Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Czechoslovakia was visiting Portugal first and the match ended as the English hoped – 1-1 tie. However, the result still preserved the chances of the other competitors too and as far as the Czechoslovakians were concerned – it was convenient result.
After the tough match in Porto, Czechoslvakia had a qualification match for the 1976 Olympics with East Germany. Since the Communist countries used their ‘amateur’ players, same players participated in every possible tournament – at the moment, though, it was inconvenient for CSSR and may be benefiting England: too many games at the same time. Injuries and tiredness were surely to take their tall on the Czechoslvakians.
From left: Pivarnik (5), Viktor (1), Ondrus (4), Gallis (8), Masny (10), Jurkemik (3), Pollak (9), Gogh (2), Moder (6), Nehoda (11), Bicovsky (7).
Almost the same team as against England, but good enough only for 1-1 tie against DDR.
Portugal and England tried their best to keep themselves alive, and, therefore, neither won. They ended 1-1 and Portugal was effectively out – they had one more match, but had no chance to end first. England still had hopes – it was small and desperate one, in the hands – or rather the feet – of lowly Cyprus. The outsiders had to prevent CSSR from winning – a tie was qualifying England on better goal difference, the match was in Nicosia, where Cyprus almost won a point against England… keep fingers cross… England reduced to the mercy of outsiders.
Czechoslovakia won with confidence: 3-0.

CSSR aginst Cyprus at home months ago: from left – Bicovsky, Nehoda, Gaidusek, Panenka, Svehlik, Koubek, J. Capcovic, Masny, Ondrus, Viktor, Pivarnik. Slightly different squad it was than the one beating England, but against Cyprus there was no real need to field the best players. A relative term ‘best’ – CSSR was developing and changes were normal. The home match ended 4-0 and brought the first points for CSSR.
Cyprus was there just to improve others goal difference – CSSR had no problem at their home match. Panenka (above) scored 3 goals and Masny (bellow) one more.
The away match in Nicosia produced one goal less and the last 2 points, catapulting Czechoslovakia to the ¼ finals.
1.CZECHOSLOVAKIA 6 4 1 1 15- 5 9
2.England 6 3 2 1 11- 3 8
3.Portugal 6 2 3 1 5- 7 7
4.Cyprus 6 0 0 6 0-16 0
The bomb dropped: England was failing to reach the final stages of big international tournament for a second time. Once again it was underestimated Eastern European country to eliminate England. Poland was the sensation of the 1974 World Cup, after outwitting England. Was Czechoslovakia to repeat Poland? A new sensation?
At the end of 1975 France Football published its annual classification of national teams – CSSR was number 1 (followed by USSR and Yugoslavia). The state Czechoslovakian information agency CTK also placed the team at first place. The skeptics were not convinced – sure, the Czechoslovaks made a stir, eliminated England, and generally played good football, but did not look like great team. Besides, it was particularly bleak year, with practically everybody underperforming. The truth will be uncovered in 1976, when the real games begin – then the Germans and the Dutch will be in shape and just wait and see: nobody will remember CSSR in a month or two.
The surprise winners of Group 1: Czechoslovakia in quite a different version, fielded in a friendly with Sweden on October 13, 1974. Back then, they won 4-0, but it was just a friendly. Top, left to right: Karol Dobias, Ivan Pekarik, Jozef Capkovic, Jozef Adamec, Anton Ondrus.
Bottom: Marian Masny, Jan Svehlik, Alexander Vencel, Premysl Bicovsky, Pavel Stratil, Vojtech Varadin.
This team did not look very strong in 1974 – a mixture of aging players (Adamec, Stratil, Dobias, J. Capkovic), second-stringers (Vencel, Pekarik), and various young unknowns (Ondrus, Masny, Svehlik, Bicovsky, Varadin). When journalists voted for the Czechoslovakian Player of the Year at the end of 1974 only 4 of the those above made it in the top 10. Dobias was 34th! And most of those guys were still members of the national team at the end of 1975 – true, some were relegated to the substitute bench, but national players nevertheless. How good a team with such players could be in a long run? Not really… Czechoslovakia was expected to exit the European championship at the ¼ finals. Lucky to advance that far, no matter the surprise of winning Group 1 at the expense of England.