Delaunay's dream: A World Football Timeline

So Wales qualify for Euro '76? Justice IMO given how 1976 will be the FAW's 100th anniversary plus if they have a respectable showing at Euro '76 and surely qualify throughout the 80s in which honestly thr Welsh team of the 1980s really deserved to play at a tournament (1984 they were honestly seconds away from qualifying were it not for a Yugoslavian goal in the other game in the group IIRC) but maybe could kick-start an early idea of creating a Welsh league earlier than OTL (1984/85 might be the debut season?)
 
1976 Euro: Group Stage
1976 European Championship
"Sound body, sound mind, hot temper"
Having played in Belgium; Italy Spain and France in the last 16 years, the UEFA had turned elsewhere for the upcoming Euros. While Germany at first looked like a favourite to take the hosting rights, that quickly fell through when the Central European country won the hosting rights for not only the 1974 World Cup, but also the 1972 Olympics Games. With that, Austria; Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were in a bout for the hosting rights, with the Czechoslovaks eventually winning the hosting rights. The other democracy of Central Europe was already in a process at renovating their already existing stadiums, with the two great Prague stadiums receiving a major makeover, while Ostrava was getting its new stadium right in the midst of the said city's club enjoying its golden era. The Evežen Rošicki stadium, otherwise known as the Strahov stadium, had been completed in 1975, while the Eden arena was finished in 1969, and the other two venues were by 1976 state of the art. There were complaints at first from the media, most notably being the fact that out of the Euros that had been held, this was going to be the "Smallest" Euro thus far when accounting capacity, but the Czechoslovaks had one ace up their sleeve to make this into a spectacle. As for the teams, Germany was entering with a dose of uncertainty, as its golden generation that had won the 1972 Euros was reaching its end, while the Netherlands were odds-on favourites to win the competition, having already won the World Cup two years earlier. Yugoslavia qualified rather easily as well, while England was absent from the cup for the first time since 1964! The three lions were not the only Home Nation to miss out, as poor Scotland lost out to Spain in the qualifying group by two points. Thus, Britain was now going to have to cheer for the minnows Wales and Ireland.

On the day of the opening, the crowds that had gathered for the ceremony were stunned when thousands of young men and women ran onto the pitch to commence what had been Czechoslovak tradition for decades - the Sokol ceremony. The "Sound body, sound mind" movement that had been part of Czechoslovakia since 1925 was now being seen all around Europe via TV, as the spectacular choreography presented the eventual moto of this tournament, and what the Sokol movement wanted from its participants - "Sound body, sound mind".
The opening Sokol ceremony
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Group 1
Having failed to make any significant impression at the world stage for the past few years, many did not expect too much from Czechoslovakia, nor poor little Ireland. George Best was gone, having only contributed in the qualifiers to help his homeland beat the Soviets, while the Boys in green looked to be happy just being in Prague. The opening match would see a rather expected victory from the Velvets, as Bratislavas’ Joszef Moder and later Antonin Panenka both scored to make it a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Czechs.

The news became even better when in Bratislava, the Netherlands came back from 1-0 down against their neighbors. While Roger van Gool helped the Red Devils take the lead at first, both Johnny Rep and Johan Cruyff slimmed down that lead in the second half, with the Barcelona player and legend scoring to make it 2-1. The Benelux duel had certainly been a thrilling one, but everyone knew that Holland was going to win this one. Belgium did come back to accomplish a routine 2-0 victory against Ireland, while Czechoslovakia defended bravely to finish the game with a 1-1 draw against the World champions. In the end, the Czechoslovaks managed to escape from the group via a squeaky 0-0 draw with the Belgians, while Ireland’s miserable campaign ended with a thrashing, as the Dutch netted four goals.

Johan Cruyff on the move
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Group 2 and the "Battle of Eden"

Over at the Eden park, Wales’ debut in the European stage proved to be controversial. The Dragons opened their campaign with the Yugoslav national team, with the Blues starting out well when Katalinski put the Blues into the lead via the most dubious of penalties following a dive by Danilo Popivoda (Literally Daniel Drinkwater in Slovene), outraging the Welsh while the German referee Glockner remained quiet. This did not sit well with Brian Flynn, who punched one of the Yugoslavs, which only angered the referee even more to the point he was threatening to leave the match. Luckily for the Welsh, an equaliser by Ian Evans, and a penalty in the dying minutes made it so the Dragons had managed to pull off an upset win against the South Slavs . Germany meanwhile had a decent showing against Spain. The Mannschaft, with a new coach and rather inexperienced squad, proved to make the dangerous Spanish attack useless with careful defending, while Uli Hoeness scored what was to be one of his final goals for the White shirt, followed by the fresh-faced Joachim Streich scored for the eventual 2-0.

