Monday, January 31, 2011

A slight departure across the Atlantic, simply because there is a chance photo… for Africa is ever tough to find on print. The African Champions Cup was won by Hafia (Conakry), winning both legs of the final against Enugu Rangers (Nigeria): 1-0 at Conakry and 2-1 at Lagos. For the club hailing from Guinea (there is one more Guinea down there, so they are often distinguished by their capitals – Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry) already won the Cup – in 1972. They were to win it one more time – in 1977 – and generally the 1970s were the best years of the club known back in the 1960s as Conakry II, seemingly, second-tier club of the city.
Hafia also was practically the national team of Guinea, although the players meant nothing elsewhere – perhaps the greatest was Cherif Souleymane, voted best footballer of Africa in 1972. Yet, what was unknown to outsiders was important back home: Cameroonians watched and followed closely the exploits of Hafia, eventually getting excited and improving themselves. At the end Cameroon and not Guinea (and not even Ghana, recognized as the best footballing nation of ‘black’ Africa in the 1960s and 1970s) impressed the world, but by then Guinean football was already in decline or at least no longer improving. Not so during the 70s – Haifa were minor legends, sporting fancy nicknames, including one guy called ‘Kolev’ after the Bulgarian striker from 1950s-early 60s Ivan Kolev.
Hafia during their glory years and getting their second African Champions Cup: bottom, left to right: Kerfalla Jacob Bangoura, Mamadou ‘N’jolea’ Keita, Ali ‘Petit Sory’ Keita, Yanski (?), Bengally Sylla.
Top: Morcire Sylla, Djibril Diarra, Naby Laye ‘Papa’ Camara, Cherif Souleymane, Abdoulaye ‘Banks’ Keyta Sylla, Thiam Ousmane Tollo.
What to say? I can’t even establish one name, but something else is discoverable: the curious case of Morcire Sylla. In different years he is listed as goalkeeper, midfielder, and central defender. Obviously capable of playing any position. In my opinion the importance of this club for the development of African football is neglected at best: Europe did not care to get news and what was happening in Africa was largely unknown.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No such problem down South – Mexico already had long football tradition and the sport was popular. But in 1975 there was talk of ‘new winds’ – the success of World Cup 1970 boosted the game not only in terms of crowds and gate profits. The Mexicans paid attention to the newest developments of the game by inviting foreign coaches to seminars and hiring foreigners as well. Why this was ‘optimistic’ is hard to tell: Mexican football already used foreigners for years. The difference was that normally the imports were South Americans, when by 1975 the interest was focused on Europeans. However, it was mostly learning from them yet – not exactly importing them to play and coach. The immediate result? Deportivo Toluca – or simply Toluca – won the championship.
The club was old – founded in 1917 – and even had some success – Mexican champions they were already twice – but not exactly big club. This season they won again and were hailed as sign of positive changes. At leas outside Mexico… at home they were constantly and severely criticized for their ulta-defensive style. The coach was responsible for the style – Ricardo De Leon.
De Leon was Uruguayan and thus hardly representing ‘new winds’. But his assistant said otherwise… and the assistant coach was no other but Antonio Carbajal, the legendary Mexican goalkeeper, who played at 5 World Cups. Carbajal insisted that European football is best and Toluca followed the new tendencies, however, mostly the Spanish ones, for Spanish football was the most suitable for the Mexicans. All of the above is messy, confused, and contradictive, but football world is mostly that anyway.
‘Ultra-defensive’ or a ‘wind of change’, Diablos Rojos (the Red Devils) won a title and have all the reasons to smile. Now, tell their fans that Toluca was not good this season!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

But Pele came and everything was getting much better! Right? Major soccer… or major pain in the ass: to establish who was who in NASL is statistician’s nightmare. NASL preferred to list most players as imports, hoping to sell football to ignorant American public as a concoction of international stars. International the league was, judging by birthplaces – from Great Britain to Thailand, the whole world was represented. Even few Americans and Canadians… Perhaps the most unusual were the representatives of China – Mike Ivanow and Archie Roboostoff (both playing for San Jose Earthquakes in 1975). Sound like Chinese names? Well, they were born in China alright, but they would be more interesting for a historian investigating the Russian colony in Shanghai. Anyway, the bulk of ‘foreign stars’ were really naturalized US and Canadian citizens, who never played top level football in their former countries. Some were entirely US products: Werner Roth and Mirko ‘Mark’ Liveric, for example, were both born in Yugoslavia, but never played there. Liveric was included in US national team in 1973. Roth arrived in USA 8 years old – perhaps he never played even street football in his ‘homeland’. Yet, they were advertised as imports. Which makes very difficult to establish who were real imports – of which there were plenty of names well before the transfer of Pele and not only British either. Megastars like Ladislao Cubala played their twilight seasons in USA. Regular players too – Cesar Luis Menotti was one of those (after playing for New York Generals in 1967-68, he became Pele’s teammate at Santos). The same was true in 1975 as well: Argentines, Uruguayans, Chileans, Mexicans, Brazilians, Yugoslavians, etc, etc, etc. The Israelis Mordechai Spiegler and David Primo (both Cosmos) played at the 1970 World Cup. Guy St. Vil (Baltimore Comets) played for Haiti at 1974 World Cup. Up the scale were decent professionals like the Brazilian Nelsi Morais (Cosmos) and the English former Chelsea player Tommy Baldwin (Seattle Sounders). There were European failures – Ian Storey-Moore, who Manchester United thought the next George Best just the year before, now graced Chicago Sting. There were unknown yet players, who became quite famous in Europe later: Gordon Hill of Chicago Sting later was part of the Manchester United’s successful squads, reaching Cup finals in 1976 and 1977. Peter Withe , now in Portland Timbers, won the European Champions Cup with Aston Villa in 1982. Higher still were aging European stars of various times – the Yugoslav great Ilija Mitic and the Scot who is still considered Celtic’s greatest ever player Jimmy Johnstone played for San Jose Earthquakes. Peter Bonetti (England) for St. Louis Stars. Mike England (Wales) – for Seattle Sounders. The long time Italian national team defenseman Giacomo Bulgarelli joined Hartford Bicentennials. The Portuguese superstars Antonio Simoes and Eusebio now represented Boston Minutemen. And Cosmos? The Uruguayan former national player Juan Masnik came, fresh from 1974 World Cup fiasco. The Peruvian star, remembered from World Cup 1970, Ramon Mifflin arrived as well. Pele, of course, was expected to change everything in North America – but unlike Beckham, it was not only Pele in the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, Pele’s transfer dwarfed everybody else and most people even in 1975 hardly knew who else was kicking the ball in North American clubs, but one thing was already clear: NASL was getting major appetite. And New York Cosmos was leading the pack, seemingly becoming really big club.
