Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Group 2 was seen as the weaker semi-final group and West Germany the favourite. The little gamble worked: Argentina and Brazil were avoided, both teams – but especially Brazil – traditionally difficult opponents for West Germany. Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia were traditionally the opposite of Brazil – beatable teams, no matter form. Which was important, for West Germany was still struggling.
They opened against Yugoslavia, and although the Plavi tried hard, the Germans won 2-0.
Schwarzenbeck and Acimovic fighting on the ground for no ball. An interesting photo in retrospect: the players look in opposite directions – one for the World Cup, the other – for going home.
Poland – Sweden was a disappointment… the Polish bubble was predicted to burst and contrary to learned opinions, it did not. Sweden played strongly, but lost 0-1. Well… Poland was surely to expire in the next match.
Yugoslavia played good once again and once again their opposition played a notch better. Poland won 2-1. It was probably this match finally opening eyes and Poland suddenly was taken seriously.
West Germany – Sweden was one the most entertaining matches of the tournament – open and attacking. The Swedes did not betray their habits to play well at every match, but their style was convenient for the Germans. It was goal for goal for awhile, then the hosts got the upper hand and the match ended 4-2, not without some weird moments to thrill the watching public.
Bjorn Nordqvist and Ralf Edstrom unable to prevent Gerd Muller from shooting at their net.
Rainer Bonhof, one of the fresh revelations in 1974, takes a shot at the Swedish net – Hellstrom, Bo Larsson (#7), and Jorgem Augustsson are too late… but what a headacke they were anyway.
Perhaps the moment changing the whole match: Jurgen Grabowski’s lucky goal. The ball hit both posts before ending in the net. Hellstrom cannot believe it, but West Germany leads 3-2.
Sweden and Yugoslavia were out before the third round, yet they made entertaining match, much to everybody surprise. Sweden nobody doubted – this is a team always playing honorably – but Yugoslavia was expected to give up. For a change, the Balkan boys did not write the meaningless match off. Sweden won 2-1.
Dzajic shooting and Jan Olsson hiding from the ball – looks like Yugoslavia was stronger?
Well, more of a equal match really – Dzajic attacks followed by determined Andersson. At the end it was Sweden, not Yugoslavia.
Poland – West Germany, the match to decide who will play at the final. Nature played a joke before the match: torrential rain started and ended, clear skies came back, but the pitch was a lake. The mighty German technology was helpless.
Workers tried their best to dry the pitch, to no success.
The natural disaster changed the game immediately: in the swamps, where one may kick the ball with full strength and the ball would not move at all, there was more a battle of wills than plain football.
Gerd Muller trying to move the ball in the mud, tackled by Polish defence of course.
On occasional dry patch Uli Hoeness looks superior, but it is an illusion – predatory Deyna and Domarski surround him.
It is deadly 0-0 and Hoeness misses a penalty. A tie was enough for the Germans, because of better goal difference, but… who can vouch for a tie in the swamps?
Yet, West Germany managed to score and won the match 1-0. This was the match when West Germany was seen as most likely World Champion: it was the German spirit, unbreakable, unshakeable, and never giving up, which was revealed in full. Under terrible conditions, they still tried to play, their physicality aided them and made them slightly better than Poland, and finally won the match. It was also the match when finally the German winning team was forged: defense was no problem, but midfield and especially attack were shaky from the very first match. Helmut Schon tried and tried – Grabowski was in and out; Heynckes was out; Wimmer was in and out; until Bonhof firmly replaced Wimmer in midfield, providing energy in both defense and attack; and Holzenbein was placed at the left wing, with Muller in the centre and Grabowski at the right wing. The changes confirmed a basic truth – competitive long line of players gives much better chances than basic eleven players and the rest of the squad clearly making the numbers from inferior players. A great coach is also innovative one – Schon used Bonhof in unusual role – more like defensive midfielder, which was not his typical position. The attack was even more improvised: neither Grabowski, nor his club teammate Holzenbein were wingers – Grabowski was centreforward and Holzenbein was normally an attacking midfielder. But they played well at their new positions, particularly Holzenbein, who became enormous problem for the opposition with his habit of flying like a butterfly as soon as he was inside the penalty area. Crying with pain, he was dropping dead on the grass… asking for a penalty. Whether given or not, Holzenbein got up healthy and unruffled the next second – he was the first player to do this trick regularly. Today it is a bookable offense, but in 1974 it was not and Holzenbein elevated such fakes to real art. Unfair? May be, but one has to think of those old days: short of actual murder, the refferrees were indifferent to illegal tackles inside the penalty area. To defensive brutality, never punished, Holzenbein responded with pretense hard to distinguish from real foul on one hand, and was very visible to be ignored at the same time. True to habit, the referees rarely blew their whistles for his antics, but defense was confused: what if the referee suddenly gives a penalty? They tried to stay away from Holzenbein, which was no help either, for when left alone the German… scored. He was a deadly weapon and Schon was quick to see the advantage of playing him after discarding Heynckes and unsuccessfully experimenting with Herzog. It was a long and painful road, and a lot of criticism had to be endured, but finally, against Poland, the German team was shaped, additionally boosted by the win in tough swampy conditions. It was after this match when I was almost certain that West Germany will win the tittle. And I was not alone in thinking so – a bittersweet feeling, for Holland were the most exciting team. May be the mud is the true test for champions.
1. West Germany 3 0 0 7-2 6
2. Poland 2 0 1 3-2 4
3. Sweden 1 0 2 4-6 2
4. Yugoslavia 0 0 3 2-6 0

Monday, December 27, 2010

Football is hopelessly irrational – predictions, analyses, expectations, high opinions, reason… all is dust and empty words. Only traditions count, but this is against reason too. Semifinal Group 1 was to be a Russian roulette – one faulty or unlucky move and somebody else may go to the final. Except East Germany, which was to be just a possible troublemaker. And surely Brazil and may be Argentina will finally reveal their true nature. They did… by continuing to play badly.
East Germany opened against Brazil and it was clear that the lesser Germans already played their best match. It was not that they did not fight, but fighting was no longer enough: East Germany lacked imagination and technical skills. It was physical, straight forward team, and very predictable because of that. Brazil struggled and suffered, just like in the first round, but the opposition was simply unable to take advantage. At the end Brazil won 1-0 – and their goal was the best moment of the match:
It was a set peace of a free kick: Jairzinho placed himself in the German wall and strangely was not pushed away by the defenders. Rivelino with fantastic precision kicked the ball exactly where his teammate was staying. Jairzinho dropped on the ground and ball moved through the opening to rest in the net of the unmoving Croy.
This goal was the only difference between artistry and dullness and it settled the match.
Meantime Argentina was annihilated by Holland – 0-4. The Dutch were flying; the Gauchos were entirely off their horses. And it was not like the Tulips were just flying effortlessly: when they had to tackle, they did without mercy. Some romantics…
Suurbier teaches Perfumo how to kill – reason told the opposite, but the Oranje cared not for reason. As for their overall superiority, the final result is the best argument.
The next victim of Holland was East Germany. The physically fit, constantly running Germans were more uncomfortable opponents, but versatile Holland won 2-0 without much difficulty.
Neeskens scores for Holland. This is the most ‘ economical’ performance by the Dutch: they did not really shine.
Argentina and Brazil played slow game, trying to outsmart each other – since the Brazilians were slightly better, they won with a slight margin – 2-1. And it was Holland and Brazil to decide the finalist.
Argentina and East Germany, already out and disinterested, ended in a 1-1 tie.
The battle of the giants… there was no battle: Holland ruled with confidence. 2-0.
Both teams with their reserve kits, thanks to FIFA’s requirements in 1974. At moments, the match was ugly, although it is hard to say who was guiltier by the picture alone – is it a Brazilian trying ti kick a Dutch or is it a Dutch crashing a Brazilian?
Both teams were good at kicking opponents: here is Rijsbergen in action.
Yet, Oranje scored and Brazil did not not. The second goal in the net of the three times World Champions.
1. Holland 3 0 0 8-0 6 points
2. Brazil 2 0 1 3-3 4
3. DDR 0 1 2 1-4 1
4. Argentina 0 1 2 2-7 1
So far, Holland was the supreme team at the tournament. Their performance at the semi-final group was exceptional – not for a second there was a doubt who was in command of the game. The Dutch scored plenty and their improvised defense was… perfect. Holland did not receive a single goal! True, the opposition was clearly outplayed, but the South Americans are devious no matter their momentary form. Holland ended with perfect record and perfect team – Michels did not change his first eleven and used substitutes – at least from fan perspective – largely in jest: to give a few more players a chance to try the grass. However, de Jong played more than well when coming on the pitch.
Brazil reached second place and was to play for the bronze medals, but the team was a disappointment. No magic came out of the magical Brazilians, except for the brilliant goal against East Germany. And their record revealed the sad truth – Brazil was not able even to produce positive goal difference. Yet, they were still considered favourites for the bronze.
