Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More mighty names? A quick jump to Northern Ireland – Crusaders raided the championship.
And crusaders they were somewhat – the club from Dublin won their second title. If they were to play against Aris, surely they were to take the head of the Greek God… alas, there was no way such clash of ancients to happen in the European tournaments.

If anything, it was brave enough to play football in Northern Ireland of the 1970s. And even braver to have ‘provocative’ name – ‘Crusaders’ sounds dangerously Catholic… This is just about everything for the champions. At the bottom of European football nothing great was happening, so let’s go up the scale.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Luxembourg keeps scandalous events for banking and investment schemes – the football is sparkling clean… and miserable. Unless one supports the giants of the local game.

They are Jeunesse d’Esch, of course. A double this year – 15th championship title and 7th Cup. Not bad? Many a club can envy such a record.

Thanks to the overall supremacy of Jeunesse, the Cup finalists were to appear in the European Cup Winners Cup – a brief appearance on the ‘big field’, but appearance nevertheless. The happy boys display ferocious name – Aris, the ancient Greek god of war. The name was good enough for a close fight at the Cup final – they lost only 1-2 – but outside Luxembourg the club scared nobody…

The name helped little in the long run – the club is not existing since 2001.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

If Tom Lund was the highest point of ‘lowly’ football, the rest of the achievements down there hardly ever get international attention. Local records, yes… some curious trivia too… yet even scandals hardly cross national borders. In Malta Sliema Wanderers won their 21st title – massive number by mid-70s, but… Maltese number.
The Cup was won by Floriana.
Floriana was leading confidently 2-0 against Valletta at the final until 86th minute. Then the match was abandoned and the Cup awarded to Floriana. A scandal? Not big enough to ruffle the winners or to interest anybody neither then, nor now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A notch up and to the West: Norway, slightly stronger football nation than Finland, had her champions as well. The Cup went to Brann (Bergen).
Founded in 1908, Brann was modest club, normally playing in the First Division. So far, they have been champions twice (1961-62 and 1963) and won the Cup three times. The 1960s and the 1970s were really up and down years – strong seasons were followed by mediocrity. The only thing Brann was to really boast about was attendance: they established a record of season average - 15 486 – in 1963. It was not bested before 2003!
Cup winners going berserk in the mud. One has to really appreciate those Bergen fans braving the weather.
The Championship ended with Lillestrom FC first. ‘The Canaries’ ended the 4-year monopoly of Viking (Stavanger).
There is not much to tell about Lillestrom – they were founded in 1917, relatively ‘young’ club by Norwegian standards in the small town of the same name. It was a merger of two earlier clubs, but the new one was hardly a powerhouse. So far, Lillestrom had won a single title, in 1959, and that was all. However, the 1970s were perhaps their best years, eventually crowned with the second title in 1976.
Looks like this was the team of champions – nothing much. Except for Tom Lund.
Arguably the best ever Norwegian player, Lund, born 1950, is forgotten now. In all fairness, he was not widely known during his playing days either, but this was unjust and cruel joke: Tom Lund should have been a big international star. I saw him playing and he was fantastic. So why he remained unknown? The answer is simple – he played only for Lillestrom during his career from 1967 until 1982. A total of 336 matches, scoring 196 goals. He was perhaps the prime reason for the strong decade of the normally ‘also run’ club. His talent was not missed by big foreign clubs, though, and here comes the enigma (at least from today’s point of view): Ajax wanted him to replace departing Cruyff in 1973. Lund refused. He turned down offers from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as well. Since Lund never explained his reasons, it is still speculated that his fear of flying was the reason. It was big fear indeed – Lund traveled by car or by train for matches abroad, joining his teammates of either Lillestron or the Norwegian national team at the final destination. But the simple fact is he remained loyal to his club and never became international star because of his loyalty. Old times… there were still players preferring simple life to fame and money.
Lund played regularly for Norway – a total of 47 games between 1972 and 1982, scoring 12 goals. And here is in action captaining Norway against Sweden in 1977.
But his biggest contribution was for his club – he elevated Lillestrom to steady force in Norwegian football.
