Book Review – 1982 Brazil: The Glorious Failure by Stuart Horsfield

Whilst England fans bemoaned the fact that the Three Lions exited the 1982 World Cup in Spain without losing a game and wondered at what might have been if Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan had been fully fit, Stuart Horsfield, then a ten year old boy living in Scarborough was transfixed not by the efforts of his country of birth, but by the football of another nation – Brazil, nicknamed the Seleção (The National Team).

1982 Brazil: The Glorious Failure, is Horsfield’s recollection of that summer 38 years ago, and the 12th edition of the FIFA World Cup in the sweltering Spanish sun. History has come to show that the Brazil side which contained stars such as Sócrates, Zico, Eder and Falcão played some outstanding football that the media, pundits and fans alike believed should have seen them become World Champions in 1982. However, as the record books show, that didn’t come to fruition, with coach Telê Santana’s skilful squad exiting to the pragmatic Italian side, who themselves went onto lift the trophy.

Horsfield builds to that game by providing the reader with a link back to previous Brazilian national sides starting with another infamous game against Italy, that being the 1970 World Cup Final in Mexico. That 4-1 victory for the Seleção is held up as possibly the greatest final in World Cup history, with the likes of Carlos Alberto, Pelé, Rivellino and Jairzinho providing a quality of football that simply overflowed with style, skill and unbridled joy. The author then details how in the following two World Cups (1974 in West Germany and 1978 in Argentina), Brazil lost their way as they tried to adopt a more European style of play, finishing fourth in 1974 and third, four years later.

However, by 1982 there was a return to the Brazilian spirit of 1970, with a freedom in their football, which Horsfield suggests may have been influenced by the political scene in the country as the military dictatorship lessened its grip on power. This uninhibited and talented Brazil squad were drawn in Group 6 in the First Round along with New Zealand, Scotland and the Soviet Union. The author dedicates a chapter to each of these games, with his youthful bewilderment at what he saw evident in the writing. The Seleção won all three games with a brand of football labelled ‘futebol arte’, to advance to the Second Round, which format wise back then, was made up of four groups of three teams, with only the four winners advancing to the semi-finals.

As with the First Round, Horsfield again details each game in a separate chapter, with Argentina and Italy their opponents. Brazil took on their South American rivals in the first match, convincingly winning 3-1. Going into the Italy game, Brazil knew that a draw would have been good enough to see them through to the last four, whilst the Azzurri (The Blues), knew that only a victory would be good enough to progress. With the way Brazil had been playing and with Italy having been uninspiring in the competition up to then, it was assumed by most experts that it would be a straightforward win for captain Sócrates and his team.

The events though at the Sarrià Stadium in Barcelona, didn’t though follow the script, and a Paulo Rossi hat-trick in a pulsating encounter that saw Italy win 3-2, ended the Brazilian dream, in a game that is seen as one of the greatest World Cup encounters of all time. Horsfield captures the drama of the match itself both on the pitch and in the stands and reveals the real sense of loss his ten year old self felt at the exit of Brazil. The book though doesn’t end there though with two final chapters, Aftermath and Legacy concluding this interesting read. A conclusion from those closing chapters is that 1982 pretty much marked the end of free-flowing football being a style to become World Champions, with Brazil adapting to be a more pragmatic in their victories in 1994 (ironically beating Italy on penalties) and in 2002.

Besides, Horsfield’s own recollections of the games, the book is enhanced with contributions from players, coaches and media at the tournament. Within the chapters on each fixture, the use of quotes from television commentary of the time to describe key moments is a nice touch and almost makes the reader instantly want to look them up on YouTube (which the author helpfully lists at the back of the book). If there is a slight criticism, it is that there is sometimes an overuse of metaphor as Horsfield makes a point about a particular player, coach or situation. However, this doesn’t detract greatly from a book that tells an intriguing story and takes the unusual stance of bringing to life a team that despite its enormous talent, will be remembered for being losers and not winners.


(Pitch Publishing. October 2020. Hardback 255 pages)


Book Review: Out of the Shadows – The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team by Gary Jordan

For many football fans in England, the 1982 World Cup in Spain is simply remembered for the fact the Three Lions were eliminated from the tournament despite not losing a game: a footnote, nothing more than a pub quiz question. However, there is so much more to this oft repeated simplistic one-line memory of England at the 12th Copa del Mundo Finals.

