The conditions of this World Cup were in stark contrast to the chilly conditions of a Buenos Aires winter during the 1978 final match; the weather was typical of a summer night in Madrid: warm and pleasant. After a scoreless first half during which Antonio Cabrini fired a penalty low and wide to the right of goal, Paolo Rossi scored first, heading home a bouncing Claudio Gentile cross from the right from close range. Marco Tardelli then scored from the edge of the area with a low left footed shot before Alessandro Altobelli, at the end of a counterattack by winger Bruno Conti, made it 3–0 with another low left footed shot. Italy's lead appeared secure, encouraging Italian president Sandro Pertini to wag his finger at the cameras in a playful 'not going to catch us now' gesture from the stands. Paul Breitner scored for Germany in the 83rd minute, firing low past the goalkeeper from the right, but Italy held on to claim their first World Cup title in 44 years, and their third in total with a 3–1 victory.
Coming after their 1934 and 1938 victories, Italy had now drawn level with record champions Brazil. Italy's Paolo Rossi won the Golden Boot as the tournament's top goalscorer, and the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player (awarded for the first time). Captain and goalkeeper Dino Zoff at forty also became the oldest player to win the World Cup.