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Ranked! The 10 best players of the 1982 World Cup

Paolo Rossi 1982

Platini, Socrates and Zoff all rocked Spain in '82 - but who was the No.1 performer? Jonathan Wilson runs through the stars that made the tournament so memorable

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10. Paul Breitner, West Germany

Only three men have ever scored in two World Cup finals: the Brazilians Vava and Pele, and the unlikely figure of Paul Breitner, the bushy-haired West Germany left-back or midfielder who once professed leanings to Maoism.

His goal this time, swept in with seven minutes remaining to cut the deficit to 3-1, was of rather less consequence than the one he scored in 1974, but at least confirmed him as West Germany’s best player in what for them was generally a shameful tournament.

His most significant contribution, perhaps, was to negate the threat of Steve Coppell as West Germany held England to a 0-0 draw in the second phase.

9. Zbigniew Boniek, Poland

Has there ever been a better World Cup hat-trick than Boniek’s against Belgium in the second phase?

The first was a 20-yard drive lashed in from Grzegorz Lato’s cut-back, the second a clever looping header, and the third a spin and skip around the goalkeeper. All were superb finishes and all followed intelligent build-up.

Yet Boniek had begun the tournament slowly in a deep role, suddenly bursting into life as he was redeployed at centre-forward in the 5-1 win over Peru in the final first-phase match. Booked needlessly in the 0-0 draw against the USSR that saw Poland through to the last four, Boniek was suspended and badly missed against Italy.

8. Zico, Brazil

He scored a wonderful free-kick against Scotland, a volley and a first-time drive against New Zealand, and a tap-in after Eder’s free-kick had hit the bar against Argentina. It was his impudent backheel that laid in Socrates for the first against Italy.

Zico was the great creator of a great, creative Brazilian side and yet the memory is clouded by the final half hour against Italy, when with Socrates pressed into use as a centre-forward, he was called upon to make the play and couldn’t (where, suddenly, it was asked, had he been in the narrow win over the USSR?).

The judgement is harsh, but with great talent comes great expectation.

7. Gaetano Scirea, Italy

The stereotype says that the World Cup was won by Italian steel, but this was a more attacking side than any Italy team for two decades.

Claudio Gentile was a master of the dark arts, for sure, but Italy’s defence was led by Scirea, an elegant and composed libero in the Franz Beckenbauer mould who was more than happy to advance from behind the backline.

Defensively superb against Brazil, he showed a more creative side of his game in the final, backheeling the ball into the West German box, accepting the return and weighting a perfect ball square for Marco Tardelli to lash in.

6. Michel Platini, France

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about ‘Platouche’ was his tactical astuteness; the fact that, as circumstances demanded, he could play any position from midfield holder to centre-forward.

In 1982, he lay deeper than he would in Euro '84, and scored just twice – against Kuwait, and with a penalty against West Germany in the semi-final – but as France spun great webs of passes he was always at the centre, guiding and cajoling.

Most remarkably of all, he pulled a brittle side together after their opening defeat to England, despite the revelation that his wife had had an affair with his team-mate Jean-Francois Larios.