Thursday, February 25, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Brazil-France (1986)

Brazil’s squad for Mexico in 1986 included players from one of the most gifted generations of Brazilian football, that had nevertheless been humbled by Paolo Rossi and Italy in the 1982 World Cup. Among these players were Torino’s Junior, one of the best fullbacks in Brazilian football; Flamengo’s Zico, one of the best Brazilians of all-time; Flamengos’ legendary and charismatic midfielder Sócrates, as well as the ageing Falcão, who was finishing his career in São Paulo.
The 1986 World Cup in Mexico was the last chance for this golden generation to lift the trophy. The squad was nevertheless also supplemented by some good young players, among them the outstanding defenders Branco from Fluminense and Julio Cesar from Guaraní, as well as the dangerous São Paulo striker Careca.
The Brazilians had started the tournament well with three consecutive victories in the first round against Spain, Algeria and Northern Ireland. In the last-16 they had defeated an ageing Polish side 4-0, but the true test of their strength would come against the European champions of France in the quarterfinals.
France, who had reached the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup arguably had one of the best teams in the world. In 1984, at home, they had been awesome in taking the European championship, where the Juventus star and three-time European player of the year (1983, 84 and 85) Michel Platini had been absolutely outstanding.
Platini was nevertheless not alone, as he presided over what was dubbed “the magic square” (Carré Magique) on the French midfield, composed of Platini himself, the superb Alain Giresse from Bordeaux, and the defensive midfielders Jean Tigana, also from Bordeaux, and Luis Fernandez from Paris Saint-Germain. In defence the French had one of the best defenders of his age, Monaco’s Manuel Amoros, as well as the veteran Nantes’ player Maxime Bossis.
The French had not been that strong in their first matches though, where they had only managed a 1-0 victory against Canada on a late goal by the young Jean-Pierre Papin, then tied 1-1 with the strong USSR and defeated the poor Hungarians 3-0. In the last-16 the French had been faced with the defending world champions of Italy, whom they had defeated 2-0, and were now to face Brazil in one of the most anticipated quarterfinals of the tournament: Brazil and France were two of the best teams in the world in 1986, both playing exhilarating and entertaining football.
The match was no disappointment, and although it perhaps lacked goals, it was one of the best displays of technical skill, attacking football and pace in World Cup history.
The match started at a fast pace, and only after a few minutes Manuel Amoros had an excellent shot from outside. Manuel Amoros would in fact be at the center of the action, playing an outstanding match in defence as the Brazilians attacked again and again. After 17 minutes, following quick combinations between Muller and Junior, the latter found Careca alone at the edge of the area, and the São Paulo striker made no mistake in bringing Brazil ahead.
Brazil continued attacking, and the French defenders fought well, although also with some luck, as when Muller hit the woodwork. However, France patiently worked themselves into the match, and after 41 minutes Dominique Rocheteau centered from the right side. The ball was slightly deflected by a defender, as Yannck Stopyra crashed into the Brazilian goalkeeper Carlos trying to get a header, but with both missing the ball. On the far post, Michel Platini had no problem pushing the ball into an empty goal, as Carlos and Stopyra lay in the center.
The score was 1-1 at halftime.
Both teams opened up more in the second half, and seeking goals, both teams had good chances, although Brazil came closest, with Careca hitting the post on an excellent header. But as the match advanced and nothing happened, the Brazilian coach Tele Santana decided to change Muller for the legendary Zico, who had started the match as a substitute. And after only five minutes the ageing Brazilian took center stage: a perfect through-ball to Branco forced the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Joel Bats to make a penalty. The experienced Zico was to take it, but shot poorly against the experienced Bats (who is still considered one of the best French goalkeepers of all time), who saved.
Brazil had seen victory within their reach, but the match ended 1-1, and went into extra time.
Although the players were tired after 90 minutes in the hot Guadalajara sun, both teams still sought victory, with the best chance coming to France’s striker Bruno Bellone, who had come on as a substitute for Rocheteau. Alone with Carlos, the French goalkeeper clearly went for Bellone, who out of balance from Carlos foul missed his chance.
Scandalously, the Romanian referee Igna didn’t do anything against this clear foul.
Thus, the extraordinary match would have to be decided by a nerve-wrecking penalty shootout.
One of the greatest stars, Zico, had missed a penalty. Now, Brazil’s captain, Sócrates, was to shoot the first penalty for Brazil, and his shot was also spectacularly saved by Bats. All the advantages were now with France. At the score 3-3, Michel Platini had to shoot for France to bring them ahead; with his experience and technique, it was a surprise when he shot over goal, levelling the shoot-out to the relief of the Brazilians.
All the super-stars seemed to be missing penalties!
It was then the turn of the defender Julio Cesar, who at the time was playing in the French club Stade Brestois 29, to shoot. His hard shot hit the post, and the score was levelled again before the last player went to shoot: Luis Fernandez, the experienced Paris Saint-Germain midfielder made no mistake in scoring the winning penalty for France on a low shot to the right of Carlos.
Zico and Sócrates would never be world champions, this being their last World Cup. In the meantime, the French had proven strongest against the toughest opposition, and emerged from this match as favorites for the world cup title together with Argentina. However, in the semifinal France was to face their eternal nightmare, West Germany. And just as had happened in 1982, West Germany proved to be too clever for the French, who had to return to France with bronze medals.
France and Brazil in 1986 were two of the best teams ever never to win a world championship, but still gave the world a wonderful match in their quarterfinal. All men on that pitch that day went far beyond being athletes, but became artists.
I was not old, but remember watching this match and being in awe at the speed, quality and intensity. It was true football beauty all the way through, and I think I still remember the match as the best I have ever watched.