Tom Lund captaining Lillestrom and endearing fans, including myself. Truly lost hero, but one has to admire his loyalty nevertheless. Impossible to imagine a player like him today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From the deepest rocky European South a giant leap to the frozen North: 1976 provided some similarities between Cyprus and Finland. Lowly football, yes, and little known too. Cypriot footballers, at best, went to play in Greece – the Fins ventured further: there were professional players as far as France, but few and hardly remembered anyway. No Jari Litmanens among them. Politics affected Finish football as they did Cypriot football: after the split of Cyprus exile clubs emerged – best know those of Famagusta, who still play as exile clubs stationed in the Greek part of the island. Exile players like Kaiafas were also common. Finland suffered different, usually avoided by the political Left, exiles: those, who run away from territories swallowed by USSR after the Second World War. Among them was the oldest football club of Finland – Reipas was found in 1891 in Viipuri. In 1947 the town was no longer part of Finland and the club moved to Lahti. In Europe it was known as Reipas Lahti, although hit should have been only Reipas, but never mind: it was tough to remember them anyway. And it is even tougher now, for the club is no longer around – in 1996 Reipas merged with local rivals Kuusysi into brand new club FC Lahti. But it is still worth recalling old Reipas: Jari Litmanen started his career at 16, playing for Reipas from 1987 to 1990. In 1976 there was no Litmanen, but here was Finnish Cup:
Just like with Omonia, regretfully I am not certain of the proper spelling of the Cup winners: Standing, left to right: Sassila, Lampi, Saranen, Kanerva, Satala, Hoppi, Parkonen, Tupasela, Toikonen, Reppo, Kosonen.
Sitting: Hamalainen, Lindholm, Huka, M. Kautonen, Antunen, Virtanen, Nordlan, Sandberg, T. Kautonen, Hautemaa.
May be nothing in Europe, but Reipas was not nothing in Finland: this was their 4th consequent Cup they won since 1972 (omitting 1975, when no Cup tournament was staged). Cup specialists for sure – give them direct eliminations.
Champions became different guys:
Kuopion Palloseura from Kuopio, the 8th largest city of Finland (whatever that means in terms of ‘large’). They are commonly known as KuPS and are remarkable for something else than Reipas: KuPS holds the record of Most consequent seasons at top flight – from 1949 to 1992 they played First Division football. With some success as well: in 1976 they won their 5th title, after winning the championships in 1956, 1958, 1966, and 1974. However, it was their last win for the next 40 years… who could have envisioned that in the victorious year?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Olympic football is not bottom level game of course. Let’s go deeper down… a competition as well, for sometimes is more difficult to figure out the worst than the best. All too relative as well: Malta, Luxembourg, San Marino, Iceland, Cyprus, Albania, Finland, Norway… the pariahs of European football. They rarely met head to head in official games, making it tough to compare. Making it tough to really know and show local heroes.
Cyprus by default, then. After returning to normal league football one thing was normalized: a club was able to win back to back titles, since there was no more joining the Greek First league. This benefited mostly Omonia (Nicosia) in my view.
It is not ‘Omonia’ and it is not ‘Nicosia’, but Omonoia (Lefkosia) – both the city and the club are written and pronounced differently in Greek, yet, the ‘Westernized’ misnaming stuck outside the island. The name means ‘Unity’ and the club is relatively new: it was found in 1948, a result of political struggles and tensions originating in Greece. The Greek Civil War between Right and Left after the end of the Second World War rocked Cyprus as well and one result was a group of players expelled from or refusing to play for Right wing club APOEL. The formed Omonia and the club joined the Cyprus Football Association in 1953. The yearly years were modest, but eventually the newcomers built strength – they won there first title in 1961, which proved to be not incidental at all. Their nickname is ‘Kifinea’ – ‘male bees’ – and ‘male bees’ are drones: hardly a compliment, unless one thinks of happy lazy life and occasional sex. However, drones Omonia were not – at the beginning of 1975-76 season they had already 5 titles and three Cups, having been champions in 1974 and 1975. They found themselves champions again in 1976: 6th title and their 3rd in a row.
Champions, but enigmatic as well – I am not sure of the proper spelling of the names, so forgive me. Top, left to right: Drakos, Dimitriou, Kanaris, Shakolas, Kondoyorgis, Loukas, Gregory, Peppis, Tzvetan Ilchev – coach, Andreas – assistant coach.
Bottom: Stelios – administrator, Andoniou, Phitis, Charalambous, Elephteriadis, Mavris, Patikis, Chaklis, Kaiafas.
