Sunday, April 23, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Honduras created some interest, thanks to the good World Cup performance – and it was 'discovered' that the country resembled somewhat a black African country in football matters: it was divided somewhat, having a region of English-speaking and predominantly black population, a bit in conflict with whites, blacks, and natives, speaking Spanish. Whatever social tensions existed, in football terms they translated into favoritism of one or the other group, perhaps not as bad as it was in Africa. The World Cup performance was interpreted in this way: English speaking Hondurans were perhaps the key , for they had discipline and rational approach the Spanish-speaking Latinos lacked. The blend of the two cultures worked well. Was that true or not is hard to say. What can be said is that Honduras run a national championship for a long time and had old clubs. 
Olimpia (Tegucigalpa), founded in 1912, won the 1982 championship. They were traditionally leading club, as usually clubs from capitals are, and this was there 13th title.  
Standing from left: Oscar Garcia, “Indio” Ruiz, Roberto “Pirata” Fernandez, “Nilo” Martinez, 
Mauricio “Guicho” Funez, Oscar Banegas. First row: Alberto Merelles, Victor Romero, Hector Ucles, Alberto Centurion, Mario Hernan Juvini Carreño. 
English-speakers were not presented here, judging by names, and the club was represented by only 2 players at the World Cup, none of which is pictured above. Whatever it was, locally Olimpia was strong even if other clubs – Real Espana, certainly – had more 'stars'. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

African Player Of The Year:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The African Cup Winners Cup:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The African Champions Cup:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Without Brazil the semi-finals lost some of its shine, but there was nothing to be done. Italy and Poland met for a second time this championship and expectations were quite different: Italy was rapidly improving from match to match, Poland seemingly reached its highest possible point. Italy had the edge for two reasons: the first was having well rounded team, which found its own chemistry and was classier anyway. The second reason was the absent players: both teams had to be without key players – Gentile and Boniek, both missing the match for having two yellow cards. To a point, no really big deal, for surely Gentile would have been attached to Boniek and more than likely destroyed his game. But Italy had strong replacement for Gentile who in any case was not the organizer of the team play. Boniek was a big loss for Poland, which did not have another playmaker. True, Boniek was moved ahead in the previous games and that was a result of another problem: Szarmach was clearly out of form and Iwan got early injury. Suddenly, Poland had attacking problems, which Boniek compensated for before, but now there was nobody left. Lato was moved into his typical position in the attacking line and Ciolek was replaced Boniek, but he was not the needed playmaker. Bearzot worried about injuries as well – Colovatti and Tardelli were under question after the match with Brazil, but luckily for Bearzot both were fixed quickly and came on the field. Bergomi, who replaced Gentile, was attached as a personal marker to Lato – no matter what, Italy followed its iron strategy: mark closely the opponent's star and only after that pay attention to the other net. Defense first – and the initial Polish assault was quickly neutralized. Italy showed teeth after that and it became clear they were the stronger and much more dangerous team. Scoring opportunities emerged.
nd minute. The Italians more or less dominated the game, but Poland was still dangerous, especially Lato, who had excellent match. Unfortunately, there was little creativity in midfield and no matter what Lato tried, it was humanly impossible for him to both organize and finish attacks. Smolarek was nowhere to be seen, having his worst match at this championship – he was substituted by Kusto in the 79th minute, perhaps too late.
Paolo Rossi scored in the 22nd minute. The Italians more or less dominated the game, but Poland was still dangerous, especially Lato, who had excellent match. Unfortunately, there was little creativity in midfield and no matter what Lato tried, it was humanly impossible for him to both organize and finish attacks. Smolarek was nowhere to be seen, having his worst match at this championship – he was substituted by Kusto in the 79th minute, perhaps too late.