The last two played worse than they did in the preliminary groups. DDR was expected to be outsider, but Argentina was a dissapointemnt, steadily going downhill from one match to the next. The East Germans at least exited happy, cherishing sweet memories from the winning match against West Germany. The Argentines… they continued the exodus, although their performance did not make hot property – Carlos Babington, for instance, went to play for Saarbrucken, hardly a big West German club. But forget the losers – Holland was the deservingly big thing, promising exiting final and very likely World Champions wearing orange shirts.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

After the round robin stage there was a brief pause before the beginning of next round – semi-final round robin groups were to be played for the first time, but already all doubts about the innovation were gone. The teams reaching the second round were largely deserving – Scotland was missed, but Italy was not, given their awfull performance. New predictions were manufactured in the pause… West German gamble was working – they were in the ‘weaker’ group with Sweden, Yugoslavia, and Poland. Convenient teams for the Germans, it was judged, and the hosts were seen as the favourites. As for the second place, it was to be largely a battle between Sweden and Yugoslavia. Polish bubble was expected to finally burst: they played above themselves, the verdict was, but now it was time for them to settle for… last place.
The other group was really tough – East Germany was considered most likely finishing last, but had a chance to do better too. Unlike Poland, DDR was seen actually getting stronger – fueled by their surprise win over the ideological arch-enemy and facing troubled Brazil and Argentina, it was possible to get a point or two, with some luck may be reaching second place. The real battle was to be between Holland, Brazil, and Argentina. The South Americans were expected finally to start playing their ‘real’ football and although the Dutch looked great, who can tell what the South Americans can pull out of their sleeves? A point nibbled away here, a goal missed there, and the first place may go to… any team except DDR. The news from the team camps kind of supported analyses, predictions, and lunacy. One thing was certain: so far, the tournament was good and was to become better. West Germans trained in their disciplined fashion as ever; the Dutch looked overconfident and relaxed; the Brazilians were grimm and determined; the rest were quiet…
Miguel Angel Brindisi and Carlos Alberto Babington – what the Argentines are doing? Relaxing or learning some new viscious tactic? With such concentration, watch out for them!
Nordqvist, Sandberg, and Hellstrom – the Swedes looked homely and unassuming as always. But look out for them too – their casual attitudes are deceptive. Once on the pitch…
And what a difference: Brazil training hard and very relaxed Cruyff and company. Watch out… Brazil seems determined to return to glory and Holland may be too arrogant already and pay dearly for overconfidence. Why, it should be Brazil engaged in lax training and Holland under disciplinarian Muchels training breathlessly.
No matter – the first round ended and tougher one was coming. Forget what happened just a few days back – it was to be something entirely different from now on. Who had the best chances? Well… West Germany and Holland. May be Holland…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

At their opening game against Argentina Druzina Polska dropped their first bomb: they played exciting attacking football and won 3-2. Stunning the football, the Poles also disturbed the situation in the ‘certain’ Group 4 – it was no longer certain one. Poland suddenly had a chance to qualify for the second round.
Polish captain and playmaker Deyna much stronger than his more famous opponent Heredia. New names were noted and they played with white jerseys, not with skyblue-white stripes.

Robert Gadocha with a lethal free kick. The picture clearly tells the difference of class.
‘Iron’ defense vs speedy attack – the bankruptcy of old-style football was evident as well as the end of South American illusions of ‘modern football’: modern football was attacking and scoring. And did the Poles score!
Their second match was clear even before the beginning – there was no doubt that Haiti will lose, the only question was by how many goals. Turned out by seven – the Polish win 7-0 was the second highest result in the whole World Cup. What was not clear before the game was that Poland will be qualifying for the second round – there was possibility, depending on the result of Italy-Argentina. Since this match ended in a draw, Poland surprisingly, but deservingly, qualified before the third round robin round.

Morini clears the ball and Yazalade watches. Italy looked like crawling to the second round.
Good for the Poles, but bad for Argentina – now it was ‘certain’ that they were going home. Poland was still thaught just a lucky freak team – surely they played well so far and pleased everybody, but it was time the Polish bubble to burst. Enthusiasm is one thing; quality – quite another. Besides, Poland does not need any more points and surely will take it easy. Besides, Italy needs just one point and who on earth is the master of scoreless ties and extracting points just when needed? Besides, Rivera and company vs Deyna and whatstheirnames? No contest…
And no contest it was: Poland won 2-1. The result was… a compliment to Italy, for it suggest some kind of almost equal play. On the pitch Poland was much better and short of miracle Italy standed no chance. A second Polish bomb exploded.
Anastazi tackled by Polish defense. The picture really displays the most distinctive feature of total football – those, who practiced it always outnumbered the opposition. Anywhere on the pitch.
The result benefited Argentina; Italy went home in disgrace, and Poland not only ended first in Group 4, but had the best record of all teams – 3 wins in 3 games. Best scoring record too – their lethal attack scored 12 goals. Yugoslavia was second with 10 goals, but 9 of them were scored against Zaire. Poland scored 5 goals in the nets of the most defensive teams! Lubanski was already forgotten – there was a trio of fantastic players – Lato - Szarmach – Gadocha – entertaining the watching public with shattering attacks and goals. There was Deyna commanding the game from midfield. There was Kasperczak running everywhere. There were Gorgon and Szymanowski killing opposite attacks, but going ahead whenever they had a chance. There was Tomaszewski between the goalposts – the goalie called ‘a joke’ by Brian Clough was hardly a joke. The world was quickly learning Polish names.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Before 1974 Poland appeared at World Cup finals only in 1938. It was long time ago and Polish football did not rank high. Their successful elimination of England was mostly seen as a freak accident. Polsih players were largely unknown and the general verdict was that Poland would be just happy to appear at the finals. They were in Group 4, the easiest to predict round robin group: mighty Italy first; strong Argentina second, very weak Haiti last, and Poland – third. They were surely to win over Haiti and to lose against the favourites. When Wlodziemierz Lubanski got heavy injury and was out of the national squad, observers shrugged – without the only relatively famous player, what chances Druzina Polska had? None. True, they were the last Olympic champions, but the Olympics were seen as Eastern European affair without much clout – the Poles were brave enough to resist orders (real or imagined) and eliminate the Soviets at the Olympics, and good for them, but now they were not to play against fellow Comminists, but against real teams. The sensational elimination of England? Just luck and English folly. Don’t bother with Poland.
And nobody bothered - especially since the only relatively good Polish club, Gornik (Zabrze) was going through generational change and was not winning at home. In 1972, at the Olympics, the team was more or less based on Gornik, but now those players were gone (retired or playing abroad their last football years). What was left? Gorgon, Gadocha, and Deyna – may be good by East European standards, but far below ‘real stars’… nobody paid attention to the steady and methodic work of Kaziemierz Gorski, who was building his team for quite a few years, carefully adding and shaping. The lack of interest and expectations was just as well for the coach – without Lubanski he had enough trouble on his head. At the end, it was typical Polish selection of players representing many clubs – the country never had dominant 2-3 teams, providing the bulk of the national team anyway. The list of players was interesting only because of their numbers: one more team with unusual numbers on their backs. The Poles numbered their players by lines – 1,2,and 3 were the goalkeepers; then followed the whole defense; then the midfield, and the strikers got the highest numbers. Number 9 was the central defenseman Zmuda. After the finals the Poles joked that the numbers were due to Adidas – so unknown were the names of the players, that Adidas was not able to figure out who plays what and produced the kit following just the list of names. Jokes are jokes – it was not really Adidas fault, for at the time there were no names on the backs of the shirts, so it was up to the Polish to give numbers, not to Adidas, but still the fact remains: the Poles were absolutely unknown.
Head coach: Kazimierz Górski
No. Pos. Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Andrzej Fischer 15 January 1952 (aged 22) 1 Górnik Zabrze
2 GK Jan Tomaszewski 9 January 1948 (aged 26) 14 ŁKS Łódź
3 GK Zygmunt Kalinowski 2 May 1949 (aged 25) 4 Śląsk Wrocław
4 DF Antoni Szymanowski 13 January 1951 (aged 23) 28 Wisła Kraków
5 DF Zbigniew Gut 17 April 1949 (aged 25) 9 Odra Opole
6 DF Jerzy Gorgoń 18 July 1949 (aged 24) 31 Górnik Zabrze
7 MF Henryk Wieczorek 14 December 1949 (aged 24) 3 Górnik Zabrze
8 DF Mirosław Bulzacki 23 October 1951 (aged 22) 16 ŁKS Łódź
9 DF Władysław Żmuda 6 June 1954 (aged 20) 2 Gwardia Warszawa
10 DF Adam Musiał 18 December 1948 (aged 25) 25 Wisła Kraków
11 MF Lesław Ćmikiewicz 3 May 1947 (aged 27) 32 Legia Warszawa
12 MF Kazimierz Deyna 23 October 1947 (aged 26) 49 Legia Warszawa
13 MF Henryk Kasperczak 10 July 1946 (aged 27) 17 Stal Mielec
14 MF Zygmunt Maszczyk 3 May 1945 (aged 29) 16 Ruch Chorzów
15 FW Roman Jakóbczak 26 February 1946 (aged 28) 1 Lech Poznań
16 FW Grzegorz Lato 8 April 1950 (aged 24) 13 Stal Mielec
17 FW Andrzej Szarmach 3 October 1950 (aged 23) 6 Górnik Zabrze
18 FW Robert Gadocha 10 January 1946 (aged 28) 49 Legia Warszawa
19 FW Jan Domarski 28 October 1946 (aged 27) 13 Stal Mielec
20 FW Zdzisław Kapka 7 December 1954 (aged 19) 2 Wisła Kraków
21 FW Kazimierz Kmiecik 19 September 1951 (aged 22) 9 Wisła Kraków
22 FW Marek Kusto 29 April 1954 (aged 20) 1 Wisła Kraków
Poland at their training camp, posing with visiting pop star Malgorzata Potocka. Can you name the boys? Don’t worry – they were anonymous yet.
