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.