Sunday, August 13, 2017
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Second Division. That it was significantly inferior to the top level was nothing new, but now it appeared even weaker: at least 8 clubs were historical nobodies. Half of the republics of USSR had no representative at all and technically it was a championship of Russia ( 9 teams) and Ukraine (7 teams). Lituania, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan, and Tadzikistan had one team each. At a glance, the championship showed the general decline of the clubs of the Army system: the highest placed was 10th. As ever, the candidates for promotion were few and high above the rest and a good chunk of the league was only concerned with escaping relegation. The sedated mid-table clubs were still very happy with their state of affairs. Scoring was low, ties were the result of preference, although the limits imposed made everybody a bit more attacking-minded: only 4 teams went above the limit and lost points and the higher number of ties was 13 – in the past it was normal for a team to tie half of their championship games. The other positive side was the race for the two promotional spots: 5 teams went head to head, an almost unheard of number. Typically, there were 2-3 teams way above indifferent league. Two hopeless outsiders at the bottom. And one a bit better.
Spartak (Kostroma) ended last with 17 points. SKA (Kiev) second to last with 20 points. SKA (Odessa) ended 20th with 34 points. These three were relegated.
The three newcomers for the season managed to sit themselves in mid-table: Dinamo (Kirov) – 15th, Rotor (Volgograd) – 14th, and Daugava (Riga) – 8th.
Dinamo (Kirov). Just keeping a place in Second Division equaled success.
Dissapointing season for some of the potential candidates for promotion: Tavria (Simferopol) – 13th, SKA (Rostov-on-Don) – 11th, and SKA Karpaty (Lvov) – 10th. The eternal mid-table teams played as ever... Metallurg (Zaporozhye) – 12th, Pamir (Dushanbe) – 9th, and Shinnik (Yaroslavl) – 7th. Zarya (Voroshilovgrad) seemingly was joining the 'mid-table teams' – they finished 6th, but were not aiming at promotion at all. Looked like Zarya settled for a long live in Second Division.
Interesting was only at the very top – five teams finished divided by only 2 points. Fakel (Voronezh) was 5th with 54 points.
Lokomotiv (Moscow) bested Fakel on goal-difference. Both teams exceeded the limit of ties and lost a point each – if there was no lomit, they would have been ahead of the third place, but still unable to get promoted.
Kolos (Nikopol) ended 3rd with 55 points. A raising team, keep an eye on them in the future. Lost promotion by a point, but it was very strong season well finished.
The promoted succeeded just by a point – the two top teams finished with 56 points and goal-difference decided their final position.
Nistru (Kishinev) was 2nd and going up. No doubt, a great success – they played first division football before, but very briefly. Top level was not exactly on their minds since their relegation in 1975. From this almost forgotten first division season just about 2 players remained: the captain Pavel Chebanu and Ivan Karas. Nistru settled for mid-table comfort without a care or ambition on mind for so long, the first big problem was to shake the team out of apathy. Which was aggravated by internal tensions. The squad was not particularly interesting – like every typical mid-table team, it was experienced and solid, but not first class. Like the goalkeeper Kurochkin – a good second-level player, but for a long time just that: bellow first league keeper and satisfied with that. Of course, there were talented and promising players like the goal-scorer Grigory Batich, but how long would be before he decided to fall asleep? To keep him awake meant to go up – either the whole team or he alone to transfer to first league club. One clearly positive thing this year was scoring: Nistru depended on defense for years, following 'the wisdom' of a mid-table club: get the point and then there is nothing to worry about. This year Nistry scored the most goals in the league: 67. Well done, but... the big test was still in the future: the squad was not strong.
