Bruno Conti - Italy

Not much was expected of Italy in this World Cup, the general feelings of negativity that they attracted were due in no small measure to the belief that they would not come out of their defensive shell. Yet there were grounds for optimism, and the Italians were to unveil a star. Born on 13 March 1955 near Anzio, where the Allies had so disastrously invaded in 1944, Bruno Conti had the pace, dribbling abilities and accuracy required of the traditional winger. Not renowned as a great goal scorer, Conti nonetheless had the priceless ability to keep opposing defences under the cosh and create opportunities for his colleagues. His first club was Roma, for whom he was to play nearly all his club football. Owing to the grip that Juventus players had on the national side, it took Conti a long time to break in, his debut not coming until 1980 at the age of twenty-five. In the early games of this World Cup, Conti, like his colleagues, did not shine, not until the semi-final against Poland and in the final itself.

Socrates - Brazil

Brazil continued to produce world class players as if it was the easiest thing in the world. It was perhaps appropriate that a player with the name of Socrates would be one of the more thoughtful participants on the football pitch. Tall and skilful, Socrates always seemed able to anticipate what was happening and gain that extra increment of time that enabled him to play the deadly ball. Planted in midfield, he was the platform from which Brazil launched her attacks. An extremely fleet of foot player, Socrates always appeared to be calmness personified, and in possession of the time he needed to pass. At twenty-eight years of age this native of Belem had been playing professional football for only four years; he had first ensured his qualification as a medical doctor before entering the more lucrative field of football.

Norman Whiteside – Northern Ireland

In the case of Northern Ireland their hopes rested on veteran goalkeeper Pat Jennings and the youngest player in the tournament, seventeen year old Norman Whiteside. Physically robust for his age, Whiteside was known as a prolific goal scorer in his youth, often scoring more than a hundred goals in a season of junior football. Born in Belfast, Whiteside reminded some of his countrymen of the young George Best, a parallel that was pursued when Whiteside joined the same club: Manchester United. Brave in the tackle, he was fast and had a devastating shot, and, owing to his size, did not appear easy to knock about.

Jan Ceulemans - Belgium

The hopes of Belgium reposed in twenty-five year old Jan Ceulemans, who had been instrumental in securing World Cup qualification and in their second place in the European Championships just two years previously. Very much a leader of men, Ceulemans would adjust to the playing conditions, playing slowly at high altitudes or when the temperature was hot, while smoothly slotting in to fill any holes left by his lest astute countrymen. Ceulemans made his debut for Lierse at the age of sixteen, initially as a centre forward. His goal scoring soon earned him a place in the national side.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.