Their Bulgarian coach Tzvetan Ilchev left right after winning the title, but what other interesting news? Surely they had a few national players, hardly known outside Cyprus. Lowly team, no? Except for Sotiris Kaiafas – the goal scoring machine. Kaiafas at the end became the only known abroad player, for he was the top European goalscorer in 1976 and got the Golden Boot award. In a way, Kaiafas continued the unhappy political tradition of Omonia: he was a refugee from the Turkish part of the island, his home village run over in 1974 and suddenly appearing behind a border. And because of that Kaiafas was one of the very few Cypriot players to experience foreign football – he played one in South Africa, an ironic twist in a way, but he came back to Cyprus and joined Omonia to mutual benefit. At the end, he is one of the best ever Cypriot players and certainly the best all-time Omonia player, a legend.
Right wingers got their revenge:
APOEL (Nicosia) won the Cup, but there is nothing more to say about them. Except it was their 9th Cup so far.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

USSR eventually won the bronze after winning 2-0 against the young and inexperienced Brazilian team. The victory pleased no one at home: it was not noted that there was no improvement even on Olympic level – once again just a third place. Tactics, form – everything was criticized. Terrible team.
The ‘bronze’ team of 1976 Olympics: left to right: V. Kolotov-captain, V. Astapovsky, S. Reshko, A. Konkov, V. Veremeev, O. Blokhin, V. Matvienko, L. Buryak, V. Onishchenko, A. Minaev, V. Troshkin. According to Olympic rules, only those who actually played during the tournament received medals. V. Zvyagintzev, M. Fomenko, V. Fedorov, and L. Nazarenko got medals. Prokhorov and Kipiani did not. It was noted and mentioned in the Soviet press, as yet another bit of criticism: Lobanovsky did not have the decency to play David Kipiani just a few minutes, allowing the Georgian to get a medal. It was unfair. And truly was, but the outraged was only about Kipiani – Prokhorov was not mentioned at all. Apparently, it was fine for the reserve goalie not to play even a second.
The final was not great fun either – another tough, uninspired match, in which DDR overcome Poland 3-1.
Schade (14) scores the opening goal.
Montreal, 31st July, 1976

East Germany 3-1 (2-0) Poland

East Germany:
Croy, Lauck, Weise, Dörner, Kurbjuweit, Kische, Schade, Riediger (Bransch),Höfner, Lowe (Grobner), Hoffmann.

Tomaszewski (Mowlik), Szymanowski, Wieczorek, Zmuda, Wawrowski, Maszczyk,Deyna, Kasperczak, Lato, Szarmach, Kmiecik.

Referee: Ramon Barreto (Uruguay)
Attendance: 71,617, Olympic Stadium

1-0 [ 7'] Schade; 2-0 [14'] Hoffmann; 2-1 [59'] Lato; 3-1 [79'] Höfner

There were no enthusiastic post-match commentaries and rightly so. It was observed that Poland struggled and decline seemingly settled. Deyna and Lato in particular were seemingly beyond their prime, but the rest of the team was apparently worse and not deserving even criticism. Well, Tomaszewsky, who was fantastic two years ago, had to be replaced at the final – a comment enough. Szarmach was the top scorer of the tournament with 6 goals – small consolation. Evidently, Poland was paying the heavy price for having small pool of good players: the heroes were getting old and new legs were unavailable.
DDR was organized, disciplined, and experienced – it was their regular national team and practically the same players who played at the 1974 World Cup. No surprises – it was dull, especially unattractive team, but in good condition and thorough. No stars, just regular team, dedicated to collective effort. It worked at the Olympics.
The Olympic champions plus two extra players (Kotte and Schnuphase): top, left to right: Walter (?) – assistant coach, Kische, Dorner, Riediger, Bransch, Grobner, Schade, Weber, Schnuphase, Georg Buschner – coach.
Middle: Kotte (?), Hoffmann, Croy, Grapentin, Lowe, Weise.
Bottom: Riedel, Hafner, Kurbjuweit, Lauck, Heider.
At the end of 1976 they were voted the team of the year in DDR, but outside home country the team attracted little interest. However, DDR was even better sample of the entirely collective football which was coming. No great individuals at all. And no fun, unfortunately.
Poland finished second – a team going downhill, it was judged.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Quarterfinals did not need even predictions – they were mere formality, considering the pairs. Michel Platini lost 0-4 – may be this is the best comment. USSR continued to display terrible form and barely managed to advance.