Match Stats:
  • 21st June 1986, Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara
  • Attendance: 65,000
  • Referee: Ioan Igna (Romania)
Brazil-France 1-1 (After extra time)
Goals: 1-0 Careca (17), 1-1 Platini (40)

Penalty kicks:
Brazil-France 3-4
Socrates missed for Brazil
0-1 Stopyra
1-1 Alemão
1-2 Amoros
2-2 Zico
2-3 Bellone
3-3 Branco
Platini missed for France
Julio Cesar missed for Brazil
3-4 Fernandez

Brazil: Carlos, Edinho, Junior (Silas), Julio Cesar, Alemão, Branco, Socrates, Elzo, Muller (Zico), Josimar, Careca
France: Bats; Amoros, Battiston, Bossis, Tusseau, Fernandez, Platini, Giresse (Ferreri), Tigana, Rocheteau (Bellone), Stopyra

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Morocco-Portugal (1986)

African nations were late entrants into the World Cup. Morocco participated in 1970, and Zaire in 1974 with pathetic results. In 1978 Tunisia was the first African team to win a match in a World Cup when they defeated Mexico 3-1, and in 1982 two African teams, Cameroon and Algeria, had extraordinary results but without qualifying to the second round. By 1986 it thus seemed only a question of time before African teams would qualify to the second round.
In Mexico, in 1986, two African teams participated: Algeria and Morocco. While the Algerians fell in the first round in a difficult group with Brazil, Spain and Northern Ireland, Morocco unexpectedly went on to become the first African team to win a group in a world cup, ahead of three strong European sides, England, Poland and Portugal.
In their first two matches Morocco had first tied 0-0 with the 1982 bronze winners from Poland, and then tied 0-0 with England. In the meantime, Portugal had defeated England 1-0 and lost 1-0 to Poland, and thus apparently had good chances of progressing to the next round against the still-underestimated Moroccans. Built around players from the two major clubs in Portugal, Benfica and FC Porto, Portugal was participating in only its second World Cup since 1966, and had been the first to defeat West Germany away in a qualifier.
However, the Portuguese team had been surrounded by scandals up to the World Cup: a Benfica player on the squad, Antonio Veloso, had been suspended for doping and the players had during the preparation threatened to strike, as they were not satisfied with the prize money. This created great instability on the team, that was somewhat considered the joke of the tournament.
In spite of all this circus, they were still considered favourites against the Moroccans.
Morocco were coached by the Brazilian José Faría, and mainly consisted of a solid core of players from Moroccan clubs, notably the champions FAR Rabat, supplemented with some players from second-tier European clubs, such as Valencienne’s Mustafa Merry, Le Havre’s Abdelkrim “Krimau” Merry and Laussane’s Moustaffa El Haddaoui. Their star was undoubtedly the outstanding Mohammed Timoumi from FAR Rabat – African Player of the year in 1985.
The last two matches of the group, England-Poland and Morocco-Portugal were played at the exact same time, and all four teams had a chance at qualifying for the next round.
There was little doubt that the Portuguese were expecting a victory.
Morocco completely overran the Portuguese from the start of the match in front of 24,000 in Guadalajara. After 19 minutes the FAR Rabat striker Abderrazak Khairi picked up a return ball outside the Portuguese area and was given space by the Portuguese defense to score on a good long-range effort.
Only seven minutes later the defender Labid Khalifa centered from the right side into the Portuguese area. The ball drifted down towards the far post where Khairi, completely unmarked, came rushing from behind, and in perfect control first-timed the ball into the Portuguese goal.
2-0 down the Portuguese apparently realised that they were heading out of the tournament, but were unable to really put pressure on the well-organised and confident Moroccan side. First half ended 2-0, and halfway into the second half the Moroccans sealed their outstanding victory: combining excellently, Mohammed Timoumi received the ball on the left side. With the Portuguese defense caught off-hand, he saw “Krimau” Merry pushing forward in the center, and made a perfect pass that Merry controlled perfectly and shot before he could be reached by a Portuguese defender.
The Moroccans somehow relaxed after this, while the Portuguese were clearly disillusioned. It didn’t matter that Benfica’s Diamantino, ten minutes before time, scored a consolation goal for Portugal on a somewhat coincidental chance, but it made no difference for Morocco’s achievement: as England defeated Poland 3-0, it was clear that Morocco were group winners in front of England. Portugal ended last in the group and had to return to much criticism in Portugal.
Morocco faced the later finalists of West Germany in the last-16, and lost 1-0 on a late goal by Lothar Matthäus.