Yugoslavia had another eventful encounter with Spain, as the Blues played a physically vicious game against los Toros in an effort to subdue Santillana’s chances to score, whereas Danilo Popivoda scored Yugoslavia’s sole goal to make it a draw. Finally, Yugoslavia had her opportunity to progress via the match with Germany. The Spanish had already beaten the Welsh in a tough 1-0 win against the Dragons, so all eyes shifted to Ostrava as Danilo Popivoda scored an early goal against the Mannschaft, followed by Dragan Džajić some 10 minutes later! It was already 2-0 for Yugoslavia, and now it seemed that the South Slavs were going to leave the group by the skin of their teeth! Then, Jurgen Sparwasser slimmed down the lead, and the Yugoslav defense once again began to panic until finally, with less than 10 minutes to go, Dieter Muller scored the equaliser that shattered Yugoslav hearts, while Spain was now ensured a trip to the semis.

Brian Flynn and referee Rudi Glockner having a confrontation
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Thus, the semi finals will look like this:
Netherlands v Spain
Germany v Czechoslovakia
 
So Wales qualify for Euro '76? Justice IMO given how 1976 will be the FAW's 100th anniversary plus if they have a respectable showing at Euro '76 and surely qualify throughout the 80s in which honestly thr Welsh team of the 1980s really deserved to play at a tournament (1984 they were honestly seconds away from qualifying were it not for a Yugoslavian goal in the other game in the group IIRC) but maybe could kick-start an early idea of creating a Welsh league earlier than OTL (1984/85 might be the debut season?)
Well I am not sure about respectable from the ref's point of view, but they did nab a win against an average Yugoslav side :p
 
1976 Euro: Knockout stage
1976 European Championship
"The cheekiest of flicks"
Semi-finals
Much has changed since Spain's last appearance in a major tournament. El Generalisimo was dead, and now the country was changing. Therefore, it was rather fitting that the Spanish state was entering its new era with an air of optimism, with its players providing some hope for the Iberian faithful via Spains' qualification for the semis, and the eventual exorcising of their 1974 demons against Yugoslavia had firmly made manager Ferenc Puskas a favourite among the Spanish. Unfortunately for Los Torros, that would be as far as they'd go. Netherlands, while slightly unconvincing in their group, was still the favourite thanks to the magic of the Johans, Rep, Rensenbrink and co.
Indeed, it would be the Oranje who would draw first blood, as Johnny Rep scored an early header for the Netherlands to take the lead, and it got even worse when ageing goalkeeper Jose Iribar let a ball slip out of his hands, causing him to mistakingly push it into his own goal. Come the second half, the Spanish managed to slim down the Dutch lead when Ruben Valdez, and los Torros had several more opportunities until crucially, Johan Cruyff, the current player of a resurgent Barcelona, smashed the ball into the net for the eventual 3-1 victory.

A moment from the Holland-Spain match
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Meanwhile in Prague, the much fancied Germans were now meeting with the hosts - Czechoslovakia. The Velvets had a perfect start when Jan Švehlik pummeled the ball into the net following a rebound, and the Strahov arena erupted, only for Czechoslovakia to extend the lead to 2-0 via Dobiaš! All of a sudden, Czechoslovakia was leading by a considerable margin, and the Germans seemed to not know what to do! Well, they soon knew what to do, as Dieter Muller burst into the scene with a volley to slim down the Velvet lead to 2-1. Georg Buschner badly needed to shake up his squad for the second half, and Germany began with attack after attack, as Ivo Viktor pulled off some brilliant saves to keep his side alive, only for Joachim Streich to head the ball into the net following a corner kick. 2-2 in the final minute of the second half! Now, the game was going into extra time, and eventually the penalties. For the first time in the Euro history, a match would be decided on penalties. Masný scored the first penalty kick before Bonhof levelled the shoot-out when his strike went in off the goalpost. Nehoda, Ondruš and Jurkemik then all scored for Czechoslovakia while Dorner and Sparwasser converted their penalties to make it 4–3 as Hoeneß stepped up to take his kick. He kicked the ball hard, but it flew over the goal! All of a sudden, the Czechoslovak crowd went mad with ecstacy as Antonin Panenka moved in to take his shot, and he cheekily flicked it past Sepp Meier to make it a Velvet victory! Czechoslovakia had just beaten Germany, and was in the Euro finals!
Antonin Panenka and his penalty
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Third place play-off
In what would become a rather entertaining match, Spain looked to be in control for most of the match following a Santillana brace. Los Torros defended well against the Mannschaft, and it seemed that Spain was about to win, only for Dieter Muller to once again step into the scene. Indeed, a late equalizer by the other Muller brought Germany back to extra time, and the Elf dominated the proceedings after that, with Muller scoring two more times to make himself the highest scorer of the tournament, and give Germany its third bronze medal.