Brazil 4-1 Israel
Soviet Union 2-1 Iran
East Germany 4-0 France
Poland 5-0 North Korea
The semi-finals were the first real football to be played… potentially. Brazil had small chance to win against Poland – but it was before the match started. Poland was more likely winner – and they won. The other match was to be boring affair, DDR pretending to play and really allowing USSR to go ahead. Not so – DDR won, but it was not as sensational win as the Polish one four years back at the 1972 Olympics. The Soviets already displayed many problems, they were sluggish, rusty, and entirely clueless. They were also surprisingly conservative, returning to the scared football they played before Dinamo Kiev’s ‘revelation’. Even against obviously weak opponents Lobanovsky preferred to field 5 defenders. It was plain stupid by now: the whole concept of hoping Blokhin to outrun defenders and score – there was no variety, no back-up plan, if this doesn’t work… and it was not working, for it was quickly grasped by the other teams and even pathetic opponent was able to block Blokhin by keeping a defender to shadow him everywhere. DDR did not play particularly good – they were not able to, for they were quite limited squad – but they were fit enough, and running decided the match in their favour – 2-1.
Poland – Brazil above. May be this was the most attractive match at the Olympics… by default. Poland was the better squad and confidently won. Bellow – USSR – DDR. Clumsy fighting, ugly physical game, in which the ball appeared to be some alien object to both teams. Kolotov and Onishchenko (in dark shirts) wrestle with Hafner and Kische.
Football was not exactly the strongest quality of either team. Minaev kind of trying to trick a German.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The rest of the finalists were not really powerful and on top of it, they were reduced by three – Nigeria, Ghana, and Zambia withdraw as part of the general African boycott against New Zealand, which committed a crime – played rugby matches with outlawed South Africa. The rest of the African countries wanted New Zealand to be banned from the Olympics; it was not; the Africans boycotted the games; the football tournament was left with only 13 participants. Brazil, France, Spain – those were the strongest among the rabble, although not much at all. Young players without professional contracts, some playing 2nd and 3rd division football (the Spaniards) were collected in the ‘strong’ teams. Brazil was coached by respected name – and the players were selected on the basis of promise: as a future national players. France was similar, and to a point – Spain. Yet, nothing big and strong at the present. The rest of the finalists is hardly worth mentioning – Cuba (replacing Uruguay, after they decided to withdraw from the tournament and Argentina declined to replace them as well), Mexico, Guatemala, Iran, North Korea, Israel (probably because there were no Arabic countries reaching the Olympics), and hosts – Canada. The only thing interesting about the finals is really trivia: the players, who became big (or smaller) stars in the following years – Edinho, Carlos (Brazil), Platini, Amisse, Rouyer, Fernandez (France), Eskandarian (Iran), Hugo Sanchez (Mexico), Arconada, Juanito (Spain). Not even a full squad…
The predictable East European walkover to predictable final happened not to be so easy: it looked like nobody was in decent form. Cuba nibbled a point out of Poland – 0-0. The revelation of 1974 managed to go ahead after 3-2 win over Iran. Not a hint of supremacy…
USSR barely won their match with Canada by 2-1. France was unable to win against Israel… Platini vs nobody: 1-1. The preliminary groups were shallow – the most interesting part of them were the complaints – even the Soviets complained from the condition of the grounds the hosts provided. USSR, however, used the state of the ‘stadiums’ as an excuse for their obviously bad form and lack of ideas. Lobanovsky was good at complaining – to cover his back.
