España 82 – Zaragoza – La Romareda

It’s easy to forget just how good Real Zaragoza were in the 1960’s & 1970’s. Runners-up in the league, three third place finishes, two wins in the Copa and a European trophy to boot. Over this period, their La Romareda stadium started to reflect this success. When it opened in 1957, it was a smart but relatively basic arena with one covered stand and three open sides on a single tier. It’s capacity stood at 27,000, but with one eye on the forthcoming World Cup, the local municipality started work in 1976 on extending the stadium.

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During the 1976-77 season La Romareda was extended, with both end terraces gaining an upper tier and covers, which extended around from the main west stand around to the edge of the old east terrace. These extensive areas of standing raised La Romareda’s capacity to 50,000, but it was a short lived high. In 1978, La Romareda was confirmed as a host venue for the 1982 World Cup and underwent a 120 million peseta refit. This included adding a roof to the newly refurbished east side, adding seating to the upper tiers, new floodlights and new press facilities in a two storey free standing block behind the main west stand. La Romareda now had a capacity of 46,920 and hosted three matches during the finals featuring Yugoslavia, Honduras and Northern Ireland. They were poorly attended with the ground barely half-full for the Yugoslavia games and only 15,000 attending the Honduras-Northern Ireland fixture. Apart from the addition of seating, La Romareda remains pretty much unaltered from 1982. Memories of España 82 are further reinforced in front of the main entrance to the stadium, where the participants are commemorated with their names on individual flag poles. You can read more about La Romareda here.

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This was a game of attrition played in temperatures approaching 40ºC, which saw Northern Ireland do well against the fancied Yugoslavs. The match also saw the debut of Norman Whiteside, who became the competitions youngest ever debutant at 17 years and 41 days. The scoreless draw, coupled with Spain & Honduras’ tie left the group wide open.

Another evenly matched game saw Northern Ireland take the lead in the 10th minute when Armstrong headed in after the ball had struck the bar. Honduras earned a deserved equaliser on the hour mark when Laing headed in from a corner.

Honduras had proved difficult opponents for both Spain & Northern Ireland and now posed problems for Yugoslavia. The deadlock was finally broken with two minutes of the match remaining when Petrovic scored from the penalty spot.

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