Wednesday, December 31, 2008

There was no UEFA Cup yet – the third European club tournament was still the original Fairs Cup. Actually, the full name was much longer: International Industrial Fairs Inter City Cup, a tournament proposed in 1950 by the Swiss Vice-President of FIFA Ernst Thommen. The proposal was accepted and the tournament was launched in 1955. Bizarrely, the first tournament ended three years later – in 1958. It was designed for clubs or selected XI from cities with industrial fairs, which greatly limited the number of participants. Did not look like a tournament with any future by the design – more likely one more European club tournament. Of which there were still many active in the 1950s and 1960s – Mitropa still existed; the Balkan Cup; the summer English-Italian club tournament; Intertotto; and so on. But Fairs Cup was closely linked to international football governing bodies – approved by FIFA and supported by UEFA. It was organized differently – instead of one-leg final on neutral stadium, the finalists here played two-leg final, one at home, and one visiting. It was also something like laboratory for checking new ideas – away goals were introduced in the tournament in 1967 and in 1971 – penalty shoot-out replaced tossing of coin to decide winner after stubborn draw. In the same year UEFA took entirely the tournament under its wings and changed it into the UEFA Cup, the number of participants was increased to 64 teams from all European countries and industrial fairs had to do nothing with it anymore. The first UEFA Cup was played in 1971-72, so in 1970 it was still under the old name and somewhat related to its original design. Arsenal won the Fairs Cup, beating Anderlecht (Brussels) 4-3 on aggregate. The Belgians won 3-1 in Brussels, but lost 0-3 in London. No big surprise: both finalists were well known European clubs on one hand. On the other – the Fairs Cup was not exactly ‘fair’: few clubs from fewer cities were allowed to participate. Thus, Dinamo (Zagreb, then Yugoslavia) reached twice the final – losing in 1963 and 1964 – before winning the Cup in 1967. Two Hungarian clubs – from Budapest, as it was city organizing industrial fair – were finalists in 1968 and 1969 – Ferencvaros and Dozsa Ujpest (both lost – from Leeds United and Newcastle United). So Arsenal… good team at the time, forth British club reaching the final in succession, nothing new. Arsenal became English champion in 1971 as well.
Back row, left to right: George Wright (physiotherapist), Bob McNab, Peter Storey, Peter Simpson, Geoff Barnett, Bob Wilson, John Roberts, Ray Kennedy, Peter Marinello, Don Howe (coach)
Sitting: Charlie George, John Radford, George Armstrong, Jon Sammels, Frank McLintock, Bertie Mee (manager), Pat Rice, Eddie Kelly, George Graham, Sammy Nelson.

Monday, December 29, 2008

That was Feyenoord in 1970. Faintly signaling football changes. The Cup-Winners’ Cup – now dead – was the second important European club tournament. In 1970 the competition still mattered… and domestic cups still mattered. I love the traditional Cups – they are, or rather were, different. Every club of the country participates, there were no privileges, so who plays who was a matter of chance. Small teams were able to pull their strength and enthusiasm and go… right to the final. And sometimes winning the finals. Clubs, which had no chance to survive long top division football. However, this peculiarity killed the European Cup-Winners’ Cup – small clubs playing, no interest, and a lot of grumbling from the mightiest in the football world… no financial gains. Basta! Manchester City won the Cup in 1970 – beating Gornik (Zabrze, Poland) 2-1 in Vienna, Austria. Unlike the Champions Cup, the second tournament had various winners so far – not only big clubs from big countries: Slovan (Bratislava) won the Cup in 1969, for instance. But it was becoming British tournament – Tottenham Hotspurs, West Ham United won it before Manchester City and there was Chelsea in 1971. And may be because of that, and because England was among the ‘big boys’ of football, the winds of change were missed again – smaller clubs from the North were winning, playing attacking football. The rigid, stiff, brutal, and defensively oriented Latin football was giving way. Manchester City were solid British team, but not exactly candidates for championship. As for Gornik – although those were their most successful years, they were ever lesser team than Feyenoord. As it turned out, this was the biggest European success of both finalists – and there is no chance of either one repeating 1970 by today’s measures. Unless miracle happens.
Manchester City 1969-70:
Third row, left to right: Alan Oakes, Colin Bell, Mick Doyle, Glyn Pardoe, Tony Book (captain)
Middle row: Malcolm Allison (coach), Arthur Mann, Tommy Booth, Joe Corrigan, Harry Dowd, George Heslop, D. Ewung (trainer)
Sitting: Ian Bowyer, Bobby Owen, Neil Young, Tony Coleman, Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee, David Connor.