Here they are: Brazilians, Uruguayans, local boys, and naturalized Americans, aiming to transform the exotic ‘soccer’ into familiar ‘all-American’ sport.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big Europe, but what about the rest the world? Well, after the 1974 World Cup the rest of the world sunk into its usual obscurity. Except for North America – NASL made a big leap forward. The league expanded from 14 to 20 clubs and also acquired the King of Football – Pele. The idea clearly was to capture American audience and sell the sport, but the signing also made known NASL to Europe: American soccer was becoming respectable. Kind of. FIFA liked the news too, for now the lucrative American market was no longer wild west, but relations between FIFA and NASL were tense and difficult: first of all, NASL was not traditional league of one country, but like ice hockey and baseball combined US and Canadian clubs in one league. International league, in the eyes of FIFA, and not proper national championship. Having ‘franchises’ and not traditional clubs was weird too – it meant closed league, without promotions and relegations. It meant that market and not the sport was of prime importance – and if profit was absent, a ‘franchise’ may be moved to another city, or folded, or renamed. Such things were entirely foreign to traditional football structure. Stadiums were problematic as well – not only they were rarely marked properly and entirely covered with grass (NASL used baseball and American football venues, both with permanent markings of the primary sport), but also games were played on artificial surface and indoors. And finally the biggest problem: NASL had a strong tendency to bend and change the rules of the game, hoping to sell it to public which did not recognize ties and low scoring. To FIFA such innovations were not football at all and NASL was constantly threatened with expulsion. At the end, NASL was always permitted to play – and remain a FIFA member – for the temptation to include North America was too great. Thus, the ‘glory’ years of North American football started on expansive and expensive scale. Money can make the sport popular - on this both FIFA and North American enthusiasts seemed to agree.
This is not 1975, but represents very well the general weirdness of NASL football: indoor stadium with artificial turf; goalkeepers with helmets years before Peter Chech; and what the hell Peter Wall is pointing at in the skies? No wonder Clyde Best (10) shows painful confusion… what is exactly played here? Any clue?

Saturday, January 22, 2011


After the heights of 1974 World Cup 1975 appeared exceptionally anticlimactic and bleak. Like having hangover – nothing satisfied. Perhaps for that the important changes were missed - not that they were good, but they shaped the future of football even more than 1974. South America sunk under the European radar and except for scouts bringing players to European clubs nobody else paid any attention – after the 1974 fiasco South America was considered left behind, may be for good. The Intercontinental Cup was not played at all in 1975 and seemed dead. The South American championship took place after long absence, yet hardly anybody in Europe noticed. Back in Europe qualifications for the European championship were taking place and it was almost a repeat of 1973 – Czechoslovakia was getting stronger, but just like Poland before, the Czechoslovaks were underestimated. They eliminated England, but this was lesser surprise than two years before – first, Czechoslovakia was traditionally respected team, and second, after the first shock, the next are not big news. Yet, 1975 fiasco was more important for the future of England than 1973 – it showed that major rethinking of English football did not happened and the new squad settled the pattern this country follows so far to the present day: great club football and dull national team. Trevor Brooking is perhaps the archetype of dullness – the line of English stars from him to Beckham is just the opposite of Bobby Charlton – respectively, Bobby was World Champion, unlike the next vintages. Italy struggled too, trying painfully to change players and attitudes – the country was at its lowest point in 1975, but unlike England eventually managed to reshape and produce new types of players and concepts, and to return to top football and winning.
However, the most important change was elsewhere: West Germany was the model and more – Bundesliga was establishing itself as the best league in the world. The German system was financially sound at time when almost everywhere – England again is the worst example – clubs were sliding rapidly into massive debts and desperate schemes for escaping bankruptcies. The West German league was also the most entertaining, playing attacking and high scoring football, attractive to fans. So the Germans were the kings.
Helmut Schon spins the ball – and the world – on his finger.
