(Or if the World Cup had kept 1-11 numbering in force)
By Jim Hearson
We’re back with more renumbering of World Cup winners and, to be frank, it’s something of a mixed bag. Once we get past the first, we’re into a whole world of pain, so we may as well begin – to 1970.
1970: Brazil 4 Italy 1
After their initial misstep in 1958, Brazil had really got into the swing of giving their best players the right numbers and playing them in the final. It may sound pretty simple, but as we’ve seen, it’s not always attainable.
Just the one change needed and it gives us the classic Santos (or Argentinian) back line of 4-2-3-6 – it may feel odd to those who are used to 2-5-6-3 or suchlike, but this is the Brazilian way. Even the player whose number needs replacing is pleasingly digited in the first place, with Everaldo’s 16 easily switchable to 6.
1974: West Germany 2 Netherlands 1
With all due respect to the Dutch, having to do this with Jan Jongbloed wearing 8 would’ve been pretty tricky, so in that respect, it’s fortunate that West Germany were the ones to clinch the trophy.
That said, the midfield already has something of a clash, with Wolfgang Overath and Uli Hoeneß both wearing 10 almost exclusively through their careers. However, Overath came point to his seniority in the team to take the coveted shirt, while Hoeneß can be happy with 8 – something he did do a couple of times on international duty anyway. The third midfielder – Rainer Bonhof – is a simple switch from 16 to 6.
Further forward, Bernd Hölzenbein wasn’t a stranger to 7 at Eintracht Frankfurt – he didn’t wear it all the time, but out of the available numbers, he seems to have worn that more (thank you Transfermarkt). That leaves Gerd Müller with 11, which on the one hand feels a little alien for a man associate with 9 and 13, but on the other, what’s the average of those two numbers…? As an added bonus, 11 for a centre-forward has quite a bit of heritage in Germany.
1978: Argentina 3 Netherlands 1
There’s no escaping awkwardness here, thanks to Argentina’s completely alphabetical squad numbering. You must give credit to them for seeing it all the way through, rather than making exceptions for certain star players who want their favourite numbers.
The easy ones first – Alberto Tarantini can wear 3 at left back, Leopoldo Luque can adopt the centre forward’s 9, while you better believe that Oscar Alberto Ortiz will be scuttling up the left wing in 11.
And now assigning 1 and 8 to a right back and centre half. Hmm… Well, looking into the future, when Argentina chose to play with wingbacks, they often dropped their 8 from midfield to perform the role, so there’s a degree of suitability for Jorge Olguin to take that shirt, leaving Daniel Passarella to be the lucky recipient of 1.
1982: Italy 3 West Germany 1
Ah, the classic Italian block numbering conundrum. While there is a great deal of logic to assigning all the lower numbers to your defenders, the middle numbers to your midfielders and the highest numbers to your attackers, it still makes you itch a bit.
Still, no point looking a gift horse in the mouth – as a result of the blocks, all the defenders are sorted for sensible numbers… but that does mean we have 2 available. The best logic available would be to give it to the next most defensive player, which in this game was Gabriele Oriali at defensive midfield.
Further forward gets a bit tricker – sure, there’s 8, 9, 10 and 11 to give to four attacking players, but they need to be in the most suitable ones possible. Fortunately, Marco Tardelli was known to wear 8 at Juventus on a number of occasions, and Bruno Conti occasionally wore 11 for Roma, even though 7 was his more usual digit.
Then we have the forwards, or rather, strikers, given that they both wore 9 almost exclusively throughout their careers. While there could be arguments made about seniority, importance to the team and all that good stuff, for this one, we’re going to lean into the block numbers – Francesco Graziani can move from 19 to 9, while Paolo Rossi can switch from 20 to 10.