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The 1978 FIFA World Cup, the 11th staging of the FIFA World Cup, was held in Argentinamarker between 1 June and 25 June. Argentina was chosen as hosts by FIFAmarker in July 1966. 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.


Qualifying countries

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, while France, Spain and Hungary were back for the first time since 1966.


Argentina was a candidate to host the 1970 World Cup, but since Mexico Citymarker was hosting the 1968 Summer Olympics and had constructed new football stadia, it went to Mexico. This edition was the first appearance of Coca-Cola in the FIFA World Cup as a sponsor.

First Round

The format of the competition stayed the same as in 1974: 16 teams qualified, divided into four groups of four. 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.

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. 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.

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 played out a second goalless draw against Tunisia, and only redeemed themselves with a 6-0 thrashing of Mexico. Although they failed to qualify for the second round, Tunisia made history by beating Mexico 3-1. 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. Teofilo 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. The Netherlands's Rob 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, due to Welsh referee Clive Thomas ending the first half just as Zico headed the ball into the net. At the final minutes of the Brazil vs Sweden match, the Brazilians were awarded a corner kick that resulted in a goal (which would have given Brazil a 2-1 victory). However, the goal was not awarded, because the referee Clive Thomas had whistled the end of the game as the ball was being kicked into the area. 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 Italy-Argentina game 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 only occasion during which a national team did not wear its official kit to play a match. The incident happened during the game between France and Hungary. The worldwide television broadcast of the games was in colour, but Argentina only had black and white TV equipment in place; the team's tops were indistinguishable on the older TV sets, resulting in the French side electing to wear the jerseys of a local squad from Mar del Plata, Club Atletico Kimberley; the jerseys had vertical green and white stripes.

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. 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 had an advantage that their match against Peru kicked off several hours after Brazil's match with Poland. Brazil won their match 3-1, so Argentina could know that they had to beat Peru by four clear goals to go through to the final. Argentina managed 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 to lose the game (especially because the Peruvian goalkeeper, Ramón Quiroga, was born in Argentina); but nothing could be proved, and Argentina met the Netherlands in the final. Brazil, denied a final place by Argentina's 6-0 win over Peru, took third place from an enterprising Italy 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 either. Brazil was eliminated from the competition without having lost a single match (the same would happen to England and Cameroon in the next World Cup).


Kempes scores his second goal of the match, giving Argentina the advantage.
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 Airesmarker 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 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.They had lost their second World Cup final in a row, both times to the host nation, after losing to West Germany in 1974.


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 Airesmarker Buenos Airesmarker Córdobamarker
Estadio Monumentalmarker Estadio José Amalfitanimarker Estadio Cordobamarker
Capacity: 76,000 Capacity: 49,540 Capacity: 46,083
Mar del Platamarker Rosariomarker Mendozamarker
Estadio José María Minellamarker Estadio Gigante de Arroyitomarker Estadio Ciudad de Mendozamarker
Capacity: 43,542 Capacity: 41,654 Capacity: 34,875

Match officials




North and Central America

South America


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


First round

Group 1

3 3 0 0 6 2 +4 6
3 2 0 1 4 3 +1 4
3 1 0 2 5 5 0 2
3 0 0 3 3 8 −5 0

Group 2

3 2 1 0 4 1 +3 5
3 1 2 0 6 0 +6 4
3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
3 0 0 3 2 12 −10 0

Group 3

3 2 0 1 3 2 +1 4
3 1 2 0 2 1 +1 4
3 1 1 1 2 2 0 3
3 0 1 2 1 3 −2 1

Group 4

3 2 1 0 7 2 +5 5
3 1 1 1 5 3 +2 3
3 1 1 1 5 6 −1 3
3 0 1 2 2 8 −6 1

Second round

Group A

3 2 1 0 9 4 +5 5
3 1 1 1 2 2 0 3
3 0 2 1 4 5 −1 2
3 1 0 2 4 8 −4 2

Group B

3 2 1 0 8 0 +8 5
3 2 1 0 6 1 +5 5
3 1 0 2 2 5 −3 2
3 0 0 3 0 10 −10 0

Third place match




FIFA Fair Play Trophy:


6 goals

5 goals

4 goals

3 goals

2 goals

1 goal

Own goals


  1. CNN/SI - World Cup France '98 - The Netherlands pay back controversial loss to Argentina - Saturday 4 July 1998 03:33 PM

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