Match Stats:
  • 11th June 1986, Estadio Tres de Marzo, Guadalajara
  • Attendance 24,000
  • Referee: Alan Snoddy (Northern Ireland)
Morocco-Portugal 3-1
Goals: 1-0 Khairi (19), 2-0 Khairi (26), 3-0 Merry Krimau (62), 3-1 Diamantino (80)

Morocco: Badou; Khalifa, Lamris, El Biyaz, Bouyahyaoui, Dolmy, Moustaffa El Haddaoui (Soulaimain), Bouderbala, A. "Krimau" Merry, Timoumi, Khairi
Portugal: Damas; Antonio Sousa (Diamantino), Alvaro (Rui Aguas), Carlos Manuel, Pacheco, Frederico, Gomes, Futre, Jaimes Magalhães, Oliveira, Inacio

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How about Olympique Lyon and Wayne Rooney?

I have always liked Olympique Lyon, and over the last years I have always thought that they would get closer to glory in the Champions League, but so far wrongly. Now the team is surely not what they used to be: the did not win last season's French championship, and are currently only 4th in the French league. So it would seem that their chances against mighty Real Madrid in the first round of the CL play-offs was meager. However, last night Lyon outplayed the Spaniards, and if anything, the 1-0 victory is only too fragile before they go on to play in Madrid. Also, the victory is surely a merit to Lyon's skills and fight, but on the other hand, the Spaniards were poor to say the least, and in particular Kaká is running the danger of being a total flop.

In the other play-off match last night, mighty Manchester United played mighty AC Milan in San Siro, where they had never scored a goal. But things were to change, as United scored three, two of them by super Wayne Rooney who is surely emerging as perhaps the best striker in the world at the moment.
Manchester United won 3-2, thanks to Rooney, but also somewhat thanks to a well-playing Van der Saar and to good ole' luck. AC Milan, and in particular Ronaldinho as well as David Beckham (playing against his old club) played a great and offensive match, but the team missed way too many chances, and it now looks like the Milanese are heading out of the tournament.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Das Wunder von Bern

Over the last months I have been working on finding information on the greatest world cup matches. Looking up the 1954 final between Hungary and West Germany, I came across a German movie from 2003, Das Wunder von Bern, about this legendary match, and managed to get hold of the movie, but as I moved and thought of different things, didn't watch it until last night.
It is a truly wonderful movie, for any football fan, but in particular for Germans. The movie describes well the country that in 1954 was still trying to heal the wounds from WWII, with prisoners returning from Russia and the economy slowly recovering. In all this, an amazing football team, coached by a charismatic Sepp Herberger (whose famous quotes are of course also in the movie), with the legendary Fritz Walter, and a Helmut Rahn who plays an important role for the main character, the boy Matthias, who showing up at the final in Bern, brings luck for Rahn to score the winning goal against the legendary Hungarians.
The movie is told with good humour (I laughed a lot when the journalist's wife, after making a bet with her husband that if Hungary won, he got to choose the name of their children, start cheering wildly for the Germans when they are 2-0 down, since her husband tells her that a girl would be named Roswita....), and the football details are excellent: the new Adidas boots, the rainy "Fritz Walter weather", and the press' criticism of the coach. And in the end, the euphoria at Germany's victory is incredibly contagious (I have watched a tape of the entire final before), as the entire country goes crazy in excitement at the victory.
How can anyone not love football after such a great movie dedicated to football?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: France-West Germany (1982)

