The first game of the 1978 FIFA World Cup pitted Italy against France. Italy were favored to win but had been victims of plenty of dull and unexciting performances leading up, while a rejuvenated French team were making their first appearance since the 1966 world cup. The first goal came with under a minute as goalkeeper Bertrand-Demanes passed the ball to Didier Six who ran down the entire length of the pitch before delivering a good cross that Bernard Lacombe headed past Dino Zoff. Italy controlled the rest of the match and equalized half way through the first half when after the ball pinged around the area it glanced off the unsuspecting Paolo Rossi and into the goal. It would be the first of 9 goals Rossi would score at the finals. Shortly after the beginning of the second half substitute Renato Zaccarelli's shot went in. The Italians saw out the rest of the match, which saw little chances except for Maxime Bossis's shot that flew just wide of Zoff's post. Despite it being an unremarkable match it featured the emergence of two teams that would dazzle the world four years later at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
Italy once again had an uncertain start against Hungary in their second group game and appeared nervy early on, and Hungary had several good chances to score. But just after the half-hour mark Paolo Rossi made it two goals in two games by firing home after a shot had deflected into his path. Just a minute later Roberto Bettega took advantage of some poor defending to make it two goals in two minutes. Mid way through the second half Romeo Benetti fired in a superb shot and Italy had the victory all but secure. It could have been so much more as the Italians hit the crossbar a total of three times in the game. Late on Hungary won a penalty kick, which was dispatched by substitute András Tóth but it was just consolation as Hungary were eliminated and Italy confirmed their spot in the second round.