Monday, September 26, 2011

Group 3. Yugoslavia and Sweden were expected to compete for the first place, but expectations failed: Yugoslavia quickly took the lead and Sweden finished third. Easy group for the ‘plavi’.
1.YUGOSLAVIA 6 5 0 1 12- 4 10
2.Northern Ireland 6 3 0 3 8- 5 6
3.Sweden 6 3 0 3 8- 9 6
4.Norway 6 1 0 5 5-15 2
Yugoslavia vs Sweden, September 6, 1975: top, left to right: B. Oblak, O. Petrovic, I. Buljan, D. Muzinic, I. Surjak, J. Katalinski.
Bottom: D. Vabec, J. Jerkovic, F. Vladic, Dz. Hadziabdic, D. Dzajic.
It was all about depth – after the Word Cup a whole bunch of players went abroad, but there were plenty more eager to don blue shirts and get famous. Transition was smooth and none lacked experience and confidence. For the first time Yugoslavia included ‘real professional’ player in the squad – Branko Oblak, playing for Schalke 04 in West Germany. The rest of the team above was soon to go to Western European clubs as well, but so far they aimed at the European cup. Strong team, but traditionally moody.
Group 6. It was easy to predict the winners: USSR. The rest of the group were weaklings. The only question was were the Soviets any good – and they were not that great.
1.SOVIET UNION 6 4 0 2 10- 6 8
2.Ireland 6 3 1 2 11- 5 7
3.Turkey 6 2 2 2 5-10 6
4.Switzerland 6 1 1 4 5-10 3
USSR clinched the first place only a point above Republic of Ireland – not a sign of supremacy.
This line-up was used in both matches with Switzerland in 1975: left to right: Muntyan, Troshkin, Onishchenko, Lovchev, Zvyagintzev, Buryak, Konkov, Blokhin, Veremeev, Rudakov, Fomenko.
With Lobanovsky at the helm, team USSR was practically Dinamo Kiev. There was an ‘extreme’ , when Lobanovsky fielded only Kiev players, including the reserves, but the ‘modified’ selection (after protests and criticism) was hardly different: only Lovchev (Spartak Moscow) and Zvyagintzev (Shakter Donezk) were not from Dinamo and Zvyagintzev was eventually transferred to Kiev. So, the sensational Cup Winners Cup and Supercup winners in 1975. And the European player of the year. A team to make waves and shake Europe? Hmm… it was a team to start and end qualifying campaign with losses – 0-3 to Irelnad and 0-1 to Turkey. Scoring was a problem. Domination too… USSR rather fought its way than outplaying weaker opponents. At the end, the unconvincing performance of the national team fueled further the controversy clouding Dinamo Kiev’s success: how come the same players were so powerful in the club and so helpless in the national team? But as far as the national team was concerned, it did not look like USSR was a contender.