Impressive squad, perhaps the best City ever had. But not big surprise in Europe – British teams were regarded traditionally strong, highly competitive. In England City were strong, but one team among many. The glory years ended for City sometime during 1970s, when this squad aged and one by one retired.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

If Nacional was relapse to old football in 1971, lets return… to 1970 (looks like I will never change the year?) Estuduiantes won Libertadores, but there was shift in Europe – The European Champions Cup was Latin property – Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese clubs dominated the tournament until 1967. Celtic (Glasgow) and Manchester United won the Cup in 1967 and 1968. The shift to the north was normal – after all the British Isles invented the sport. Milan reestablished the status quo in 1969. They trashed barely known finalist – Ajax (Amsterdam). Interesting, but accidental. Ajax rivals Feyenoord (Rotterdam) won the Cup in 1970. Looked like change? New clubs moving up? Well… everything was quickly forgotten under the big shadow of the great World Cup 1970. Feyenoord did not play total football, they were somewhat traditional. Surprise winners, but let’s see the next season – everything will be back to normal. Next year was Ajax’s first European Champions Cup. I don’t think enough attention was paid yet – they were noticed, but only that. Ajax won over ‘chance’ finalist and did not play the International Cup – hard to measure. Interesting team, surely… I am inclined to think that the Dutch were really noticed in 1972 – when Ajax won their second European Champions Cup; Holland’s national team was no longer outsider; and excellent West Germany won their first European title. Total football finally established itself and the Dutch ‘promising’ players became the superstars of the 1970s. As for Feyenoord in 1970 – just one time wonder (which they were not, but if we look from 1974 standpoint).

Feyenoord in 1969-1970:
Standing, left to right: Piet Romeijn, Eddy Treijtel, Eddy Pieters Graafland, Cor Veldhoen, Wim Jansen, Rinus Israël, Guus Haak, Theo Laseroms.
Sitting: Franz Hasil, Henk Wery, Theo van Duivenbode, Wim van Hanegem, Ove Kindvall, Ruud Geels, Coen Moulijn.
A standard team of the time: two foreign stars – Ove Kindvall (Sweden) and Franz Hasil (Austria, with 21 caps and 3 goals); few national players – Romeijn, Israel, Laseroms, Wery, van Duivenbode, van Hanegem, Moulijn; and the rest of solid professionals and promising youngsters (Jansen and Geels were not making the first team yet). May be Israel and van Hanegem were the most familiar names outside Holland, but even they were not regarded as European stars. The Swedish national centreforward Ove Kindvall was by far the most impressive name in the squad. And he was the only Feyenoord player to appear in Mexican World Cup 1970 [those were still ‘vegetarian’ days – national squads rarely included foreign based players. Sweden was perhaps the country with most ‘foreigners’ in 1970 – Kindvall, Kurt Axelsson (FC Brugge, Belgium), Tom Turesson (FC Brugge, Belgium), Jan Olsson (VfB Stuttgart, West Germany), and perhaps Inge Ejderstedt (I am not sure did he become Anderlecht, Belgium, player before or after the World Cup). How different from today…].

Feyenoord -ADO (Den Haag), August 1969. Ove Kindvall scores and ADO-keeper Ton Thie can’t do nothing with his desperate plunge.

June 1971. Scoring in the net of Haarlem. Kindvall was champion with Feyenoord and Dutch goalscorer of the season this year.

The moment of glory - Coen Moulijn lifts the European Champions Cup. Unless you are rather old Dutch, chances are you never heard of Moulijn. But you remember Ernst Happel Stadium from the European Championship 2008? Well, before he became stadium Happel was football coach – the very same, who led Feyenoord to their first European success.

