Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yugoslavia qualified in the last minute for the World Cup – after extra match with Spain, since both teams were tied at the end of their qualification group. The ‘Plavi’ (the Blues) got the upper hand, but, in general, it was not a surprise – they were always among the strong European teams and frequant participants in the World Cup finals. However, they missed 1970 World Cup, so at home expectations were higher than abroad. The Yugoslav team was coached by Miljan Miljanic, a well respected coach across Europe. He was also a curiousity of a kind: not only a Communist, but a former guerilla – he fought against Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia during the World War II. Naturally, among the Communist partizans, not among the Nationalists. After liberation he returned to football and eventually coached successfully Crvena zvezda before asked to take the national team. A discilplinarian and rather heavy handed, Miljanic was very good coach and respected by his players. He was also blessed with talented candidates for the blue jersey. His selection was largely based on Crvena zvezda (Belgrade) and Hajduk (Split), the best clubs of the country at the time, and was a mixture of experienced stars (mostly from Belgrade) and young Croatians bursting with talent. It may be not the best ever First XI Yugoslavia had, but surely was the most overall balanced squad, with pretty much equal candidates for every position (the only relatively weaker player was the third goallie Rizah Meskovic, who was not expected to play anyway). In terms of balancing, Yugoslavia was the only other team than West Germany to have such luxury at the finals and not to worry about injuries of the starters. In fact, the only trouble for Miljanic was who to leave out of the squad, for there were more candidates than FIFA allowed to be included.
With so much talent at home, Miljanic did not have to look for foreign based players even in jest – which corresponded with traditional Yugoslav rules only ‘amateurs’ to play for the national team. Yet, there was an intrigue, reguarding this rule – the first crack appeared in 1972, when Scoblar and Takac offered their services. The issue was hotly disputed, but at the end the ‘professionals’ were not invited. In 1974 - another crack: the right winger Ilija Petkovic, already at the age permitting transfer abroad, signed a contract with Troyes (France). This happened in the late spring, before the World Cup, but also months before the beginning of the French championship. His signing created controversy, most difficult for football statisticians: to which club Petkovic belonged during the World Cup. His contract was announced in Eastern Europe, but there Petkovic was listed as OFK Beograd player, his last club with which he just finished the Yugoslavian 1973-74 season. Thus, the rule banning foreign based players was observed in words. In the West opinions were divided: some media (West German Kicker, for instance) listed Petkovic as Troyes’ player; others – as OFK Beograd’s player. The problem is not suficiently solved even now, largely because apart from having a contract, Petkovic was not yet registered in France; he did not play a single minute for Troyes; and, hell, he did not even train yet with his new club. On the other hand… he finished the season with OFK Beograd, but he was no longer a player of the club. The only sure thing is that he became the very first foreign based player in the Yugoslavian national team – by default surely, but still the old rule was crumbling. For the time been, no fuss was made over that, but the Yugoslav media loved drama and sensations and quickly discovered one to fret about.
The drama was the military service Dragan Dzajic and, if I am not mistaken, Ivica Surjak had to go through. Surjak was small problem – he was at the right age for the army, but more imporatntly, he was not yet a big star. Dzajic was another matter – he is the all-time best Yugoslavian player, a big star, recognized abroad for years. And because of his imporatnce his army service was postponed year after year – three different interests united in his case: the interests of the national team; those of his club Crvena zvezda; with additional one – the great hatred between Crvena zvezda and Partizan, the Army club. The fear was that Dzajic would be playing for the ‘enemy’… But he was getting old and the Army got him finally. The journalists photographed the players in uniform and asked the heart-stopping question: ‘will be the stars ready for the World Cup, since they are distarcted and out of the game?’ It was a storm in a water glass really: apart from walking around in uniform, Dzajic and Surjak saw little of the short anyway Yugoslav military life. Nominally soldiers, both spent their time in the national team training camp, probably not even sleeping in Army baracks.
And such were the news about the Yugoslav national team before the finals. Abroad the views were soberer: Yugoslavia was recognized as a strong team, but not a likely favorite in their round robin group. It was pointed out that the Yugoslavs are traditionally moody team – they may play fantastic football, but they can easily collapse into mediocrity too. Unpredictable. Nobody questioned the quality of their game, but their character was a liability, and because of that Yugoslavia was seen as a potential candidate for a second place in Group 2, with slightly better chances than Scotland. Both teams were to fight for one spot; the other reserved for Brazil. If there was some advantage, it was in the fact that Yugoslavia will have massive support – not only the country allowed travel to ‘Capitalist’ countires, but Yugoslavs were permitted to work in the West. There were thousands in West Germany and with them, coming to the staidums directly after finishing their shifts in the factories, team Yugoslavia was expected to be playing practically at home.
coach: Miljan Miljanić
No. Pos. Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Enver Marić 23 April 1948 (aged 26) Velež Mostar
2 DF Ivan Buljan 11 December 1949 (aged 24) Hajduk Split
3 DF Enver Hadžiabdić 6 November 1945 (aged 28) FK Željezničar
4 MF Dražen Mužinić 25 January 1953 (aged 21) Hajduk Split
5 DF Josip Katalinski 12 May 1948 (aged 26) FK Željezničar
6 DF Vladislav Bogićević 7 November 1950 (aged 23) Red Star Belgrade
7 FW Ilija Petković 22 September 1945 (aged 28) Troyes
8 MF Branko Oblak 27 May 1947 (aged 27) Hajduk Split
9 FW Ivica Šurjak 23 March 1953 (aged 21) Hajduk Split
10 MF Jovan Aćimović 21 June 1948 (aged 25) Red Star Belgrade
11 FW Dragan Džajić 30 May 1946 (aged 28) Red Star Belgrade
12 MF Jurica Jerković 25 February 1950 (aged 24) Hajduk Split
13 MF Miroslav Pavlović 23 October 1942 (aged 31) Red Star Belgrade
14 DF Luka Peruzović 26 February 1952 (aged 22) Hajduk Split
15 DF Kiril Dojčinovski 17 October 1943 (aged 30) Red Star Belgrade
16 MF Franjo Vladić 19 October 1951 (aged 22) Velež Mostar
17 FW Danilo Popivoda 1 May 1947 (aged 27) Olimpija Ljubljana
18 FW Stanislav Karasi 8 November 1946 (aged 27) Red Star Belgrade
19 FW Dušan Bajević 10 December 1948 (aged 25) Velež Mostar
20 FW Vladimir Petrović 1 July 1955 (aged 18) Red Star Belgrade
21 GK Ognjen Petrović 2 January 1948 (aged 26) Red Star Belgrade
22 GK Rizah Mešković 10 August 1947 (aged 26) Hajduk Split

The Plavi left to right: Petkovic, Karasi, Hadziabdic, Oblak, Katalinski, Buljan, Bogicevic, Surjak, Maric, Dzajic. Apart from their captain Dragan Dzajic, hardly anybody felt secure for his place – the reserves were equally good. And pity those, who were left out and had to watch television.