The German team before the match
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Final
Having already met in the group, Netherlands were expected by the majority to lift the trophy against the Bohemian underdogs, but the home advantage was certainly going to help the Velvets to a large extent. Shortly before the match though, the heavens opened, and it began to pour down by the bucketload. As the players walked onto the pitch and met for the pre-match handshake, referee Clive Thomas held the umbrella over Anton Ondruš and Johan Cruyff.

Thomas helping Cruyff and Ondruš shake hands
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Finally, the match began. Czechoslovakia dominated at first, and soon enough a free kick was awarded for the Velvets. Panenka, already an established hero, sent the ball flying, and it was Ondruš headed the ball over Piet Schrijvers to send the Strahov stadium into ecstacy. The Dutch began to attack more, trying hard to make the Czechoslovak defense nervous, but Johan Cryuff was silenced by Ondruš, a defender himself, as he kept the defensive lines of the Velvet team intact. Then, with 17 minutes remaining, disaster struck when Ondruš attempted to clear the ball that was sent by Ruud Geels, but the ball veered its way to the net! The Strahov stadium went silent, and the Dutch were now back in the game. Rob Rensenbrink then had a series of chances to finish the game off, but Ivo Viktor was inspired that day, and he defended like mad to keep the game going into extra time. Tensions were high, as Jaroslav Pollak and Johan Neeskens were both dismissed, and the reduced squads of both Holland and Czechoslovakia slogged their way through extra time and playing a careful game of "Don't concede".

With six minutes to go, it looked like Czechoslovakia was going to once again play penalties in this tournament, which would in itself be the first penalty shootout in a Euro final. František Vesely, who barged his way past the Dutch defense then crossed the ball for Zdenek Nehoda, who headed it past Schrijvers! 2-1 then finally became 3-1, when Vesely once again charged his way past the Dutch defense and outsmated Schrijvers to launch the ball into the net. With two minutes to go, Czechoslovakia was leading 3-1, and the match was soon over - Czechoslovakia were the champions of the 1976 Euros at their home soil!


The Czechs lifting the Delaunay trophy while wearing the German kits
(The Dutch refused to exchange shirts post-match)
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The bracket
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Aftermath and Argentinas World Cup
And so, Czechoslovakia are the champions of Europe, thus becoming the fourth Eastern European nation to lift the Delaunay trophy. The upset win against Holland was phenomenal show of grit that the Dutch certainly didn't appreciate (the shirt incident occuring in the OTL), and it remains as the Velvets' biggest achievement in football since their 1934 World Cup triumph.

Elsewhere, Argentina was en route to hosting the 1978 World Cup, which was to be the first to hold 24 teams, as it was planned by FIFA. The South American country was under leadership of Ricardo Balbin and his RCU party following Juan Perons' death in 1974, and the country was slowly sailing through the decade with seemingly brighter future on the horizon. While issues with the venues were present, more notably with the failure to build the La Plata stadium - the FIFA delegates were largely going to accept Argentina to host the 1978 World Cup, in spite of the hosts' begging to keep the tournament in the 20 team format and the lack of progress with the venues. With the 1978 World Cup on the horizon, these are our teams for the tournament (Yeah, I am slightly basing Argentina '78 on Ruperto Pesto's excellent timeline :coldsweat: )

Teams for the 1978 World Cup:

Group 1 - Argentina (host), Egypt, Italy, Portugal
Group 2 - Germany, Mexico, Poland, Tunisia (debut)
Group 3 - Belgium, France, Haiti, Netherlands
Group 4 - Australia, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Sweden
Group 5 - Bolivia, England, Hungary, Spain
Group 6 - Austria, Iran (debut), Peru, Scotland
 
