rob Rensenbrink of the Netherlands also scored three times against Iran, scoring all the goals as the Dutch won 3–0. Scotland drew with Iran 1–1 and the only highlight of their campaign was a 3–2 victory over the Netherlands in their final group game which was not enough to prevent elimination. Iran, the reigning Asian champions, went out of the tournament winless. Rensenbrink's goal against Scotland was the 1000th goal of World Cup history. Scotland's Willie Johnston was expelled from the World Cup after he was found to have taken a banned stimulant during the opening game against Peru.

The biggest surprise of all came in Group 3, where Austria finished ahead of Brazil. The Austrians beat Spain and Sweden, while Brazil were held to draws by the same two teams. The draw with Sweden was especially controversial; Welsh referee Clive Thomas awarded Brazil a very late corner kick and Zico directly headed the kick into the net but Thomas blew for time before Zico made contact with the ball and the goal was disallowed. The Brazilian players were not happy with the decision, but the final result remained a 1–1 draw. Brazil needed to beat Austria in their final group game to be sure of progressing to the second round, and managed a 1–0 win thanks to a goal from Roberto Dinamite. Brazil and Austria thus finished with the same number of points and the same goal difference, but Austria won the group by virtue of having scored more goals.

Group 1 had the strongest line-up of teams in the first round, featuring Italy, the host Argentina, France and Hungary. The two places in the second round were claimed before the final round of games, with Italy and Argentina both beating France and Hungary. The match between Italy and Argentina decided who topped the group, and a goal from Roberto Bettega midway through the second half was enough to give that honour to Italy. It also forced Argentina to move out of Buenos Aires and play in Rosario.

The 1978 World Cup marked the second and last occasion during which a national team did not wear its own kit to play a match (the first being in a 1958 World Cup first round match between West Germany and Argentina). The incident happened during the game between France and Hungary. Both teams arrived at the venue with only their white change kits, resulting in a delayed kickoff while officials went in search of the jerseys of a local team from Mar del Plata, Club Atlético Kimberley; the jerseys had vertical green and white stripes and were worn by France.

Second round

In the all-European Group A, the Netherlands got off to a flying start by thrashing Austria 5–1, Johnny Rep scoring two of their goals. In a rematch of the 1974 final, the Dutch then drew 2–2 with West Germany, who had previously shared a goalless game with Italy. The Italians beat Austria 1–0, and so the Netherlands faced Italy in their last group game knowing that the winners would reach the final. Erny Brandts scored an 18th-minute own goal to put Italy ahead at half-time, but he made up for his mistake by scoring at the right end in the fifth minute of the second half. Arie Haan got the winner for the Dutch with 15 minutes remaining, and the Netherlands had reached their second successive World Cup Final. In the game known as the miracle of Cordoba, West Germany were surprisingly beaten by Austria 2–3 which marked their end as World Champions.

Group B was essentially a battle between Argentina and Brazil, and it was resolved in controversial circumstances. In the first round of group games, Brazil beat Peru 3–0 while Argentina saw Poland off by a score of 2–0. Brazil and Argentina then played out a tense and violent goalless draw, so both teams went into the last round of matches with three points. Argentina delayed the kick-off of its last match to await the result of the Brazil-Poland encounter. Brazil won by a 3-1 score, meaning Argentina had to beat Peru by four clear goals to reach the final. The hosts managed to do it with what some saw as a suspicious degree of ease. Trailing 2–0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6–0. Rumours suggested that Peru might have been bribed into allowing Argentina to win the match by such a large margin (especially because the Peruvian goalkeeper, Ramón Quiroga, was born in Argentina);[3] however, nothing could be proved, and Argentina met the Netherlands in the final. Brazil took third place from an enterprising Italian side with Nelinho scoring a memorable goal, and were dubbed "moral champions" by coach Cláudio Coutinho, because they did not win the tournament, but did not lose a single match.