Like his players, Happel was one of the stars of the 1970s and early 1980s – after Feyenoord, he coached FC Sevilla (Spain) 1973-75, was at the helm of FC Brugge (Belgium) 1975-78 (losing European Champions final to Liverpool), led Holland to second World final in 1978, and Hamburger SV (West Germany then) to their big years in the early 1980s. The Austrian coached HSV from 1981 to 1987. Happel was player before getting a sit on the bench – played for Rapid and Austria (both Vienna), Racing Club de Paris (France) in the 1950s, and in the national team of Austria, including the World Cup finals 1954. That is why today he is transformed into a stadium.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One more story about Nacional 1971: how about the ‘goalkeeper’s curse’? Goalkeepers were and are the pariahs in South America. In Europe they have some aura, they are often respected – Zamora and Planicka were huge stars before the Second World War for instance. Under the Southern Cross goalies were always guilty and more so in Brazil. Barbosa was hated to the end of his life for the winning goal the Uruguayans scored in his net in 1950. He was blamed and is still is blamed for the world title Brazil lost. But more you can read in Alex Belos’s ‘Futebol. The Brazilian Way of Life’. Ailton Correa Arruda or Manga (born 1937) was goalkeeper of the disastrous Brazilian team at the World Cup 1966. The team is regarded the worst Brazilian squad ever. Now, imagine the outrage in 1966… and then ‘sober’ views… well, can you really think Pele ‘the worst”? Who made the team so bad? Must be the goalie. Manga played for Botafogo with the likes of Nilton Santos, Zagallo, and Garincha (no matter what, nobody hates Garincha!), not an obscure player, if not a star. But he moved away from Brazil in 1967 – joined Nacional. In my opinion, Manga run away to a more tolerable place, where nobody will pester him. He won 4 national titles with Nacional – 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972, Libertadores Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup in 1971. Then he returned to Brazil, winning 2 national championships with Internacional (Porto Alegre) in 1975 and 1976 (King Pele has zero Brazilian titles in contrast). Then he played for smaller teams, before finally moving to Ecuador to win yet another national title with Barcelona in 1981 and finishing his career at the age of 44. Not bad for a goalie well remembered for 1966 fiasco and never called to the national team after that. Perhaps Manga took to heart the ‘lesson’ of Barbosa… who was forbidden to visit the Brazilian training camp as late as 1993 for fear of bringing bad luck.
Barbosa – unforgiven to death. Recently Dida pleaded for clemency… but who believes a goalie in Brazil?
Manga played in the last World Cup 1966 Brazilian match – and lost from Portugal.
The team against Portugal:standing: Orlando, Manga, Brito, Denílson, Rildo and Fidélis;first row: Mário Américo (masseur), Jairzinho, Lima, Silva, Pelé and Paraná.
The worst ever?
Manga (right) lifts the Brazilian championship cup in 1975. He is not listed among the legends of Internacional (Porto Alegre). Was he a bad goalkeeper? Or just unmentionable one?