Terrible tournament from the beginning: remember the top goalscorer and one of the most impressive players at the 1974 World Cup? Grzegorz Lato? He alone should have been enough to beat Cuba with 4-5 goals difference… but it was 0-0 at the final whistle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Olympic Games kind of confirmed the end of individuals, if anybody cared to follow the tournament. By 1976 Olympic football was losing its attractiveness even for the Socialist countries. In the West it was considered the domain of East Europe states and their ‘amateurs’ – it was not important to follow tainted and hardly entertaining competition. It was a sham, confirmed once again just by looking at the Soviet roster: 10 players were listed as university students (8 of them attending Physical Education departments – the usual bogus education for Eastern European sportsmen); 1 was listed as just graduated from University; 1 was a military man, but unclear was he a soldier or an officer; 1 was ‘technician’; and 4 – ‘educators’. The last group was especially murky in defining – school teachers? College instructors? University professors? Or just sports instructors in some factory? It was all bogus, so it did not matter really – the most suspect part was the case of the two CSKA players in the squad: since it was the club of the Army, normally players were militarized and given officer’s ranks. Astapovsky was listed as army man, but Nazarenko was listed as university student. Students excepted, no one else was probably even aware of his ‘profession’ – and, please, don’t ask where was their ‘working place’. But this was familiar for a long time and not even curious any more. More interesting was the absence of the fresh European champions – Czechoslovakia did not qualify for the Olympics. It looked like the priority was the normal national team – a change becoming somewhat visible by now, and entirely new East European approach. USSR officially separated their A team from the Olympic one – different coaches, different players. In 1975 Konstantin Beskov was the Olympic team coach and Spartak Moscow was the ‘base’ of the formation. There was no clear border, though – players were taken from one team to another, depending on whims of the national team coach. At the end the scheme was changed once again – for the Olympics Beskov was replaced by Lobanovsky, and there was no longer unique Olympic team – the national team players simply became Olympic team players. Messy affair even in purely sporting terms: what was the point of using one bunch of players during qualifications only to discard them when the finals start? No wonder motivation was lost.
One of the original Olympic teams in 1975: from left: V. Filatov, V. Utkin, V. Sakharov, A. Minaev, V. Zvyagintzev, V. Hadzipanagis, N. Osyanin, A. Maksimenkov, A. Prokhorov, E. Lovchev – captain.
The whole idea of using particular clubs as the ‘base’ of national formation, with just a few additional players, was crazy enough – and probably concocted by Lobanovsky, who used practically the whole Dinamo Kiev in the national team. Beskov may be disliked the idea, but that was the order. It did not work – Spartak Moscow was in shabby form – so in the team above only 3 players came from Spartak. Other things did not work either: Zvyagintzev, Prokhorov, and Lovchev were just taken away from Beskov by Lobanovsky. Most surprisingly the ethnic Greek – Hadzipanagis – was permitted to go to Greece and play professionally there: no Olympics for him, but it was especially stupid move by the Soviets: their national formations were struggling and they lost carelessly a very good player on top of it.
Anyway, when Lobanovsky arrived, with his assistants Bazilevich and Oleg Morozov (he was not attached to Lobanovsky’s usual thinktank – most likely Morozov was imposed on Lobanovsky, which never makes for good and healthy team athmosphere), the players shown above disappeared: only Prokhorov, Zvygintzev (by now also playing for Dinamo Kiev), Minaev, and Fedorov went to Montreal. The rest was familiar… 11 Dinamo Kiev players plus reserves from here and there. It was the national team again – Aleksander Prokhorov (Spartak) and Vladimir Astapovsky (CSKA) were already the goalies of the A team, since Rudakov was in bad form. Leonid Nazarenko (CSKA) was already used in the A team as well. Vladimir Fedorov (Pakhtakor Tashkent) and David Kipiani (Dinamo Tbilisi) were also perspective national team players. Only Aleksander Minaev (Spartak Moscow) was so-so – apparently, in good form, but not a player Lobanovsky was going to use much. The rest of the squad perhaps does not need mentioning… the starting eleven of Kiev and a substitute as well – Viktor Zvyagintzev, Viktor Matvienko, Stefan Reshko, Vladimir Troshkin, Mikhail Fomenko, Anatoly Konkov, Leonid Buryak, Vladimir Veremeev, Viktor Kolotov, Oleg Blokhin, and Vladimir Onishchenko. Yes, the heroes from 1975 – but in 1976 they were playing weak football, lost the European Championship ¼ finals. Dinamo Kiev was struggling and underperforming, but the same players were really a disaster when playing as USSR. Even tactics were changed – by now it was no longer fast attacking football, but cautious, defensive oriented game, depending on occasional counter-attacks. All balls were to go to Blokhin, in hope he will outrun opposite defenders and score. It was too plain and predictable to bring success, but that was USSR conducted by Lobanovsky. It was expected to win the Olympics – mostly because the only relatively strong opposition were Poland (minus some players gone professional in the West, most important absence – Robert Gadocha) and DDR (considered in a slump already and a puppet team, ready to give victory to the ‘Big Brother’ without even a pretense of a fight).

Monday, November 7, 2011

It was mainly matches at home, ending in ties:
2-2 against Poland.
Deyna shoots, Varadin is late to block, Viktor getting ready to dive, but the ball seemingly is off target.
