España 82 – Alicante – Estadio José Rico Pérez

Since being awarded the World Cup in 1966, Spain’s Costa Blanca had evolved from a series of small towns and fishing villages, into one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. One of the main beneficiaries of this boom in tourism was one José Rico Pérez, an Alicante based builder and businessman, who persuaded the Spanish World Cup Committee that the gateway to the Costa Blanca, would be an ideal host city for the 1982 finals. Pérez was also president of Hércules CF and had funded the building of their new stadium, which had opened in 1974 and hosted an international three years later, when Spain played Hungary.


The new stadium was inaugurated on 3 August 1974 with a friendly match against Barcelona. It had taken 11 months to build and had an initial capacity of 30,000. On its southern side stood a two tiered stand, with large banks of bench seating come terracing around the remaining three sides. Although perfectly suited to Hércules, the stadium would require further development for the World Cup, so Señor Pérez dipped into his considerably deep pockets and financed the building of a huge extension to the north terrace, that would become known as the Grada Mundial del Tejero or World Tier. With additional seating, the new capacity stood at 38,700, and attracted a decent average of 31,000 for the three matches it hosted. They were two group matches featuring Argentina, El Salvador and Hungary, as well as the Third Place match between Poland and France. You can read more about the stadium and it’s resident club, Hércules CF here.

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Following Argentina’s shock defeat to Belgium in the tournament’s opening fixture and Hungary’s annihilation of El Salvador, many pundits were predicting another defeat for the current world Champions. They needn’t of worried as order was restored with a comprehensive victory for Argentina, thanks in no small part to a virtuoso performance from Diego Maradona. His two goals and others from Bertoni and Ardiles put their hopes of retaining the trophy back on course.

Argentina knew that a win against the unfancied Central Americans would secure a place in the second round, but like Belgium, they faced a packed El Salvadorian defence. Passarella scored a disputed penalty in the first half and Bertoni doubled their lead on 52 minutes. It was hardly convincing and with a second round tie with the flamboyant and fluid Brazilians next up, this ageing team knew the writing was on the wall.

Credit to both sides who, despite the disappointment of losing their Semi-final ties only a few days before, produced an entertaining third-place play-off match. Boniek returned for the Poles, whilst France made wholesale changes, playing many of the squad who had yet to feature. Poland prevailed thanks to goals from Szarmach, Majewski and Kupcewicz, whilst Girard and Couriol scored for the French.

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