After training with the singer, the Polish squad quietly arrived in West Germany. They were not expected to excel.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Argentina opened their first match as favourites. They fought and… lost 2-3 to Poland. A surprise. The result does not really tell the story, though – the Gauchos were outplayed. Just like the rest of the South Americans, they were playing outdated kind of football. They were major disappointment. Their ‘iron’ defense was leaky. They were lucky to escape with such a loss.
Lato (16) scores another one after Carnevali’s (1) mistake. Defense is everything in modern football? The Poles told ‘El Polaco’ different story.
Disgraced, but not discarded – Argentina, like other giants on feet of clay, was told to improve in the second match. They kind of improved, for they played against Italy, equally sluggish, outdated, and defensive minded. Two teams resting on defensive tactics never makes for great match and rarely produces anything else, but a draw. In this case – 1-1.
Houseman scores for Argentina, beating Zoff. Burgnich watches at left. So far 1-0 for Argentina… but not to the end.
The last match against Haiti was not brainer – it was sure that Argentina will win, but it was also sure that winning or not, it would not matter: Poland with two wins already qualified, and it was expected the Poles will lose their match with Italy. Either Poland would not play strongly enough, preserving strength for the next round, or Italy will be finally playing as they should – no matter what, Argentines were goners. They won of course, but heir ‘impecable’ defense allowed a goal again – 4-1. Meantime Poland won and small miracle happened: Argentina fulfilled predictions and finished second in the round robin group! Not by their own efforts, but second they were, going to the second round instead to undeserved summer vacation. Well, prophets emerged anew – the ‘real’ Argentina will show great football at the second round! Just way and see – theor luck will boost confidence and ambition. Why, they may become world champions yet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

There are teams with special aura; teams always feared and considered favourites, no matter their current form. Argentina is such a team, but by 1974 it was a special case, because the gaushos never won anything at the world stage. They were the second strongest South American country, and always ranked among the strongest world teams – the one, which may burst into winning at any moment. And since they failed to qualify for the 1970 World Cup, now, in 1974, they were certainly coming back with a vengeance.
But by 1974 Argentina was in deep crisis – the country was between military dictatorships: one just ended in 1973, and democracy was greeted with escalating Leftist terrorism. Which irritated the men in uniforms (a new Junta came to rule in 1976). The economy was in shambles and the country was already in chaos. What was left, was football.
Well, not quite: Argentine football was slumping in deeper and deeper crisis for more than ten years. It was not entirely separated from the state of the society, yet had its own peculiarities having nothing to do with larger social unrest. Bir part was the club structure: well before 1974 almost all Argentine clubs should have been bankrupted and folded for good – if they were normal football clubs. Every club was indebted with astronomical sums and none was able to repay even a fraction for years. Worse, international success proved to be suicidal – the prime example is Racing Club (Avallaneda), which never recovered financially from… winning Copa Libertadores in 1967. Not until mid-1990s, when it became the first privately owned club in Argentina – and practically a brand new club, for the transformation from public into private club did not include the debts. The trouble with the clubs was they not strictly speaking sports clubs, but something similar to North American community centers: public structures, providing various facilities and services to the surrounding neighbourhoods. The football section, although keeping professional team, and guzzling enourmous amounts of money, was structurally equal to, say, old ladies crochet section. It was very old structure, particularly strengthened during the rule of Peron in the mid-1940s. No politician dared touch football clubs, because touching them meant immediate repercussion from larger society: after all, closing football club meant closing more general services as well. And the clubs remained, accumulating more and more debts and ever short on cash. Which led to frequent strikes by unpaid for months players and by 1974 there were even more weird events: at least on one occasion regular match was not played, because bank’s officials came and ‘ceased’ the whole squad – the only material possession of the debtors. And the best time to ‘collect’ debts was before a game, when the ‘collateral’ was in one peace in the dressing room. No wonder Argentine players were massively moving to play abroad.
In 1972 ‘El Grafico’ estimated about 293 Argentines playing in 23 countries - from Chile to Canada, and from England to Turkey.
The numbers given by one of the greatest football magazines in the world are suspect, indicated by Bulgaria given as Tirkay on the map. The Uruguayans immediately objected the meager 3 Argentines in their clubs, given by ‘El Grafico’ – they said there were about 23 Argentines in Uruguay, only aggravating the reliability of the information. Which is immencely difficult to prove, for one can hardly find any foreign names in Greece, Turkey, and England at the time; Italy and Spain officially did not import foreign players; and as far as USA and Canada are concerned, it was never sure whether a player was a temporary hired hand, or genuine immigrant, intending to stay for good. Since most players were not recognizable names in the sport, most were considered local players in their new lands: ‘oriundi’ of one nationality or another; assuming citizenship and new names (most likely the case in Greece); or economic and political émigrés, making a living from football in countries short on talent, like USA and Canada. But even with reservations, the exodus was huge and alarming, especially when Argentina briefly included a Paraguayan born – and naturalized Argentine – player in the national team. Talent was seemingly drying at home… and, with that, the ever irritating question were foreign-based players to be included in the national team? They were, thanks to the domestic shortage.
The qualifying campaign was successful this time, unlike the one four years ago, but nobody was happy with the team coached by one of the biggest worldwide stars in late-1950s-early 1960s: Omar Sivori. Nothing helped the coach, even the European tour in 1973, which, at least in Europe, got plausible reviews. Sivori was sacked and new coach was hired for the World Cup: one Vladislao Wenceslao Cap.
‘El Polaco’ was unknown in 1974 and even less today, but he was a former national player, part of the Argentine squad at the 1962 World Cup. As a coach, he seemed less adventurress than Sivori, who tried many players, both domesticly and foreign based. Cap settled on well known veterans, some, like Perfumo, were part of the ill-rememberd Argentine 1966 World Cup team; some promising youngsters; and some,who appeared to be in good at the time. The last portion of the team was a mixture of domestic and ‘foreigners’ – Hugo Bargas (Nantes), Ruben Ayala and Ramon Heredia (Atletico Madrid), and Hector Yazalde (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal) were of this category, especially Yazalde, who was unlikely to be called for national duty, if not winning the Golden Boot exactly then. It was a suspect squad, seemingly not based on tactical reasoning, but just a bunch of players in good current form. Cap thought otherwise and stated so – he was the only coach in 1974 to announce defensive tactic – even the Italians did not dare to say openly they were playing defensive game by that time. To Cap, modern football was strictly defensive affair: fortify the defense and if you get occasional chance for counter-attack – good, but not essential. Cap went on record saying that ‘Attacking football is a suicide’. What was the role of Ayala, Yazalde, and Kempes in the team was mystery to all, may be most to the strikers. So far, so good: Argentina was coming to West Germany to stay in their own half, but the imbedded problems of Argentine football protruded once again to the front lines. The team was to fly to Europe on May 4 and the departure was postponed – the players striked, demanding better payment and clarity about it. Negotiations took place, solved at last, and team arrived in Europe on May 12.
