I’ve already recalled how this Copa America brought back happy memories of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Today’s Argentina-Peru quarter final brings back a much darker moment from the same tournament.
The 1978 World Cup took place amid one of the most brutal right wing military dictatorships Latin America has ever seen. Between taking power in 1976 and relinquishing it after defeat in the Falklands War seven years later, Argentina’s generals murdered and ‘disappeared’ up to 30,000 people.
Winning the World Cup in front of their own fans was a vital distraction from the atrocities. Argentina were one of the favourites on their home patch and qualified for the second round by finishing in second place in their group containing Hungary, Italy and France.
In the next round they were in a group alongside Brazil, Poland and Peru. The winners went through to the final. Brazil beat Peru 3-0, both teams beat Poland and they shared the spoils in a 0-0 draw. That meant Argentina needed to beat Peru by at least four goals to qualify ahead of Brazil.
The circumstances surrounding the game are still shrouded in controversy. Argentine players said dictator Jorge Videla visited the dressing room before the game began. Rumours abound that Argentina offered Peru financial aid in return for hatful of goals. To further muddy the waters, the Peruvian goalkeeper was a naturalised citizen who was born in Argentina.
Whatever happened, Peru, after starting well and hitting the post, lost two goals before half time. But they capitulated in the second half, losing four more to let an ecstatic Argentina into the final against Holland. Leopoldo Luque and Mario Kempes both grabbed a brace and Rene Houseman and Alberto Tarantini got one apiece.
The match is still considered one of the dodgiest in World Cup history.