Saturday, August 3, 2013

Little information available for the rest of the African and Asian season – except for a note about Iranian football: the 1978 revolution halted the progress of the game. To CONCACAF then... to Mexico. The season ended before the World Cup finals and the inglorious fiasco in Argentina. Optimism was building up before June 1978. The strangely structured championship went normally – the 20-team strong division, divided in 4 sub-groups of 5 teams, yet, playing standard 2 matches against every league member, finished with teams going to the second round and fighting to escape the single relegation spot. The bottom was decided by points – the two teams with least points played for survival. This year – Union de Curtidores, 5th in Group 1, with 26 points, and Atlas (Guadalajara), 5th in Group 4, with 28 points. Atlas finished last on worse goal-difference. Puebla had also 28 points, but slightly better goal-difference. The lowest met in 2-leg play-off – Atlas clinched a 0-0 tie in Curtidores and looked like the old and better known Mexican club will survive. Alas, no – at home they lost 2-4 and were relegated.

Replaced by a club not exactly famous, but well known – in the past.
Zacatepec – by 1978 it was a fading club, moving between second and first division. Lucky this year – they went up, but their best years were already in the past.

Promotion-relegation is really a concern for the next season, and with that done – back to the current one. The quarter-finals between the top 2 teams of each sub-group. The main objection of such format is that: in a regular league the final table places every club to a place based on the earned points. In a league divided into subgroups teams with fewer points than others may advance. Which makes a mockery of their efforts and does not represent fully the stronger teams. Tampico finished second in Group 3 and advanced to the ¼ finals. Tampico finished with 35 points, earned in 38 matches. 11 wins, 13 ties, 14 losses, 53-55 goal-difference. Four clubs from other groups finished with better, some much better, records, but were out – Tampico finished with worse record than the entire Group 2, for instance. If it was 'classic' league, the top 8 teams would have been: America – 51 points, UNAM – 48, Toluca- 47, UAG – 46, UANL – 44, Cruz Azul – 43, U. de Guadalajara – 41, Atletico Espanol (as Necaxa was called at that time) – 41. Tampico would have been at 12 place. Yet... the Mexican format, following US league structure, does not differ all that much – only Atletico Espanol did not go ahead. And since it was just the first phase of the championship who was 9th or 15th hardly mattered: only the top 8 advanced and only the lowest two were concerned with relegation. Seven clubs would have advanced no matter which league system was used. And now, with direct eliminations, the regular season had no importance whatsoever – except for the decline of the Mexican Cup.

The ¼ finals: UANL – UAG 1-0 3-2

Cruz Azul – Toluca 1-0 2-2

U. de G. - UNAM 2-1 0-2

Tampico – America 2-2 1-1 4-2 – penalty shoot-out

Different logic in the cup-format – Tampico eliminated the strongest team in the regular season...

Semi-finals: Cruz Azul – UANL 1-0 0-3

Tampico – UNAM 2-1 0-4

Tampico was out, but UANL, hardly strong in the regular season, advanced to the final. UNAM was an usual suspect.

A feline final: UNAM Pumas vs UANL Tigres. Pumas vs Tigers. Tigers ruled in Monterrey – 2-0. In Mexico City they had enough claws for 1-1 tie. And Tigres won the championship.

UANL Tigres – champions for first time!