Monday, December 22, 2008

1971 brought new Copa Libertadores winner – in dramatic three games Nacional (Montevideo) edged Estudiantes. Both teams played the final in 1969 – then Estudiantes won both legs, but it was different two years later. The Argentines won 1-0 in La Plata, but lost with the same result in Montevideo. The third match was scheduled in Lima, Peru. The Uruguayans won 2-0. Nacional won its first Libertadores and Estudiantes ‘era’ ended.
Nacional for the first match with Estudiantes:
Second row, left to right: Juan Martin Mugica, Manga (Brazil), Juan Masnik, Juan Carlos Blanco, Atilio Ancheta, Julio Montero-Castillo.
First row: Ignacio Prieto (Chile), Ildo Enrique Maneiro, Victor Esparrago, Luis Artime (Argentina), Julio Cesar Morales.
Nacional played without their typical blue shorts this game. Their great star and perhaps the best Uruguyan player of that time – Luis Cubilla – missing.
As names, at least Nacional featured more famous players than Estudiantes ever did – Cubilla, Mugica, Masnik, Ancheta, Montero-Castillo, Esparaggo, Morales played regularly for the national team. Luis Artime, although aging, was famous Argentine star. Prieto played for Chile in the 1966 World Cup. Manga played for Brazil in the 1966 World Cup. A classic team – few domestic stars, three foreign stars, and the rest – solid workhorses. Just the opposite of Estudiantes – ten disciplined murderers, collective tactic, and one superstar in front. Killing the opposition and feeding the Witch. Collective, disciplined, tactically minded team – Bilardo was may be right: Estudiantes was ahead of its time, fit for the 1980s. If it was the future, it was rejected – it was ugly. But Nacional was outdated… just by playing differently, Estudiantes showed the days of slow technical game were over. Change in Latin America? Not quite: unlike Europe, there were no newcomers like the Dutch teams. Nacional was traditional powerhouse: one of the two giants and eternal rivals in Uruguay and among the top South American big clubs for years. Even by those measures Nacional was rather return of the establishment – Estudiantes, never as big as River Plate, Boca Juniors, and may be another two-three Argentine clubs, were more befitting for ‘avant-garde’. However, it is impossible to speculate further: the contestants for the Intercontinental Cup in 1971 were the losers of the finals in 1969. It may have been interesting to see how they measured two years later and how new they were, but it was not to be. Ajax refused to play and Nacional won against the runners-up Panathinaikos (Athens). This final is interesting retrospectively only in terms of Greek football – more or less, the ascent of the Greeks started then. By itself, the contest attracted little international attention and was not a clash to brag about. Even against the Greeks Nacional did not score a lot – 1-1 and 2-1, not exactly a compliment for a team having Cubilla, Artime, and Morales. Cubilla scored 129 goals for River Plate (Buenos Aires) between 1964 and 1968 (not counting goals for other clubs). Morales scored a total of 191 for Nacional (not counting goals for Austria, Vienna).
Artime scored more than 1000 goals during his career. (here playing for River Plate). Stagnated football?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Copa Libertadores was perhaps no different than the Intercontinental Cup, but it was far away from Europe, visibility and scrutiny: it was not televised in Europe. Only results came, rarely accompanied by reviews and commentaries. Those were Argentine years – beginning from 1967 and until 1976 the gauchos won Libertadores, save for 1971. In 1970 Estudiantes (La Plata) won Libertadores for third successive year. It was the team of Juan Ramon Veron – ‘La Bruja’ (‘The Witch’, father of the more familiar today Juan Sebastian Veron – ‘La Brujita’, ‘The Little Witch’). Deadly attacker, as the nickname shows… may be. One Carlos Bilardo played in this Estudiantes formation too… years later, after coaching Argentina to their second world title, Billardo said that he employed the tactics of Estudiantes from late 1960s. May be the revelation explains Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ against England in 1986? Estudiantes – and Billardo himself – were regarded as brutal team in the 1960s. Different story in 1986 – ‘We were disciplined, strongly tactical in defense’, Billardo said, ‘Intelligent team. I prepared Argentina to play like Estudiantes used to.’
Hard to say now were Estudiantes worth watching or were they innovative team in the late 1960s, but something else can be said: Argentina dominated South American club football during years of decline. Argentina missed World Cup 1970 and was terrible in 1974. Uruguay declined rapidly in the 1970s. Brazil in 1974 was pale shadow of 1970. The big three were in crisis, and unlike Europe, no other country stepped up in South America – Peru and Chile were largely the second-rate group there and remained second-rate no matter how weak the big countries were.
Estudiantes 1969 – great innovators or arch-villains?
Standing left to right: Pachame, Poletti, Malbernat, Aguirre Suarez, Madero, Togneri.