France had never been World champion, but in the early 1980’s the French were fostering a team of extremely talented players that would go on to win the European championship in 1984. However, in the 1982 World Cup they were still not considered a favourite for the title, and they had started by losing 3-1 to a strong English side (in a match where Bryan Robson scored the fastest goal in World Cup history), but victories against Kuwait and a tie against Czechoslovakia had put them in the second round. There, they had not had a difficult time; they defeated Austria 1-0 and the surprising team of Northern Ireland had been easily dispatched with 4-1. France was now unexpectedly one step from their first World Cup final, facing the defending European champions of West Germany.
The French team was captained by the elegant Michel Platini from Saint-Étienne, who was already hailed as one of the best French players ever, but would only become better in the following years.
The Germans had arguably become the most unpopular team of the tournament after their first round loss to Algeria, and what everyone considered the “fixed” 1-0 win over Austria, that had put themselves and the Austrians in the second round at the expense of Algeria.
In the second round West Germany had tied England 0-0, and a 2-1 victory against the home team of Spain, was enough to put them in the semi-final, where they were nevertheless considered as favourites against the French side.
63,000 fans in Sevilla and TV audiences around the world would be witness to one of the greatest dramas in World cup history.
The match started best for the Germans when, after 17 minutes the veteran Paul Breitner made a perfect through-pass to another veterean, 1. FC Köln’s Klaus Fischer, who dashed towards goal between two French defenders. French goalkeeper Jean-Luc Ettori came out quickly and blocked the shot, but the ball fell to another 1. FC Köln player, the young Pierre Littbarski, at the edge of the penalty area, who resolutely shot the ball past Ettori.
Barely ten minutes later the Dutch referee Charles Corver, awarded France a penalty kick when Paris Saint-Germain’s Dominique Rocheteau was brought down as he was pursuing a header. Michel Platini scored, and the match was again levelled.
On goal, West Germany had Harald “Toni” Schumacher, perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world at the time, but also a controversial and provocative person, who would in 1987 be banned from the German national team and his club, 1. FC Köln, for having written a controversial autobiography, Ampfiff.
In this match, Schumacher would also play a central role in one of the most controversial incidents in the history of the World Cup.
First half ended 1-1, and fifteen minutes into the second half Michel Platini’s team-mate from Saint-Étienne Patrick Battiston came on. Only five minutes later Platini made a perfect through pass to Battiston, who had a free run towards the German goal. Schumacher came rushing out of the goal, and at the edge of the penalty area jumped violently into Battiston, who fell unconscious to the ground, as the ball calmly went past the goal.
The Frenchman had to be given emergency oxygen, lost many teeth, and was immediately taken to the hospital with a severe concussion. In one of the oddest refereeing decisions in World Cup history, the referee did not call a foul nor gave Schumacher a card. Instead, West Germany was awarded a goal-kick, while Battison had to be replaced by Christian Lopez, another Saint-Étienne player.
Schumacher’s cynicism and violence only made the Germans even more unpopular.
As the match wore on the elegant French put pressure on West Germany, whose players were increasingly resorting to fouls to stop the French attacking waves. In the 83rd minute Manuel Amoros, from AS Monaco, had a shot on the crossbar, but in the dying minutes of the match, Karl Heinz Föerster and Paul Breitner forced Ettori to some good saves.
The match had ended 1-1 and had to go into extra time.
France continued attacking, and only two minutes into extra time managed to score. Bordeaux’s elegant little midfielder, Alain Giresse took a free kick from the right side, and a slight diversion of the ball from a German defender caused it to fall to an unmarked Marius Trésor, also from Bordeaux, who scored with a perfect volley into the German goal.
But the French didn’t stop there. Six minutes later Alain Giresse himself received the ball from Didier Six in the face of meager German defending, and scored on a perfect shot out of Schumacher’s range.
3-1 in extra time, and victory seemed all but certain for France.
But the stubborn Germans refused to give up, and four minutes later Bayern Munich’s K.H. Rummennigge (European footballer of the year in 1981 and 1982), who had only entered the match five minutes before as a substitute for Hans Peter Briegel, scored the German’s second goal in a counter-attack by fighting his way ahead of a defender on a cross by Stielike.
The score was 3-2 for France as the team went on to the last 15 minutes of the extra time. The now confident Germans immediately attacked. On a cross from Littbarski into the French penalty area, Hamburg’s stupendous header, Horst Hrubesch, ascended and headed to ball towards the edge of the six-yard box where Klaus Fischer scored on an a spectacular bycicle kick to make it 3-3. After being completely down, West Germany had turned the match around in the most spectacular fashion!
Without further goals from the tired players, the extraordinary match had to be decided by the first penalty shoot-out in World Cup history. Before penalty shoot-outs matches were decided by draws after extra time, and so the penalty shoot-out was introduced in the World Cup of 1978, where it didn’t become necessary, mostly due to the fact that the tournaments were played in the form of two group stages.
France started shooting, and ahead 3-2 Uli Stielike missed the third shot for the West Germans. Disappointed and being consoled by Pierre Littbarski, Harald Schumacher leveled the match again by saving the following kick from Didier Six. As Platini and Rummenigge both scored on their following kicks, it all came down to the last kicks. Nantes’ veteran defender, Maxime Bossis shot the last one for France, and Schumacher saved. In the following shot, Horst Hrubesch made no mistake and scored, putting West Germany in their fourth World Cup final of all time, against Italy, a match they would go on to lose 3-1.
In the meantime, a disappointed French side faced Poland in the match for bronze, and lost 3-2.
This semifinal was surely one of the greatest dramas in World Cup history between these two European giants.
Michel Platini later said about the match: "For me, no book or film or play could ever recapture the way I felt that day. It was so complete, so strong and so fabulous."

Match Stats:
  • 8th July 1982, Estadio Ramon Sánchez Pizjuán, Seville
  • Attendance: 63,000
  • Referee: Charles Corver, Netherlands
France-West Germany 3-3 (After extra time)
Goals: 0-1 Littbarski (17), 1-1 Platini (26) (pen), 1-2 Trésor (92), 1-3 Giresse (98), 2-3 K.H. Rummenigge (102), 3-3 Fischer (108)

Penalty kicks
France-West Germany 5-4
1-0 Giresse
1-1 Kaltz
2-1 Amoros
2-2 Breitner
3-2 Rocheteau
Stielike misses
Six misses
3-3 Littbarski
4-3 Platini
4-4 K.H. Rummenigge
Bossis misses
5-4 Hrubesch

France: Ettori; Amoros, Bossis, Janvion, Trésor, Genghini (Battiston) (Lopez) , Platini, Giresse, Tigana, Rocheteau, Six
West Germany: Schumacher; K.H. Foerster, Briegel (K.H. Rummenigge), B. Foerster, Breitner, Kaltz, Dremmler, Littbarski, Fischer, Magath (Hrubesch), Stielike

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Italy-West Germany (1982)