Paul Breitner going to Madrid as conquering Napoleon. The images of confident supremacy represent reality, yet hiding something much more important: the corruption of total football. In 1974 prophets speculated on the great possibilities of total football, seen still to be at infant stage. It was to be faster, more imaginative, high scoring and exciting game. The future was imagined in artistic terms – a game played by Cruyffs and Beckenbauers. Instead, the development turned into different direction – mechanistic physical football, saturating the pitch with running like horses players, tackling mercilessly each other in never ending battle for… the centre of the pitch. Instead of Ajax, the new football followed Bayern and Dynamo Kiev – both clubs winning European cups in 1975, ominously pointing at dull direction. Dynamo’s mechanical ‘scientific’ football and Bayern’s physical ‘rolling over’ brand twisted the bright game of Ajax, taking some elements from the archetype, but entirely rejecting artistry in the name of winning. And the rest of the world followed Bayern and Dynamo, not the Flying Dutch. This was the most important change 1975 produced.
Apart from that, 1975 was the end of Leeds United – instead of becoming a dynasty, Leeds lost one more European final and it was steady downhill from there on. At the same time Liverpool was on the verge of becoming a dynasty – if for underachieving Leeds 1975 was the end, for the Merseysiders it was only a beginning: they really changed the English club football (although I was and am not happy with the change into continental two- or three- superclubs running the show).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And with this one of most exciting years of football ends. Memorable year… and to select the best moment from it would be as easy as choosing between Cruyff and Beckenbauer… but must be the fantastic goal Rivelino scored against East Germany at the World Cup.
Unforgettable beauty and precision.
And in 1974 the Hungarian Florian Albert, one of the most elegant players ever, retired.

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Europe the best player of the year was heavy problem: it was clearly either Cruyff, or Beckenbauer – but who was better?
They were the best players of the whole world back then, both representing the new revolutionary football, the new kind of star. Both in top form, often playing against each other to the delight of the crowds, and friendly to each other. Shoulder to shoulder, they were ‘total football’.
Cruyff was voted European Footballer of the Year at the end – for third time. FIFA voted him the Best player of Year in the world in 1974.
In terms of superiority, there was no doubt about Cruyff and Beclenbauer – third placed Deyna has 70 points less than Beckenbauer! The final list – unlike nowadays, back then there was no ‘preselection’ of candidates: journalists filled out the names of those they thought best, no matter who the players were – clearly spells out that total football ruled. The only star belonging to 1960s here is Altafini from Juventus. Along with him, only two other players did not appear at the World Cup finals – Guillou and Blokhin. Except obviously biased patriotic voting (Bonev, Altafini, Guillou, and Blokhin), all other players made strong impression at the World Cup. And the final table quite justly represents the level of performance of the players, but these are the ‘lower levels’ – as for first and second, it was tough. Was Cruyff really better than Beckenbauer? Well… Cruyff won the Spanish championship with Barcelona and led Holland to silver medals at the World Cup. Beckenbauer merely won the West German championship and the European Champions Cup with Bayern, and the World Cup with West Germany.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Chilean defenseman Elias Figueroa was voted Footballer of the Year in South America. Born in 1946, Elias Ricardo Figueroa Brander is one of the least known great football players – he never played in Europe and at the World Cup Chile impressed no one. Ditto for Figueroa. Since the South Americans as a whole failed to impress in 1974, no attention was paid to the best footballer of the continent. Some information is needed here, therefore.
In 1974 Figueroa was playing for Internacional, Porto Alegre, Brazil – one of the best teams of the country at the time. But the Chilean import was not just one of the squad – he already had played for Union, La Calera (1964) and Santiago Wanderers (1965-66) in his native Chile and was good enough to be included in the national squad for the 1966 World Cup. Then he moved to Uruguay, playing for Penarol from 1967 to 1971, when he transferred to Internacional, Porto Alegre. So far he won two Uruguayan championships with Penarol – 1967 and 1968. He was voted the best player in Uruguay in the the same years. In 1972 was voted best player of Brazil. He stayed with Internacional until 1977, winning two Brazilian championships. In 1977 he returned to Chile to play for Palestino. Was voted best player of the year in Chile for 1977 and 1978. In 1978 he was Chilean champion with Palestino and stayed with the club until 1980. Played 1981-82 season for Fort Lauderdale Strikers, USA and NASL, and returned to finish his career in Colo-Colo, Chile – his last 1982-83 season ended with one more championship title. In total, Figueroa played 818 club games, scoring 38 goals in 4 different countries. He is voted best all-time Chilean player, and deservingly so – in South America he was considered the best central defenseman in the world at the mid-1970s. In 1974 Figueroa played his second World Cup, but this not his last – he also played in the 1982 World Cup, when he was 36 years old. For Chile he played 70 games, scoring 2 goals, between 1966 and 1982. And typically for him, he was not voted South American Footballer of the Year just once – but it was his first continental award in 1974. Too bad the football world (meaning arrogant Europe) never really learned who Figueroa was.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And since the World Cup was the highest point of the year, ups and downs belong to it as well. Going down was certainly Italy. The Italians were considered the most likely candidate for the world title, but were not able to progress beyond the first stage. More importantly, they played disgusting football.
The Italian squad at their opening match against Haiti: top, left to right: Giorgio Chinaglia, Francesco Morini, Gianni Rivera, Luciano Spinosi, Dino Zoff, Luigi Riva.
Bottom: Fabio Capello, Romeo Benetti, Tarcisio Burgnich, Giacinto Facchetti, Sandro Mazzola.