First row: Rudzky, Carlos Bilardo, Conigliaro, Flores, La Bruja – Juan Ramon Veron.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It seems to me today, that the World Cup heavily clouded the rest of football in 1970. On the level of national teams the status quo somehow remained unshaken, but it was not so on club level. There were interesting winds blowing in domestic championships and international club tournaments. Looking south, nothing new… if the old Intercontinental Cup is considered, it was competition in crisis, tainted by violence from its very beginning. South American clubs dominated, but playing dirty. It was one thing when the European club was Latin – they played dirty too. Celtic and Manchester United, however, were outraged when they faced argentine clubs in 1967 and 1968. The whole atmosphere was poisonous on and off the pitch. The South Americans won both years after ugly games. In 1970 it was Feyenoord vs Estudiantes (La Plata). Feyenoord won, but the brutality remained. Next year Ajax refused to play and the runners-up Panathinaikos replaced them. Ajax refused to play in 1973 as well. Bayern, not shrinking violets themselves, refused to play in 1974. In 1975 the Cup was not contested at all, as well as in 1978. Liverpool refused to play in 1977; Nottingham Forest in 1979… The tournament – supposedly the highest world club competition – was dying and was saved by Japan in 1980, when instead of two-leg (home and away) final one match was to be played in neutral Tokyo. It was good promotion of football in the country of the Rising Sun and seized the endless violence and mean trickery of South American clubs (for instance, Cruyff received death threats in Argentina in 1972 and had to be guarded by teammates.) The Intercontinental Cup was not football, it was war.
Unbecoming for a King – Pele (Santos) fights with Inter (Milano) players in 1963. The ugly tradition was established early.
Typical scene of Intercontinental Cup – Celtic (Glasgow) and Racing Club (Avellaneda, Buenos Aires). Three games were needed for Racing Club to prevail – two of them in South America.
Manchester United lost to Estudiantes (La Plata) in 1969. In what sport they lost, though?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Well, the top was bright, but there was bottom too… Two finalists did not get even a point – Czechoslovakia and El Salvador. Morocco and Bulgaria got one point each, and Israel – 2 points. Czechoslovakia was in tough round robin group with Brazil, England and Romania. No blame for them, but there was something else – Czechoslovakia was up and down team: second in the world in 1962, missing 1966, non-impressive in 1970, missing 1974, European champions 1976, missing 1978, Olympic success after that, and so on. Bulgaria was the biggest failure and practically the worst team in 1970, yet, according to tradition – nothing new. They were outsiders in 1962 and 1966, repeated the pattern in 1974 and 1986. This was supposedly the best Bulgarian team ever, according to optimistic Bulgarian journalists before the finals, but the truth was rather different: team Bulgaria somehow exhausts itself during qualifications and is entirely lifeless at the finals. The rest were classic outsiders – nobody expected nothing from them, they were at the finals for ‘colour’ and for strong teams to improve their goal difference. El Salvador obviously reached its highest point by qualifying and going into war with Honduras because of that. Morocco got a point, but hardly big achievement – it came from the draw with dead Bulgaria. Israel was best – 2 points extracted from Sweden (1-1) and Italy (0-0). Not bad… Israel played for first and – so far – last time at finals. It was also the last time Israel played in the Asian qualification zone: Arab boycott qualified them. The refusal of Arab countries to play against Israel eventually moved the country to the European zone. It is not clear would they had reached the finals in 1970 if they were not boycotted, but if they stayed in Asia probably would have reached more finals. Politics…
Morocco got a point, but there was no hint yet of African football becoming serious. Wait for the 1980s
Israel in 1970. Representing Asia and the best team among the outsiders. Is such a picture to appear again? Playing in Europe, Israel has little chance to reach World Cup finals.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What was the World Cup showing? Exciting team Brazil, the first country to win three times the World Cup and thus retiring the original cup, the Golden Nice – it was stipulated from the establishment of the tournament, that whoever win three times will keep the cup forever. The 1970s begun signaled significant change symbolically: new cup, new format, new teams. The World champions were considered – and still are considered – the best Brazilian teal ever. Second finished Italy – European champion of 1968. Team studded with stars in their prime and team representing the style of the 1960s – the ultra-defensive ‘catenaccio’. Still dominant style, apparently – just a notch under the attacking style of Brazil. Third ended West Germany – talented and young team, obviously with bright future, but not just ripe for success yet. Uruguay represented the other side of South American football – technical, but tough and tactically oriented. England surrendered their 1966 title gracefully – with a bit of luck, it could have been different. It was still the great team of Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, and Gordon Banks. No shame losing to the Germans, yet a tiny hint of change of guard – the Germans were younger. Peru was the pleasant surprise, suggesting that South America is not only three countries. Highly competitive tournament – two of the ¼ finals and one ½ final went overtime, yet it was not defensive minded championship – only 3 games in the round robin groups ended 0-0 (two of them Italian – no surprise). A plethora of stars, some young, promising greater future of the game. Tostao and Jairzinho were those to watch in the coming years and, in the same time, Pele was only 28 years old. Carlos Alberto, the captain of the great Brazil, was 26. Beckenbauer was 24, finishing his second World Cup already… just a few examples.
Carlos Alberto
Three players considered both present and future in 1970. Not so a little later – Tostao suffered eye problems and had to end his career prematurely. Jairzinho seemingly never reached his magic from 1970 again. And what exactly happened to Carlos Alberto?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

