Back of the Net's alternative 1982 World Cup: Farce, oranges, war and teeth

A sideways glance at the Naranjito & Co. brought to you by the chuckle brothers of Back of the Net

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España ’82 was a scrappy, difficult World Cup marred by a strange format, administrative errors, some cheating and an act of unpunished ultra-violence.

The number of teams had been increased from 16 to 24, which caused massive logistical problems. The world’s best mathematicians scrambled for a way that a tournament could be conducted with 24 nations, but most believed it to be impossible. The initial idea – a group stage with 12 teams progressing, followed by a straight knockout to six then three, then a one-a-half-team final – was eventually rejected and a second group stage was brought in.

Armed farces

The tournament began inauspiciously with a draw that descended into farce. The process began to unravel when Scotland were drawn in a group they couldn’t be part of. As men in suits panicked, they were redrawn again in the wrong group before eventually being put in with Brazil, the Soviet Union and New Zealand. Years later it would emerge that Scotland hadn’t even qualified for the tournament.

England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Argentina considered pulling out of the competition as they were in the midst of the Falklands War, but in the end they agreed to end the war instead. Argentina cunningly went out in the second round in an attempt to get back to the war, but England were wise to this and were also eliminated after failing to score in the last 16. 

Oranges and picnics

Despite high hopes in the host nation, the 1982 World Cup was to begin a period of underachievement in Spanish football that culminated in their failure to enter Euro 1992, having inadvertently entered the Africa Cup of Nations instead. 

The Spaniards scraped through the first group stage despite losing to Northern Ireland but they crashed out in the last 16 when they lost to West Germany and drew with England. The fans were livid and protested by peeling and eating the World Cup mascot, an anthropomorphised orange called Naranjito. It later emerged he was, in fact, a man in costume.

The (first) group stage ended in ignominy. As the final games weren’t played simultaneously, West Germany faced Austria with the teams knowing that a 1-0 Germany win would see both sides progress at the expense of Algeria. Once Germany went ahead, the pace of the game slowed to the extent where several Austria players were able to have a satisfactory picnic during the second half and Germany managed to get a wash on ahead of the next round.

Battering Battiston

The semi-final between West Germany and France will forever be remembered for the Patrick Battiston and Harald Schumacher incident. French defender Battiston broke through on goal but was flattened by the Germany goalkeeper, who knocked him unconscious. 

Referee Charles Corver controversially gave a goal-kick and booked Battiston for contravention of rarely cited Rule 96.6: ‘No player can leave his teeth on the field of play.’ The Germans eventually won on penalties. Obviously.

Italy were the surprise winners. Fighting for redemption after betting and match-fixing scandals had dogged their domestic game, they stunned Brazil en route to glory. The crucial goal in the 3-1 final win over West Germany came from Marco Tardelli, whose celebratory yells were audible in Rome. The celebrations in football-mad Italy were so wild that the country shut down for the best part of 20 years and many shops still don’t open on Mondays.

Please note: This round-up is satirical. Like, obviously. 

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