Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Argentina and Belgium played the very first match not only of this group, but of the 1982 finals – reigning world champions had the privilege to open the championship. It was a worthy opening, it seemed, alas... injured Maradona was not a sure starter. Menotti said he cannot risk and all depends on the doctors. But Maradona came on the pitch. Belgium had much bigger problems – some were already known: Cools was out and in the last moment Vandereycken had to be replaced. Lozano did not get Belgian citizenship. Meews carried on one match disqualification to the world cup. Van Moer was unable to adapt to the Spanish heat. Francois van der Elst arrived injured from England and was still unable to play. Finally, Guy Thys felt that there was no point fielding Renquin without his usual partner Meews. Suddenly, Belgium looked impoverished and not even remotely up to the task of facing Maradona-led Argentina. But after referee blew his whistle the picture was very different.

Argentina showed good football only briefly at the beginning of the match. Maradona was carefully watched and met by a swarm of Belgian players, who left him no room. Belgium was tactically perfect and Argentina faded away. In the 63rd minute Vanderbergh scored and Argentina had no answer. At the end – Belgium 1 – Argentina 0. First match, first upset. A sensation even. After the game Fillol and Menotti said they felt that Vanderbergh was offside when he scored, but a replay did not make it clearer – it was not an obvious case of offside. Menotti was a bit critical of the linesmen, but the reason for the loss was, to him, his own team lacking fighting spirit. Thys happily praised his boys for their collective approach and following his tactics to the letter.
The second match destroyed the modest aims of El Salvador – there was no question the Salvadorians were no match to Hungary, but they wanted to better their 1970 record: three losses and 0-9 goal difference.

They succeeded in one aspect: scored there first World Cup goal. But received 10. Instantly El Salvador became the weakest team at this finals, comparable only to Zaire 1974 and most likely even worse. As for Hungary – they did not look better than expected, but did what had to be done to keep a chance for going to the second round: huge victory against El Salvador. In case of equal points, Hungary had goal-difference advantage.
Argentina – Hungary proceeded 'normally': Hungary proved that it was not a miracle team, but a modest one. Argentina dominated, even looked strong as it was in 1978.

The first half ended with Argentina leading 2-0, which was made 4-0 by the 62nd minute. Eventually, Hungary scored a goal, but neither mattered, nor changed the general impression of the match. Menotti was more than generous with his praise – he said he was amazed and surprised how good his team really was. Tarantini and Valdano were injured and had to substituted, but seemingly the team benefited from that. The Hungarians did not very upset, which surprised the journalists, but such cool reaction had to be expected – not only Meszoly knew the limitations of his squad, but for the moment nothing strange happened. They still had a chance to go ahead and not their match with Argentina, but the next one – Belgium vs El Salvador – was the really important one for their fate.
Which went exactly in favour of Hungary. Thys wanted his team to score as much as possible against El Salvador, but there was something well known: Belgium was not a high scoring team. El Salvador was obviously so weak, that the match looked a mere formality and the Belgians were not very motivated. Coeck scored an early goal in the 18th minute, which perhaps was counter-productive, for it lulled the Belgian team entirely – the match ended 1-0, a result curiously benefiting mostly Argentina. Yes, Belgium had a perfect record so far, if they lost to Hungary, they were out. Argentina, on the other hand, benefited from any result of Belgium – Hungary, for there was no doubt they were going to win against El Salvador. Now Hungarian calm reaction to their otherwise devastating loss to Argentina was perfectly clear: their most important match was against Belgium and they had to win. Possible. With motivation and luck.
Belgium – Hungary started as expected: Hungary was more active and dangerous and scored in the 28th minute. After that luck betrayed them – they had two more chances and missed. But Belgium had no luck either – in the beginning of the second half Pfaff and Gerets clashed into each other, Gerets was heavily injured and had to be replaced. Injuries plagued Belgium – Pfaff suffered to the end of the match, later, when Belgium used its substitutes, Coeck was injured and had to limp to the last whistle useless. But Thys made his important substitute meantime, fielding van Moer for the first time at this championship. The veteran instantly took the match under his control and eventually Czerniatinsky equalized in the 76th minute. At the end – 1-1, Belgium going ahead and Hungary – out.
Argentina – El Salvador was a mere protocol, leaving no impressions. Passarella scored from a penalty in the first half and Bertoni added one more goal in the second. If anything, El Salvador failed in its extremely modest aim to finish better than in 1970: they lost again all their matches, but ended with worse goal-difference. Well, they scored their first world cup finals goal, if it was a consolation.
3
2
1
0
3
1
+2
5
3
2
0
1
6
2
+4
4
3
1
1
1
12
6
+6
3
3
0
0
3
1
13
−12
0
Despite the sensation with which the group started, it ended as expected and predicted. So far Belgium appeared to be the most interesting, but also most unlucky team – if they managed to get the string of injured players fit for the second round, they would have been quite dangerous. Argentina was underperforming, but nothing alarming yet – surely, they will come to their real strength in the second round. Hungary perhaps got more than expected from their team, coming close to qualifying. In any case, nothing to be ashamed of. Made a scoring record too.