Ominous signs, if there was anybody to read them – the old-fashioned reserve kit, stuck in the 1960s; the squad featuring numbers strictly from 1 to 11 (the only team to appear in such clear division of starters and reserves in the classic tradition). When the match started it became clear that not only the kit and numbers are from the 1960s, but the players were stuck there too. Major failure – and inglorious end of the mega-stars of the 1960s.
Going up? Poland, of course. Nobody expected anything from the largely unknown team. By the end of the championship Polish names were hit, casually mentioned by all and sundry.
Third row, left to right: Tomaszewski, Domarski, Wieczorek, Gorgon, Zmuda, Fischer, Musial
Middle row: Strejlau – assistant caoch, Szarmach, Maszczyk, Bulzacki, Szymanowski, Kasperczak, Gut, Deyna, Kalinowski, Gorski – head coach.
Bottom: Kusto, Kmiecik, Lato, Cmikiewicz, Jakobczak, Gadocha, Kapka
An excellent and charming team, deservingly finishing third in the world.

Monday, January 10, 2011

West Germans celebrating – Schon is about to cut the cake; Hoeness, Muller, and Maier waiting for their share. Fun, games, and no worries.
Jumping ahead, from today’s standpoint it could be said that total football indeed succeeded – today’s game is an evolution of it. But how different from the original! It is rather sad that ‘total football’ is the last – so far – big innovation in the game. It is also sad how quickly the original deteriorated into the ugly football of the 1980s. Nobody envisioned such direction in 1974 – nobody, except Kaiser Beckenbauer. When the West German football authorities were busy smiling and celebrating, Kaiser Franz called alarm: in his view, there was no new talent in the country and urgent measures had to be taken to develop it. He was right: German training already was set on producing robots. Total football was interpreted as excellent fitness and capability of playing any post, but not as artistic improvisation. Already there were signs, if there was anybody to read them: Helmut Schon introduced and increasingly played too quite different from Beckenbauer, Netzer and Co. players – Bernhard Cullmann and Heinz Flohe, nominal midfielders from FC Koln. On the surface, both fulfilled the basic requirements of total football – always fit, disciplined, capable of playing at any required position, very reliable, and able to follow tactical directions to the letter. But neither had any spark – both were bland, lacking imagination and compensating limited technical skills with vigor and physicality.They never disappointed, but did not shine either. They were hard to distinguish from many other similar players, they were hard to remember. But they were always ready and fought from beginning to end. When the team was playing good, they played good. When the team was struggling, they were not the boys lifting it up and improving it. They were fighters alright, but never great memorable players. Yet, it turned out that Flohe and Cullmann – not Beckenbauer and Netzer – were the prototypes of the future: what total football promised in 1974 became fast robotic game played by undistinguished players by the end of the 70s. This kind of dependable robotic game was already protruding as the dark side of total football. Flohe played 39 games for West Germany, scoring 8 goals, between 1970 and 1978. Cullmann appeared in 40 games, scoring 6 goals, between 1973 and 1980. Even the numbers of the early robots are the same… and they were followed by an army of their kind. Beckenbauer sensed that in 1974 and sounded the alarm. But nobody listened… it was time for celebrations. The future was bright! The Kaiser imagined things… ominously, the celebrations produced revolt: Breitner and Netzer were outraged and quit the national team in 1975. The whole thing started with old-fashioned discrimination: at one official reception the Federation invited the wives of the national players, but girlfriends of the bachelors were left out. It was ‘improper’, the old brass argued. The rebels saw more than offensive old-style morals - they saw administration incapable of change and therefore incapable of developing football in progressive direction. The players announced their refusal to play for West Germany, opening room for more Cullmanns and Flohes… which were only to increase, because the champions of 1974 were practically of one generation, getting old and retiring from football, or at least some high level football. But West Germany was the best model to follow and by the end 70s Holland was producing players similar to Cullmann and Flohe, not to Cruyff and Neeskens. Total football was strangled almost at birth – to a point, it reached its brightest moment in 1974 and… died. After this year it was something else, called ‘total football’ by inertia.
But enough of the future! The 1974 World Cup was great – perhaps one of the best ever. To me personally it is the most innovative and entertaining ever played, but I am biased. The more objective point would be that after the championship ended it was mostly praised and considered important in development of the sport. It did trigger coaching, training, and playing changes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No wonder analyzes and discussions went for months after the end of the World Cup. And most often the key word was ‘lessons’, as in the photo here:
Cryuff among four Argentines, but very free.