Thanks to better goal-difference Zhalgiris (Vilnius) became the champion of Second Division. It was quite of a surprise: they played first division football once upon a time, but so long ago hardly anyone remembered. For years they were entirely out of mind, playing in the Third Division – practically forgotten team. Unknown. Coming finally back to Second Division a couple of years back, they were generally expected to go down rather quickly. Yes, Lithuania, made mostly of Zhalgiris players, was pleasant surprise at the last Spartakiad – the all-USSR 'olympic games' – but it was not a tournament most people paid attention to and republics like Russia and Ukraine did not bother to select their best players for it. Lithuanian players in First Division could have been counted on the fingers of one hand and there was not a single star among them. Lithuania was a backwater of football... Zhalgiris had unknown players, unknown coach... it looked like a freak accident. May be pure chance. Lucky to go up, only the be relegated immediately – what else to expect from a team made only from local guys with unpronounceable names. Well, it was all wrong, just wait and see.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Friday, July 21, 2017
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
The Cup final opposed Real Madrid to Sporting Gijon. On the surface, Real had enormous advantage – Gijon had a weak season. It did not show on the field of Nuevo Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid. Gijon fought bravely. Alas, they lost 1-2 and Real Collected the Cup.
Only a small club with practically empty trophy room could get some bragging rights from 'Sub Campeon'... not bad, really, but one can feel sorry for the underdog: they lost 2 consecutive finals – in 1981 to Barcelona 1-3 and in 1982 to Real Madrid 1-2. Would have been nice Gijon to win.
Real Madrid still finished the season with a trophy – unlike Barcelona, so they were still ahead of the arch-rivals. Well, domestically – Barcelona perhaps got the upper hand at the end by winning the Cup Winners Cup. Yet, it was difficult victory for Real and not a very memorable one – except for one thing:this was their 15th Cup. Which, at the end of the day, is just a footnote in the rich history of the club.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Second Division or Serie B. 20-team league, mostly consisting of former first division members. Small fry, though. Two exceptions: Lazio, which decline after 1975 lead out of Serie A, and Sampdoria. However, one should be careful with Sampdoria: their familiar name was established later in the 1980s. They were still relatively unknown club, more likely to be found in the second division – the bigger local club was till Genoa. Anyhow, 4 teams were relegated and three promoted. One hopeless outsider this season and two more just hopeless. Ten clubs tried hard to avoid the dreaded the 4th relegation spot – that is, more than half the league was preoccupied with mere survival. But 7 teams competed for the top spots – not bad, a tough, if not particularly exciting, race.
Once upon a time Pescara was in first division, but those days were gone – tremendously weak, they were last in the league with 17 points.
Compared to Pescara, SPAL were giants with their 28 points. Which translated only into a meek and half-hearted battle for 18th place. Lost promptly... the great years of SPAL were very long ago, almost forgotten and it had been steady downhill pretty much since the mid-1960s. Now even second division was too much for them.
Brescia won the battle with SPAL with 31 points. Which hardly meant anything... not only they finished 18th , but had no chance to escape relegation almost from the beginning of the season. Their horrible season was a bit of a surprise, though.
Ten teams – half the league! - generally fought to escape the last relegation spot and at the end 2 points was the difference between 8th place and relegation. Goal-difference decided final places, including the 16th place, which meant going down to third level. Perhaps head-to-head records determined final positions, for goal-difference clearly was not decisive factor: four teams with 36 points, three of them with -7 goal-difference and one with -6. And that team went down...
Standing from left: BRUNO (all.), CERAMICOLA, MERLI, FAVERO, PARLANTI, MARTINI, PETROVIC, SALTUTTI, DEOGRATIAS, BUCCILLI, TRAINI, DI GIOVANNI (vice all.)
Crouching: ALBANI (magazz.), BALDONI, DONATELLI, SARTORI, CORVASCE, BILARDI, NEGRISOLO, MAZZONI, SOCI (massagg.)
Crouching: ALBANI (magazz.), BALDONI, DONATELLI, SARTORI, CORVASCE, BILARDI, NEGRISOLO, MAZZONI, SOCI (massagg.)
Poor Rimini... they won 11 matches, 2 more than Pistoiese and equal to Cavese and Foggia. They outscored all their rivals and by far with 39 goals – the second best in this group, Pistoiese, scored only 31. They had the best goal-difference of the four... and they were 16th and out.
The luckiest of those 4 teams was Foggia – 14th. Almost joining Brescia on the way down, but surviving at the end.
Four other teams ended with 37 points, fretting to the end of course.