This is the first World Cup I personally remember. I was not old, and some of the more legendary matches have gone by me. But I remember the final! I remember the knowledge, for the first time in my life, that two nations were facing one another, and that this was important. Very important!
The world cup in Spain in 1982 was a demonstration of power of European teams: all four semi-finalists were European, and the final saw the Italian national team in its first world cup final since 1970 against the defending European champions of West Germany.
Italy were in the final against the odds given to them in the first round, where they had in fact not won a single match, becoming the first team ever to qualify to the second round without a victory. They had tied Cameroun, Poland and Perú, and had in the second round faced a difficult South American draw with the defending world champions of Argentina, and the South American favourites for the title, Brazil.
After defeating Argentina 2-1, Italy was forced to defeat Brazil in what became a legendary match. The highly criticised Paolo Rossi, who had only recently returned to football after a two-year ban, scored three goals to give Italy an unexpected victory and a place in the semi-finals where they faced Poland.
Poland and Italy had tied 0-0 in the first round of the tournament, but now Paolo Rossi was on fire, and scored both goals in Italy’s 2-0 victory.
In spite of the good results that had put them in the final, Italy were not favourites to win the tournament; West Germany were considered the stronger team, although they had become very unpopular in Spain. In the first round they had started by losing to Algeria, only to go on to the second round after first defeating Chile and then Austria 1-0 in a match that left Algeria out in what was complete lack of sportsmanship from the Germans and Austrian. In the second round the Germans had first tied England 0-0 and a subsequent 2-1 victory against Spain were enough to put them in the semi-final.
The semi-final between France and West Germany was one of the most dramatic matches in world cup history. Down 3-1 in extra time, the Germans nevertheless managed to equalize, and eventually win on the first penalty shoot-out in world cup history. This semi-final had only made the Germans more unpopular due to the ferocious attack from Harald “Toni” Schumacher on the French player Patrick Battiston, that left the latter unconcious.
The final in the Santiago Barnabeu Stadium in Madrid did not start well for the Italians, as they after only seven minutes were forced to substitute the Fiorentina striker Francesco Graziani for the Inter striker Alessandro Altobelli. Although the Germans initially dominated, the Italians quietly began to fight their way into the match, and after almost half an hour were awarded a penalty kick when the Kaiserslautern defender Hans Peter Briegel brought down the outstanding AS Roma winger Bruno Conti inside the German area.
The unpopular Schumacher seemed unshaken as the Juventus player Antonio Cabrini stepped up to take the penalty. In spite of his experience, and undoubtfully being one of the best Italian players of all time, Cabrini seemed nervous, and totally misplaced his weak shot, that went past the goal.
This was the first missed penalty in a world cup final.
The score was thus still 0-0 at half-time in a match that had been quite disappointing and overly tactical. The Germans again started the second half trying to put some pressure on the Italians, who were nevertheless too well-organised for the Germans to get any major chance. Instead, the Italians slowly began to play better and patiently to gain control over the midfield, as the German players seemed to be losing patience and increasingly resorting to fouling the Italians.
It was thus to a roar of approval from the entire footballing world when Italy finally broke the deadlock twelve minutes into the second half: a free kick for Italy was quickly taken by Marco Tardelli, who passed it to the Juventus defender Claudio Gentile on the right side. Gentile looked up and made a cross into the German area, where the defence was getting into position after the quickly taken free kick. In the center, three Italian strikers were almost running in the way of each other to get the ball, but the one who got the header and scored was none other than the previously so unpopular Paolo Rossi, who scored his sixth goal in only three games, and became the top scorer of the 1982 World Cup.
West Germany now had to attack; coach Jupp Derwall brought on an extra striker, Hamburg’s Horst Hrubesch, but the Germans were unable to force through the organized Italians, who now had the luxury to play exactly how they like it, awaiting for the counter-attack. The Germans, normally so cool, seemed increasingly frustrated, and in a situation that characterized both teams, Italy went ahead 2-0.
A German attack was stopped, and while the Italians counter-attacked, some German players stayed behind complaining to the referee. Rossi, and Gaetano Scirea combined with short passes in the German area, when Scirea passed the ball backwards to the edge of the German area, to the ever-fighting Juventus player, Marco Tardelli, who halfway shooting and tackling got a perfect shot that went into goal at the bottom right corner.
Tardelli’s euphoric goal celebration is remembered as one of the greatest moments of joy in World Cup football.
Italy were now in complete control of the match against the disillusioned Germans, who did not seem to believe that they would be able to pull such a comeback as they had done in the semi-final against France.
Ten minutes from the end of the match Alessandro Altobelli scored a third for Italy on another outstanding counterattack, where Bruno Conti had found an unmarked Altobelli in front of goal, who had coolly gone around Schumacher to score.
Altobelli, who had replaced Graziani at the start of the match, thus became the first substitute to score in a world cup final.
Although Paul Breitner scored a goal for the Germans only two minutes later, everyone knew it was just a consolation. However, with this goal Breitner, who had also scored in the final of 1974, became part of an exclusive family of only four players who have scored in two World Cup finals (the others being Pelé, Zinedine Zidane and Vavá).
Italy had won their third World Cup title, and were popular and worthy champions following their great matches against Brazil, Poland and West Germany.