A penalty against Poland. Tomaszewski protested the penalty against Gorgon, but he saved Masny’s kick.
Jozef Moder tackled by Hungarian defender in Budapest. If anything, the match with Hungary was played on better pitch, but 1-1.
Fighting the mud along with DDR to another tie. Weisse strikes somehow, Gogh is too late to prevent.
After the mud came the snow and Romania.
Pivarnik (left) and Masny unable to penetrate Romanian defense.
Pivarnik in attack – never mind the snow, he displayed the qualities of modern full back – that is, joined the strikers.
Svehlik escapes from Angelini’s tackle.
Nehoda strikes and Sandu can only watch.
But – 2-2 at the end.
And from the snow to the lake:
Dobias, Sajanek, Matvienko, and Konkov in the water just about a month before their official meeting in the European ¼ finals. CSSR – USSR: 2-2.
Not pretty pictures, not pretty results… why bother following Czechoslovakia in their fantastic friendlies against unexciting opponents? But it was in these games the team solidified and built character.
Panenka was praised in the snow: commentators said that he finally started playing for the national team the way he played for his club. He was not English-type player, so it was really something to get noticed when playing in impossible conditions. Closer attention should have been paid to development of Czechoslovakia in the mud, swamps, and snow – they were not winning, true. They were missing penalties, true. When summer arrived, they managed ties again – but won at the end in extra time and by penalty shoot-out. To my mind the string of friendlies was the key to the Czechoslovakian success.
One thing after major tournament is ‘lessons’… what new brought the tournament. The European finals actually brought nothing new. No innovations. Rather, it was obvious that total football spread and it was the norm. The formula of success was building well rounded team capable of playing total football and preserving excellent condition. However, hardly any new major stars emerged – the new European champions were just a lesser version, yet, very competent, of the great innovators from few years back. CSSR truly depended on collective game, more or less every player participated equally, and the importance of the defenders was reinforced: it was not the strikers scoring the important oals, but back-liners, surprising the opposition. The game was becoming tougher, though – traditionally mellow and technical team, CSSR suddenly displayed gritty pressure on the whole pitch. It was confirmed that not individual stars, but collective effort made a winning team – the age of great individuals was seemingly over.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The last sense of repeating the past in the championship full of repetitions: Czechoslovakia evoked Poland of 1974. There were important similarities – both countries surprised the world by eliminating England. Both were expected to expire quickly after incidental advance, but both stunned the world by continuing ahead with great performances. Both countries carefully and slowly built their teams. Both had great and long lasting head coaches. Both had capable assistant coaches, becoming famous on their own. Both countries were not exactly innovators, but adapted very well useful elements of total football into their game, in accord with the abilities and peculiarities of the available players.
Yet, they were not identical and differences were just as many: Czechoslovakia had old reputation and Poland did not. Czechoslvakia was considered - and rightly so – in a decline since 1970. Poland was so unimportant, decline was not really a consideration – rather, then came out from nowhere. Czechoslovakia managed a revival. Traditionally, Czechoslovakian club football was stronger than the Polish one, and the pool of talent was more numerous and had more depth. Poland depended on lightning attacks, but the Czechoslovaks employed various tactics – they were very confident in defense; were able to change the tempo – or to adjust to changing tempo; they were more patient and careful.
Overall, both countries had strong and well balanced teams, with strong stars in every line. To a point, the Poles had better strikers. To a point, the Czechoslovaks had more dangerous defenders participating in attacks and often scoring the goals. However, the best advantage of both countries was that hardly anybody took them seriously – until it was too late. They were able to become lethal out of sight.