Cremonese was 11th and obove them was the only team with positive goal-difference finishing bellow 8th place. The name would be more than surprising today:
Lazio. 37 points, 38-35 goal-difference. In the middle of second division, but lucky to avoid relegation. Surprising today, but not so back then – Lazio was hardly an impressive name before 1970, more likely to play exactly second division than top flight, and the successful 1970s were more of an exception than the rule. But there were no new Cinaglias and Wilsons, coming from the foggy Albion, and the club sunk at the end of the decade – that is, for many, going back to where “The Eagles” belonged. And barely surviving even that. They were 10th.
A point above were two teams – well, this is already the upper half of the final table, but remember: 38 points was only 2 points more than what relegated Rimini had! Survival, not comfort.
Catania was 9th, losing 8th place on goal-difference.
And Sambenedettese was 8th – the highest placed of the those trying to escape relegation and the one of the best goal-difference among them: 38-33. They were, with Lazio, the only 2 teams of the lower 12 teams ending with positive goal-difference.
Standing from left: Zenga, Caccia, Bogoni, Cavazzini, Pedrazzini, Garbuglia.
First row: Speggiorin, Falcetta, Ranieri, Cagni, Colasanto.
Recognize a name? Well, nobody knew this guy yet. Walter Zenga – one could say he and his teammates did well this year. After all, they were 8th... but the final table looks prettier than reality: the boys could have been relegated just as easily.
A strange season – practically no comfortable and disinterested mid-table teams, but sharp division – 13 teams fought to avoid relegation and the other 7 – to get promotion. 6 points divided 1st from 7th. Six teams finished with equal points.
Palermo was last of the favourites – 42 points and 52-42 goal-difference. The photo is misleading – the official final table places them 7th, not 6th – and there was no real reason to be 6th, if goal-difference is considered – the higher placed team had better one. Palermo, however, scored the most goals this season and was the only teams scoring more than 50 goals in the championship. Which is quite telling... 52 goals in 38 games is nothing to brag about and that was the highest number.
Perugia was 6th – also 42 points, but their 37-26 record was just a goal better than Palermo's: +11. Was that the final criteria is hard to tell – it was not at the bottom of the league, so why here? May be head-to-head results determined positions.
Varese was 5th with 45 points and 42-30. Again, worse goal-difference seemingly placed them lower than Bari.
Bari - 4th with 45 points and 47-33. They and those bellow them lost the race by little, by they did.
Sampdoria ended 3rd, losing second place on goal-difference. 47 points and 41-25. Not exactly great performance, one may think, but it was enough to get them promotion. And that was all that mattered – second league champions may be sweet, but much sweeter was to go up and they achieved that.
Pisa was second with slightly better record than Sampdoria: 45 points and 47-26. Well done.
And lastly – the champions. Hellas Verona. First with 48 points from 17 wins, 14 ties. 7 games were lost – more than double the number of Pisa, which lost only 3. Frankly, Verona – there was no reason to call them Hellas Verona yet – did not excel in anything, but squirreled most points somewhat and finished at the top.
Standing from left: Gibellini, Penzo, Di Gennaro, Lelj, Cavasin, Garella.
First row: Fedele (cap.), Odorizzi, Emidio Oddi, Manueli, Tricella.
There was no reason to pay much attention to Verona at the time – the league was not great, promotion was a matter of luck to a point, and Verona was a club nobody heard of. Great for them, but in terms of Italian football getting stronger... hardly anything optimistic. Verona looked like accidentally promoted team – one-time wonder at best, most likely to be relegated in the next season and forgotten. And a glance of the final table supported such a view: it was the usual doggy, boring, stifled Italian football from the late 1960s and the 1970s. Few goals and plenty of ties: only one team had fewer than 10 ties and this team was dead last. In the same time Pisa, 2nd and promoted to first division, tied 23 matches! Reggiana – 21! 13 teams scored 1 or less goal-per-game average. Not a single team managed to win 50% of their games – the highest number was 17 wins, shared by Verona and Sampdoria. So to see some nobodies winning the championship was hardly a positive sign – rather, it was a pessimistic sign, suggesting general weakness. Lazio barely escaped relegation, Brescia relegated... how good Verona could be in view of that? Not much. Some guys named Tricella and Di Gennaro? And who exactly were they? But it was fantastically happy ending at Verona, they went up – let them enjoy the moment. And prove pessimists wrong eventually.