Sunday 13th June 1982

GROUP THREE, Nou Camp Stadium, Barcelona. (20:00)

ARGENTINA   (0)   0

BELGIUM   (0)   1   (Vandenbergh 62)

Argentina: Fillol; Galvan, Passarella, Tarantini, Olguin; Bertoni, Ardiles, Gallego, Maradona; Diaz (Valdano), Kempes

Begium: Pfaff; Gerets, Baecke, de Schrijver, Millecamps; Vercauteren, Coeck, Vandersmissen, Cuelemans; Vandenbergh, Czerniatynski

Argentina began their defence naming nine of the team which lifted the trophy in Buenos Aires, four years previously. The only two changes were Diego Maradona and Ramon Diaz, for Leopoldo Luque and Oscar Ortiz. They included Ossie Ardiles who’d ended his season with Tottenham early, due to concerns over The Falklands Conflict.  The Argentinians had not had the best of preparation. All but three of the squad still played their football in Argentina. They had only seen a view of the conflict from state-run Argentinian media and believed they were winning easily. Once they were in Europe and free from censorship, they discovered the truth was very different. The Belgians included six of the side who were runners-up in the European Championships in Italy in 1980.

Opening games in the World Cup had become dour affairs with the last four ending goalless. After the freshness of the 1978 team, this edition seemed tired and ageing. This was a golden age for the Belgians and boasted one of the finest goalkeepers in Europe, in Jean-Marie Pfaff, who pulled off some crucial saves in the game. Belgium seemed to be able to carve open their opponents with their passing and movement and Czerniatynski should’ve put them in front in the first half, putting his header just wide with the goal at his mercy.

The game hinged on a lovely move in the sixty-fifth minute when Millecamps found Vercauteren wide on the left, just inside the Argentinian half. He looked up and played a wonderful pass ahead of the watching defence where Erwin Vandenbergh was free and on his own in the area. He controlled the ball on his chest, waited for it to bounce and then fired it past Fillol before anyone could challenge him.

Argentina had allowed the Belgians so many chances, as if they really believed they’d never score from any of them. Argentina then had more urgency about them and Maradona thought he’d scored when his free-kick bounced down off the bar onto the line. But the ball didn’t cross the line and Kempes fluffed the rebound. In the end the Belgians were good value for their win and had got the World Cup off to a flying start.

Viewers in the UK were denied live coverage of the game. ITV, who’d got the rights to broadcast it, didn’t think people would want to watch Argentina. Ironically, viewers were likely to have enjoyed little else than see the defending champions humbled.

The World Cup was off to a cracking start. Day Two would see the appearance of three times winners, Brazil and two times winners, Italy.