In the 74th minute Rossi scored his second goal and the match was practically over – the last minutes Italy obviously killed time, which the viewers naturally disliked. Poland tried to the end, but there was no way to compensate the absence of Boniek – in the second half the central defender Zmuda moved ahead to help the midfielders, which was more than risky, considering the lethal Italian strikers fed by Antognoni. Zoff also had a fine day, saving dangerous shots, but Poland clearly did not have smart enough player – traditionally, Zoff was shaky saving long shots and no Polish player tested his weakness. Italy won and rightly so 2-0 and reached the final. Perhaps the most important aspect of this victory was that it came relatively easy and Italy saved both physical and mental energy for the final.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Argentina and Belgium played the very first match not only of this group, but of the 1982 finals – reigning world champions had the privilege to open the championship. It was a worthy opening, it seemed, alas... injured Maradona was not a sure starter. Menotti said he cannot risk and all depends on the doctors. But Maradona came on the pitch. Belgium had much bigger problems – some were already known: Cools was out and in the last moment Vandereycken had to be replaced. Lozano did not get Belgian citizenship. Meews carried on one match disqualification to the world cup. Van Moer was unable to adapt to the Spanish heat. Francois van der Elst arrived injured from England and was still unable to play. Finally, Guy Thys felt that there was no point fielding Renquin without his usual partner Meews. Suddenly, Belgium looked impoverished and not even remotely up to the task of facing Maradona-led Argentina. But after referee blew his whistle the picture was very different.

Argentina showed good football only briefly at the beginning of the match. Maradona was carefully watched and met by a swarm of Belgian players, who left him no room. Belgium was tactically perfect and Argentina faded away. In the 63rd minute Vanderbergh scored and Argentina had no answer. At the end – Belgium 1 – Argentina 0. First match, first upset. A sensation even. After the game Fillol and Menotti said they felt that Vanderbergh was offside when he scored, but a replay did not make it clearer – it was not an obvious case of offside. Menotti was a bit critical of the linesmen, but the reason for the loss was, to him, his own team lacking fighting spirit. Thys happily praised his boys for their collective approach and following his tactics to the letter.
The second match destroyed the modest aims of El Salvador – there was no question the Salvadorians were no match to Hungary, but they wanted to better their 1970 record: three losses and 0-9 goal difference.

They succeeded in one aspect: scored there first World Cup goal. But received 10. Instantly El Salvador became the weakest team at this finals, comparable only to Zaire 1974 and most likely even worse. As for Hungary – they did not look better than expected, but did what had to be done to keep a chance for going to the second round: huge victory against El Salvador. In case of equal points, Hungary had goal-difference advantage.
Argentina – Hungary proceeded 'normally': Hungary proved that it was not a miracle team, but a modest one. Argentina dominated, even looked strong as it was in 1978.

The first half ended with Argentina leading 2-0, which was made 4-0 by the 62nd minute. Eventually, Hungary scored a goal, but neither mattered, nor changed the general impression of the match. Menotti was more than generous with his praise – he said he was amazed and surprised how good his team really was. Tarantini and Valdano were injured and had to substituted, but seemingly the team benefited from that. The Hungarians did not very upset, which surprised the journalists, but such cool reaction had to be expected – not only Meszoly knew the limitations of his squad, but for the moment nothing strange happened. They still had a chance to go ahead and not their match with Argentina, but the next one – Belgium vs El Salvador – was the really important one for their fate.
Which went exactly in favour of Hungary. Thys wanted his team to score as much as possible against El Salvador, but there was something well known: Belgium was not a high scoring team. El Salvador was obviously so weak, that the match looked a mere formality and the Belgians were not very motivated. Coeck scored an early goal in the 18th minute, which perhaps was counter-productive, for it lulled the Belgian team entirely – the match ended 1-0, a result curiously benefiting mostly Argentina. Yes, Belgium had a perfect record so far, if they lost to Hungary, they were out. Argentina, on the other hand, benefited from any result of Belgium – Hungary, for there was no doubt they were going to win against El Salvador. Now Hungarian calm reaction to their otherwise devastating loss to Argentina was perfectly clear: their most important match was against Belgium and they had to win. Possible. With motivation and luck.
Belgium – Hungary started as expected: Hungary was more active and dangerous and scored in the 28th minute. After that luck betrayed them – they had two more chances and missed. But Belgium had no luck either – in the beginning of the second half Pfaff and Gerets clashed into each other, Gerets was heavily injured and had to be replaced. Injuries plagued Belgium – Pfaff suffered to the end of the match, later, when Belgium used its substitutes, Coeck was injured and had to limp to the last whistle useless. But Thys made his important substitute meantime, fielding van Moer for the first time at this championship. The veteran instantly took the match under his control and eventually Czerniatinsky equalized in the 76th minute. At the end – 1-1, Belgium going ahead and Hungary – out.
Argentina – El Salvador was a mere protocol, leaving no impressions. Passarella scored from a penalty in the first half and Bertoni added one more goal in the second. If anything, El Salvador failed in its extremely modest aim to finish better than in 1970: they lost again all their matches, but ended with worse goal-difference. Well, they scored their first world cup finals goal, if it was a consolation.
