Central and North America played similarly complicated scheme, ending with 6-team final tournament. Which was to be the usual easy walk over for the Mexicans… but they finished third. Haiti was first and going to the finals – a big surprise, but hardly for the better of football. Africa, considered the best among the rabble and not to be outdone by Asia and other exotic places, organized three eliminatory rounds, after which the survivors played in a final group. The original 24 teams gradually distilled a winner – Zaire. The rabble produced newcomers, never reaching World Cup finals before – which was expected result of weak football. But there was another kind of exotic fun – FIFA was notoriously apolitical. Yet, Arab countries managed to expel Israel from Asian competition and Africa did the same to South Africa. Let say for the moment, justly so. At least it was fair on one level – continental federation did that and FIFA had no instrument to overrule the decisions. Both countries were expelled for political reasons – which is really funny when one takes a look at the finalists: Zaire and Haiti. Great dictatorships both, regularly condemned by the rest of the world… or, at least parts of the world. And the circus was not to end with that.
South America was divided in three groups with three teams each. The third group – the 12th world group was to play further elimination round against the winner of the 9th European group.
Group 10 was won by Uruguay:
1. Uruguay 2 wins 1 tie 1 loss 6-2 goal difference 5 points
2.Colombia 1 3 0 3-5 (impossible!) 5
3. Ecuador 0 2 2 3-8 2
Celeste at the Minicopa in 1972: top, left to right: Alberto Carrasco, Masnik, Jauregui, Juan Carlos Blanco, Montero Castillo, Pavoni.Bottom: Julio Cesar Jimenez, Luis Villalba, Maneiro, Esparrago, Lattuada.
Hugo Bagnulo was appointed national team coach in 1973. He used pretty much the same players from 1972 – readjusting here and there, but without major changes. However, he declared 24 players untransferable abroad before the end of the World Cup campaign. Familiar measure, yet, a sign of desperation as well – talent was in short supply.
Argentina topped Group 11:
1. Argentina 3 1 0 9-2 7
2. Paraguay 2 1 1 8-5 5
3. Bolivia 0 0 4 1-11 0
One of the many Argentine formations of that time – no shortage of stars, new and old, in Argentina, but was it a strong enough team? Top, left to right: Bargas, Mastrangelo, Carnevali, Telch, Rosl, Heredia.Bottom: Boveda, Pastoriza, Mas, Avallay, Semenewicz.
Group 12 was rough fun: Venezuela withdrew and only Peru and Chile remained. Peru won 2-0 in Lima; Chile won 2-0 in Santiago. Third match was played in neutral Montevideo – Chile clinched 2-1 win. Chile qualified for the next qualification round. As for the teams going directly to the finals – the usual suspects qualified and everything looked bright and normal.