Match Stats:
  • 11th July, 1982, Santiago Barnabeu, Madrid
  • Attendance: 90,000
  • Referee: Arnaldo Coelho (Brazil)
Italy-West Germany 3-1
Goals: 1-0 Rossi (56), 2-0 Tardelli (68), 3-0 Altobelli (80), 3-1 Breitner (82)

Italy: Zoff, Cabrini, Scirea, Gentile, Collovati, Oriali, Bergomi, Tardelli, Conti, Rossi, Graziani (Altobelli) (Causio)
West Germany: Schumacher, Kaltz, Stielke, K.H. Forster, B. Forster, Dremmler (Hrubesch), Breitner, Briegel, Littbarski, Fischer, Rummenigge (H. Muller)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Italy-Brazil (1982)

In the 1982 World Cup in Spain Brazil participated with what was unquestionably its most talented squad since their legendary 1970 triumph. These stars, coached by Tele Santana, included; Flamengo’s Zico, considered the third best Brazilian player of all-time (after Pelé and Garrincha); AS Roma’s Falcão, considered one of the best midfielders of all time; Corinthians’ legendary and charismatic midfielder Sócrates; and Atlético Mineiro’s Eder, known as “the cannon” because of his powerful shot.
In the first round of the tournament the Brazilians had also confirmed their status as favourites for the title: first they had defeated the powerful Soviet Union 2-1, after being 0-1 down until 15 minutes before time, before going on to destroy Scotland and New Zealand 4-1 and 4-0 respectively. In all matches the Brazilians had entertained and scored spectacular goals, but were in the second round drawn in a difficult group with Italy and the defending world champions of Argentina.
The Brazilians started by defeating their Argentinean arch-rivals 3-1 in a match that is more remembered for Maradona’s dramatic red card, and before the last match against Italy, the Brazilian were heavy favourites to progress to the semi-finals, only needing a tie against the Europeans.
Italy on the other hand had not started well: before going to the World Cup the team had been heavily criticized at home for its poor results, and in the World Cup itself this had not changed. In the first round Italy had been in group A with Poland, Perú and Cameroon, and had just squeezed through to the next round on second place (behind Poland) after three ties, in fact becoming the first team in World Cup history to go through the first round without winning a match (and simultaneously Cameroon ended in third place with three ties as well but with one goal less than Italy, and was thus the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated from the first round without losing a match!).
The critique was so massive after the first round that the Italian coach Enzo Bearzot completely isolated the team for the second round, prohibiting any contact with the press. This apparently helped when in their first second round match against Argentina the Italians had improved a lot and won 2-1, but still needed a victory against the strong Brazilians if they were to make it to the semi-final.
The Italian team had a very strong defense centered around the Juventus players Gaetano Scirea and Claudio Gentile, both considered some of the best defenders in the history of football, although very different in style: Scirea was the elegant and fair defender (he never received a red card in his career, something rather unusual for an Italian defender...), while Gentile was the ruff and tough defender who never held back on injuring a player. Behind them they had the ageing Juventus goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who was also captain of the team.
The main problem of the Italian team lay in attack, where Enzo Bearzot had controversially selected Paolo Rossi, who had only recently returned to football after a two-year ban for being involved in a betting scandal. In the first four matches he had not scored a goal and was heavily criticized for being out of shape. It took only five minutes into the important match against Brazil for Rossi to silence his critics.
Brazil started the match somewhat arrogantly, perhaps expecting Italy to defend. Instead, the Italians attacked, and were given the space by the Brazilians. On a high cross from the Juventus’ midfielder Antonio Cabrini, Paolo Rossi came rushing into the area to score on a header, and give the Brazilians the first nail of what would be one of the most thrilling matches in World Cup history.
Brazil was nevertheless not defeated, and after 12 minutes Zico and Sócrates combined beautifully: Sócrates passed to Zico, and ran into the area, receiving a perfectly masked pass from Zico. Rushing towards the end of the line, Dino Zoff was perhaps expecting a cross, and didn’t cover the near goalpost, exactly where Sócrates shot to make it 1-1.
Although Brazil was rated as the favourites to win the cup, they were not strong on every position. The defense was known for being shaky, something Rossi took advantage of after 25 minutes: Atlético Mineiro’s Toninho Cerezo made a sloppy pass in defense which was quickly picked up by Rossi, who made no mistake in rushing into the area and shooting, catching the defense and the goalkeeper on the wrong foot, and bringing Italy 2-1 ahead, a score that held until half-time.
Italy came out more defensively into the second half, knowing that Brazil would attack, and hoping for some deadly counter-attacks. Brazil did indeed put pressure, but the disciplined defense and an extraordinary Zoff were not letting them into the match, while Rossi missed an extraordinary chance to make it 3-1 for Italy. However, halfway into the second half, Falcão received the ball from Junior outside the Italian area during a Brazilian attack; Toninho Cerezo ran towards the right side, attracting the attention of the Italian defense just enough to give Falcão the needed space and time to shoot from outside and equalize for Brazil.
Brazil would be in the next round if the result held, so the Italians did not give up. Only six minutes later AS Roma’s Bruno Conti shot a corner-kick for Italy. The ball was not cleared properly by the Brazilian defense, giving Marco Tardelli the opportunity to shoot. Tardelli’s shot was not particularly hard, but made it through the defense into the six-yard box where none other than Rossi deflected it to make his third goal of the match.
During the last fifteen minutes Brazil pressed ahead, but Italy had a goal disallowed (Antognoni for Italy on an nonexistent off-side). In the last minute of the match Oscar had a chance to equalize with a great header that was spectacularly saved by Dino Zoff. The score of 3-2 for Italy held, and the Brazilian giants had been eliminated by the efficient Italians, and notably by the much-criticized Paolo Rossi, who went on to score two goals in the semi-final against Poland and one in the victorious final against West Germany, earning him the Golden Boot of the tournament and the hero of the Italian World Cup victory. Like a British commentator said after the Brazil match about Rossi’s rise: “You just couldn’t have written it and been believed it if you had been responsible for a work of football fiction.
Of the many legendary encounters between Brazil and Italy in the World Cup, this was probably the most thrilling.