The final, Argentina vs Netherlands, was also controversial, as the Dutch accused the Argentines of using stalling tactics to delay the match. The host team came out late and questioned the legality of a plaster cast on René van de Kerkhof's wrist, which the Dutch claimed allowed tension to build in front of a hostile Buenos Aires crowd. Mario Kempes opened the scoring for the hosts before Dick Nanninga equalized a few minutes from the end. Rob Rensenbrink had a glorious stoppage-time opportunity to win it for the Netherlands but his effort came back off the goal post. Argentina won the final 3–1 after extra time, after Daniel Bertoni scored and Kempes, who finished as the tournament's top scorer with six goals, added his second of the day. The Netherlands, because of the controversial game events, refused to attend the post-match ceremonies after the match ended.[4] They had lost their second World Cup final in a row, both times to the host nation, after losing to West Germany in 1974. Argentina won 5 games but became the first team to win the World Cup after failing to win two matches (losing to Italy in the first round and drawing with Brazil in the second round). Although Italy would win the next World Cup after failing to win 3 games.


The official mascot of this World Cup was Gauchito, a boy wearing an Argentina strip. His hat (with the words ARGENTINA '78), neckerchief and whip are typical of gauchos.


Buenos Aires Córdoba
Estadio Monumental Estadio José Amalfitani Estadio Córdoba
Capacity: 76,000 Capacity: 49,540 Capacity: 46,083
Mar del Plata Rosario Mendoza
Estadio José María Minella Estadio Gigante de Arroyito Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza
Capacity: 43,542 Capacity: 41,654 Capacity: 34,875

Match officials

  • Senegal Youssou N'Diaye
  • Mexico Alfonso González Archundia

  • Argentina Ángel Norberto Coerezza
  • Peru César Orosco
  • Chile Juan Silvagno


For a list of all squads that appeared in the final tournament, see 1978 FIFA World Cup squads.


Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4


First round

Group 1

Main article: 1978 FIFA World Cup Group 1
Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Italy 3 3 0 0 6 2 +4 6
 Argentina 3 2 0 1 4 3 +1 4
 France 3 1 0 2 5 5 0 2
 Hungary 3 0 0 3 3 8 −5 0
2 June 1978
13:45 ART
Italy  2–1  France
Rossi Goal 29'
Zaccarelli Goal 54'
Report Lacombe Goal 1'

2 June 1978
19:15 ART
Argentina  2–1  Hungary
Luque Goal 15'
Bertoni Goal 83'
Report Csapó Goal 10'
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 71,615
Referee: Antonio Garrido (Portugal)

6 June 1978
13:45 ART
Italy  3–1  Hungary
Rossi Goal 34'
Bettega Goal 36'
Benetti Goal 60'
Report A. Tóth Goal 81' (pen.)

6 June 1978
19:15 ART
Argentina  2–1  France
Passarella Goal 45' (pen.)
Luque Goal 73'
Report Platini Goal 60'
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 71,666
Referee: Jean Dubach (Switzerland)

10 June 1978
14:30[5] ART
France  3–1  Hungary
Lopez Goal 22'
Berdoll Goal 37'
Rocheteau Goal 42'
Report Zombori Goal 41'

10 June 1978
19:15 ART
Argentina  0–1  Italy
Report Bettega Goal 67'
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 71,712
Referee: Abraham Klein (Israel)

Group 2

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Poland 3 2 1 0 4 1 +3 5
 West Germany 3 1 2 0 6 0 +6 4
 Tunisia 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
 Mexico 3 0 0 3 2 12 −10 0
1 June 1978
15:00 ART
West Germany  0–0  Poland
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 67,579
Referee: Ángel Norberto Coerezza (Argentina)

2 June 1978
16:45 ART
Tunisia  3–1  Mexico
Kaabi Goal 55'
Ghommidh Goal 79'
Dhouieb Goal 87'
Report Vázquez Ayala Goal 45' (pen.)