So what happened? By 1972 the Czechoslovaks were still licking their wounds from the disastrous 1970 World Cup. A new team was needed – and there was none. Meantime Poland won the 1972 Olympic games, and after that the squad was just finely tuned and shaped with careful additions. CSSR started from scratch at that year: Vaclav Jezek and appointed head coach of the national team. Jozef Venglos was made his assistant. Both coaches were peculiar for East Europe: Jezek came straight from Holland, where he coached ADO Den Haag since 1969. He managed to take his humble club to third place during the time of great Ajax. If anything, he learned about total football right from the source. Venglos did not even start his coaching career in Czechoslovakia – he ventured into coaching in 1966 and in Australia, eventually becoming the coach of the national team. He returned to his native land in 1969 and in 1973 he became the coach of Slovan Bratislava. He was still the club coach in 1976, combining club work and the national team. It is important to mention that Slovan were strong during that time – and the credit goes to Venglos. Slovan became the backbone of the national team with mainly Slovak additional players, for those were the years of Slovak domination anyway. Vencel, Pivarnik, Ondrus, Jozef Capkovic, Svehlik, Masny, Gogh became European champions, but a whole bunch of other Slovan players were also used in the national team between 1972 and 1976. Add Petras and Jurkemik (both Inter Bratislava), Pollak (Kosice), Dobias (Spartak Trnava). Add Dusan Herda, who played in Prague, but was ethnic Slovak. And this was not the whole list either – Jezek and Venglos slowly shaped their team, using many players. Some were young unknowns; some were established, but never called before; some were old, even ‘discarded’ – Frantisek Vesely, for instance. The end result was well rounded team, with equally strong reserves, and a bunch of useful players with national team experience, who stayed back simply for lack of available space in the ‘big’ squad. Jezek and Venglos new how precious is experience in the national team, even when sitting on the bench – they were not afraid to invite to the finals few players ‘for the future’, who played little so far – Biros, Herda, Stambachr. It was clear they were not going to play even a minute, but… when Stambachr became Olympic champion in 1980, and was a key player of the team, he already was formal European champion from 1976. It was long term approach – and Czechoslovakia was better suited for that than Poland, limited by smaller pool of talent.
The whole time of rebuilding Czechoslovakia was off the radar – the missed the 1974 World Cup. The team showed teeth in 1975 – the main team was more or less made and it was the right time to build confidence and shape tactics. It was a clever move – a number of friendlies were played, avoiding undue attention and close scrutiny: matches with middle-strength teams. Strong enough for tough games and experimenting; yet not world powers. It was grave mistake nobody was watching: Czechoslovakia – in my opinion – became smooth working machine exactly in these games. Results did not matter much – it was making the team experienced, versatile, and confident. It was at that time Antonin Panenka, playing for lowly Bohemians Prague, became a key national player. The preparatory work was missed… but who cared for friendlies with DDR and Switzerland in those years? The road to victory was silent – and brought great results at the end.
The masterminds of the European champions Jezek and Venglos watch carefully from the bench their team against Switzerland.
The last goal scored by Masny against Sweden – 4-0, a rare Czechoslovakian win in a friendly.
Lone striker Nehoda surrounded by Swiss players – hardly looking like future European champions at play.
Pivarnik clears the ball with his hands and Risi scored the penalty – 1-1 with the Swiss.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Final. Bets on West Germany, partly because they played well against Yugoslavia, partly because it was difficult to discard Beckenbauer, partly because Czechoslovakia’s ‘luck’ was bound to end. One thing was strange, though: the finals attracted smaller crowds than the semi-finals. Yugoslavia’s elimination was the main reason, but still it was strange: Holland – Czechoslovakia was attended by more fans than the final deciding who will be the European champion. 70 000 went to Crvena zvezda stadium to watch Yugoslavia – West Germany; less than half the number went back to the same stadium to see the final. In a way, the victory of the Germans was in the bag and it was not even interesting to witness… CSSR had only one change from the previous match – Svehlik instead the suspended Pollak. The Germans were pretty much the same too – Dieter Muller was a starter this time, taking the place of disappointing Danner. The match started and the goals quickly followed – but they were not in the Czechoslovakian net. By the 25th minute it was 2-0 for CSSR! It was a mirror image of the semi-final against Yugoslavia – the Germans suffered heavy assaults, resulting in 2 early goals.
Svehlik scoring the first goal of the final in the 8th minute.
Full backs defend, right? It all depends – Vogts tries to defend, but Karol Dobias – 2-0 in the 25th minute.
This time the Germans responded much quicker than they did against Yugoslavia: they scored in the 28th minute. And it was Dieter Muller again – the magic name continued to work, West Germany truly found her new Muller. Or so appeared. The first half ended 2-1. It was entertaining, fast 45 minutes of attacking football, both sides quite equally dangerous and the Czechoslovakians missing golden opportunity for a third goal.
The second goal was mostly German – they attacked constantly, pressing the Czechoslovakians in defense. Ivo Viktor had to work hard, but he managed.