West Germany played tough ½ with Italy. Overtime again, but this time Italy went ahead, winning 4-3. Meantime Brazil was sailing easily – beating 4-2 Peru at the ¼ finals and Uruguay 3-1 at the semis. The Germans won the ‘little’ final vs Uruguay 1-0. Third place still mattered then. Brazil spectacularly won the final with Italy – 4-1.
After the final wistle Pele and Enrico Albertosi congratulate each other smiling. Gianni Rivera is not exactly grieving either in front of them. The Italian goalkeeper was first choice of Italy in the late 1960s and Dino Zoff mere reserve. The two were almost same age and played long, but what a change of luck: in the late 1970s Albertosi was part of the next big Italian bribing scandal and was banned for two years in 1982. His Milan was punished to play in the Second Division. Zoff not only enjoyed success with Juventus, but captained Italy to their third World Championship in 1982. Albertosi was disgraced at 43; Zoff was on top of the world at 40. Smoking cigarettes between first and second half in the dressing room.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Curiously, Bulgaria and Peru played friendlies before the finals, and everybody in Bulgaria was confident – Peru was not much of an opponent; Morocco were just flunkies, and the second place in the round-robin group was guaranteed. West Germany was too strong, but nobody else – an easy group. Bulgaria had the best ever team… or so was the opinion then. Going directly to the second stage, no doubt about it. Well, Bulgaria lost 2-3 to Peru (now everybody ‘saw’ the ‘wisdom’ of the winter mountain training camp – the players suffered from the Mexican heat and hardly walked on the pitch). They lost ‘confidently’ from the Germans – 2-5, and ‘improved’ the Moroccan record – 1-1. End of story… Peru went to the 1/4 finals and, although no further, they pleased both crowds and specialists enough: players were noted. For instance Hugo Sotil, who was the first foreign player Barcelona bought after Spain lifted the ban on foreign players in 1973.
West Germany continued to impress, reaching the semi-finals. Gerd Muller was the top scorer of the tournament. He was already European Footballer of the Year in 1969. He had great playmates and his scoring magic was at its highest – his goal against England was one of the most popular moments at World Cup 1970:
Muller scores and Peter Bonetti – ‘the Cat’ – can’t do anything about it. Unlucky or lucky Cat? Gordon Banks got the ‘Montezuma revenge’ and the reserve goalie played his only match… which was lost. Muller was supreme, though – already long-haired; still beardless. As for the Cat: older Chelsea consider him the club’s all time best keeper. Not using gloves… in 1970 gloves were still optional choice for goalies
And another look at the same goal – the winning German goal in overtime. Was it the only fun?
Not at all - this is the famous moment of Uwe Seeler's header with the back of his head.
Bonetti is beside himself – Germany just equalized 2-2. Seeler has just scored… and this was not the only drama of ¼ finals…