Head coach: Vladislao Cap
No. Pos. Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Daniel Carnevali 4 December 1946 (aged 27) 2 Las Palmas
2 FW Rubén Ayala 8 January 1950 (aged 24) Atlético Madrid
3 MF Carlos Babington 20 September 1949 (aged 24) Huracán
4 FW Agustín Balbuena 1 September 1945 (aged 28) Independiente
5 DF Ángel Bargas 29 October 1946 (aged 27) Nantes
6 MF Miguel Ángel Brindisi 8 October 1950 (aged 23) Huracán
7 DF Jorge Carrascosa 15 August 1948 (aged 25) Huracán
8 MF Enrique Chazarreta 29 July 1947 (aged 26) San Lorenzo
9 DF Rubén Glaria 10 March 1948 (aged 26) San Lorenzo
10 DF Ramón Heredia 26 February 1951 (aged 23) Atlético Madrid
11 MF René Houseman 19 July 1953 (aged 20) Huracán
12 GK Ubaldo Fillol 21 July 1950 (aged 23) River Plate
13 FW Mario Kempes 15 July 1954 (aged 19) Rosario Central
14 DF Roberto Perfumo 3 October 1942 (aged 31) Cruzeiro
15 FW Aldo Poy 14 September 1945 (aged 28) Rosario Central
16 DF Francisco Sá 25 October 1945 (aged 28) Independiente
17 MF Carlos Squeo 4 June 1948 (aged 26) Racing Club
18 MF Roberto Telch 6 November 1943 (aged 30) San Lorenzo
19 MF Néstor Togneri 27 November 1942 (aged 31) Estudiantes
20 DF Enrique Wolff 21 February 1949 (aged 25) River Plate
21 GK Miguel Ángel Santoro 27 February 1942 (aged 32) Independiente
22 FW Héctor Yazalde 29 May 1946 (aged 28) Sporting CP
An early Gaucho version: top, left to right: Carnevali, Guerini, Brindisi, Houseman, Heredia, Correa, Fillol, Ghiso, Pernia, Sanchez.
Bottom: Telch, Babington, Avallay, Chazarreta, Ponce, Alonso, Wolff, Ayala, Esposito, Rosl.
Well, here are those who conquered West Germany in 1973, but Guerini, Ghiso, Pernia, Sanchez, Avallay, Ponce, Esposito, Rosl, and the Paraguayan born Correa were not coming back in 1974. Cap’s selection included 6 foreign based players, but otherwisewas a mixed bag. River Plate and Boca Juniors were practically not represented – only 2 River Plate players were included – and if the giants were not in good shape at the time, it is strange that Independiente was not better represented. Cap included only 2 players from the best club in South America, if not in the world! On the other hand ‘El Polaco’ included 3 players of Huracan and 3 from San Lorenzo , which were the best domestic clubs in 1973-74, but the choice was weird, given how tactically different those clubs were. What was the point of including Huracan’s players, coached by attacking minded (yet unknown to the world) Cesar Menotti, if you want defensive game? Rag-tag selection, but Argentina was seen as one of the favourites, capable at least of going to the second round. In Group 4 they were ranked second after the Italy. Solid number two and who knows what may come later.
But Argentina contributed to the visual revolution of 1974 – they used unusual numbers – the striker Ayala had number 2, the central defenseman Heredia played with number 10, midfielder Babington was number 3, another striker, Balbuena was number 4, and with number 9 played Glaria, a defenseman. And finally Ruben Ayala was the player with longest hair at the World Cup – 45 centimeters long. It was curious display of frivolity by the arch-conservative team, but was it going to win games? Alonso and Brindisi were considered the stars making the winning difference.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Traditionally, Italy is a slow starter and nobody expected great first match from the Azzuri. And against Haiti even less – why, Italy just had to show up and Haiti will lose. When Italy went to their dressing room losing 0-1 after the first half there was no pundit to be seen… mighty Italy was not mighty at all, but sluggish and increasingly frustrated team. The great names were just empty shells. The strongest defense in the world was shattered by unknown striker. It was a disaster already. Yet, class and experience helped in the second half – Italy won 3-1, but convinced nobody.
Luigi Riva shoots, looking deadly. Photography lies.
No matter how bad a favourite plays, people always expect traditional giants to pull themselves together in the next match. Same with Brazil, same with West Germany, same with Italy… Argentina was of the same ilk too, and the second round robin match was no joke. Certainly Italy will get back to their senses and their game –which it did, to a point. Having equally slow, mean and defensive minded opponent, Italy played their best match… achieving a 1-1 tie. Frankly, it was not a memorable meeting and both teams were severely criticized.
Benetti surrounded by Argentines, with Heredia in front of him.
The view of Italy as a world champion was crumbling rapidly, yet expectations for ‘the next game’ persisted. Bad or typicly Italian football? Last match with Poland and who the hell were the Poles? And Italy needing just a tie, their specialty.
Not to dissapoint the learnt crowd, Italy played precisely for a tie – carefull, disciplined, terribly boring, and generally clueless performance, which almost achieved the desired result: Italy lost only 1-2. Almost a tie, but really a loss. The nakedness of the King was finally seen by all.
Unknown Musial fearlessly fighting for the ball with fearsome Chinaglia.
After the final whistle Gorgon, Szymanowski, Musial, Lato and the rest of team Poland were triumphant. The Italian supporters were crying.
Italy went home early, alas without the World Cup. They finished third in their round robin group, surprising everybody. They were smply bad – not a single player impressed, whether big star or newcomer. Crowds went to meet the returning team – and thanked them by pelting the disgraced ‘world champions’ with tomatoes. Emotions aside, the collapse of Italy was really the final collapse of 1960s football, of old notions of the game. Football went ahead when Italy stucked in outdated tactics, sadly belonging to era already gone. But Italian blindness to reality continued: a very convenient scapegoat was quickly discovered – Chinaglia, the Fascist, was blamed for everything. What his political convictions had to do with the miserly Italian game escapes rational explaination, but the vitriol was too much for the player and Chinaglia went to play for New York Cosmos: the first major European star to join the NASL circus, and practically the only big name player who was not at retiring age.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Italy is always considered a favourite, but in 1974 it was not just a favourite – for many pundits it was THE favourite. It was ranked the best team in the world, thanks to statistics: the team did not lose a single match for a long time. More, it did not receive a single goal since 1972. It was the only European team to win against Brazil during the 1973 European tour of the world champions. Italy was playing unattractive catenaccio, but with such a defense it was seen as unbeatable. And what names! Facchetti, Mazzola, Rivera, Riva… and so on. Just listing them was breathtaking… if one was living in the 1960s. And since specialists tend to be oldish men, they tend to value yesterday more than today. The guys are getting grey? But they are helped by the rugged boys from Lazio! Catenaccio is no longer superior tactic? May be so, but nobody can break it. Ugly? May be, but a match lasts 90 minutes and when the opposition lost its mind attacking and attacking, just one counterattack will finish them – Mazzola will score. If not he, Riva then. Or Rivera. Or this asshole Chinaglia. And don’t forget how lethal Facchetti could be… now, remember his goal in 1965? Or was it 1964? There! What? Old farts? Experience is everything, my man!
Italy, seemingly, had no problems – great and vastly experienced coach Ferruccio Valcareg. Two strong goalkeepers – Zoff and Albertosi; terrible defense, led by Facchetti and Burgnich; very skillful midfield with Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera; and good pool of strikers – Riva, Anastasi, Boninsegna, and Chinaglia. Age was not a crime in Italy, unlike in the rest of Europe at the time. Younger guys were included as well and the bad boys of Lazio were not neglected either – which was the Italian understanding of ‘total football’, however illusionary. Everybody was available; nobody suffered from injuries; the stars had iron nerves and patience, and enormous experience, and were – at least everybody believed so – strongly motivated to get revenge for the lost final in 1970. Why bother playing the tournament – just give Italy the world title, it was sure thing anyway. Of course the Italian media fretted and hyped in never ending drama, but cool heads abroad estimated Italy best. Chinaglia and Wilson (and Re Cecconi by association) behaved bad? But they are substitutes, who cares? Look at the haircuts of Mazzola and Facchetti – short, determined!
And so the potential world champions went to West Germany.
Head coach: Ferruccio Valcareggi
No. Pos. Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Dino Zoff 28 February 1942 (aged 32) 32 Juventus
2 DF Luciano Spinosi 9 May 1950 (aged 24) 16 Juventus
3 DF Giacinto Facchetti 18 July 1942 (aged 31) 73 Internazionale
4 DF Romeo Benetti 20 October 1945 (aged 28) 15 AC Milan
5 DF Francesco Morini 12 August 1944 (aged 29) 6 Juventus
6 DF Tarcisio Burgnich 25 April 1939 (aged 35) 63 Internazionale
7 MF Sandro Mazzola 8 November 1942 (aged 31) 67 Internazionale
8 MF Fabio Capello 18 June 1946 (aged 27) 16 Juventus
9 FW Giorgio Chinaglia 24 January 1947 (aged 27) 9 Lazio
10 MF Gianni Rivera 18 August 1943 (aged 30) 58 AC Milan
11 FW Luigi Riva 7 November 1944 (aged 29) 40 Cagliari
12 GK Enrico Albertosi 2 November 1939 (aged 34) 34 Cagliari
13 DF Giuseppe Sabadini 26 March 1949 (aged 25) 4 AC Milan
14 DF Mauro Bellugi 7 February 1950 (aged 24) 7 Internazionale
15 DF Giuseppe Wilson 27 October 1945 (aged 28) 1 Lazio
16 DF Antonio Juliano 1 January 1943 (aged 31) 17 Napoli
17 MF Luciano Re Cecconi 1 December 1948 (aged 25) 0 Lazio
18 MF Franco Causio 1 February 1949 (aged 25) 10 Juventus
19 FW Pietro Anastasi 7 April 1948 (aged 26) 20 Juventus
20 FW Roberto Boninsegna 13 November 1943 (aged 30) 18 Internazionale
21 FW Paolo Pulici 27 April 1950 (aged 24) 3 Torino
22 GK Luciano Castellini 12 December 1945 (aged 28) 0 Torino
Certain world champions: bottom, left to right: Capelo, Facchetti, Anastasi, Mazzola, Burgnich.