6 June 1978
16:45 ART
West Germany  6–0  Mexico
D. Müller Goal 15'
H. Müller Goal 30'
Rummenigge Goal 38'73'
Flohe Goal 44'89'
Estadio Chateau Carreras, Córdoba
Attendance: 35,258
Referee: Farouk Bouzo (Syria)

6 June 1978
16:45 ART
Poland  1–0  Tunisia
Lato Goal 43' Report
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario
Attendance: 9,624
Referee: Ángel Franco Martínez (Spain)

10 June 1978
16:45 ART
West Germany  0–0  Tunisia
Estadio Olímpico Chateau Carreras, Córdoba
Attendance: 30,667
Referee: César Guerrero Orosco (Peru)

10 June 1978
16:45 ART
Poland  3–1  Mexico
Boniek Goal 43'84'
Deyna Goal 56'
Report Rangel Goal 52'

Group 3

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Austria 3 2 0 1 3 2 +1 4
 Brazil 3 1 2 0 2 1 +1 4
 Spain 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 3
 Sweden 3 0 1 2 1 3 −2 1
3 June 1978
13:45 ART
Austria  2–1  Spain
Schachner Goal 10'
Krankl Goal 76'
Report Dani Goal 21'
Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 40,841
Referee: Károly Palotai (Hungary)

3 June 1978
13:45 ART
Brazil  1–1  Sweden
Reinaldo Goal 45' Report Sjöberg Goal 37'

7 June 1978
13:45 ART
Austria  1–0  Sweden
Krankl Goal 42' (pen.) Report
Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 41,424
Referee: Charles Corver (Netherlands)

7 June 1978
13:45 ART
Brazil  0–0  Spain

11 June 1978
13:45 ART
Spain  1–0  Sweden
Asensi Goal 75' Report
Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 46,765
Referee: Ferdinand Biwersi (West Germany)

11 June 1978
13:45 ART
Brazil  1–0  Austria
Roberto Dinamite Goal 40' Report
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata
Attendance: 35,221
Referee: Robert Wurtz (France)

Group 4

Main article: 1978 FIFA World Cup Group 4
Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Peru 3 2 1 0 7 2 +5 5
 Netherlands 3 1 1 1 5 3 +2 3
 Scotland 3 1 1 1 5 6 −1 3
 Iran 3 0 1 2 2 8 −6 1
3 June 1978
16:45 ART
Peru  3–1  Scotland
Cueto Goal 43'
Cubillas Goal 70'76'
Report Jordan Goal 19'

3 June 1978
16:45 ART
Netherlands  3–0  Iran
Rensenbrink Goal 40' (pen.)62'78' (pen.) Report
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza
Attendance: 33,431
Referee: Alfonso González Archundia (Mexico)

7 June 1978
16:45 ART
Scotland  1–1  Iran
Eskandarian Goal 43' (o.g.) Report Danaeifard Goal 60'
Estadio Chateau Carreras, Córdoba
Attendance: 7,938
Referee: Youssou N'Diaye (Senegal)

7 June 1978
16:45 ART
Netherlands  0–0  Peru

11 June 1978
16:45 ART
Peru  4–1  Iran
Velásquez Goal 2'
Cubillas Goal 36' (pen.)39' (pen.)79'
Report Rowshan Goal 41'
Estadio Chateau Carreras, Córdoba
Attendance: 21,262
Referee: Alojzy Jarguz (Poland)

11 June 1978
16:45 ART
Scotland  3–2  Netherlands
Dalglish Goal 44'
Gemmill Goal 46' (pen.)68'
Report Rensenbrink Goal 34' (pen.)
Rep Goal 71'

Second round

Group A

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Netherlands 3 2 1 0 9 4 +5 5
 Italy 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 3
 West Germany 3 0 2 1 4 5 −1 2
 Austria 3 1 0 2 4 8 −4 2
14 June 1978
13:45 ART
Austria  1–5  Netherlands
Obermayer Goal 80' Report Brandts Goal 6'
Rensenbrink Goal 35' (pen.)
Rep Goal 36'53'
W. van de Kerkhof Goal 82'

14 June 1978
13:45 ART
Italy  0–0  West Germany
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 67,547
Referee: Dušan Maksimović (Yugoslavia)

18 June 1978
16:45 ART
Netherlands  2–2  West Germany
Haan Goal 27'
R. van de Kerkhof Goal 82'
Report Abramczik Goal 3'
D. Müller Goal 70'

