Rincón, about to score one of his goals.

Benito Villamarín Stadium and the legend of the 12-1

An iconic night at Helióplis

Every December, Benito Villamarín Stadium opens its gates to history to remember that memorable night that will turn 35 years soon. The achievement of that Spain's 12-1 against Malta that took the world's spotlight and has become since then part of the imaginary of the whole country. A deed located in Seville and forged in the home to the béticos.

It was the first time in history that Real Betis Balompié acted as host for a national team game. The Spanish side has never played before in a pitch owned by the Green and White Club. There had been a Spain vs Portugal played in the Stadium de la Exposición on the 17th of March 1929, but Betis didn't own that stadium back then.

In 1982, the renewed Benito Villamarín had hosted two World Cup games but, as it is known, none of them were of Spain national team.

Now, finally, Betis had the chance to brag about organising a national team's match. This decisive match was granted to the Club for their 75th anniversary.

And what a night it was. The attendance was around of 75% of the stadium capacity and 25,000 small flags that the Federation had given away waved in the stands.

Anyhow, Spain needed a historical feat that night in order to qualify for the 1984 Euros following what had happened the previous Saturday. That evening, in the Dutch town of Vanenburg, under a cold and snowy weather, the "Clockwork Orange" put five goals past Malta.

Holland were our rivals to get a ticket for France 84 and that score forced Spain to beat the Maltese by, at least, an eleven-goal difference. To be more precise, the 'Oranje' had 13 points, with 22 goals scored and 6 conceded. Spain, on the other hand, had 11 points, 12 goals scored and 7 conceded. Bearing in mind the clashes between the two affected sides (1-0 for Spain in Sevilla, and 2-1 for Holland in Rotterdam) it all was down to the goal difference in case both teams got the same points (back then, a victory was awarded with 2 points).

Obviously, it was a difficult quest, everyone knew it. The key to achieve it was hard work. A week of intense training sessions under the water, as at that time, it poured down in Seville as it had not rained in a century.

In this scenario, under these conditions, the great moment arrived. Finally, at 8.10 p.m. of Wednesday 21st of December, first day of Winter, the national players step on the green at Villamarín in search for the impossible. Two Real Betis representatives among them: Rafael Gordillo and Hipólito Rincón.

National coach Miguel Muñoz had picked a quite offensive team with a 3-4-3 system and the following line-up: Buyo; Goicoechea, Maceda, Camacho; Señor, Víctor, Gordillo; Rincón (Marcos 88'), Sarabia, Santillana, Carrasco.

Malta national coach, Victor Scemri, had stated in the days prior to the game that it was "impossible for Spain to score eleven goals". Their line-up was: Bonello; E. Farrugia, Tortell, Azzopardi, Holland; Buttigier, Demanuel, R. Farrugia (M. Farrugia 71'); Spitari, Gonzi, Digiorgio.

The game was conducted by Turkish referee Erkan Goksel who had a good performance in general.

Spain comes on the match like a hurricane and in the second minute, Carrasco is brought down inside the Maltese box. The referee points to the spot. Señor takes the ball. He makes a feint, shoots softly and the ball hits the post. Horrible start.

The stadium mumbles when, after a quarter of an hour, a header from Santillana opens the score. It seems the beginning. However, nine minutes later, it looks like the end. The Maltese, in the first time they cross the midfield line, tie the game after a deflection on Maceda that leaves Buyo wrong footed.

It's then when Villamarín start to play. Moved by the disappointment, the fans yell louder than ever "Spain, Spain" and soon two more goals from Santillana come along. After that, the Spanish players rush too much and nothing changes before half time.

In the dressing room, Muñoz tries to motivate his lads. It seems impossible but, why not? That is what Real Betis striker Hipólito Rincón thinks as, back again on the pitch, he scores two goals in eleven minutes. At that moment, the whole country cheers at the same rhythm. It's a race against the clock, but Maceda breaks the beat twice in two minutes. The Sporting de Gijon centre back makes the score 7-1 and provides the assist for Rincon to score the eight. 27 minutes left. 4 more goals needed.

Benito Villamarín Stadium starts to look like a madhouse, immersed in a wonderful craziness. In the 75, Santillana makes the ninth; three minutes later, Rincón scres the tenth; in the 79, Sarabia the eleventh? and time stands still.

Muñoz, in his blue tracksuit, stumbles in the side line with two police officers; all the fans are standing; the nation has interrupted supper; it starts to rain? Goals are coming, but the decisive one is still needed.

Then, according to the narration of the TV commentators, "Víctor goes forward, he gets inside the area, he's about to shoot, is brought down, the ball comes loose, Señor shoots from just the box and goooooooaaaaaal!"

From that moment until the end, Villamarín sings 'olé, olé, Spain is going to Paris.' The national coach says is the happiest day in his life; the country's President makes a call to the dressing room to congratulate the winners and the scoreboard still shows a 12-1 that will be talked among future generations.

That game against Malta became, and it would still be it until Spain became world champions, the most important and celebrated victory in Spanish football. And it had to be at Real Betis stadium.