This World Cup was perhaps the most discussed ever and for good reason: it presented one of the most, if not simply the most, important change in football and there was a lot food for thought. ‘Total football’. Not exactly new by 1974, but now dominating the whole world and providing an interesting option: either to employ it, or perish. Usually, total football is summarized as ‘all in attack; all in defense’, but this hardly explains anything. There were very important characteristics of the brand, most of which became clear at the World Cup. The model – respectively, the most analyzed team, was Holland. First of all, it was kind of football dedicated to attack. The tempo was very fast, requiring players in excellent condition and capable to cover the whole field for 90 minutes. But such players were not simply runners – they were to be highly skilled and intelligent players, able to change positions following the flow of the game. A striker had to be able to act as, say, full-back, if necessary, and vice-versa. Thus, classic positions were only nominal – players acted depending on the needs of the moment and more: they had to be equally skilled at their temporary task, just the same as their primery position. The whole team was to act as a whole in both attacking and defending, thus achieving numeric superiority at any point of the pitch. Defense starts at the moment the opposition gets possession of the ball – no matter where, the player with the ball has to be swarmed by players of the ‘total’ team and dispossessed or at least prevented from building dangerous attack. Once the ball is acquired, the total team disperces, looking for empty space, and using it for accelerating their own attack and making it more dangerous. The Dutch were exactly that and as a result appeared always ‘more’ than the other team, as if having more players than the other side, but in the same time, as at the above photo, the Dutch never cluttered in attack, and even when surrounded by many defensemen they looked free in an empty space. The secret was the ball – it was to be passed quickly to a free teammate in an area where the development of attack would be most dangerous. Empty space was key for attack; crowded space – the key for defense. And the other key for defense – start defending at the moment the other team gets the ball; the farther away from our own net, the better. This approach was revolutionary, for traditionally teams used to run back to their own half in order of organizing defense – meantime leaving the opposition free to organize attack and come close to the goal. Now defense started in the oppositions half – and often the ball did not even come to their own ‘defensive’ half of the pitch, for it was recovered and counter-attack launched. As a whole, the game was elegant, skilful and creative, but it required versatile players, able to employ different tactics – the Dutch never shied away from hard tackles, rough physical playing, and what became to be known as ‘tactical fouls’ – deliberate fouls to break an opposition’s attack either before it was fully developed, or when it looked clearly dangerous near the Dutch net. The ‘total football’ required players well versed in tactics, switching them at will, and employing them to the best possible result. A prime example of tactical intelligence was the risky off-side trap (which is not Dutch invention) – it requires orchestrated rush of the whole defense at the very moment before opposite player passes the ball to already running ahead teammate. When executed perfectly, the scheme leaves the striker in off-side. When the players are clumsy, the striker is not off-side, but is entirely free to score, for the whole defense is away and running towards the centre of the pitch. A combination of tactical knowledge and acute ability for reading the game is required for such risky weapons. But when the opposition was at the same level of knowledge and intelligence, then different tactics had to be employed – and often changed during the game. Inability to change tactics when something is not working, or the opposition introduces a surprise is deadly – the Germans were innoventive at the final, and won; the Dutch were unable to switch tactics and lost just because Cruyff was blocked, but his teammates continued to supply him with balls. But inferior opponents were outplayed effortlessly, the Dutch entirely controlling the game.
Total football changed the role of the team star – firstly, it was no longer the mercurial high scoring striker, but the playmaker. However, it was no longer classic playmaker either – he had to be more than mere supplier of balls from defense to attack: a creative and visionary organizer of attacks, looking and finding the most dangerous spot to pass the ball to a frantically running teammate, a spot, where the opposition is not expecting the ball to be. Reading the game was essential and new ‘artistic’ terms came about to describe total football playmakers: conductor, dispatcher, architect. Ideally, a team should have more than one player capable of directing the game – and this was seen as a potential for further development – but one thing was already sure in 1974: that the ‘conductor’ was not to be even a midfielder anymore: among the most impressive ‘dispatchers’ at the World Cup only Deyna was classic midfield playmaker. Cryuff was centreforward and Beckenbauer was a defenseman – it was because of him another new term came into existence: the ‘libero’, positioned last in defense, like a sweeper, but not chained to defensive functions at all – the libero was to organize the attacks of his team. And to a point the fate of the first three teams at the World Cup suggested the relative superiority of the libero over other kinds of playmakers: Cryuff was still too much ahead in the attacking line to have really huge operative space, and Deyna was too traditional midfielder – respectively, the Germans finished first, and Poland – third. Beckenbauer conducted the whole field and among other things his ‘libero’ position gave him the power to control and change the tempo of the match to the best advantage of his team.
But there was one more change in the new star: previously, the team played for the star. He was receiver of balls and opportunities; the served him. And because of that the ‘old’ star participated only in attacks – when his team was defending, the star just watched. He was a consumer. The new star was just the opposite: he was to serve the team and create opportunities for his teammates to score. His new role required from him dynamic, not static, play; he was to run constantly everywhere and to participate in defense as well. The failure of Italy was a failure of the old understanding of football and the role of the star player in it, but the teams which played or at least tried to play total football had different stars – Gerd Muller is perhaps the best example, for he was a player trained in the old school and also by his position a clear consumer: yet, he actively participated in defense (although it was obvious to all, that he was no defenseman) – the point is, total football asked even established players to change their habbits. Sometimes even their nominal positions – Haan and Rijsberegen for Holland; Holzenbein and Bomhof for Germany; Vogts in the final. The whole team was to be made of stars – not just workhorses, but technical, fit, knowledgeable, and creative players.
And speaking of whole team, there was one other lesson: the total team had to be well balanced, without weak players at any position. Holland had mediocre goalkeeper and to a point lost the title because of Jongbloed: when he was called to action, he was not able to. West Germany had an excellent Sep Maier on the other hand – a goalie, capable of making fantastic saves and always up to whatever challenge. But balance went beyond the starting eleven: total football required good reserves at every post. As good as the starters and versatile as the starters: short bench deprived Holland of tactical changes when needed, but West Germany had a long bench and Schon was able to try various players until finding the winning squad. Yet, Holland played great football for the most of the tournament and nobody changes a winning team, so the shortcomings of the whole selection was were not really important (besides, those were objective shortcomings – there were simply no good players for some posts, particularly goalies). Struggling Brazil, having ‘short bench’ of inferior players, was unable to change players and become better, unlike West Germany.