Fogts, Moder, Beckenbauer and the ball…
Both teams fought well, CSSR’s defense surviving constant attacks and it looked like no fresh goals were to materialize. The public started leaving the stadium – there was a minute left, the match was practically over, but there was a good reason to stay to the final whistle when Germans were playing… Holzenbein scored with a header precisely in the 89th minute. Remember Bayern – Atletico Madrid from the spring of 1974? Regular time ended 2-2, thus, every match of the finals went into extra time! Extraordinary!
Overtime, however, was lesser fun – both teams looked tired and cautious. Changes were made early – once again Flohe came on the pitch at the beginning of the second half (replacing Wimmer). Then Bongartz replaced Beer in the 80th minute – Schon tried to put some vim into his team, when Czechoslovakia waited and used clearly defensive tactic – another defender, Jurkemik, replaced Svehlik in the 79th minute. There was no room for fresh legs during the extra time, except for CSSR – and this time they decided on striker: Vesely replaced Dobias in the 94th minute. Nothing happened, though – overtime ended and penalty shoot-out was to decide the European Championship. Always a gamble. Still, West Germany had better odds – better goalkeeper; better shooters; iron nerves. Fate was playing a joke of repetitions this year… the third one was during the penalties. They went one for one, nobody missing, until Uli Hoeness took the forth for the Germans and… shoot the ball over the crossbar. Remember him missing a penalty in the 1974 World Cup match against Poland? Now again. Since Czechoslovakia had the first penalty, their last had the chance to decide the championship. Antonin Panenka kick the ball and it was 5-3! The Germans lost. It was a penalty to be discussed for years – until now. The ‘cheeky’ penalty, the risk Panenka took… he was and is criticized for his ‘casual’ approach, seen as carelessness by some. Yet, it was the winning goal.
Light ball right in the middle of Maier’s net. If the goalie did not move, the ball was to bounce off him and away… but goalkeepers always plunge aside. Was it undue risk? Was it a cool calculation? Panenka leans to the former in his interviews. Well, it is easy to speak after the fact.
So why the fuss over Panenka’s penalty? Well, it looks like the same as the one Jurkemik delivered a bit earlier. Except Jurkemik really kicked the ball, and Panenka did not.
Never mind, though: thanks to Panenka CSSR won!
The happy goalscorer runs euphoric.
And Czechoslvakia, already dressed in Germans shirts, lifted the European cup. Happy winners of the 5th European championship – nobody managed to win the tournament twice so far! New European champions again!
Beograd, June 20, Crvena zvezda
Czechoslovakia 2-2 West Germany [aet]
[Svehlík 8, Dobiás 25; D.Müller 28, Hölzenbein 89]
[ref: Gonella (Italy); att: 35,000]
Czechoslovakia win 5-3 on penalties
[Masny 1-0, Bonhof 1-1; Nehoda 2-1, Flohe 2-2; Ondrus 3-2, Bongarts 3-3;
Jurkemik 4-3, U.Hoeneß 4-3 (over the crossbar); Panenka 5-3]
Czechoslovakia: Viktor, Pivarník, Ondrus, Capkovic, Gögh, Dobiás (94 Vesely),Móder, Panenka, Masny, Svehlík (79 Jurkemik), Nehoda
West Germany: Maier, Vogts, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Dietz, Wimmer (46 Flohe), Bonhof, Beer (80 Bongartz), U.Hoeneß, D.Müller, Hölzenbein
German losers… what else, since second place was actually a major step down for the reigning world champions. From left: Beckenbauer, Maier, Schwarzenbeck, D. Muller, Wimmer, Dietz, Holzenbein, Bonhof, Beer, Vogts, Hoeness.
Brand new European Champions! Top, left to right: Vaclav Jezek – coach, Ladislav Jurkemik, Anton Ondrus, Dusan Galis, Alexander Vencel, Antonin Panenka, Ivo Viktor, Jozef Capkovic, Marian Masny, Pavol Biros, Zdenek Nehoda, Jozef Venglos – assistant coach.
Bottom: Miloslav Kundrat – team’s doctor, Ladislav Petras, Karol Dobias, Jan Pivarnik, Lubomir Knapp, Jan Svehlik, Koloman Gogh, Jaroslav Pollak, Jozef Moder, Vlastimil Ruzicka – masseur.
Oh, well – almost the team: L. Knapp did not make the final selection, but Jozef Barmos, Dusan Herda, Frantisek Vesely, Frantisek Stambachr, and Premysl Bicovsky did. From them only Vesely played at the finals. He was 33 years old at the time – and still enough playing years ahead of him, as it turned out.