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Group 1: Argentina, Italy, Portugal, Egypt
Group 2: Poland, Germany, Tunisia, Mexico
Group 3: France, Netherlands, Belgium, Haiti
Group 4: Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Australia
Group 5: Hungary, Bolivia, Spain, England
Group 6: Peru, Austria, Scotland, Iran
 
Group 1: Argentina, Italy, Portugal, Egypt
Group 2: Poland, Germany, Tunisia, Mexico
Group 3: France, Netherlands, Belgium, Haiti
Group 4: Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Australia
Group 5: Hungary, Bolivia, Spain, England
Group 6: Peru, Austria, Scotland, Iran
Wow, no belief in England?
 
1978 World Cup: Group Stage
1978 World Cup
"Another monumental occasion"
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Having hosted the World Cup 40 years ago, the return of the tournament to what is likely the most football-crazy nation in the world, was rather fitting. Argentina w s going through its first years without Juan Peron, and while the country was certainly a lot more unstable than usual, there was hope that the World Cup would show Argentina in its brightest light. The grand opening ceremony was fitting for the south American country, as leaflets fell onto the Monumental Stadium of Buenos Aires. The same stadium that had opened the World Cup back in 1938 was once again opening the tournament as the temple of football, and Mario Kempes and co. walked onto the pitch, followed by their first opponent of the tournment.

The teams present for the inaugural 24 team format all represented every continent of the globe, much like in '74. The two major home nations of England and Scotland were once again here without any company from either Ireland or Wales, and both were considered potential favourites for the World Cup, most notably Scotland with the leadership of Willie Ormond. Austria was making its first appearance after an excrutiating wait of 20 years. Indeed, the Austrians had last appeared in the World Cup back in 1958, when they finished bottom of their group with Brazil, England and the USSR. The Elf hoped that they wouldn't suffer such a fate in this edition of the tournament, and they had already caused a stirr in the qualifying rounds, as they had beaten Germany in their respective group. The subsequent 4-3 win in Leipzig was seen as a miracle, and it's what propelled the Austrians to this very World Cup, ahead of the frustrated Germans. The one nation that had been outside of a major footballing tournament was finally back after 10 years - France. Les Bleus, after a period of poor results, were finally back in the World Stage, inspired by the young and promising Michel Platini, who was considered as a promising youngster that just might make his career here in Argentina.

Peru was also back after a brief absence in '74, and their hopes were high, since La Bicolor won the Copa America under the leadership of the great Teofilo Cubillas. With them, Hungary was also back, along with Spain, who were making their first World Cup appearance since 1966, along with their neighbors Portugal! Under the leadership of Ferenc Puskas as their manager, Los Torros were hoping to achieve great things, following their 4th place in the 1976 Euros. Perhaps the longest wait of any nation here, Egypt was back in the World stage after missing for 40 years. Indeed, the Egyptians were finally coming back, and where else but in the country in which they last kicked the ball in anger. They were joined by debutants Tunisia and Iran. Finally, the Soviet Union had once again failed to qualify, having been beaten by the Hungarians in the qualifying rounds.

The venues that were picked were mostly satisfactory, if frustrating for the FIFA delegates. Indeed, the promised Estadio Unico de La Plata was not built for the tournament, and there was trouble behind the scenes with the Argentine officials begging FIFA to keep the team format to 20, to which the FIFA men laughed. The 24 teams were here to stay no matter what, and the Argentines worked like mad to at least renovate some of their stadiums and build the likes of Estadio Chateau Carreras.


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Group 1

The opening round of the World Cup saw the two favourites facing off against the underdogs. Italy had an easy time against Portugal, bashing the Lusitanians 3-1, with Nene scoring a consulation goal. Egypt on the other hand put up a gallant effort against the Argentines during the first half of the match, but the Albiceleste eventually won. Unfortunately, the poor Egyptians looked way out of their depth, and they were continously bashed by the Italians in the next match, followed by the Portuguese winning 2-1 against them in the final moments of the match. Indeed, the Portuguese did not have an easy time in their return to the World Cup, with their manager Juca commenting "Everything, even the air, are in favour of Argentina", upon commenting about the atmosphere in the Estadio Monumental. In the end, the final match of the group saw Italy face off against Argentina for the top spot of the group. In the end, Roberto Bettega scored the sole goal in the second half, helping Italy finish 1st ahead of Argentina.

