Monday, April 23, 2012

Cruzeiro played for the Intercontinental Cup as winners of Libertadores Cup, of course. The tournament developed interestingly – Brazilian clubs were not really successful, barring the long gone years of great Santos with Pele. Even bigger news was the absence of Independiente (Avellaneda) at the final. Argentine presence was maintained by River Plate – it was there second final, but their first was 10 years earlier, and they lost it. River Plate was going into revival at last, and may be this time… for their opponents were debutantes at this level and on top of it were not even champions of Brazil. Cruzeiro played strongly indeed, but were good only for runners-up in 1974 and 1975 at home. In fact, Cruzeiro had to wait many more years for their first Brazilian title – until 2003! Well, they compensated by reaching the Libertadores final.
Cruzeiro and River Plate – so far, equal.
The first leg was in Belo Horizonte and River Plate was destroyed 4-1. Palhinha (sometimes spelled Palinha) scored 2 goals, with two more by Nelinho and Waldo. Mas scored the lonely goal for River Plate on July 21.
Nelinho opens the ‘goleada’ at Mineirao.
Final (Jul 21 & 28)
Cruzeiro Bra River Plate Arg 4-1 1-2
Playoff (Jul 30) (in Santiago)
Cruzeiro Bra River Plate Arg 3-2
1st leg. Estadio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte, 21- 7-1976
Cruzeiro - River Plate 4-1
22' Nelinho 1-0
29' Palhinha 2-0
40' Palhinha 3-0
63' Mas 3-1
80' Valdo 4-1
Cruzeiro: Raúl, Nelinho, Morais, Darcy Menezes, Vanderley, Eduardo (Ronaldo Drumond),Wilson Piazza (Valdo), Zé Carlos, Jairzinho, Palhinha, Joãozinho.
River Plate: Fillol (Landaburu), Comelles, Perfumo, Lonardi, H.O. López, J.J. López,Merlo, Sabella, P.A. González, Luque, Mas.
Referee: Llobregat (Venezuela)
Attendance: 58,720
A week later and in Buenos Aires it was tougher match. Palhinha scored again, but River Plate managed two by J. J. Lopez and Gonzalez. Since accumulated goal difference did not count, for forth consecutive year the winner was to be decided in third match on neutral ground.
Palhinha scores in Buenos Aires. Landaburu is helpless, but the goal is not enough – Cruzeiro lost.
2nd leg. Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, 28- 7-1976
River Plate - Cruzeiro 2-1
10' J.J. López 1-0
48' Palhinha 1-1
76' P.A. González 2-1
River Plate: Landaburu, Comelles, Perfumo, Passarella, H.O. López (Artico), J.J. López,Merlo, Alonso, P.A. González, Luque, Mas (Sabella).
Cruzeiro: Raúl, Nelinho, Morais, Darcy Menezes, Vanderley, Eduardo (Ronaldo Drumond),Wilson Piazza, Zé Carlos, Jairzinho, Palhinha, Joãozinho.
Referee: Martínez Bazán (Uruguay)
Attendance: 90,000
The wisdom of third match was shaky, given the vast South American distances, expensive and difficult travel, and the eternal financial strains of the clubs – at the end, the meager hope of new revenue never really materialized, but the practice continued. So, River Plate and Cruzeiro flew to Santiago de Chile to play the decisive match on July 30 - a mere day after the second. Cruzeiro clinched the win this time, answering with three goals the two scored by the Argentines. Mas and Urquiza for River Plate, and Nelinho, Ronaldo, and Joazinho for Cruzeiro. The team from Belo Horizonte won their first Libertadores!
Play-off. Estadio Nacional, Santiago, 30- 7-1976
Cruzeiro - River Plate 3-2
24' Nelinho 1-0
55' Ronaldo 2-0
59' Mas 2-1
64' Urquiza 2-2
88' Joãozinho 3-2
Cruzeiro: Raúl, Nelinho, Morais, Darcy Menezes, Vanderley, Ronaldo Drumond,Wilson Piazza (Ozires), Zé Carlos, Eduardo, Palhinha, Joãozinho.
River Plate: Landaburu, Comelles, Lonardi, Artico, Urquiza, Sabella, Merlo, Alonso,P.A. González, Luque, Mas (Crespo).
Referee: Martínez (Chile)
Cruzeiro enjoys Libertadores Cup.
Second lost final for River Plate, no matter how good or brave they were: standing, from left: Merlo, Comelles, Pena, Fillol, Perfumo y Héctor López.
First row: Pedro González, Juan José López, Luque, Norberto Alonso y Más.
Not a bad squad (although this is not the picture from the final), with two future world champions – Fillol and Luque: the old star Perfumo, who returned from playing in Brazil; another old star – Oscar Mas; and perhaps the best Argentine player at that time – Norberto Alonso. Strong, ambitious… but Libertadores escaped their reach.
Cruzeiro conquering South America, if not Brazil: top, from left: Nelinho, Moraes, Ozires, Valdo, Vanderlei, Raul;
Bottom: Silva, Eduardo, Jairzinho, Palhinha e Joãozinho
Like River Plate, this is not a photo from the finals, but close enough. Cruzeiro lost perhaps the best Brazilian player of the early 70s few years back – Tostao had to quit prematurely, because of his eye problems – a sad event, but the club had consistently strong squad since the late 1960s. Zeze Moreira coached them – the Barzilian national team coach way back in the 1950s. Jairzinho joined the club after his unhappy European spell and although he was the bigger star, he never recovered the form he had around 1970. Growing long hair did not help him… and he was getting old as well. In a way, Cruzeiro mirrored River Plate – Oscar Mas failed in Europe and did not last in Real Madrid. The same happened to Jairzinho in Olympique Marseille. Perfumo was the old experienced commander of Argentine defense – Piazza played the same role and captained Cruzeiro. Alonso was considered the best Argentine midfielder – Nelinho established himself as the best right full-back in Brazil: a modern defender, who attacked and scored plenty. If Nelinho was not the proper answer to Alonso, Dirceu Lopes was. River Plate had a plethora of well respected players – and Cruzeiro as well: Roberto Batata, Moraes, Vanderlei. The Argentines had young stars, seen as central in near future, Fillol and Luque. Cruzeiro had Palhinha. Overall, Cruzeiro was perhaps a bit better team than River Plate – bigger stars, key national team players, and brighter talent. A very good squad, with Palhinha and especially Nelinho at their best form. But what a joke football aften is – Roberto Perfumo left Cruzeiro and joined River Plate in 1975. Was he happy to lose to his former teammates? I bet he was not.