Saturday, December 6, 2008

One thing was already noticed at the time: Central Europe lost its football dominance. Hardly news by 1970 – the shift occurred earlier. Central European football dominated Europe before World War II. Austria declined rapidly; the European West became the new leader. It was slow change – Hungary dominated the 1950s and memories lingered, obscuring signs of decline. Slow decline, of course. Signs of ascent also were hardly noticeable – Holland was improving without nobody paying attention. Turkey and Greece also started their climb up. Such changes are traceable only from historic standpoint, from time distance. If anybody in 1970 suggested Holland, Turkey, Greece would be among the strongest European nations, he would have been called ignorant idiot. And the same would have been if anybody suggested that Hungary will be among the weakest football nations in the future. The 1970s were time of big changes, but not changes envisioned in 1970 – Ajax played at the European Champions final in 1969, and Feyenoord won the Cup in 1970, yet nobody thought it more than freak accident.
Total football did not register yet – the focus was on the attacking football played by Brazil, West Germany and England vs almost equally strong defensive Italian football. 1970 was still traditional, no change in the hierarchy. Rather, it was ‘pleasant’ that attacking teams were winning and teams like Peru (the surprise South American finalists, pushing out Argentina from 1970 finals) performed well.
The sensational win of Peru against Argentina – 1-0 in Lima.
And Ramirez (left) burst in happy tears – Peru goes to the finals.
Training for the World Cup. Nobody imagined Peru to impress at the finals – they were in round-robin group with West Germany, Bulgaria, and Morocco.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bulgaria qualified for World Cup 1970 finals for third time in succession, after reaching the finals in 1962 and 1966. The country reached the finals in 1974 as well and I think this information is good point for observing football in the early 1970s and the changes taking place at the time. Only 16 teams played at the finals then, largely European affair, for half of the finalists came from Europe. Africa, Asia, and Central-North America were still non-entities, having one place each at the finals. South America had three berths. Add the raining world champion and the host country with granted berths. More or less, the structure was fair – best football was played in Europe and parts of South America. Just to make it true world tournament the rest of the globe was allowed to send 3 teams, but nobody expected anything from the outsiders (the surprise performance of North Korea in 1966 did not shake attitudes and opinions – and rightly so: North Korea sunk among the rabble immediately). Europe was central in every respect, but it was still Europe of only 32 countries (with old Communist USSR, Yugoslavia, East Germany and Czechoslovakia and without small fry like Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Farroe Islands). The big guns were well known – England, Spain, Italy and West Germany. They were the mightiest for variety of reasons – old victories, money, superstars, strong clubs. Not every factor played equal role – Spain routinely underperformed on international level, but had giant success on club level. West Germany was the opposite – with newly established national division, German clubs were not yet regarded powerhouses, but they were financially strong. And Germany was already World Champion from 1954.
Under the mightiest was large group of countries relatively strong, but not undisputed. USSR and Yugoslavia were more or less at the top of the middle group and Holland, for instance, the bottom. None among these countries was unbeatable – in the middle existed relative parity. Given momentary form; some good luck; particularly strong generation of players, and anybody was able to beat the rest. Some countries had successful clubs – Portugal’s Benfica ranked among the top European clubs for example, but others did not have even this – Polish clubs were traditionally weak. Even France, with old professional football regularly employing foreign players, was not remarkable – not a single hot club, rather unimpressive domestic championship, and often lackluster national team.
At the bottom were the punching bags: the Scandinavian countries (except Sweden), Wales, Northern Ireland, Eire, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg. Austria and Switzerland tended to be part of this group too. The divisions were regarded stable and for all practical reasons changes up and down appeared only in the middle group. Temporary changes at that.
Given the European hierarchy, the teams qualifying for the World Cup 1970 were hardly surprising. Of course, in the actual time some results were commented – Spain failed to qualify. Portugal was even bigger disappointment: the exciting team from World Cup 1966 finished dead last in their qualifying group. Yugoslavia, Hungary and France missed the boat, but USSR, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Sweden were happy finalists. From the distance of time there were no surprises whatsoever: Portugal was based on the great Benfica team – but it was aging generation. Eusebio was still bright star, but some of his teammates already retired and there were no strong replacements. Spain was less of a surprise – this country is traditionally shy of international success (two European titles is everything they ever won – and the second title came in 2008). The rest was typical European shuffle among relative equals. The Bulgarian example illustrates the situation: they were in qualifying group with Poland, Holland and Luxembourg. From Bulgarian perspective Poland was the only real difficulty. In terms of European hierarchy, it was to be either Poland or Bulgaria. Nobody expected Holland to win the group – at best, her role would have been arbitrary: sneaking a point or two from one of the real candidates, Holland would have helped the other. Luxembourg did not count. At the end Bulgaria won one point above Poland – winning all home games, losing the away game in Poland and getting a point in Holland. Poland lost their away match from Holland and missed the finals. And the rest of the European groups followed similar scenario – at best, there were two teams with chances to reach the final stage, more or less depending on the results against third weaker team. No newcomers, no team shaking the status quo.
Bulgaria won their home game against Poland 4-1. Here the young and raising star Hristo Bonev – in my opinion, the best ever Bulgarian midfielder – attacks the Polish net. Hubert Kostka desperately tries to prevent the goal…
But it was Bulgaria… Asparukhov kisses the goalscorer Bonev. On the right – in front of the Bulgarian net Simeonov clears confidently. Important win, yet, it was the away game with Holland qualifying Bulgaria.