Argentina and the example of Italy

Diego Maradona’s Argentina has already gone through what Lionel Messi’s Argentina is experiencing now: in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the Albiceleste fell by surprise in their debut against Cameroon (1-0), just as the team did on Tuesday against Saudi Arabia (2-1) in Qatar-2022.

The team led by Carlos Salvador Bilardo at the time arrived as the current world champion due to its success four years earlier in Mexico-1986, rebuilt itself and was able to avoid elimination in the first phase, later reaching the final, where the Federal Republic of Germany deprived him of the title.

“You don’t know what the days after the game were like. The worst are the days before the second match arrives. Crazy takes hold in your head because you start to do the math,” Oscar Ruggeri, a former international defender who I was on that team 32 years ago.

Cameroon arrived at that game on June 8, 1990 at the San Siro stadium in Milan as the perfect victim for a perfect start by Argentina, but a solitary goal from François Omam-Biyik decided the game.

In that tournament, Cameroon made history by becoming the first African team to reach the quarterfinals of soccer’s top tournament.

A phrase from Bilardo after that defeat went down in history and went viral on social networks after the setback against the Saudis: “If we return in the first round, I’ll throw the plane back.”

In the second and third games, Argentina played at the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Maradona’s home, and there they managed to advance to the round, beating the Soviet Union (2-0) and drawing with Romania (1-1).

There is a noticeable difference, yes, between that edition and the current one: in 1990 there were 24 participants divided into six groups and the first two of each group and the four best third-placed qualified for the round of 16. And Argentina advanced as one of those four best third parties, a circumstance that does not currently occur, where only the first two avoid elimination.

Argentina’s matches against Mexico on Saturday and next Wednesday against Poland will be authentic ‘finals’.

In addition to that edition of Italy-1990, Argentina previously lost its first World Cup match on four other occasions.

The first was in 1934 also in Italy, where they were defeated 3-2 by the Swedes in a duel that directly led to the round of 16, so the adventure ended quickly.

Argentina again lost their World Cup debut in Sweden-1958, in that case 3-1 against the Federal Republic of Germany.

In the second game, they reacted by defeating Northern Ireland 3-1, but were then eliminated as bottom of their group when they were overwhelmed by Czechoslovakia (6-1), who despite the victory could not get past the round either.

Four years before Argentina’s first world title in 1978, the albiceleste team lost in their debut match in the 1974 event in Germany, 3-2 against Poland, where the legendary Grzegorz Lato shone with a brace.

Against Italy, the then world runner-up, Argentina drew 1-1 in the second game and came alive to the third and decisive date, where they thrashed Haiti 4-1, which was enough for them to qualify as second. In the second group stage they were then clearly outclassed and said goodbye to the tournament.

The 1982 World Cup in Spain also started off on the wrong foot for the Argentines, current champions of the tournament and who arrived with a young Maradona.

The first match, at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, ​​ended in a 1-0 defeat against Belgium, but then the Argentine team rallied with wins over Hungary (4-1) and El Salvador (2-0).

César Luis Menotti’s team then said goodbye in the second group stage, losing to Italy and Brazil.

The Argentine fans also hold on to a precedent to continue dreaming of being champions on December 18: there was a team that lost the first match and was then able to lift the trophy, Spain in South Africa-2010, which fell 1-0 to Switzerland at the outset and then won their next six matches.


Argentina and the example of Italy-1990