In view of all that conclusions were made: the most important was that whoever stuck to oldfashioned football was to be constant loser in the future. ‘Oldfashioned’ was largely understood as defensive football – and from this perspective European football was vastly superior than anybody else, particularly superior to South American. The South Americans seemingly misunderstood the changes in the European game, interpreting them as physical fitness, discipline, and defensive tactics. The Argentine coach Cap was the blindest of all, stating that modern football is defensive football and his team was to play just defense. Zagallo strangled Brazil with his schematic discipline and defensive minded tactics. What the South Americans did not see was the most important: total football was attacking, technical, fast, but elegant game. It was far from running madly and kicking anybody nearby. It was sophisticated and entertaining, high scoring football. Holland, West Germany, Poland, Sweden, Yugoslavia, were playing either total football or close approximations of it; more traditional attacking and speedy teams – Scotland and East Germany – were at least worthy opponents to the best, envisioned capable of transforming their game into total football. At the opposite end were the South Americans, Bulgaria and Italy – they were clearly left behind and unless making quick changes towards adapting total football nothing good waited for them in the future. The new fast pace of the game seemingly left the rest of the world – Africa, Asia, North and Central America, and Oceania – not near the best, but further behind. Since not too many teams were yet capable of playing total football, the development was considered still in an early stage – it was professed that in the future total football will become much more entertaining, faster, and more skilfull. This required new kinds of training, producing total players, and new crop of coaches, full of innovative ideas. The models were West Germany and Rinus Muchels, Cruyff and Beckenbauer. The hope was in Poland and the young promising players – Bonhof, Breitner, Rep. The new game needed new mentality and as whole it was seen to exist in West Germany – the domestic championship of the World Champions was increasingly seen as the best organized, the most entertaining, producing modern players, and increasingly – the place to play football, if one thinks himself a real star. The future was bright indeed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The aftermath was mostly tying loose ends: as a whole, the championship was judged a success. Perhaps the crowds were a little under the expected numbers at the stadia, but commercially everything was fine – television and advertising particularly. Organization was excellent and the new formula of playing semi-final round robin groups instead of direct elimination was attractive to the fans. As a whole, the level of football was high and attacking schemes dominated. The best three teams ended exactly in the order of their qualities. There were enough surprises, among which Poland was the best one. The crop of talented players was impressive at every post: goalkeepers – Maier, Hellstrom, Tomaszewski, Maric. Right full backs: Suurbier, Vogts. Libero and sweepers: Beckenbauer, Luis Pereira. Stoppers and other kinds of central defencemen: Rijsbergen, Haan, Gorgon, Szymanowski, Mario Marinho, Bogicevic, Schwarzenbeck, Katalinski. Left full backs: Breitner, Krol, Francisco Marinho, Muzinic. Deffensive midfielders – Bonhof, Jansen, Kasperczak. Playmakers: Deyna, Overath, Oblak, van Hanegem. Attacking midfielders: Hoeness, Neeskens, Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani. Right wingers: Lato, Rep, Grabowski. Strikers: Cruyff, Muller, Szarmach, Edstrom, Surjak. Left wingers: Rensenbrink, Gadocha, Sandberg, Holzenbein, Dzajic. And this is just a short list. The World Cup established or re-established itself as the biggest players market, where buyers discovered new talent or confirmed the class of already spotted talent – transfers started during the tournament and feaverishly followed immediately after. The Yugoslavian team went entirely to play abroad (although not immediately – the process was completed in the early 1980s) including the coach Milan Miljanic, who was hired by Real Madrid. Real also bought Paul Breitner. Bayern spent some of the Breitner’s transfer money for replacement – they got Bjorn Andersson, who also played strongly at the World Cup for Sweden. Kaiserslautern acquired another Swede - Ronnie Hellstrom.
Neeskens – the new Barcelona boy.
Barcelona signed Neeskens after the first round-robin stage – and created considerable tension in the Dutch dressing room. But it was not only the brightest stars – even lesser players attracted keen interest, like the Haitian goalkeeper Francillon, who was signed by TSV 1860 Munich. Transfer-wise, the 1974 World Cup was gigantic, for eventually players ‘not for sale’ ended in foreign clubs – the Poles a few years later; a bunch of Argentines and Brazilians – gradually; the Dutch one after another; the great Scot Joe Jordan when Italy lifted the ban on foreign players; and even some Bulgarians – although at the very end of their careers, Bonev, Goranov, Mikhailov, Denev, Panov, were among the first Bulgarians allowed to play professionally abroad in the early 1980s. Even an Australian and a Zairian managed to play for European clubs. As a whole, 1974 featured perhaps the most diversely talented bunch of players, triggering massive commercial change. The best eleven of the tournament is the best witness of the quality of the players of this vintage: think of who did not make the squad!
Speaking of quality and competition… 4 world champions; 2 vice-champions; 3 bronze medalists; 1 semi-final round robin participant; and Billy Bremner, whose Scotland exited after the first group stage! And mind that in this team Gerd Muller has to play left winger.