Author Gary Jordan, could have simply gone down the route of writing about the games that Ron Greenwood’s squad took part in during that summer of 1982, but has instead provided a well-researched and in-depth look at providing a story that leads all the way back to the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico. By taking the reader back to that Quarter-Final tie when as World Cup holders England surrended a two-goal lead to West Germany, Jordan pinpoints the start of a period in the international football wilderness for the English National team. Jordan continues in the opening chapter his exploration of England’s fall from grace with the detailing of the infamous 1-1 draw at Wembley against Poland, which effectively sealed Sir Alf Ramsey’s fate, as England failed to qualify for the 1974 Finals in West Germany, and the Don Revie era, tainted by his defection to the United Arab Emirates, with England once again missing out on World Cup qualification, this time to Argentina in 1978.

With Revie gone, Ron Greenwood takes the reigns in 1977 with the aim of ensuring qualification for the 1980 European Championship Finals in Italy and the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain and in doing so, hopefully restore some pride in the Three Lions. This mission for the ex-West Ham United supremo then is explored by Jordan, who skilfully details the changing face of the playing squad as it navigates qualification for the 1980 Campionato Europeo di Calcio in Italy. England qualified for the Finals, after going unbeaten in a group which contained, Bulgaria, Denmark, Northern Ireland, and Republic of Ireland and travelled to Italy with high expectations. However, against a backdrop of English hooliganism on the terraces and dull defensive football on the pitch, England missed out on progression to the knock-out phase, after a draw with eventual runners-up Belgium, a 1-0 loss to hosts Italy and a 2-1 win over Spain.

However, Greenwood now had the task of ensuring qualification for a World Cup for the first time in 12 years and with a draw that saw England in a group with Hungary, Norway, Romania and Switzerland, the English Press were planning their Spanish sojourn even before a ball had been kicked, given what they perceived was an easy group. Younger England fans familiar only with the ease of qualification that Gareth Southgate’s team have enjoyed for the 2018 World Cup and 2021 European Finals, will find the chapters in this book detailing the group games during 1980 and 1981, bordering on the unbelievable, as Jordan describes England stumbling over the finishing line to reach Espana ’82, including at one point the intended resignation by Greenwood and the lows of the losses (all on the road and all by the same score-line 2-1) to Romania, Switzerland and Norway.

However, with qualification achieved, the book turns its attention to the preparation for the tournament and almost has a real-time feel to it as the provisional 40-man squad is whittled down to the final 22 and the last friendlies are played, before the actual tournament itself. Jordan continues though to provide some great insights into the issues in and around the camp during the tournament, with England playing against the backdrop of the Falklands War, concerns about the behaviour of English supporters and the injury struggles of England’s key-players, Kevin Keegan, and Trevor Brooking. History tells us that the Three Lions finished top of their group after wins against France, Czechoslovakia, and Kuwait and went into the second group-stage with hosts Spain and West Germany, where only the winners would progress to the Semi-Finals. England drew 0-0 with the Germans and went into the Spain game knowing that they had to win to have any chance of progressing. With a third of the game remaining and the score 0-0, Greenwood threw on Keegan and Brooking in the hope of pulling off a miracle. It wasn’t to be, but as every good pub-quizzer knows England bowed out undefeated and Greenwood having done what he set out to achieve, made way for Bobby Robson.

There is a useful statistic section included which details the qualifications for the 1982 Finals and the games in Spain itself. A nice touch is the biographies of the 18 players who made the provisional squad, but were cut from the final 22, some never to get near an England Cap or indeed an England squad ever again.

This book just is not just about a largely ignored time in England’s footballing past but tells the tale of football as a whole from a different era, whether this be the coverage it now receives, the preparation squads now have or the globalisation of the sport. As an example looking at the number of teams participating in major competitions then and now shows the growth in just under forty-years. In Italy for the 1980 European Championship Finals, there were just 8 teams in a tournament which lasted only 11 days, the now rescheduled 2021 equivalent, will see 24 teams contest the title over the period of a month. The World Cup too has seen not only the format change, but as with the European Finals a rise in the numbers qualifying for the showpiece event. Spain 1982 saw a 24 team tournament, whist Qatar in 2022, will see 32 countries take part and talk from FIFA of further expansion in future.

Jordan does in this book indeed bring the England team of this era, Out of the Shadows, in an honest reflection of the work manager Ron Greenwood did in a difficult period for the National team. A book for those who remember that time and for younger readers to appreciate the history of the Three Lions.


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2017. Paperback 320pp)