Top: Benetti, Spinosi, Rivera, Zoff, Morini, Riva.
Who can possibly stop Italy with such a team?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unlike Zaire and Australia, Haiti caused a little tremor as soon as they stepped on the pitch: the first half against Italy ended 1-0 for Haiti. It was enourmous surprise – Italy kept clean sheet for more than 2 years and came to the World Cup as one of major candidates for the title. It turned out unknown Haiti was better.
Sanon (right) scores in the 46th minute, just before the final whistle. The Haitian ended the record run of Dino Zoff (back, on his knees), who did not allow a goal since September 1972. Thus, the record was set at 1142 minutes – it is still the longest clean sheet run, I think, but hardly comforting the Italians in June 1974.
In the second half the miracle ended – Italy scraped three goals and won 3-1. Back to normal…
Dino Zoff congratulates his executor Emmanuel Sanon after the match. The Haitian immediately got offers from European clubs.
No miracles in the second game – Poland easily thrashed Haiti 7-0, the second highest result in the tournament.
Henri Francillon gets the ball ahead of Andrzey Szarmach. His efforts did not prevent the Poles from scoring. At least the goalie attracted European professional clubs.
The third match registered third loss – 1-4 to Argentina, and Haiti was out, as predicted before the tournament. And just like before the beginning of the World Cup, they ended in the middle of the outsiders – did not get a point, like Australia, but were not hopeless squad like Zaire; did not get vast media attention, like darling Aussies, but did not provide outrageous news like Zaire either. Haiti exited quietly, as they arrived quietly, and few noticed that this team faired better than Australia and Zaire – Henri Francillon was signed on the spot by the West German 2nd Division club TSV 1860 Munchen and in the next years quite a few of his teammates went to play abroad – mostly to North American NASL. May be not great achievement, but still much better than the other outsiders – only one Australian was signed by European club and none from Zaire.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Group 4. Haiti were the obvious outsider, just lucky to reach the World Cup finals. Among the midgets, the Caribians should stay in the middle – unlike Australia, Haiti was not a democracy – it was a crazy state, similar to Zaire, but unlike the Zairian dictator, the Haitian one had no fantastic dreams about the country’s football team. Haitian expectations were more similar to those of the Australians – great to be at the finals, but no more. Similar, but not the same, and there was similarity with Zaire too – by 1974 the old dictator Dr. Francois Duvalier – ‘Papa Doc’ – was already dead for three years, and his son Jean-Francois Duvalier – ‘Bebe Doc’ - heapily ruled the poor island. Baby Doc was barely 23 years old – a good age for playing football – and dictatorial ambitions tempted him. Unlike Mobutu Sese-Seko, Baby Doc did not see Haitian national team as a vehicle of showing country’s grandness to the world – he considered joining the team instead. And who can tell a dictator that he cannot play? But Baby Doc eventually discovered better ways to please himself and decided not to play for Haiti. Generous to the end, Baby Doc did not order the team to return from West Germany with the World Cup either.
Politics and expectation aside, Haiti still held the middle ground – it was not entirely black team, like Zaire, but a negative of Australia: the Aussies were white, with one aboriginal (black) player. Haiti were black, with one white player. The Aussies were almost all born outside Australia and Zairians were all native – Haitians were all native born, but their ancestors were brought to the island from Africa. In terms of racism the Aussies represented racist attitudes; Zaire was always condamning racism – Haiti had no such problem, if Papa Doc is to be believed: once he stated that Haiti is the whitest country in the world (since the blood of everybody born there was mixed with the blood of white slave owners in the past, Papa Doc’s argument goes. Quite rightly too, given the history of the island.) And going down to the very mundane matters, Haiti did not have players who started their footballing days in European clubs as kids, like the Aussis, and unlike Zaire did not depend solely on home grown talent – among the midgets, Haiti was the only team featuring foreign based professional players. Not big names, but still playing abroad – and if the striker Roger Saint-Vil modestly hailed from Archibald FC (Trinidad and Tobago), the defenseman Wilner Nazaire was a heavy – he played for Valenciennes in the 2nd French Division.
And that is all about Haiti, for this team was unknown, nobody expected them to be any kind of sensation, and nobody paid attention to clear outsider. When players’ lists were made, Haiti contributed to unusual numbering in 1974, modestly as well – their reserve goalie had number 2.
Coach - Antoine TassyNo.
Pos.Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Henri Françillon 26 May 1946 (aged 28)Victory FC
2 GK Wilner Piquant 12 October 1949 (aged 24) Violette
3 DF Arsène Auguste 3 February 1951 (aged 23) Racing Club Haïtien
4 DF Fritz André 18 September 1946 (aged 27) Violette
5 DF Serge Ducosté 4 February 1944 (aged 30) Aigle Noir
6 DF Pierre Bayonne 11 June 1949 (aged 25) Violette
7 MF Philippe Vorbe 14 September 1947 (aged 26) Violette
8 MF Jean-Claude Désir 8 August 1946 (aged 27) Aigle Noir
9 MF Eddy Antoine 27 August 1949 (aged 24) Racing Club Haïtien
10 MF Guy François 18 September 1947 (aged 26) Violette
11 FW Guy Saint-Vil 21 October 1942 (aged 31) Racing Club Haïtien
12 MF Ernst Jean-Joseph 11 June 1948 (aged 26) Violette
13 DF Serge Racine 9 October 1951 (aged 22) Aigle Noir
14 DF Wilner Nazaire 30 March 1950 (aged 24) Valenciennes
15 FW Roger Saint-Vil 8 December 1949 (aged 24) Archibald FC
16 FW Fritz Leandré 13 March 1948 (aged 26) Racing Club Haïtien
17 MF Joseph-Marion Leandré 9 May 1945 (aged 29) Racing Club Haïtien
18 FW Claude Barthélemy 9 May 1945 (aged 29) Racing Club Haïtien
19 DF Jean-Herbert Austin 23 February 1950 (aged 24) Violette
20 FW Emmanuel Sanon 25 June 1951 (aged 22) Don Bosco
21 DF Wilfried Louis 25 October 1949 (aged 24) Don Bosco
22 GK Gérard Joseph 22 October 1949 (aged 24) Racing Club Haïtien
Bottom, left to right: Oriolle (?) – masseur, Vorbe, Francillon, Nazaire, Ernst Jean-Joseph, Andre, Gerard Joseph, Racine.
Middle: Tassy – coach, Wilner (?), Antoine (?), Desir, Sanon, Joseph-Marion Leandre, Roger Saint-Vil, Ducoste, Auguste, Lagraue (?).
Top: Hiacint (?) – assistant coach, Francois, Bayonne, Barthelemy, Guy Saint-Vil, Formoise (?), Fritz Leandre, Louis.
Apparently, Emmanuel Sanon was the star of team Haiti in the absence of the real star Bebe Doc Duvalier. One may wonder now much better Haiti would have been with her dictator on the pitch, but as a compensation the team got brand new Adidas kit. Oh, great innocent days those were… nobody knew how many caps each Haitian player had in 1974. Not even FIFA. And nobody knows today either.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The ‘iron’ 3rd Round Robin group was unpredictable only for the second qualifying place – the first was reserved for Holland in everybody’s mind. Such certainties are often shattered. The opening match of Oranje was against 2-times World Champions Uruguay. The Dutch came on the pitch with surprising team – the entirely unknown goalie Jongbloed, and only three defensemen – Suurbier, Suurbier’s little known substitute Rijsbergen, and Krol. What? Two right fullbacks and not a single man in the middle? And no Keizer at the left wing either… some guy called Rensenbrink. What kind of joke is this?
The joke became clear immediately after the refferree started the game – Holland played great, not giving a damn about venerable former world champions. Since Uruguay was completely outplayed, the most important comentary of this match should be about Michels’ solution of defensive problems – he moved Haan back, combining him with Rijsbergen. It was fast and attacking minded duo, fitting the loose positioning of total football, and in case of some breakdown, Jongbloed was to sweep. The scheme worked, and although it was clear that Jongbloed was a pathetic goalie, there was no trouble whatsoever: the newly forged defense played with such efficiency, that there was nothing for the goalkeeper to do, even sweeping. First match, first fun, first win – 2-0. May be the result is not showing how superior the Dutch were, but it was first match after all.
Captain Cruyff and Masnik shake hands before the match started.
And little Masnik knew that his handshake was his best move against the flying Dutchman. Apart from new players, there was one more shock for the world: no three Adidas stripes on Cruyff’s kit.