Monday, January 3, 2011

And finally the final: West Germany – Holland. July 7, 1974. The Engish refferree Jack Taylor led the teams on the field in front of 75 200 fans:
1 GK Sepp Maier 30 Bayern Munich
2 DF Berti Vogts 27 Borussia Mönchengladbach
3 DF Paul Breitner 22 Bayern Munich
4 DF Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck 26 Bayern Munich
5 DF Franz Beckenbauer (c) 28 Bayern Munich
12 MD Wolfgang Overath 30 1.FC Cologne
16 MD Rainer Bonhof 22 Borussia Mönchengladbach
9 FW Jürgen Grabowski 30 Eintracht Frankfurt
13 FW Gerd Müller 28 Bayern Munich
14 FW Uli Hoeness 22 Bayern Munich
17 FW Bernd Hölzenbein 28 Eintracht Frankfurt

None used.

Coach: Helmut Schön 58

8 GK Jan Jongbloed 33 FC Amsterdam
12 DF Ruud Krol 25 Ajax
17 DF Wim Rijsbergen (-69) 22 Feyenoord
20 DF Wim Suurbier 29 Ajax
2 MD Arie Haan 25 Ajax
3 MD Wim van Hanegem 30 Feyenoord
6 MD Wim Jansen 27 Feyenoord
13 MD Johan Neeskens 22 Ajax
14 FW Johan Cruijff (c) 27 Barcelona (SPA)
15 FW Rob Rensenbrink (-46) 27 RSC Anderlecht (BEL)
16 FW Johnny Rep 22 Ajax

7 MD Theo de Jong (+69) 26 Feyenoord
10 MD Rene van de Kerkhof (+46) 22 PSV Eindhoven
Coach: Rinus Michels 46
Michels fielded his constant and exciting team, and Schon – the squad which won the tough match against Poland. But there was something new – it was clear from the strating whistle that the German coach gambled once again: the left fullback Vogts was personally marking Cruyff, evidently with orders to follow him everywhere, even to the washroom, if needed. It was heavy risk, leaving Rensenbrink on the Dutch left wing dangerously free – and Rensenbrink have been tremendously dangerous in the all previous games. The gamble seemingly was not working… Cruyff rushed inside the German penalty area, Fogts was too late, the Dutch was fouled and it was a penalty. In the 2nd minute of the match!
Cruyff stopped illegally – it seemed to be the only way to stop him.
Neeskens with his trademark penalty kick up near the crossbar in the middle of the net – 1-0 for the Dutch.
It looked like it will be all Dutch to the end of the final – early start and the Oranje did not plan to stop attacking. So far Fogts was helpless against Cruyff – that he continued to mark number 14 looked like the end of West Germany… but gradually things changed. The Germans fought back and started attacking as well, and Vogts visibly was getting the upper hand, neutralizing Cruyff. Nothing was over! In the 25th minute Taylor blew his whistle calling penalty again – but this time at the opposite half of the pitch.
Jansen fouled Holzenbein. Note the German – it was his trademark rush and fall inside any penalty area, crying of pain, arms wide spread. Most of the time there was not any foul and Holzenbein was faking, but this time it was not a provocation – he was really fouled.
Paul Breitner coolly converted the penalty into equalizer – 1-1. The final started anew.
It was entertaining match with both teams attacking and trying to score, but also with capable defences. As minutes ticked away, something was becoming – Schon’s plan not only worked, but the Germans were increasingly becoming the more dangerous team. Fogts entirely neutralized Cryuff.
Cryuff horizontal, but Vogts firmly on his feet – this photo is somewhat symbolic of the clash: the Germans were getting better than the Dutch.
Yet, his teammates constantly passed the ball to him to organize attacks – curiously, Michels did not try to change tactics, and one result was entirely negative: without Cryuff’s creative passes Rensenbrink became useless, although he had no fullback in his area. Why the Dutch did not switch the ball to van Hanegem, a good playmaker himself, is a mystery – most likely overconfidence prevented them from tactical change, or the strong personality of Cruyff stubbornly demanded the ball. Meantime the Germans played strong defense, Beckenbauer carefully commanded his troops, but stayed mostly in defense himself, leaving attack organization to Overath, Bonhof, and Hoeness. The game was fast and often physical, yet not nasty.
Suurbier tackles Overath, but the German already passed the ball.
A classic: Maier saves, Cruyff is deprived from opportunity, and Beckenbauer is already turning in the opposite direction to start a German attack.
As a whole, a good match dedicated to open football, but increasingly the Dutch attacks were becoming predictable, when the Germans were getting more confident and dangerous. Tiny differences were tipping the scales in German favour: Maier was solid as a rock; the defense was organized and calm; the midfield was at least equal to the Dutch, and in attack bloodthirsty sharks – Muller and Holzenbein tormented the Dutch defence. As a result, Haan and Rijsbergen had to stay more back in their own half than usual, thus depriving Dutch attack from surprise. And the best Dutch defensive weapon – the off-side trap – did not work at all against the crafty Germans, very familiar with the said trap and capable of playing on the very edge of off-side. So far Holland prevented danger by off-side traps and their goalkeeper had little to do, but now Jongbloed had to save – and it was crystal clear that he was not good at it. Two minutes before half-time Gerd Muller scored his trademark unattractive goal.
Jongbloed called to action and failing… Muller was Muller, but quite frankly the goalie should have do more than watching the ball crawling into his net. 2-1 for West Germany.
