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50th Minute, Leopoldo Luque, Argentina v Peru, 1978 World Cup, Second Group Stage


Argentina were given the right to host the 1978 World Cup during the mid-sixties but with Argentine clubs heavily in debt and the country struggling economically too, little had been done to prepare the stadiums and infrastructure for such a massive event. A brutal military dictatorship seized power of the country in 1976 and money was suddenly found to construct everything which needed to be built although at a much greater cost (in more than one sense) than originally planned. During El Proceso thousands of the political opposition went missing and many more fled the country sparking worldwide condemnation and talk that some of the participating nations wouldn’t compete in the tournament in protest.

In the end the World Cup did go ahead and all the countries that qualified decided to make the trip. The only major absentee was the Dutchman and best player in the world, Johan Cruyff who had retired a year earlier.

Argentina made it out of this group stage despite losing to Italy. In the second group stage they were placed with Brazil, Poland and Peru. The defeat to Italy actually meant they moved away from the cavernous El Monumental and to the intimidating Estadio Gigante de Arroyito in Rosario. The second group stage started well for Argentina with Mario Kempes scoring two in a 2-0 victory over a Poland side that had been in good form. Their game against Brazil finished goalless with the Brazilians missing the better chances and with the Brazilians having achieved a 3-1 victory against Poland and a 3-0 versus Peru, it meant Argentina needed to beat Peru by four goals in their last group game.

It’s hard to tell watching the game in full if anything sinister had gone on. Peru had been impressive in the first round but were poor against Brazil and it left them with nothing to play for in this decider in Rosario. Argentina had the ultimate motivation knowing a place in the World Cup final was up for grabs in their own country. In the twenty-first minute they took the lead through top scorer Mario Kempes but not before Peru had hit the post. Another goal was added before half-time and Argentina had got themselves in a good position to finish the job. Kempes got his second of the game to put Albiceleste 3-0 up


The Goal

In the 50th minute Leopoldo Luque, sporting a black eye from a previous match, heads home from one yard to give Argentina that vital four goal advantage…

What Happened Next?

The Brazilians protested the unlikely scoreline and rumours were abound that Argentina’s military dictatorship had bribed and/or pressured the Peruvian team. The Peruvians players did confirm they were visited by Argentine military leader Jorge Videla and US secretary of state Henry Kissinger before the game how much pressure and influence they had on the result is still open to debate.

Argentina won the World Cup, beating Netherlands 3-1 in the final. Military rule in Argentina was brought to an end in 1983 but the wounds still remain today with many Argentines still searching for the truth.  Leopoldo Luque is one of the many Argentine players that feel their triumph in 1978 has been somewhat tainted by the rumours and allegations surrounding their victory and many wish they hadn’t played at all.


Learn more about the controversy of the Argentina v Peru game here…

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