The toughest game in the round robin group for Holland was their second, against Sweden. It was a bit rough, the Swedes played not only with great ambition, but also tackling hard. Inconvenient opposition for Oranje, yet, this was perhaps one of the best displays of Dutch versatality – just like Ajax, Holland was able to switch easily from elegance to hard physical game, whenever was a need. A 0-0 tie, which pretty much moved Holland to the second stage, but not Sweden.
Piet Keizer marked by Bjorn Nordqvist – a familiar duel from Dutch league. It was the last appearance for Keizer with orange jersey and it is even miracle that he played at the World Cup at all – he was not a friend of Rinus Michels. When Michels left Ajax for Barcelona, Keizer happily danced on a table to celebrate the end of yoke. By 1974 he was not a friend of Cruyff either.
Theoretically, Holland had a chance to miss second stage – if they lost to Bulgaria. Which was unthinkable. Once again, there was practically one team on the pitch, and although it was difficult to distinguish the colours of the opponents, one was certain that who has the ball was Dutch. In their third match Holland scored all the goals, winning 4-1. Krol scored in his own net, but he was hardly guilty of clumsiness – it was difficult situation in which he attempted to clear the ball behind the lines with a header. It ended in the net, but who cares – Holland was comfortably winning already.
Can you tell Bulgarians from Dutch? Of course you can – the celebrating ones are Dutch.
This photo describe the match in a nutshell: Holland scores; Bulgaria watches. After the final whistle, fun ended and business resumed: hawkish Cruyff read again their bonus contract and discovered that they were to be paid for every goal scored – the paper did not mentioned in which net. And he promptly went to claim bonus for Ruud Krol’s goal. And collected the payment. And after that one wonders why they did not score some more own goals in the next games.
After the round robin stage Holland emerged as a prime candidate for the World title. The improvised defense played well; Rensenbrink was a revelation, propelled to surperstardom – one of the discoveries of the tournament. The rest were… the rest. Nobody disappointed. Great form, really superior, and the strongest team so far. No German scheming either – Holland seemingly did not care who they were to play against. Even their poor goalie was not a liability – the ball very rarely appeared in the Dutch penalty area and goalie or no goalie, there was no risk. The team introduced a new tactical innovation in attack – strange long balls going a bit away from the net, not in the middle, as normally wingers supply balls for deadly headers. The Dutch innovation was deadlier, however – defences did not cover those areas, and there speedy boys in orange shirts run alone and untackled to score. One more change was His Greatness Cruyff – he played further back than remembered from before – more like classic midfielder than a striker. Perhaps 1974 was his greatest year – fantastic playmaker, conducting the flow of the game, his teammates, the whole field and the whole match.Holland was fun and magical. If there was something negative about the Dutch, it was there growing arrogance – it was noticed mostly by journalists at first: the team was increasingly confident that they were the best in every respect. World champions already. On the pitch arrogance was less obvious – may be just Cruyff, who never stopped yapping at the refferrees. May be in Holland it is called ‘debate’ or ‘expression of opinions’, but the refferees did not see it the same way and Cruyff was yellow-carded (which was very difficult to get in the 1970s!) It was even funny at the time: I remember the refferre showing yellow to His Greatness and asking him to turn back, as it was the practice then, to get his number for the books. Cruyff refused and pointed at the number on his shorts. Which may be interpreted as obscene comment as well, considering the nearness of genitalia, but the star was technically right: with numbers required on front of the shorts, what was the problem of the refferree – number he wants, number he gets! A little ego trip, but no breaking of the letter of the law. Arrogant or not, Holland captured the love of the football fans with their playing, not with their talking.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Statistically, Holland was… the lowest among the countries in Group 3: this was their 3rd participation in World Cup finals and the first two were 1934 and 1938. When Holland exited quickly leaving no impressions. Lowly they were until 1972, but stellarly climbed among the big favorites after that. Along with the transformation, Holland provided plenty of buzzing news and fun, a gold vein for media and fans. Revolutionary innovations, scandals, exciting football, loose behaviour, big mouths, arrogance, hard bargaining… you name it. Where to start? Winning coaches are rarely changed, yet, occasionally sacked before major tournaments, but Holland introduced different aproach. Dr. Frantisek Fadrhonc was not liked by the players – nowadays everything is trumped on Cruiff, and he was the most vocal anyway, but he was hardly sole enemy of the Czechoslvakian émigré. In typical Dutch fashion, getting rid of the coach was presented as ‘discussion’, where ‘reasonable arguments’ were voiced: to really achive anything, Holland needed Rinus Michels. Who was promptly appointed, but Fadrhonc was not sacked – he was degraded to assistant coach. Call it what you like – wise decision or ingratitude – but there was a grain of reason: since Michels was acting coach of Barcelona, he was unable to train Holland until Spanish championship ended. So some of the early preparation was still (kind of) done by Fadrhonc. When Michels finally arrived, the good doctor became… a tourist, just been at the World Cup to watch. Then the habbits of Cruiff were made public: the superstar was heavy smoker, not exactly a model for the young. Then came the amusing numbers used by the squad: yes, Ajax played with personal numbers, but the national team went a step further: goalie with number 8; a striker with number 1, etc. Fun! But a strange one: numbers were not the choice of the players, but given by alphabetical order – to all, except Cruiff, who was free to chose his favourite 14 (interesting freedom, considering that Barcelona did not permit him to use ‘his’ number – and when money spoke, Cruiff was kind of forgetful of his freedom of expression.) And finally – which became a news at the first match in the round robin stage – Cruiff played with different kit: Adidas supplied Holland, but the genius had a contract with different company, and played with his own kit – everybody had three stripes; he had only two – an amusing effort to match without matching. To the end of the World Cup Holland never failed to charm on the pitch and to amuse off the pitch: the team became perhaps the first – and last – squad in the world getting a bonus for scoring in their own net. After that German media ‘reported’ the orgies the Dutch stars had with a team of call girs (this one was refuted).
Oranje were the most talked about team and it was often difficult to distinguish purely sporting matter from personality clashes and mere gossip. Unlike the other favourites, Holland had few acute problems – the fundamental one was small pool of players. Behind the bunch of superstars there was very little to chose from. Limited choice was agrivated further by personal clashes – and it is fare to say, that Cruiff was practically always in the middle of them. Yet, saying so has to be taken with a grain of salt: recent recallections by former players tend to deny the role of Michels: most often it is claimed that Cruiff run the whole show, made all decisions, he was the one telling how to play. This is hard to believe – Michels had strong will, he was heavy handed, dominant coach with lots of ideas. He and Cruiff were very close, but it is doubdful the player was telling the coach what to do. Both had problems with other players, yet not always the same players. At the end, no doubt likes and dislikes influenced some decisions, but such decisions were not one-sided: some were ingenious and worked well. Others were never publicly stated and were only speculatevely interpreted. And, finally, some decisions were made by other people, not Michels and Cruiff.
Holland was plagued by two problems of long standing: goalkeeping and central defense. There was only one decent goalie in the country: Jan van Beveren, PSV Eindhoven. He suffered injury, making him unavailable for the World Cup. But… there was big ‘but’: Cruiff strongly disliked him, and the injury was seen as a convenient way out for van Beveren, thus sparing himself from scandals and humiliation. Nobody ever said the goalie faked injury – the suspicion is that he exaggerated it. Without him, there was nobody else even remotely good – Eddy Treijtel (Feyenoord), Piet Schrijvers (FC Twente), and Jan Jongbloed (FC Amsterdam) were selected and how great they were may be judged by their combined appearances before the World Cup: between the three of them, they had a total of 11 caps! Given the quality of the candidates, it was always strange to me that Heinz Stuy (Ajax) and Jan Ruiter (Anderlecht, Belgium) were not considered – the former played well enough as far as I saw him (true, after 1974), and the latter was no worse than the chosen ones, yet, with some advantage – been Ajax player, his quilities and deficiances were familiar to the defense of the national team, almost entirely made of Ajax players. Anyway, Schrijvers was seen the obvious starter, but I’ll jump a bit ahead – Michels surpised the world by feilding Jongbloed. The player himself was apparently taken by surprise: according to him, he was sure he was third goalie, and certain he will have nothing to do, he went to West Germany with his fishing gear. This was probably said in jest, but third goalie he was and nobody imagined him anything else, for nobody ever heard of him. He was almost 34 years old, playing for tiny FC Amsterdam (now defunct) and not full professional at that: he divided his time between football and running a bookstore. He was also a member of the Dutch Communist Party, a rather amusing detail, considering the quite capitalist attitudes of his teammates (however, Jongbloed was not even the most extravagant political animal at 1974 World Cup – the Italian Giorgio Chinaglia was a Fascist and the West German Paul Breitner was a Maoist. May be weird time, but back then players talked about politics, not about fashion and hot models.) As for his abilities, his record tells best: he debuted for Holland in 1962 and until the 1974 World Cup amassed a grand total of 2 caps. Michels had no illusions about his goalies and chose Jongbloed not because he was able to stop a ball – it was the tendency of the goalie to rush ahead and Michels saw him more as a sweeper, helping his improvised defense.