Match Stats:
  • 5th July 1982, Estadio Sarriá, Barcelona
  • Attendance: 44,000
  • Referee: Abraham Klein (Israel)
Italy-Brazil 3-2
Goals: 1-0 Rossi (5), 1-1 Socrates (12), 2-1 Rossi (25), 2-2 Falcão (68), 3-2 Rossi (74)

Italy: Zoff; Cabrini, Collovati (Bergomi), Gentile, Scirea, Antognoni, Oriali, Tardelli (Marini), Conti, Graziani, Rossi
Brazil:Valdir Peres; Leandro, Oscar, Luisinho, Cerezo, Junior, Socrates, Serginho (Paulo Isidoro), Zico, Eder, Falcão

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Historical matches in South Africa

A lot of people have talked about the coming historical or classical matches at the World Cup in South Africa, so I just want to add my own humble voice to this choir. There are indeed some matches that must be seen in a world cup-historical context (in no particular order of importance):
  • Mexico-France: The North Americans and Europeans are facing one another in Group A. Not many people may think of this match as a classic, but this was in fact the very first world cup match in history in Uruguay in 1930, where France won 4-1. Doubtful the French will repeat the feat, but any football fan should think back at the pioneers as they face one another yet again.
  • Portugal-North Corea: These teams will face one another in group G. For the Asians it is only their second World Cup ever, and in their first one in England in 1966 they were eliminated in the quarterfinals against Portugal in a spectacular match where the Asians were up 3-0 but lost 3-5 on an amazing Portuguese comeback spearheaded by the Mozambican Eusebio, with four goals.
  • Portugal-Brazil: The two lusophone giants with close historical and cultural ties both have proud football traditions and currently hold two of the best teams in the world. They last faced one another in the first round of 1966. The defending world champions were the Brazilians who were unable to defend their title and lost 3-1 to a very violent (but talented) Portuguese side that was more focused on stopping Pelé by any means possible. Hopefully this will not be repeated in South Africa, but be sure it will be a dramatic match!
  • Spain-Honduras: The Central Americans participated in their first (and so far only) World Cup in 1982 in Spain. In the first round they were to face the home favourites in Madrid, and spectacularly and deservedly managed 1-1 against an overestimated Spanish side. This time Spain are as big favourites, and if Honduras manages a tie, it will surely be as sensational as in 1982!
  • England-USA: The USA and England are facing one another in Group C in a repeat of the match in Belo Horizonte in the first round of the 1950 World Cup. This was also England's first World Cup, and expectations were huge as England arrived with all its stars from what (also then) was considered the best league in the world. In the meantime, all US players were amateurs who could not draw any attention to the game in their home country. The USA won 1-0 on a goal by the Haitian Joe Gaetjaens creating what is perhaps the greatest upset in World Cup history. Today, the teams are more levelled but the English are still favourites; hopefully they will not underestimate the North Americans as much!
These are the main historical matches in South Africa, but there are other matches that will also be special for some football fans:
  • Denmark-Netherlands: Every Dane remembers the 1992 victory in the European championship, and in particular the dramatic semifinal against the Netherlands where a heroic fight gave the Danes a 2-2 draw and a win on penalties. Surely this time the strong Dutch will not make the same mistake of underestimating the Danes!
  • Argentina-Nigeria: The South Americans and the West Africans have faced one another in some amazing matches since the 1990's: in 1994 Argentina defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the first round of the World Cup. They also played in the 2002 World Cup in the first round, where Argentina also won 1-0. But they have also faced one another outside the World Cup: In the 1996 Olympics, Nigeria became the first African team to win Olympic gold by defeating Argentina 3-2 in the final, and in the 2008 Olympic final they also played for Olympic glory, but this time with an Argentinean 1-0 victory. The hugely talented youth teams of both countries have also played frequently, among them the 2005 U-20 World Cup final where Argentina won. The teams thus know each other well, and their encounters are steadily turning into a mini-cross-continental classic!
  • South Africa-Uruguay: The African hosts and the South Americans are playing in the first round in what is a fitting encounter for a country that has come to symbolize the scourge of racism. Uruguay was in the early 20th century a pioneer in football and in intergration, and in 1916 it came together in one as Uruguay was the first country to play with black players on the national team. This happened in a match against Chile, who went on to field an official complaint about the Uruguayans fielding Juan Delgado and the star, Isabelino Gradin (Tim Vickery has written another interesting article about this, among the many great things he writes!). These teams thus symbolize a lot for the globalisation and brotherhood in football!
I am sure the World Cup will see more classic matches as it progresses. So, even if you are not interested in some matches or in football at all, you should watch some (or all) of these just for their historical merits!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Algeria-West Germany (1982)

