Monday, August 27, 2012

Austria was enjoining a revival. Perhaps the reform introduced 2 years ago worked – the small 10-club league was seemingly more competitive and quality of the game was rising, thanks to the fact that now the best players met 4 times against each other during the season. Another and more important reason was the new talented generation – a whole bunch of young players, the best among them Herbert Prohaska (21 years old, Austria Vienna), Hans Krankl (23, Rapid Vienna), and Bruno Pezzey (21, Swarovski Wacker Innsbuck). The top players pretty much illustrated the revival: they were, correspondingly, central defender, midfield playmaker, and lethal central forward. They played for the top three clubs of the country and already had a few seasons behind them – if anything, the best three tell that improvement was everywhere: in every club and every position. And future was quite bright, for the new talent were youngsters with many years ahead of each of them. Great generation.

The championship was more or less familiar story – Swarovski Wacker, Austria and Rapid, the usual suspects competed for the title. Swarovski Wacker won confidently 6 points ahead of the rivals. The champions had tied defense, allowing only 22 goals in the 36 championship games. Their attack was not so great – 51 goals – but they won the most matches, 21, losing only 4. It was the most experienced squad in the league, so the title was well deserved, alas, there was something else, far from comforting: the Tiroleans were the leaders of Austrian football since 1970, yet, their domestic success did not transform into good performance in Europe. The team somehow was good only at home, and by 1976-77 it looked like they already reached their peak and were not going to improve, but rather to go downhill. Which happened soon enough. Suffice to say, that this title was the last for Swarovski Wacker until 1989.

Winning with confidence and, therefore, misleading everybody: SSW Innsbruck was going down right after this season.

Rapid (Vienna) finished second, playing high-scoring football. Hans Krankl was rapidly becoming a superstar and his goals were vital. He was already head and shoulders above all other strikers in Austria – top scorer of the season with 32 goals in 36 matches. The next best score was 17 goals – Koglberger (LASK) and Welzl (Swarovski Wacker) shared the second place, but really... they together scored as many as Krankl.
Improving Rapid, but it was a team with lesser talent than their city rivals, Austria. Feurer, Persidis, Walzer, Kienast were good additions to Krankl, yet, not in the same league. The veteran August Starek was at the end of his playing days and no longer a starter. The West German import Emil Krause, although stable and experienced, was middle of the road player at best. Perhaps the real reason for the strong season was the coach – Antoni Brzezanczyk was voted Austrian coach of the year, a recognition of his good work. The Polish coach was hardly famous, but he arrived after a spell with Feyenoord (Rotherdam), an indication of quality. Yet, a good coach and a bright star were hardly enough for real success: Rapid was still in building phase, not quite ripe, not quite ready. Still young, a team for the future.

Which was the case of Austria (Vienna) as well. They were not able to defend their title of 1976, slipping to third place. Like Rapid, they were young squad, perhaps even younger than the rivals, but more talented. It was carefully assembled team in the last few years, so young as they were, they already had experience. The team was not yet matured, but was getting better and better. Third place in the championship was perhaps a disappointment, but the youngsters compensated by winning the Austrian Cup. They met the oldest Austrian club at the final: Wiener Sportclub (Vienna), which was playing in the Second Division. Austria won both legs of the final – 1-0 and 3-0. Talking about confidence.

Good work of coaches Karl Stotz and Karl Giesser, but they had great material to work with. Young and bright team – even the veterans were all that old: Robert Sara (often written Sara I) and Julio Cesar Morales were 31 years old. R. Sara was playing for Austria since 1964. The two foreigners, the Uruguayans J. C. Morales and Alberto Martinez, were already at their 5th season with the team. Note that Martinez, one of the veterans in the team, was only 26 years old! Solid backbone – R. Sara in defense; Martinez in midfiled; and Morales in attack – inspiring youngsters like Herbert Prohaska. Prohaska was already rising into a superstar, but there were others too – Josef Sara (Sara II), Felix Gasselich, Hans Pirkner, Erich Obermayer, Hubert Baumgartner. Better talent than Rapid's, consolidated by the veterans, and a team ready to burst big. Which it did.