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My World Cup: Osvaldo Ardiles (Argentina, 1978, 1982)
OSSIE Ardiles had a brief spell with Blackburn Rovers towards the end of his career, having previously been in the Argentina team that won the 1978 World Cup. He tells us what it was like.
FOR many, Argentina 1978 will always mean ticker-tape and frenzied crowds.
But former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Ossie Ardiles was pretty much oblivious to it all.
At the time, he was too busy trying to win a World Cup.
Ardiles is one of only three ex-Rovers players to have played in a World Cup final, along with Dino Baggio and Youri Djorkaeff.
But he remembers little of the 3-1 victory over the Netherlands, and even less of the events on the periphery.
“You can look back afterwards and see on the television how great the atmosphere was,” says Ardiles now.
“But at the time you couldn’t stop and think, ‘Oh look at that’.
“We had to stay focused on the football because we wanted to win.”
Argentina infamously went into the tournament under a military dictatorship after the Junta seized power in a coup.
Hosting the World Cup for the first time, the pressure was on.
“For every international footballer there is always pressure,” says Ardiles, who had made his debut for Argentina in 1973 but missed out on the World Cup in West Germany a year later.
“But of course the pressure was incredible. A lot of our players were in unknown territory because we had not played at the World Cup before, but the coach Cesar Luis Minotti made us believe that we were going to win it.
“At the time there was the Junta but if you look backwards I don’t remember any time when we had democracy.
“It was not just Argentina, it was all across South America.
“But we weren’t politically involved at all. We were just football players.”
Argentina – with Ardiles an impressive performer in midfield – progressed through the first round but could only draw 0-0 with rivals Brazil in the second group phase, meaning their qualification for the final would go down to goal difference.
A 6-0 victory over Peru was more than enough, but has been shrouded in innuendo ever since.
Had a backroom deal influenced the outcome of the match?
“There was a lot of controversy about it,” Ardiles said.
“For Menotti and the players, I am sure we did not do something.
"Whether something happened at a higher level, I don’t know. We will never know.”
Then came the final against the Netherlands, played in front of 77,000 in Buenos Aires.
Mario Kempes put Argentina ahead but Dick Nanninga took the game to extra time before Kempes and Daniel Bertoni won it in the additional 30 minutes.
Ardiles said: “Kempes was our ace in the squad who gave us that little bit extra to win the World Cup.
“I don’t remember too much about the game. I just remember the end.
“That is always the best feeling, when the final whistle blows, as long as you are winning!
“I was happy with how I played at the tournament, but everyone played to a high level for us to win that World Cup.
“As a player you wanted to be in the first team, then you wanted to play for your country, you wanted to play in a World Cup and of course you wanted to win it.
"Luckily I managed to do all of those things.”
Ardiles joined Tottenham after that World Cup and also played in the 1982 tournament, as Argentina finished bottom of their group in the second phase.
Unusually for a midfielder, he even wore the number one shirt.
“It was only because of alphabetical order, but at least I could say I was the number one player!” the 57-year-old laughs.
“But that World Cup was a big disappointment because we had pretty much the same squad that won it, plus Jorge Valdano, Ramon Diaz and of course Diego Maradona.
“Four years later Maradona pretty much won the World Cup on his own.
"It was always brilliant to play alongside him.”
Ardiles’ loan move to Ewood Park came in March 1988 and, although injury restricted him to only seven appearances as Don Mackay’s side missed out on promotion to the top flight with a play-off semi final loss to Chelsea, he still has happy memories of his time at the club – and his link-up with former Barcelona striker Steve Archibald.
“Steve was someone I knew from Tottenham,” said Ardiles.
“He spoke to the chairman and I agreed to sign. I was only going for two or three months to try to help them get promoted.
"Unfortunately I had an injury and then we could not get the promotion.
“But the fans were good to me.
“Maybe having me and Steve Archibald there did help them to sign more big names after that.
“I would like to think I helped in some small way.”
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