Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Group 3 was quickly called ‘the iron group’, a rather pompous name, since it was not based on quality, but on the comparative weaknesses of the teams. Holland was undisputed favorite and the rest were to fight for the second spot. This was the only group without an obvious outsider. Sweden, Bulgaria, and Uruguay were judged more or less equal.
Uruguay was a bit of mistery outside South America. Little was heard of the Uruguyans after World Cup 1970, where they finished 4th. However, the country plumetted into economic and political troubles after 1970. Leftist terrorists appeared, pretty much like everywhere in South America, trigerring the usual military response. There was a twist, though: the Uruguayan military effectively took the reigns of the country, banned all political parties, and delivered their own kind of violence and terror. But it was not the usual junta – nominally, civilian government was appointed by the army – a puppet government. Uruguay was rarely in the international news partly because there were much bigger offenders taking the headlines, but still it was one of the many undemocratic states to appear at the World Cup 1974. Unlike their Brazilian brethren, the Uruguayan officers did not care about football. The army supported Penarol, ‘the peoples club’, for populist reasons, but even that was half-heartedly. Penarol was not made into superclub for the glory of the regime – it was kept slightly better than the rest, good enough to win domestic titles. And that was that – the international scene was not a military concern.
So uninterested in football were the Uruguayan officers that football became domain of political activities – politicians of every colour became club presidents and conducted their fight against the regime under cover. The current President of Uruguay was president of Racing, for instance.
Political and economic chaos never helps football and Uruguayan football was shrply declining. The stars were rapidly moving to play abroad and no new talent emerged. By 1974 there were more or less only two younger players showing big star potential – Fernando Morena and Walter Olivera. Thus, Uruguay included foreign based player in the national team for the first time in 1972 – Elbio Ricardo Pavoni, the captain of the Argentine Independiente. The issue was still hotly debated by 1974 between the familiar camps of supporters vs opositioners of ‘foreigners’. The supporters won by default: there was simply not enough talent in the country to make a team. Walter Olivera got heavy injury on top of everything and there was no other option, but to call the ‘foreigners’. The oposition comforted themselve with ‘historic resolution’: 24 players were declared untransferable until the end of World Cup 1974.
I have no idea what were the Uruguayan expectations for the World Cup, internationally there was little faith in the ‘Celeste’. As the third strongest South American football nation, qualifying for the finals was taken for granted. It was not noticed that the team struggled. It was noticed that it is an aging squad. Yet, it was a team with huge reputation – twice world champions and most recently reaching the semi-finals in 1970. Who knows, they may pull themselves together in West Germany – the guys were getting long in the tooth, but… some were big names in the 1960s and may have some last legs. Then Uruguay played a friendly in Australia in the beginning of 1974 and lost. The final opinion settled on that: Uruguay ceratinly was not to be among the best teams, but most lokely will follow the infamous South American tradition – when the team is weak, bring the violence. Wasting time, simulating, and kicking everyone in sight was predicted to be the ‘Celeste’ contribution to the World Cup, which would make them particularly difficult to beat, and therefore the second spot in Group 3 was open for grabs. Weak as they were, the Uruguayans were thought having a chance.
Head coach: Roberto Porta
No. Pos. Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Ladislao Mazurkiewicz 14 February 1945 (aged 29) Atlético Mineiro
2 DF Baudilio Jáuregui 9 July 1945 (aged 28) River Plate
3 DF Juan Carlos Masnik 2 March 1943 (aged 31) Nacional
4 DF Pablo Forlán 14 July 1945 (aged 28) São Paulo
5 DF Julio Montero Castillo 25 April 1944 (aged 30) Nacional
6 DF Ricardo Pavoni 8 July 1943 (aged 30) Independiente
7 MF Luis Cubilla 28 March 1940 (aged 34) Nacional
8 MF Víctor Espárrago 6 October 1944 (aged 29) Sevilla
9 FW Fernando Morena 2 February 1952 (aged 22) Peñarol
10 MF Pedro Rocha 3 December 1942 (aged 31) São Paulo
11 FW Rubén Corbo 20 January 1952 (aged 22) Peñarol
12 GK Héctor Santos 29 October 1944 (aged 29) Alianza Lima
13 DF Gustavo de Simone 23 April 1948 (aged 26) Defensor Sporting
14 DF Luis Garisto 3 December 1945 (aged 28) Peñarol
15 DF Mario González 27 May 1950 (aged 24) Peñarol
16 MF Alberto Cardaccio 26 August 1949 (aged 24) Danubio
17 MF Julio César Jiménez 27 August 1954 (aged 19) Peñarol
18 MF Walter Mantegazza 17 June 1952 (aged 21) Nacional
19 FW Denis Milar 20 June 1952 (aged 21) Liverpool
20 FW Juan Silva 30 August 1948 (aged 25) Peñarol
21 FW José Gómez 23 October 1949 (aged 24) Cerro
22 GK Gustavo Fernández 16 February 1952 (aged 22) Rentistas

One formation lacking foreign based players yet. Top, left to right: Santos, Ubina, Masnik, Cardaccio, De Simone, Soria.
Bottom: Cubilla, Esparrago, Morena, Bertocchi, Milar.
Soria and Bertocchi did not make the final squad and by the summer of 1974 Santos and Esparrago already were playing abroad – the goalie in Peru and the midfielder in Spain. A total of 6 ‘foreighers’ were included in the World Cup selection – the same as Argentina and Sweden. Only Scotland had more foreign based players – if we consider England a foreign country. Ten players were 25 years old or younger, but practically all of them were deep reserves.