Which needed improvisation… Gerry Muhren and Barry Hulshoff suffered heavy injuries and if the midfielder was relatively easy to replace, the great central defenseman of Ajax stretched defensive options not to the limit, but beyond the limits. For one thing there was no classy libero in Holland – for instance, Ajax used the German Horst Blankenburg and PSV Eindhoven depended on the Swede Bjorn Nordqvist. The situation was so grave, the Dutch Federation approached Blankenburg and offered him to play for Holland. The German never played for West Germany – and with Beckenbauer at hand, had no chance even to be invited to the national team – so he was legitible; the Dutch were ready to give him citizenship rapidly. But Blankenburg declined the offer. Fadrhonc used occasionally Aad Mansveld , but Michels did not include him in his selection - Mansveld may have been ADO Den Haag legend, but hardly thaught a great player outside the Dutch capital (for which his 6 caps amply testify). With Hulshoff injured and out, the only players left were Feyenoord veterans. Michels halfheartedly included Rinus Israel in the squad, but… he desliked the chubby bespectabled player. Michels considered Israel – may be rightly – too heavy, too slow, and too conventional for total football. And with this all options ended – and improvisation arrived, of which later, although I half spilled the beans already, for Jongbloed was part of the indeginious plan.
Just before the World Cup started, Holland was seen as one of the big favourites. Nobody doubted the Oranje will win easily their round robin group. Going further was not so certain: other teams were seen as more balanced and considering the Dutch problematic defense and goalkeeping, they were hardly envisioned as potential champions of the world. But… who knows, may be with some luck… after all, they had Cruiff! Holland was generally ranked among the 4 best teams and expected to be the most exciting to watch. Long hairs and goalkeeper with number 8 – nobody would beat at least the fun the Dutch were expected to provide.
Coach:Rinus Michels
No.Pos.Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 FW Ruud Geels 28 July 1948 (aged 25)3 Club Brugge
2 MF Arie Haan 16 November 1948 (aged 25) 10 Ajax Amsterdam
3 MF Willem van Hanegem 20 February 1944 (aged 30) 29 Feyenoord
4 DF Kees van Ierssel 6 December 1945 (aged 28) 4 F.C. Twente
5 DF Rinus Israël 19 March 1943 (aged 31) 44 Feyenoord
6 MF Wim Jansen 28 October 1946 (aged 27) 25 Feyenoord
7 MF Theo de Jong 11 August 1947 (aged 26) 8 Feyenoord
8 GK Jan Jongbloed 25 November 1940 (aged 33) 2 F.C. Amsterdam
9 FW Piet Keizer 14 June 1943 (aged 30) 33 Ajax Amsterdam
10 MF René van de Kerkhof 16 September 1951 (aged 22)5 PSV Eindhoven
11 MF Willy van de Kerkhof 16 September 1951 (aged 22)1 PSV Eindhoven
12 DF Ruud Krol 24 March 1949 (aged 25) 20 Ajax Amsterdam
13 MF Johan Neeskens 15 September 1951 (aged 22) 17 Ajax Amsterdam
14 FW Johan Cruijff 25 April 1947 (aged 27) 28 F.C. Barcelona
15 FW Rob Rensenbrink 3 July 1947 (aged 26) 13 R.S.C. Anderlecht
16 FW Johnny Rep 25 November 1951 (aged 22) 5 Ajax Amsterdam
17 DF Wim Rijsbergen 18 January 1952 (aged 22) 1 Feyenoord
18 GK Piet Schrijvers 15 December 1946 (aged 27) 5 F.C. Twente
19 DF Pleun Strik 27 May 1944 (aged 30) 8 PSV Eindhoven
20 DF Wim Suurbier 16 January 1945 (aged 29) 27 Ajax Amsterdam
21 GK Eddy Treijtel 28 May 1946 (aged 28) 4 Feyenoord
22 DF Harry Vos 4 September 1946 (aged 27) 0 Feyenoord
Orange glory: Back: Van Ierssel, Cruyff, Jongbloed, Schrijvers, Haan, Rijsbergen, Neeskens, Israël, Keizer, Treytel, Krol, Suurbier, Van Hanegem.
Front: Jansen, Rep, Willy van de Kerkhof, René van de Kerkhof, Geels, Rensenbrink, Strik, Vos, De Jong.
A lot of great names of Ajax and Feyenoord fame, complimented by largely unknown reserves. And nobody imagined reserves to play – they were here just because FIFA required 22 players. To outsiders, it was a team to be recited in advance with very little uncertainty: Schrijvers (or Treytel); Suurbier, Strik (or van Ierssel, or Vos), Israel, Krol; Haan, Neeskens, van Hanegem; Rep, Cruiff, Keizer. The rest were to go fishing.

N.B. There is inconsistancy with the name of His Majesty: Hendrik Johannes Cruijff is often spelled differently – Johan Cruyff; Johan Cruiff; Johann Cruyff… Unfortunately, the correct spelling of his name is almost never used outside Holland, unlike the names of his lesser teammates. By habbit, I write Cruiff. Sorry.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweden started their campaign modestly as well – a 0-0 tie in the opening match against Bulgaria. My impression was that Sweden overestimated Bulgaria and played with unnecessary caution. Predictions about the ‘iron group’ were becoming true… and although Sweden looked better team than both Bulgaria and Uruguay, this tie may cost them dearly.
The second match was again mighty Holland and ended with surprising result: 0-0. Some observers, especially in Bulgaria, where always outside factors are blamed for Bulgarian failures, saw some kind of North-Western conspiracy – the Dutch giving a generous point to their ‘Capitalist brothers’.
A photo supporting conspiracy theory: Krol helping Edstrom to get off the ground, both smiling to each other.
There was no conspiracy, for suspecting minds omitted few important details: if Dutch football was familiar to anybody, it was to Sweden – Holland was traditional professional destination for Swedish footballers. Presently, Nordqvist and Edstrom played for PSV Eindhoven, rapidly becoming a more exciting and a stronger club than Ajax and Feyenoord. They knew the Dutch stars inside and out, for the famed Dutch were either teammates or opponents week after week. There was also pride – it was sweet to rub the noses of the often obnoxious Dutch. There was tradition too – Holland struggled against Scandinavian teams. And finally, Sweden, whether winning or losing, always played with great motivation, giving their best. The match was not some lame performance, but a fight, often going beyond ‘good manners’.
Mighty Cruiff was hardly respected by the Swedes: here Bo Larsson fouls him, with Nordqvist ready to give him a kick as well. Some friendship and backroom agreement…
Sweden got an unexpected point, but it was nothing yet. Before their third match they had 2 points. Bulgaria also had 2 points and Uruguay – one. It was unlikely that Bulgaria will get even one point against Holland, but football is unpredictable, so playing for a tie against Uruguay would not do. Besides, Uruguay still had a chance to go to the second round – it was to be a cruel match.
It was not – Sweden was flying. Uruguay was immediately outplayed and Sweden won 3-0. They really played good, every next game better than the previous. It was pleasure to watch them. Nobody considered them potential candidates for the title, but they were admired. One of the most attractive teams so far. They finished second in Group 3 and went to the next stage deservingly. The ‘sluggish’ Swedish defence did not allow a single goal in the round robin stage. The only other team preserving clean sheet was Brazil.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For Sweden it was 6th participation in World Cup finals, making them one of the most consistent teams since 1930. But there was little fuss over the Scandinavians – as ever, they were not among the favourites and not among the outsiders. A really modest team, reliable, without internal scandals, yet, without flashy news either. It was noticed that Sweden tried to adjust to total football, but more generally they were thought followers of the English brand of football – straightforward attacks, with long crosses from the wings. This view was mostly due to Ralf Edstrom, the tall and very mobile centreforward, who was considered the best in the world when it came to duels high in the air and headers. As a whole, Sweden depended on lethal attack with Conny Torstensson on the right wing, Roland Sandberg on the left, and predatory Edstrom in front. Torstensson was also flexible player, often switching to midfield position, if there was a need of extra man. The defense was the second best line of the team, led by experienced Bjorn Nordqvist. Between the goalposts Ronnie Hellstrom was rapidly his name well known around Europe, and although still 25 years old, this was his second World Cup. Midfield was seen as the weakest line – reliable, but without capable, imaginative playmaker. Because of that, combined with relatively oldish defense, Sweden was seen as predictable and a bit slow team. One thing nobody doubted: their spirit. No matter what kind of team they had, the Swedes always played well at World Cup finals – they may never have been favourites, but they never disapointed anybody.
The tradition of quieteness around the team continued during the preparatory months before the finals. The first eleven was already established during the qualification rounds before 1974. Foreign based players joined the national team without fuss – there were no scandals, no refusals, no arguments over money. No news really. The team was estimated with a slightly better chance than Uruguay and Bulgaria for reaching second place in Group 3 – that was all.
