RUNNER-UP: The Netherlands
GOLDEN SHOE: Mario Kempes (ARG)
TOTAL MATCHES: 38
GOAL SCORED: 102 (2.7 per match)
AVERAGE ATTEDANCE: 40,688
SUPRISES: Tunisia became the first African team to win a World Cup match when they defeated Mexico 3-1 in the group stage.
FORMAT: Four teams in four groups in the preliminary stage, followed by a single elimination knockout round.
FIFA FAIR PLAY AWARD: Argentina
1978 – One of the best teams to have never won the World Cup, Argentina got its best opportunity when it hosted the 1978 tournament. The Dutch were once again favored to win the title, but suffered final heartbreak once again as they fell 3-1 to the hosts in the final at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.
There was controversy along the way though as Brazil was denied a spot in the final when Argentina beat a very relaxed Peru team 6-0 in the final match of the second group stage. The Peruvians, already eliminated, seemed to lie down for an Argentinean side knowing that it needed a four-goal victory to advance. Since then, all final group matches have been played simultaneously in order to avoid similar questionable results.
While 17-year old Diego Maradona was left off the Albiceleste squad for the tournament, 21-year old Michel Platini of France featured for his national team. He made his international debut for Les Bleus in Argentina and scored a goal along the way, but overall France disappointed, failing to reach the second stage. Six years later, Platini would lead the French to the European Championship crown.
In the final before a crazed cauldron of Argentineans, the Netherlands fought back to tie the match at 1-1 and came tantalizingly close to winning it outright in the dying seconds with a shot off the post. But during extra time, Mario Kempes and Daniel Bertoni scored for the hosts and Argentina hoisted its first world title.