Monday, June 22, 2009

The second big tournament of the year was the Olympic Games. Normally, nobody paid much attention to Olympic football – on one hand, the Olympics were overwhelming with their many sports. On the other – Olympic football was considered second rate and the domain of Communist countries. The West played amateur teams not at all at the level of the professionals. Eastern Europe, pretending to have only amateur sportsmen, used their best players, the actual national teams, and the difference between genuine amateurs and fake amateurs was huge. For that reasons something was missed: Poland won the Olympics. As far as it was still in the usual tradition, nobody really looked closely. To a point, Poland was a surprise winner – they played against USSR at the final, and contrary to expectations, won. Common sense expected USSR to win, but the Poles actually fought. It was sweet revenge for them – Poland played spirited football and visibly fought to the end for the title. The interest in the new Olympic champions stopped there, which was a mistake: this Polish squad was to become the great Polish team of 1974, finishing third at the World Cup. Same coach, same concept, and more or less – the same players. England was to fall victim first – underestimating Poland, the Brits were for nasty surprise in 1973. Poland qualified for the World Cup finals at English expense.

Back row, left to right: Jacek Gmoch – assistant coach, Kazimierz Gorski – coach, Hubert Kostka, Jerzy Gorgon, Marian Ostafinski, Zygmunt Anczok, Marian Szeja, Wlodzimierz Lubanski, Antoni Szymanowski, Jerzy Kraska, Joachim Marx, Zbigniew Gut, doctor, masseur.Front row: Kazimierz Deyna, Zygfryd Szoltisik, Grzegorz Lato, Zygmunt Maszczyk, Jan Latocha, Andrzej Jarosik, Leslaw Cmikiewicz, Robert Gadocha, Jan Wrazy. Under Kazimierz Gorski Poland not only vastly improved their football – similarly to West Germany, this was carefully developed team: exciting core of talented and young players, and smooth replacement of older stars. Poland also benefited by their relatively low status in European football: nobody was concerned with them. The team was really noticed in 1974, when they were the sensation of the World Cup, but the foundations of their success were built in 1972.
USSR on its way to the Olympics final – against lowly Sudan. Kolotov doesn’t seem suprime… the Olympic team was heavily criticized, yet no attention was paid to the champions – Polnad. Perhaps because the Soviets were involved with the first hockey series against Canada (NHL). Olympic football and ice hockey got the same coverage, but the hockey challenge got bigger attention. Football lost.