There was one news, however: Bjorn Nordqvist was one of the very few back then players with 100 or more games for the national team in the world. And he was the only player with 100 caps to play at 1974 World Cup. Ironically, the record worked against Sweden: observers considered Swedish defense even slower, because a player with so many caps must be really old… and, therefore, hardly mobile. Nordqvist was only 32 years old.
Unlike most national teams, the Swedish squad was not based on 2-3 strong clubs – there were no such in Sweden. Players from 15 different clubs, from four different countries, made the selection. They trained quitely, arrived quitely in West Germany, and made no bombastic statements. This was not a team with huge ego.
Head coach: Georg Ericson
No. Pos.Player DoB/Age Caps Club

1GK Ronnie Hellström 21 February 1949 (aged 25)Hammarby
2DF Jan Olsson 30 March 1942 (aged 32) Åtvidaberg
3 DF Kent Karlsson 25 November 1945 (aged 28) Åtvidaberg
4 DF Björn Nordqvist 6 October 1942 (aged 31) PSV Eindhoven
5 DF Björn Andersson 20 July 1951 (aged 22) Östers
6 MF Ove Grahn 9 May 1943 (aged 31) Grasshoppers
7 MF Bo Larsson 5 May 1944 (aged 30) Malmö
8 MF Conny Torstensson 28 August 1949 (aged 24) Bayern München
9 FW Ove Kindvall 16 May 1943 (aged 31) IFK Norrköping
10 FW Ralf Edström 7 October 1952 (aged 21) PSV Eindhoven
11 FW Roland Sandberg 16 December 1946 (aged 27) Kaiserslautern
12 GK Sven-Gunnar Larsson 10 May 1940 (aged 34) Örebro
13 DF Roland Grip 1 January 1941 (aged 33) AIK
14 DF Staffan Tapper 10 July 1948 (aged 25) Malmö
15 MF Benno Magnusson 4 February 1953 (aged 21) Kaiserslautern
16 MF Inge Ejderstedt 24 December 1946 (aged 27) Östers
17 GK Göran Hagberg 8 November 1947 (aged 26) Östers
18 DF Jörgen Augustsson 28 October 1952 (aged 21) Åtvidaberg
19 MF Claes Cronqvist 15 October 1944 (aged 29) Djurgården
20 MF Sven Lindman 19 April 1942 (aged 32) Djurgården
21 MF Örjan Persson 27 August 1942 (aged 31) Örgryte
22 MF Thomas Ahlström 17 July 1952 (aged 21) Elfsborg
Modest guys… Top, left to right: Roland Sandberg, Svensson, Staffan Tapper, Ralf Edstrom, Conny Torstensson, Bo Larsson.
Bottom: Jan Olsson, Bjorn Nordqvist, Ronnie Hellstrom, Kent Karlsson, Bjorn Andersson.
Svensson did not make the final selection; the others did. A total of 6 foreign based players were in the team – one of the highest numbers at this World Cup. Another three or four players did play abroad as well, of which Ove Kindvall was perhaps the most famous: he won the 1970 European Champions Cup with Feyenoord (Rotterdam). Plenty of experinece, but no high expectations.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bulgaria opened their glorious display of ‘socialist morality’ against Sweden. It was a strange line-up to say the least: nominally 4-3-3, but in reality 5 midfielders and only one pure striker – the right winger Voynov. Supposedly, Pavel Panov was to be the centre forward and Georgy Denev the left winger. What was to play Asparoukh Nikodimov was impossible to tell… in fact, there was crowding of some positions, when there was nobody at others: Nikodimov was a playmaker, thus duplicating Bonev. Panov and Denev played the same position at their clubs – attacking midfielders, preffering to play at the left side of the field. It was clear that Bulgarian attack was impoverished and there were little options, but also the chosen tactic was more than questionable. Since this was seen as the easiest match for Bulgaria, it was supposed to be attack oriented team – but it was not. Nothing good happened on the pitch and the 0-0 tie was more due to Swedish overestimating Bulgarian strenght. Bulgaria showed dangerous signs, including shaky performance of the primery goalie Roumen Goranov. Substitutes begged some questions as well: Atanas Mikhailov replaced Voinov, the only real attacker, and later Mladen Vasilev, the second right winger replaced Pavel Panov.
After a match showing largely defficiencies coaches usually make changes, hoping for better, but against Uruguay the very same team came on the pitch. There is nothing to say about this match, so boring and meaningless it was, except for the bright moment when Voinov made a good run on the right wing and crossed the ball in front of Mazurkiewicz. Bonev scored with spectacular header, but later the Uruguayans managed to equalize. Once again Mikhailov came in the second half, replacing the useless Nikodimov. If there was anything else, it was more trouble: it was clear that Goranov lost his nerves and menatlly collapsed, something not unusual for young goalkeepers. By now, it was more than déjà vu, but a full repeat of 1970 World Cup – weird squad, misjudgement of opponents, lame game, showing complete lack of ideas and even spirit.
Before the third match against Holland Bulgaria still had theoretical chance of reaching the second stage – they only had to win over the Dutch. Which was purely in the realm of theory… how is to motivate a team for playing above their level, if the match is written off months earlier? May be fielding different players? Lamely and halfheartedly, slightly different footballers started the game: Stefan Staykov came instead of Goranov, a change a match too late, and Ivan Stoyanov instead of Nikodimov, another very questionable change, for Stoyanov was a defensive midfielder, doubling the position occupied already by Bozhil Kolev. It was obvious that the idea was defending, not attacking – and what chances were there for a must win then? Naturally, the mighty Dutch dominated the match, winning easily 4-1. They scored all the goals, for Krol scored in his own net. Once again Mikhailov came in the second half, substituting the redundand Stoyanov and later Krasimir Borisov replaced Panov, with which the tendency of doubling positions was stubornly continued. Borisov, like Denev, Panov, and Mikhailov was an attacking midfielder, operating mostly on the left flank. This match perhaps should be remembered mostly for the absurd rules, or the lack of such, reguarding kits at this tournament: Holland played in their usual orange and Bulgaria – with their second red kit. Whethet live, or on black-and-white TV, or colour TV, the only way to distinguish both teams was by their shorts.
Neeskens scoring one of the two penalties against helpless Staykov.
The stupid clash of colours… watch for the shorts. And may be for who has the ball… Cruiff leaves behind Stoyanov in the first half.
In the second Stoyanov’s replacement Atanas Mikhailov (right) suffered the same faith – Cruiff, surrounded by three Bulgarian players just runs away with the ball.
The Bulgarians were so bad, no wonder nobody cared to get their names right – here it is said that Rep wins over the goalie Ivkov. Well, the goalie was Staykov. As for central defenseman Ivkov…
he mostly watched Rep and his teammates play and score. Hmm, the text on the photo says Rep, but this is Theo de Jong, scoring the 4th Dutch goal in the 88th minute.
And after plenty of Dutch scoring it was time for the Bulgarians to go home. They were not to be missed… and deservingly so. In the aftermath there were some questions… naturally, coach and players were blamed. To my mind, there were mistakes and outright injustice – although the team was not great and choises very limited, there were at least some options. Why Simeonov was not made first goalie? Especially after Goranov’s collapse. True, Simeonov collapsed at 1970 World Cup and was severely blamed for everything. And mostly because of that he did not play even club football between 1970 and the spring of 1974. But he had splendid form in that spring, was eager to clear his name from unjust accusations, and most imporatntly – he was vastly experienced keeper. I think defense would have been more secure of itself with him between the goalposts. Why Kiril Milanov was kept on the bench? Although not a prolific goalscorer, Milanov was an Englsih type centreforward – strong in the air, constantly in the penalty area, keeping defensemen on tiptoes, and very able to keep his own ground in the typical pushing and shoving of 1970s. And finally, an ethical, rather than purely tactical question: only handfull of footballers in 1974 (and even now they are few) appeared in four World Cups. To be recognized, they had to appear in some games, even for a few minutes. It was forth World Cup for Dobromir Zhechev, by now, not a starter. I think it was decent to field him for a few minutes against the Dutch – the match was lost anyway, so why not honoring the player? But no… meaninglessly, from every point of view, Borisov came on the pitch, and Zhechev is not on the list of players participating in four World Cups. To my mind, it was very mean to deprive him from this rare honour.
Years later the truth was spurted out: once again Communist Party functioneries decided who to play… which explains why Milanov was never on the pitch and may be why Zhechev and Simeonov were not fielded too. But, since the Party was always right and blameless, the vitriol was chanelled against the team. The coach was sacked and the players were accused of lack of patriotism, and, in general, everybody was guilty and now was time for new team. Bulgaria ended with most points earned at World Cups so far – 2 - but yet without a single win and very low scoring (just one goal, for the second was Krol’s own goal). Pathetic.