Campeonato Nacional followed, perhaps affected too by the World Cup, and dwarfed under the shining victory of the national team. 32 teams, divided in 4 preliminary groups. Every group played standard 2-legged league, the top two clubs qualified for the ¼ finals. Some strange clubs participated, clubs without a chance of ever appearing in the first division of Metropolitano – Deportivo Roca (Rio Negro), Altos Hornos Zapla (Jujuy), Patronato (Entre Rios), and others. Clubs, coming from the regional tournaments.
Local flavour, small clubs finding themselves among the mighty. They did not go far, as expected, but other clubs were equal to or even worse then the unknowns. Quilmes finished 6th in Group D. Argentinos Juniors with Maradona were 7th in Group C, winning 5 points less than said Deportivo Roca. Boca Juniors ended 4th in Group B, a place behind another unknown club – Atletico Tucuman, which almost made a sensation. None of the small clubs managed to go ahead, but Atletico Tucuman came very close – they missed the qualifying spot only on goal-difference. Thus, familiar names went ahead - Talleres (Cordoba) and Racing Club (Avellaneda) from Group A; Union (Santa Fe) and Huracan (Buenos Aires), from Group B; Independiente (Avellaneda) and Velez Sarsfield from Group C; River Plate and Colon (Santa Fe) from Group D.
Continuing in standard cup-format direct elimination, it was all or nothing. Independiente, River Plate, Talleres, and Union reached the ½, where Independiente eliminated Talleres, beating them twice with the same result – 2-1. River Plate eliminated Union thanks to better performance in Santa Fe – they won 2-1 there, but managed only 1-1 tie at home. Low scoring – only one team scored three goals in all ¼ and ½ matches – Talleres, at their home match with Huracan: 3-0. In only one match 4 goals were scored – Colon-Independiente: 2-2. Tough, competitive, games, or weak squads, concerned largely with defense?
The final was played in early January 1979. The first leg, hosted by River Plate ended 0-0. Three days later in Avellaneda, Independiente won comfortably 2-0. One more victory for the best Argentine club in the 1970s. Yet, it was different year and very different squad. Here are teams of the very last championship match:
Independiente: Baley; Pagnanini, Villaverde, Trossero, O. Pérez;
Larrosa, Fren, Bochini; Alzamendi (Fontana), Outes, Barberón.
Coach: José Pastoriza.
River Plate: Fillol; Saporiti, Pavoni, Passarella, H. López;
J.J. López, Merlo, Alonso; Pedro González (Galletti), Luque, Ortiz.
Coach: Angel Labruna.
Goals: 19' Bochini; 54' Bochini.
Not a very large audience, two goals by Bochini, and... very few world champions. Actually, River Plate had the world champions...
Crouching: Pedro González, Marchetti, Luque, Alonso , Ortiz.
The photo differs from the squad losing the title – Luque and Ortiz did not play. The team still looked stronger than Independiente's, but... they lost. World champions or not – second. Which counts as disaster in the River's camp. Passarella, Fillol, Alonso, and the rest drowned in Avellaneda. May be it was easier to beat Holland... may be the coach was the reason... the legendary Angel Labruna was getting old and may be old-fashioned, behind the times. May be... but the contrast is big one: like Quilmes, Indenpendiente had very young coach, at the beginning of his career – Jose Pastoriza. A legend on his own right as a player, but much, much younger than Labruna. New ideas, perhaps?
Pastoriza was much younger in 1978 than on this picture, but already coached Independiente since 1976. He had great relations with the players and although his role was difficult – to build a new team after the inevitable retirement or moving elsewhere of the great stars of the first half of the 1970s – he managed to keep the club competitive. Winning the title was a nice reward.
Standing, from left: Pagnanini, Baley, Osvaldo Pérez, Fren, Villaverde, Trossero.
First row: Alzamendi, Larrosa, Outes, Bochini, Barberón.
The new Independiente perhaps was still unfinished and unpolished, but one thing was very clear – it was a team made around Bochini, already the star. The squad pales when contrasted to River Plate: only three players in the Menotti's national team – Baley, Pagnanini, and Larrosa. Of them, only Larrosa played a bit at the world cup finals – he came as a substitute against Holland. That is, he played 35 minutes total... at least, it was the most important match. Bochini was not in the national team – and to eternal grieve of Independiente fans, he played rarely for Argentina no matter who was the coach. Nor Trossero – but he was sill young promise, not established star. The team was more or less completed – the skeleton was in place and relatively young. Perhaps it was not as great as the squad from the first half of the 1970s, but it was strong enough. Baley kept clean sheet at the final, when the great world champion Fillol received two crucial goals. Scored by entirely ignored by Menotti striker. Their 12th title. Second in a row Nacional title. The great tradition continued with or without world champions.
Who were leaving Argentina – Ardiles, Villa, and Tarantini were already playing in England. Others were following the road to Europe. Considering the exodus, Independiente were on the right track – it was clear that youngsters were to shape Argentinian club football. Young players and young coaches.