Despite the sensation with which the group started, it ended as expected and predicted. So far Belgium appeared to be the most interesting, but also most unlucky team – if they managed to get the string of injured players fit for the second round, they would have been quite dangerous. Argentina was underperforming, but nothing alarming yet – surely, they will come to their real strength in the second round. Hungary perhaps got more than expected from their team, coming close to qualifying. In any case, nothing to be ashamed of. Made a scoring record too.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Group 13. Asia. Asia... if anybody deserved more spots at the finals, it would be Africa – for nothing else, but just to, perhaps, elevate the continent from chaos to some more serious stage of development. Asia was not even on African level yet... and there was also the lowest of the low – Oceania. On the football map Oceania was only three countries at that time, so they probably did not complain at all and very likely were happy to have a chance at least to play against  more and various teams. Asia was further weakened by the expulsion of Israel and the withdrawal of Iran, due to the political change in the country. 19 countries entered elaborate tournament, going through stages – the vast continent and the inclusion of Oceania made travel difficult, so the preliminary stages were organized geographically, perhaps  taking into account the wealth of the countries too, for it was not possible to follow geographic lines entirely. At the end, only Zone A was played in the usual manner – that is, teams travle from to place to visit opponents. Zones B and C were staged as round-robin tournaments, hosted, correspondingly, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Al-Kuwait, Kuwait. Group D was entirely differently organized – there was preliminary stage at first, at which countries visited each other. After that there were 2 sub-groups, played in one place – Hong Kong. This round-robin sub-groups were followed by semi-finals and a final. The winner joined the winners of the other three groups to a final tournament, played, however, traditionally – teams hosting at home and traveling to visit opponents. This last stage brought troubles, perhaps kept under lid so far, in the open. The program was typical for the times – a clever team was able to get convenient schedule, giving a strong chance. Kuwait not only played 3 of the last 4 games, but hosted all of them. Having a good start with 2 away wins, they made the best of home turf and high moral – won twice and tied one match, thus, one match before the end of the qualifications, Kuwait was unreachable and qualified for the first time to World Cup finals. Saudi Arabia, the outsiders at this stage, hosted the last match against New Zealand. However, New Zealand was outraged the previous game, when they felt the hosts, Kuwait, were blatantly helped by the referees and New Zealand was cheated big time. The accusations were ignored by the Asian football body, which further enraged New Zealand. May be rage motivated them to utter destruction of Saudi Arabia – 5-0. With which New Zealand equalized not only points, but also the goal-different of China.  And now salt was put on the wound: New Zealand outscored China by 2 goals – usually, when goal-difference is a factor, in case of equal record, the team scoring more goals gets the higher place. The other possible way is considering the record of the direct games played: if that, New Zealand also must have been placed ahead of China, because they won one match and tied the other. But... New Zealand was 3rd in the final table. Which led, who knows why, to a play-off in Singapur – only now   New Zealand managed to get ahead, beating China 2-1. As a final note to the mess, perhaps to show just how big was the mess, a famous referee was invited for this match: the Brazilian Filho. Local referees were not trusted at this point. 
1.Kuwait^  6   9  4  1  1   8- 6
2.China>  6   7  3  1  2   9- 4
3.New Zealand>  6   7  2  3  1  11- 6
4.Saudi Arabia   6   1  0  1  5   4-16
This is the controversial final table of Asia. After that the play-off between New Zealand and |China was played and New Zealand became the second representative of the continent. It was also the last team to qualify for the World Cup finals. 
Kuwait – unheard of team, but, if anything, oil-dollars were aplenty. Asia had nothing to show yet, so why not they?
Back row (left to right): Adrian Elrick, Duncan Cole, Mark Armstrong, Grant Turner, Allan Boath, Dave Bright, Clive Campbell
Middle row: Kevin Fallon (assistant coach), Ricki Herbert, Brian Turner, Barry Pickering, Richard Wilson, Frank van Hattum, Glen Adam, Sam Malcolmson, John Adshead (coach)
Front row: Steve Wooddin, Keith Mackay, Steve Sumner (captain), Charlie Dempsey (New Zealand World Cup director), Bobby Almond, John Hill, Glenn Dods .
New Zealand at the beginning of its qualifying campaign. Entirely unknown team, not expected to do anything impressive at the finals. But brave boys, going to the World Cup.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017