The moment Bettega scored

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Group 2

Germany and Poland started their campaigns off with a draw, as both the Eagles and the Mannschaft played a steady game in which they shared their points. Elsewhere though, Tunisia began their first World Cup with an emphatic victory over Mexico. The Eagles of Carthage dominated the second half to win with a convincing 3-1 against the Mexicans, and things got even worse for the latter as the matches continued. A 6-0 massacre by Germany ended any hopes for the Mexicans to repeat their 1970 fairy tale, and Poland sealed the deal with a 3-1 win, firmly putting the Mexicans out of their misery, while Tunisia's fairy tale ended thanks to a sole goal by Grzegorz Lato. An unfortunate end for the African team, but their performance showed one thing - Africa was rising.

Mokhtar Dhouieb being embraced by his teammate
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Group 3

France's return to the World Cup started rather poorly, as Les Bleus were battered by the reigning champions 2-0, and things looked to be heading for disaster when they completed a dull 1-1 draw with Belgium. But, the usually poor luck of the French switched as the final matches took place. Belgium, with a still rather respectable squad, was unlucky to lose by a narrow 1-0 margin against the Dutch, thanks to a goal by Neeskens, and France meanwhile managed to score thrice against the Haitian minnows, erasing their negative goal difference as a result. With Holland in first, France was behind thanks to two goals by Platini and one by Didier Six. With that, France was through to the next round of the tournament for the first time since the 50s, when Just Fontaine was their talismanic goalscorer. Now, it was seemingly Michel Platini.

Michel Platini during his game with the Belgians

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Group 4

In what was probably the weakest group of the tournament, Brazil dominated the proceedings, even if things did not start that way. A scandalous refereeing error against Sweden saw Zico's goal in the final seconds of the match being dissallowed, helping the Blagult to hold a draw with A Canarinha, while Czechoslovakia only managed to shake off a surprise 2-2 draw against Australia in the final 20 minutes to eventually win 4-2. If it wasn't for the quality of Panenka and Marian Masny, Australia would have gotten away with a cheeky draw. Unfortunately, that would be the best the Socceroos could do, as the Brazilians routinely battered them 4-0 to eventually lose 2-1 against the Swedes. Czechoslovakia on the other hand lost 2-0 against Brazil before holding a dull draw with Sweden, but their loss against the Brazilians meant that the reigning European champions were not going through, while the Swedish team was heading into the unknown.

Clive Thomas' moment of madness

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Group 5

Following the 1976 European championship, in which the fans of Spain began to believe, La Roja was entering the 1978 World Cup with a great air optimism, having already beaten Romania and Yugoslavia in the qualifying rounds. Indeed, Ferenc Puskas set up his team for great things, and their opening match against Ron Greenwood's England side saw Spain comfortably attacking the English box via Santillana. Only a failed penalty kept Spain from taking the lead against England, while Hungary routinely beat Bolivia 2-0 to start off their campaign promisingly. Unfortunately for the Magyars, their win against Bolivia would soon be followed by a loss against England, who pummeled them 4-1. Trevor Francis and Phillip Neal made the Hungarians shiver, and their massive loss against the Three Lions proved to be lethal, as the Spanish held another draw against them. Finally, Bolivia's return to the World Cup was capped off with a massive 6-0 loss against England, ending their return with an abysmal -10 goal difference, while Spain was for the first time traveling to the second round of the tournament since 1950.

Kevin Keegan taking on Peter Torok

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Group 6

Having already met back in 1970, Scotland's memories of Peru were ones of anguish. The long range goals by Teofilo Cubillas had utterly destroyed whatever hopes Scotland had back then in Mexico, but the Tartans were hopeful that this year, it would be different. Indeed, things started promisingly when Joseph Jordan scored in the early minutes of the match. Come the second half, Scotland went 2-0 up on Peru with Andy Gray converting a penalty kick, but then Teofilo Cubillas replied with his own two goals in the 71st and 77th minute, equalling the result. Austria meanwhile played a safe match to win against Iran, but the Mannschaft had an ugly wake up call in the next match, with a sole goal by Cesar Cueto in the end of half time helping Peru take the win. In the end, Peru had a perfect start to their World Cup, which they capped off with a crushing victory against Iran, while Scotland managed to hold off Austria. Scotland seemed to be having a disaster brewing as the Mannschaft led 2-0 by the end of the first half thanks to goals by Schachner and Pezzey, but a goal by Gordon McQueen, and then Andy Gray with 13 minutes to go helped Scotland take a decisive draw, and one which would help the Tartans go through to the next round.