The match between Algeria and West Germany in 1982 is perhaps as much remembered for the later match in the group between West Germany and Austria, one of the most disgraceful matches in world cup history that effectively left the charming Algerian team out of the world cup in what smelled awfully as a fixed match between the two Germanic teams. But to put the West Germany-Austria match as one of the greatest matches would be a crime against all other football matches in history (one Spanish paper properly wrote about this match under their crime-pages). Instead, Algeria’s memorable first match against West Germany is what should be written about. Before Algeria’s too early exit, the North Africans had been the first African team to defeat a European side in the World Cup. This happened only four years after Tunisia, in the 1978 World Cup, had been the first African team to win a match when they had defeated Mexico 3-1 in Argentina.
Nobody really expected that Algeria, who were participating in their first World Cup ever, had a chance in their opening match against the reigning European champions of West Germany and their many stars, such as the veteran Paul Breitner, Hamburg’s extraordinary header Horst Hrubesch, Bayern Munich’s Karl Heinz Rummenigge (European footballer of the year in 1981 and 1982) and the young FC Köln talent Pierre Littbarski, as the teams drew each other in the first round group 2 together with Austria and Chile.
The opening match was thus important for the Algerians who played one of the best games in their lives, and in a very entertaining match managed to pull one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.
First half had been quite tactical, with the Germans dominating, and with most observers thinking that the Europeans champions, in spite of the lack of goals, would in the second half have no problem scoring, as first half ended 0-0. However, the Algerians came out to the second half with renewed energy and faith in their abilities and started using their quick counter-attacking players as the Germans quietly pressed forward. Nine minutes into the second half this bore fruit, when Djamel Zidane (no relation to the later French superstar) made an excellent pass that completely tore through the German defense, putting the outstanding Lakhdar Belloumi alone with Harald Schumacher. The German goalkeeper managed to deflect the shot with his foot, but the ball bounced to Rabah Madjer, the later FC Porto star, who made no mistake and surprisingly brought Algeria ahead.
The Germans now put more pressure and player harsher. Horst Hrubesch and Karl Heinz Rummennigge both had chances before the latter equalized for West Germany when he pushed in a good cross from Felix Magath. But only one minute after the equalizer Algeria went ahead again on a goal that looked almost like a copy of Rummennigge’s a minute earlier: the excellent technical player, Salah Assad, combined on the right side of attack and rushing to the back-line made a perfect cross to Lakhdar Belloumi in front of the goal, who scored what would be Algeria’s winning goal.
Lakhdar Belloumi is still considered one of the greatest stars of Algerian football of all time, but in spite of many big European clubs trying to lure him to Europe, he always remained in his hometown club GCR Mascara.
The last part of the match was both very entertaining and hectic. West Germany attacked while the Algerians defended heroically. Horst Hrubesch had a goal annulled, while Rummennigge hit the post and goalkeeper Mehdi Cerbah made an incredible save on a shot by Real Madrid’s Uli Stielike in the dying minutes.
However, Algeria was also very dangerous on the counter-attacks, and had a couple of excellent chances, as well as Madjer having a goal strangely annulled.
Jupp Derwall, West Germany’s coach, had before the match said that he would jump into the Mediterranean if they lost, but he had to eat his words and the Mediterranean was saved. Algeria had pulled a huge sensation and were now the darlings of the tournament. Losing their second match 0-2 to Austria, they got a much-needed 3-2 victory in their last match against Chile, almost putting them in the next round. However, Austria and West Germany were to play their last match right after Algeria’s victory, and both knew that the only result that would see both teams go through was 1-0 for West Germany. After only 10 minutes Horst Hrubesch scored for West Germany, and the rest of the match both teams just stopped playing while the Algerians desperately looked on.
Algeria had been eliminated by the pitiful West Germans and Austrians. Although they had obviously played on the result, FIFA made no attempts at punishing the teams. However, it did lead to one change in the rules: since then all last round matches are played simultaneously so as to avoid speculation on the result.
However, this was a meager consolation to a great Algerian team that were nevertheless the moral and real victors of the group.

Match Stats:
  • 16th June 1982, El Molinón, Gijón
  • Attendance: 42,000
  • Referee: Enrique Labo Revoredo (Perú)
Algeria-West Germany 2-1
Goals: 1-0 Madjer (54), 1-1 K.H. Rummenigge (67), 2-1 Belloumi (68)

Algeria: Cerbah; Guendouz, Kourichi, Merzekane, Assad, Fergani, Belloumi, Madjer (Larbes), Zidane (Bensaoula), Dahleb, Mansouri
West Germany: Schumacher; Briegel, Breitner, Foerster, Dremmler, Littbarski, Hrubesch, K.H. Rummenigge, Magath (Fischer), Stielike, Kaltz

Monday, February 01, 2010


Last Friday Leones de Caracas won the Venezuelan baseball championship and there was a huge party in the city. But for a football fanatic by myself, I was more interested in the coming African Cup of Nations Final between Ghana and Egypt. However, I don't know Caracas well enough, and 11 in the morning local time on a Sunday in Caracas, nowhere is apparently showing a match in a faraway continent of a game that hardly interests them.
It was thus doubly disappointing that I could not support Ghana, and without my support the Black Stars lost 1-0 in a close match, where Egypt winning goal didn't come until the last minutes of the match.
Sad for the young Ghaneans who have had a great tournament, and who will surely be interesting to watch in South Africa this (southern) winter.
Egypt, the champions of Africa for the third consecutive time will not be in South Africa, and we can thank Algeria for that!
No matter what, I have learned from this that (1) I need to but my own TV with a cable subscription as soon as possible, and (2) that I will have to take my vacation and travel to a more favourable timezone for the World Cup!
A bad day, but nothing bad is not good for something.