18 June 1978
16:45 ART
Italy  1–0  Austria
Rossi Goal 13' Report
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 66,695
Referee: Francis Rion (Belgium)

21 June 1978
13:45 ART
Austria  3–2  West Germany
Vogts Goal 59' (o.g.)
Krankl Goal 66'87'
Report Rummenigge Goal 19'
Hölzenbein Goal 72'

21 June 1978
13:45 ART
Italy  1–2  Netherlands
Brandts Goal 19' (o.g.) Report Brandts Goal 49'
Haan Goal 76'
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 67,433
Referee: Angel Franco Martínez (Spain)

Group B

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Argentina 3 2 1 0 8 0 +8 5
 Brazil 3 2 1 0 6 1 +5 5
 Poland 3 1 0 2 2 5 −3 2
 Peru 3 0 0 3 0 10 −10 0
14 June 1978
16:45 ART
Peru  0–3  Brazil
Report Dirceu Goal 15'27'
Zico Goal 72' (pen.)

14 June 1978
19:15 ART
Argentina  2–0  Poland
Kempes Goal 16'72' Report

18 June 1978
13:45 ART
Peru  0–1  Poland
Report Szarmach Goal 64'

18 June 1978
19:15 ART
Argentina  0–0  Brazil

21 June 1978
16:45 ART
Poland  1–3  Brazil
Lato Goal 45' Report Nelinho Goal 13'
Roberto Dinamite Goal 58'63'
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza
Attendance: 39,586
Referee: Juan Silvagno Cavanna (Chile)

21 June 1978
19:15 ART
Argentina  6–0  Peru
Kempes Goal 21'49'
Tarantini Goal 43'
Luque Goal 50'72'
Houseman Goal 67'
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario
Attendance: 37,315
Referee: Robert Wurtz (France)

Third place match

24 June 1978
15:00 ART
Brazil  2–1  Italy
Nelinho Goal 64'
Dirceu Goal 71'
Report Causio Goal 38'
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 69,659
Referee: Abraham Klein (Israel)


25 June 1978
15:00 ART
Netherlands  1 – 3
Nanninga Goal 82' Report Kempes Goal 37'104'
Bertoni Goal 115'
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Attendance: 71,483
Referee: Sergio Gonella (Italy)


Golden Boot Winner Best Young Player FIFA Fair Play Trophy
Argentina Mario Kempes Italy Antonio Cabrini  Argentina


6 goals
5 goals
4 goals
3 goals

2 goals

1 goal

Own goals
Players who were red-carded during the tournament

FIFA Retrospective ranking

In 1986, FIFA published a report that ranked all teams in each World Cup up to and including 1986, based on progress in the competition, overall results and quality of the opposition.[6] The rankings for the 1978 tournament were as follows:


  1.  Argentina
  2.  Netherlands

3rd and 4th place

  1.  Brazil
  2.  Italy

Eliminated at the second group stage

  1.  Poland
  2.  West Germany
  3.  Austria
  4.  Peru

Eliminated at the first group stage

  1.  Tunisia
  2.  Spain
  3.  Scotland
  4.  France
  5.  Sweden
  6.  Iran
  7.  Hungary
  8.  Mexico


The government of Argentina that hosted the 1978 World Cup was a military dictatorship that seized power in 1976 during the National Reorganization Process. Less than a year before the World Cup was held in Argentina, in September 1977, Interior Minister General Albano Harguindeguy, stated that 5,618 people had recently disappeared to detention camps throughout Argentina. The 1978 World Cup's River Plate Monumental Stadium is located one mile away from the infamous Naval Mechanics School (known by its acronym ESMA), concentration camp where prisoners in the Dirty War reportedly could hear the roars of the crowd during the World Cup match;[7] prompting echoes of Hitler's manipulation of sports during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.[8]


External links

  • 1978 FIFA World Cup on
  • Details at RSSSF
  • History of the World Cup-1978
  • Planet World Cup – Argentina 1978
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