Cubillas' masterpiece against the Tartans

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And so, the first group stage of our 1978 World Cup has ended. Let me know your predictions for the following second round!



Group A: Italy, Netherlands, Scotland

Group B: Brazil, Poland, Spain

Group C: Argentina, France, Peru

Group D: England, Germany, Sweden
 
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Group A
A1 Netherlands: 2 pts. 4-4 (0).
A2 Scotland: 2 pts. 3-3 (0).
A3. Italy: 2 pts. 2-2 (0).

Italy 1-2 Netherlands
Netherlands 2-3 Scotland
Scotland 0-1 Italy


Group B
B1 Brazil: 3 pts. 3-1 (+2).
B2 Spain: 2 pts. 0-0 (0).
B3 Poland: 1 pt. 1-3 (-2).

Brazil 3-1 Poland
Poland 0-0 Spain
Spain 0-0 Brazil


Group C
C1 Argentina: 4 pts. 7-1 (+6).
C2 France: 1 pt. 2-3 (-1).
C3 Peru: 1 pt. 1-6 (-5).

Argentina 2-1 France
France 1-1 Peru
Peru 0-5 Argentina



Group D
D1 Germany: 3 pts. 2-1 (+1).
D2 England: 2 pts. 0-0 (0).
D3 Sweden: 1 pt. 1-2 (-1).

England 0-0 Germany
Germany 2-1 Sweden
Sweden 0-0 England
 
1978 World Cup: Second Group Stage
1978 World Cup
"Phyrric victory"

Group A

Scotland’s second round campaign started with a disaster. Indeed, the Tartans were already 1-0 down against Italy after only 12 minutes, courtesy of a goal by Paolo Rossi, which was all that Italy needed to win the match, in spite of continuous attacks by the Scots. The ball simply didn't want to go in, and the Tartans’ hopes of reaching the Semi-finals were already put in significant risk. However, there was still hope if Italy loses to Holland, although that would mean that Scotland would have to go for an all or nothing win for the next match. Italy once again started out strong against the Netherlands in what was a replay of their 1974 match. Ernie Brandts’ own goal helped the Azzurri take the lead, but the Dutch equalized in the following half time, before Arie Haan blasted a shot some 30 yards away from Dino Zoff, who could not catch the ball. In a sensational manner, the Netherlands had won against the Italians, and now the Scottish were put up with a tough task. In order to progress to the semis - they must beat Holland by two goals. All three will be drawn with two points in that scenario, and goal difference will decide who goes through.

Once again, Scotland had a disaster when Rensenbrink converted a penalty kick, but Kenny Dalglish equalized with a beautiful goal. Now it was 1-1. Then, it was 2-1, Before Archie Gemmill outran three Oranje defenders to score one of the most beautiful flicks! 3-1 for Scotland! All of a sudden, Scotland was only 20 minutes away from glory! The faith in the players and the hope of a nation was somehow helping the Tartans perform one of the most miraculous wins in its history… Until Johnny Rep responded with a long range kick that Alan Rough could not save. Now, there was calamity. Scotland had won, but at what cost? Both they and the Dutch were equal on points, but Holland had the better goal difference due to scoring four goals, as opposed to Scotland’s three. Thus, by the tightest of margins, Scotland loses out to the Netherlands, who have qualified for the Semi-finals once more.

Archie Gemmill after his solo masterpiece. But it was all in vain...
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Group B

For the first time since 1950, Spain was participating in what was essentially the quarter-finals of a World Cup. Indeed, La Roja had done well to get this far, and their World Cup dream seemingly continued when, during their opening match of the group, they managed to hold Brazil off to make it into a historic draw with A Canarinha! Santillana always looked like a threat, as did Zico and Roberto Dinamite, but the ball did not go inside, thus meaning that Spain had a good chance against Poland. Unfortunately for Puskas’ squad, Grzegorz Szarmach scored what would be the only goal in that subsequent match, and he helped Poland win the match and leapfrog Spain for the battle for 1st place. Now, Poland needed a win against Brazil in order to progress to the semis.

