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.