Saturday, October 8, 2011

So far, five easy qualifying groups, the easiest of them all almost ending with surpise elimination of the world champions. Three groups were taugh, however, and therefore – unpredictable. Group 4 was the least interesting among them – Spain, Scotland, Romania, and Denmark. The Danes were the outsider, no problem – they were envisioned to finish last and they did not disappoint. The rest were seen more or less equal – not really great and with many troubles. The Scots pleased everybody at the World Cup in 1974, but they had scoring difficulties and tended to underperform against weaker opponents. Spain and Romania both missed the World Cup finals and were deep in their own crisis – Romania in transformation; Spain routinely by now failing to advance. It was to be a Russian roulette – much depending on chance, on momentary form, on matches with Denmark, and very likely on goal difference. It was expected to be nasty, unexciting fight for the first spot. And it was – most matches ended tied. Wins were collected from the fixtures with Denmark and nobody shined. Spain and Romania did not lose a single game, but Romania finished 5 of their 6 group matches in draws. Scoring was not the forte of any team. The decisive match was probably played in Glasgow, where Spain clinched 2-1 win over Scotland. The rest of the games between the favourites were ties and Denmark collected their single point at home against Romania. Which at the end moved Spain to ¼ finals. Scotland was true to predictions – even if they did not lose at home to Spain, the Scots were not going to progress for they scored as low as expected. Only a home win against Spain would have qualify them.
1.SPAIN 6 3 3 0 10- 6 9
2.Romania 6 1 5 0 11- 6 7
3.Scotland 6 2 3 1 8- 6 7
4.Denmark 6 0 1 5 3-14 1
Spain, visiting Romania on 16 October, 1975: top, left to right: Sol, Benito, Miguel Angel, Pirri, Camacho, Migueli.
Bottom: Quini, Villar, Santillana, Del Bosque, Rojo I (or Chechu Rojo – he was listed by either name).
Looking grim and determined fighters – exactly what they were. A mean squad, capable of extracting a point in Bucharest – 2-2. Not exciting at all – Santillana excepted. Pirri, Camacho, and Del Bosque were surely top guns, but as a whole a game-killing squad and it was difficult to imagine another, more playful one. Villar, Rojo, Benito, Miguel Angel were perhaps the best representation of Spanish football – tough players, not at all great, and easily replaceable with countless others of the same mold. Which at the end was liability, for seemingly Spain was lacking enough truly outstanding players. Even the goalscoring machine Quini was largely a fighter, easily lapsing into dirty tricks and time-wasting and entirely forgetting that there was a net at the other end of the pitch. Going ahead, but unlikely very far.