World Cup Moments – 1982: Kevin Keegan’s header

Today’s edition of ‘World Cup Moments’ focuses on Spain ’82, and the form and fitness of Liverpool legend Kevin Keegan. Henry Jackson looks back at the tournament, in particular an agonising moment for one of the Reds’ greatest ever players.

The Tournament

Italy and West Germany contested the 1982 World Cup Final at Santiago Bernabeu, having beaten Poland and France in the semi-finals, respectively. The latter’s penalty shootout win was overshadowed by goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s horrific challenge on Patrick Battiston.

The final itself was a one-sided affair, with the Azzurri cruising to a 3-0 win. Paolo Rossi, voted the best player at the tournament, opened the scoring with his sixth goal of the competition, before Marco Tardelli doubled the lead. His celebration remains one of the most iconic in World Cup history.

Alessandro Altobelli added a third, before Paul Breitner’s late consolation for West Germany. It was Italy’s third World Cup triumph at the time. Their fourth would come 24 years later in Germany.

Ron Greenwood’s England side, featuring Liverpool stars Phil Neal, Phil Thompson and Terry McDermott, progressed through the first group stage, having gained six points from clashes with France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait.

Their journey was to end in the second group stage- there was a different format in 1982, with 24 teams competing and two separate group stages- as West Germany pipped the Three Lions to top spot to progress to the semis.

Unfit Keegan’s moment to forget

By this stage of his career Kevin Keegan was arguably past his peak. His great days at Liverpool and Hamburg had been and gone, and he was now plying his trade at Southampton. Although at 31 he was not getting any younger, he remained a key player for England.

Sadly for the Reds legend, he picked up a serious back injury prior to the tournament, which further delayed him making his first ever appearance at a World Cup. England’s failure to qualify for both the 1978 and 1982 tournaments meant he never graced football’s greatest competition in his prime.

Despite injury, Keegan was still named the Three Lions’ official captain, but he didn’t play at all in the first round. As it happened, the diminutive striker played just 26 minutes in total.

That was in the vital game against hosts Spain, in which England had to win by two clear goals in order to qualify for the semi-finals.

With the score deadlocked at 0-0 and time ticking away, substitute Keegan had a glorious chance to put England ahead, but glanced his header wide with the goal gaping. It was a moment that summed up Keegan’s misfortune at World Cups, and Greenwood’s men could only draw the game.

Had he converted his chance there was every possibility that the Three Lions would have got a second and progressed, but as it was the tournament was to be remembered most vividly by England fans for Keegan’s miss.

Other LFC Players Present at the 1994 World Cup

Alan Hansen (Scotland)- Eliminated in the first round

Graeme Souness (Scotland)- Eliminated in the first round

Kenny Dalglish (Scotland)- Eliminated in the first round

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