Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ah, the World Cup! Everything else is nothing and the 10th edition of the tournament was special in many ways. New trophy. New formula. New stadiums. New football. New money. New, new, new. To a point, the fun started in 1973 with a number of high-profile friendlies: Brazil and Argentina both toured Europe, which was a rare glance at the South Americans. But there were other interesting matches too, involving England and USSR. At the time, these friendlies were clearly part of the preparation for the finals: nobody expected USSR and England to miss the finals. So much so, that the Soviets paid much more attention to their friendlies against England, Brazil, and West Germany than to the real qualifying match against Chile (the first one in Moscow, for there was no second.) The failure of the Soviets and the English provided other teams with great sparring partners… No matter what, there was impressive string of matches between top national teams: USSR – England, USSR – West Germany, Italy – England, etc. The arrival of the South Americans added new thrills: Argentina, missing World Cup 1970, was not seen by the Europeans since 1966. Brazil – since 1970 World Cup finals. Naturally, it was interesting to see mythic South Americans, but the real purpose for both sides was to get familiar with the opposition. As World Champions and hosts, Brazil and West Germany were free from qualifications – which was a curse as well as a blessing: lacking official games, neither country knew how good and competitive her nationa team was. The Argentines needed European encounter too after been absent from this continent since 1966. Thus, Brazil came to play against Scotlnad, West Germany, and USSR. The Argentines – against England, West Germany, and France. Argentina was praised, Brazil – not so much. As a whole, the South Americans got very good results – winning tough games, particularly against West Germany. Considering the unfamiliar winter-frozen stadiums, there were some interesting conclusions to be made… some did, some did not. Some lessons learned became evident at the World Cup finals. Wrong conclusions became evident in the summer of 1974 too. To watch those friendlies, however, was baffling: Brazil was not fun, but able of winning nevertheless. The West Germans struggled. The Soviets struggled – and it became quite clear why they did not earn a place among the finalists: the team was not able to score, regularly losing 0-1 to strong opponents. Scotland was surprisingly tough and spirited. Italy marched on with… well, Italian minimalistic confidence. England was obviously in need of new team. Argentina got very good reports – so good, it led many observers to wrong conclusions.
Argentina scoring a second goal in Munich. In February! Ayala (9) just passed to C. Ghisso and his shot ended in the net. Fogts, Schwarzenbeck amd Maier look… hopeless. And where is Beckenbauer? Gaucho victory - 3-2. Omar Sivori coached.
However, the match against France really elevated the Argentines… in their own eyes? (Relatively) new French formation under Stefan Kovacs performed (relatively) well against the gauchos and because of that… the Argentines were praised more than they really deserved. One very young and entirely unknown colt called Mario Kempes played – and survived the tackles of Adams. Kempes hardly impressed anybody. Adams was to be one of the new French squad, one for the future… a few years later nobody remembered Adams. Kempes, on the other hand… but not yet. It was Ruben Ayala, Bargas, Sa so far. Argentina suddenly leaped among the favorites for winning the World Cup.