Tensions grew too:
Neeskens and Maier engaged in friendly chat – looks uglier than it was. The match never deteriorated into brutality, not the referee allowed it to go out of hand. Berti Vogts was yellow carded preventively in the 4th minute – Taylor clearly sent the message that he will be in control – and the other three yellow cards were shown to Dutch players – Neeskens and van Hanegem were booked for dangerous fouls, but Cryuff’s booking was rare beauty: as usual, he whined, and complained, and argued, eventually overdoing it – after the end of the first half he continued to ‘present’ his case to Mr. Taylor and was yellow carded – since the offense took place outside the pitch and not in regular playing time, the second half started with the formal booking of the Dutch captain. The public had to guess why, but eventually got the reason. Yet, as a whole, the game was not violent and the referee let it flow in the English fashion: allowing hard tackles and calling only obvious viscious fouls. Although not angels, both teams were more interested in playing football than winning by dirty tricks, but since they were fairly equal the second half produced no goals. Schon was satisfied with his team and did not substituted anybody, but Michels tried to change by substituting disappointing Rensenbrink at half time with Rene van de Kerkhof and later replacing Rijsbergen with Theo de Jong. The two nominal midfielders did not sufficiently improve the Dutch game, though. Later Cruyff never recognized the loss, stubbornly saying that German brawn did not really won over Dutch brain, but his team lost and the Germans were Champions of the World for a second time.
As a whole, it was just final and just result: Holland and West Germany were the best teams at the 1974 World Cup, and the Germans had slightly better football arguments than the Dutch.
Silver Holland: back left to rigt: Jongbloed, Rijsbergen, Haan, Neeskens, Krol, Suurbier.
Bottom: Rep, Cruyff, Rensenbrink, Jansen, van Hanegem.
The sweet response of Schon and company to the constant criticism they endured from the beginning of the tournament – World Champions! Back, left to right: Hottges, Maier, Flohe, Muller, Grabowski, Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Cullmann.
Front: Nigbur, Hoeness, Heynckes, Bonhof, Schon caressing the Cup with the help of Beckenbauer, Holzenbein, Vogts, Overath.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The match for the third place opposed Poland to Brazil, with most sympathies going to the Poles. Back in 1974 third place still mattered for public, media, and teams. Poland triumphed, winning by 1-0. Brazil at least had the heart to fight back, but for once justice prevailed.
Szarmach crashes with Leao. Mario Marinho jumps over them – Brazil was once again in the unfamiliar situation to keep the opposition from scoring.
Francisco Marinho Chagas clears the ball from Grzegorz Lato, but Poles kept coming.
Lato scores the winning goal. And his 7th at the tournament, making him the World Cup goalscorer. Even in terms of individual rewards, the result was just – Poland won with a goal by the best goalscorer. Sweet.
Rivelino tricks Deyna here, but at the end it was Deyna with the bronze – and deservingly so.
Brazil finished 4th. No magic came out of this team – it was defensive minded squad, victim of its own tactics. The big names – Rivelino, Jairzinho, and Paulo Cesar Lima – were just pale shadows of themselves. Paulo Cesar Lima was even dropped from the starters. If there was somebody to pity among the Brazilians, those were not the big stars, but previously unknown players: Francisco Marinho Chagas, the left full back; Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani, the tireless midfielder; and the unlucky old star Ademir Da Guia, who played his first and last World Cup, after finally making the national team (always in the shadows of greater players, Da Guia debuted for Brazil in 1966, but came to the World Cup with grand total of 8 caps, most of them acquired just before the finals.) At the end this Brazil squad was entirely forgotten: usually Brazilians rank their 1966 World Cup team the worst ever. The 1974 vintage is almost never mentioned, as if never existed, and one wonders what is worse – to be remembered as the worst or not to be remembered at all.
Starting as underdogs and finishing with bronze medals: from left – Masczyk, Gadocha, Musial, Lato, Szarmach, Kasperczak, Szymanowski, Zmuda, Gorgon, Tomaszewski, Deyna.
Only a month ago nobody knew the Poles, but now they were widely admired. They are perhaps the most deserving third-placed team in the history of the World Cups – playing better than everybody, except the finalists. Playing total football, just a notch bellow Holland and West Germany. Playing attacking football just a bit more traditional than Holland’s. Having a playmaker – Deyna – just a bit less imaginative than Cruyff and Overath. Having mobile midfielder - Kasperczak - just a bit less dangerous than Bonhof. Having defense just a bit weaker than the German one. Having a goalkeeper just a little bit less secure than Maier. Having a will just a little weaker than the German will and relaxed attitude just a little less than the Dutch. Poland was a little bellow Holland and West Germany by overall performance, football philosophy, and when individual players were compared. A little less than the best, but how much above the rest of finalists! What attack! Lato-Szarmach-Gadocha were the speediest and most lethal attacking formation. As for Jan Tomaszewski – he really should have sent his medal to Brian Clough. Cloughie called him ‘a joke’ just a year ago. Some joke… saving penalties among other heroics. Poland was delightfull to watch and scored tons of goals. In fact, Poland failed to score in only one match – against West Germany. And Grzegorz Lato was the king of thew scorers, although he had tough competition inside his own team – Gadocha, Szarmach, and Deyna were hardly just feeders for the goalscorer. And the coach – Kazimierz Gorsky worked long years, following his own plan and his own understanding of total football. Olympic title in 1972 and now – third in the world. Great reward for years of tireless work.