It took 48 games to get to this point in the tournament. There are 4 teams left, one of them will go home with the greatest sporting honor any country can hold: they’ll be los Campeones del Mundo, Champions of the World at the World Cup of Football.
As we head to the semi-finals, I’ll be posting a brief description of each of the countries left in the tournament.
Yesterday, I profiled Portugal. Today, I’ll profile their neighbors on the Iberian peninsula, and their opponent in the Mea Copa semi-finals, Spain.
None of the teams playing in this Mea Copa semi-final round made the semi-finals in Mexico 1986. The Spanish, however, came very, very close.
Spain’s only blemish in group play was a controversial 1-0 loss in group play against Brazil. In that match, the Spanish had a goal disallowed that hit the crossbar, bounded downwards and bounced out of goal. Replays showed that the ball had been over the line and should have put Spain in the lead.
Later in that same match, Brazilian legend Socrates scored the game-winner on a header after a rebound off the crossbar, but Spain protested that he should have been called offside. Here is a link to video of the goal, you can decide for yourself if Socrates was offside or not.
Spain looked formidable as they advanced to the World Cup quarter-finals to face Belgium. But the Belgians were up to the task.
After barely making it out of the group stages with a 3rd place finish, the Belgian team shocked the world by defeating the heavily-favored Soviet Union.
Belgium held a 1-0 lead against the Spanish until the 85th minute, when Spain’s Juan Senor tied the game with a rocket from 30 yards out. Thirty minutes of extra time and the game was still tied. The game would come down to penalty kicks, and while Belgium was perfect, their goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff stopped the effort of Spain’s Eloy Oyala. I’ll let you read the report from The Evening News, June 23, 1986.