Things started perfectly for Brazil though, as Nelinho scored an early goal, but Poland fought back to level the match. Then in the second half, Roberto Dinamite put two past Zygmunt Kukla for an eventual 3-1 win! Brazil was through, much to the heartbreak of the Poles. Spain meanwhile had at least done a stellar job in their return to the World Cup, and La Roja's players were hoping that this was a sign of things to come.

Brazilians in the offense
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Group C - The Latin group

The hosts had certainly gone through a bit of a disappointment after their loss Against Italy. Nevertheless, the Argentine team bounced back from their loss for the eventual Second Stage, which was predominantly Latin. The French team on the other hand could be pretty happy with themselves thus far. Not only was Michel Platini showing great promise, but this has thus far been their best tournament yet. Now though, France was going to have its greatest test in the form of the host of the tournament - Argentina.

It started well for Les Bleus. Both the Argentines and the French exchanged attacks as the minutes flew by, with the French holding off attack after attack from the hosts. Then, in the 45th minute, a penalty was awarded to Argentina. Daniel Passarella stepped up, and converted the shot which Bertrand-Demanes could not defend. Nevertheless, France did not give up, and Michel Platini leveled the score 15 minutes later. Now it was 1-1, and France looked set on taking the game to a draw, only for Leopoldo Luque to score for 2-1. French hearts sank, while the Mendoza stadium erupted. Argentina now led the standings, but France rekindled their chances somewhat, when Les Bleus beat Peru in a splendid 3-1 victory. Two goals by Platini, and a penalty by Six. Now, all that France had to hope for is that Peru somehow wins against the Argentines. The reigning champions of South America would have to take on the hosts in Rosario. While Peru was trailing Argentina 2-0 by half time, Teofilo Cubillas once again stepped up to give his nation hope, scoring a trademark long range kick that flew the ball past into the Argentine net. Six minutes later, Velasquez leveled the match to 2-2! With 30 minutes to go, Argentina was forced to step it up, and it did. Rene Housemann scored in the 67th, followed by Luque in the 72nd. Argentina 4, Peru 2. That was the end for the Peruvians, and Argentina won the South American match to progress further.

Mario Kempes after his opening goal
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Group D

Having qualified on the merit of better goal difference, not many expected great things From Sweden. Sure, the Blagult featured a good, hardworking team of players, but England or Germany were predicted to make it out of the group. England's first opponent just so happened to be the Blagult, and the English just couldn't find the net! The Swedes played gallantly to hold off the English for a surprise 0-0 draw, and one which they celebrated greatly, whereas England was now forced into a position where it needed to win against Germany to progress. The Mannschaft, led by Georg Buschner, was also surprised by the sturdy defense by the Swedes, who managed to hold off every attempt by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and co. Minutes dragged on, and it looked like the Swedes were about to get away with another cheeky draw, but a solo run by Hans-Joachim "Dixie" Dorner, who fought past Andersson, then Borg, led to a mighty shot by the Gorlitz native, and one which Hellstrom could not defend. Germany had broken Sweden with 15 minutes to spare, and it was enough.

Finally, the last match of the group would see Germany face off against England, who still had the chance of carrying on to the semis. Both teams were forced to play carefully, as neither wanted to ruin their chances of carrying through. All that Germany needed was a draw, whereas England had to threaten a lot more if the Three Lions wanted to go further. The entire match saw the English attack, only for the German defense to make an intervention. Even Germany's goalkeeper Jurgen Croy had to put up a brave save or two, until Kevin Keegan shot the ball during a scramble in Germany's box. Now, England was leading, and the Three Lions were on course to reaching the semi-finals! Germany was now forced to attack, and the Mannschaft responded only six minutes later, courtesy to Joachim Streich's free kick masterpiece against Shilton! Now it was 1-1, and Germany didn't stop! The English began to defend desperately, with the Germans invading their box with every opportunity, until Reiner Bonhof finally sealed the deal, making it a decisive 2-1 victory for Germany! England was down and out, and Germany was through.

The moment Streich's ball went in
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Congrats to NTF aka Seb for being on point with almost all of his predictions!

With the second group stage finished, the plot thickens as we reach the semi-finals. Let me know your predicitons!

Netherlands v Argentina
Brazil v Germany
 
Wow, I even nailed 2/4 point tallies. Have to admit I'm very pleased with myself. :p

Semi-finals
Netherlands 1-3 (a.e.t.) Argentina
Brazil 3-2 Germany

Third place
Netherlands (a.e.t.) 3-2 Germany

Final
Argentina (a.e.t.) 1-0 Brazil
 
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