Spain vs Sweden, World Cup 1978 First Round

For twelve years Spain had waited. The World Cup 1978 in Argentina was to be the first tournament La Roja would compete in since 1966. One week into the competition Spain were already fighting for survival.

A stunning 1:2 defeat to Austria in their opening match and a goalless draw with Brazil left them joint third in Group 3. Their final opponents in the First Round had likewise drawn with Brazil and then lost to a tremendous Austrian side. When they met on June 11th at Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires only the winner could harbour any hopes of advancing. Continue reading

Holland vs West Germany, World Cup 78 Second Round

There is no revenge to be had after losing a final. When sides meet again, if ever, players and coaching personnel will have changed, stakes shifted. What is more, no one will go back to change the name plate on the trophy.

At the 1974 World Cup Holland had reached an until then unseen level of fluidity and understanding on the pitch. To this day they are ranked as one of the finest sides ever put together. Yet in the final they were bested by a pragmatic West Germany.

Four years on Holland were determined to reach the final again. Their 1978 World Cup campaign started convincingly enough, a Rensenbrink hattrick gave them a 3:0 win against Iran. However they then split the points in a goalless draw with Peru before losing to Scotland on the third matchday. Keeping the scoreline to a narrow 2:3 saw Holland inching out Scotland in the group table to advance on superior goal difference.

West Germany weren’t taking Argentina by storm either. As holders they opened the tournament in a tepid 0:0 with Poland. A flurry of goals on the second matchday, coming in a 6:0 over Mexico, lulled the side in a false sense of security. Another 0:0, this time against Tunisia, saw West Germany also finish second in their group.

By virtue of the tournament format the sides did not advance into a knock-out stage but rather entered yet another group stage of two groups with four teams each. The winner of each group would move on to the final, the runners-up would enter the third place play-off. Holland and West Germany both ended up in Group A alongside Italy and Austria. And on the second matchday they would play one another. Continue reading

Argentina vs France, World Cup 78 First Round

Football is a simple game: one ball, two goals, 22 players, in the end ze Germans win. And, ever since 1930, 16 teams from around the world compete every four years to determine their champion. On three occasions that contingent of 16 teams was not even fully exhausted, but that magic number should become obsolete. For 24 teams would be there in Spain 1982.

Qualification is very much automatic for most of the big sides these days. The doldrums of international weekends will only increase as the World Cup is expanded even further. One can’t help but think that even just qualifying and competing in the tournament just used to mean so much more.

In 1978 hosts Argentina and holders West Germany were already qualified, which meant only 14 spots were up for grabs. Just shy of 100 countries competed in qualifying. And so here the coming expansion very much does make sense. No wonder the list of teams missing out in ‘78 included illustrious sides such as the European Champions Czechoslovakia, Argentina’s arch-rivals Uruguay, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and, for the second time running, England.

On the other hand Austria were back first time since ‘58. France, Hungary and Spain hadn’t made it through since ‘66. Hungary even had to beat Bolivia in a two-legged Intercontinental Play-off for the final spot, but did so convincingly with a 9:2 aggregate win. They were rewarded with a place in Group 1, which today would carry the moniker “Group Of Death”. It featured the hosts, France and Italy – the latter having bested England in qualifying by way of superior goal difference.

France had booked their passage picking up five points in four matches against Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland. On the second matchday in Argentina they met the hosts at El Monumental. And already had their backs to the wall.

France feel the pressure, open strong

Having gone up within the first minute, France had nevertheless lost their first match against Italy, 1:2. The same scoreline saw Argentina winning their opener against Hungary. Italy set the tone for the second matchday as the trounced Hungary in the early afternoon kick-off: Gli Azzurri were 3:0 up after an hour, with 3:1 the final score. Thus a second loss for France would ensure an early exit. Continue reading

El Príncipe y la Octava, Or: CL Final 1999/2000, Real Madrid vs Valencia CF (S01E08)

At the dawn of the new millennium Fernando Carlos Redondo Neri was at the zenith of his power. Just two years after winning their seventh European Cup, the Argentinian playmaker led Real Madrid once again into the final. For the first time ever two sides from the same country would square off as Valencia CF reached the final in their first ever Champions League season. Could the newcomers usher in a new era or would the old powers remind them of the natural hierarchy?

We’ve re-watched the Champions League final of 1999/2000 and now we’re to talk about it. After a brief trip down memory lane, we focus on the 101 of Valencia’s club history and cover what has been happening in the short time between finals at Madrid (Spoilers: a lot!). We quickly go over the worst format changes to the Champions League, aka the dreaded double group stage, and how the sides reached the final in Paris.

Here are the minutes if you want to jump around:

  • 0:01:30 Recollections of Spanish football in late ’90s
  • 0:08:00 Valencia club history 101: foundation, domestic success in the ’40s, European titles in the late ’70s
  • 0:19:00 Bloated CL format in 1999/2000
  • 0:22:00 Real Madrid’s managerial merry-go-round ’98-’00
  • 0:28:00 The path to the final
  • 0:33:00 Valencia’s home form
  • 0:37:30 Semi-final return leg Real Madrid @ Bayern Munich
  • 0:43:00 ELO & expectations
  • 0:46:45 Line-ups
  • 0:51:00 Opening exchanges, general set-up & approach
  • 1:03:30 A first surge by Madrid draws first blood
  • 1:08:30 Valencia’s lacking response after half-time
  • 1:16:00 McManaman & Raul seal Madrid’s victory
  • 1:24:00 Where did it go wrong for Valencia?
  • 1:28:30 Awards: MOTM, Best hair, viewing recommendation
  • 1:33:00 Off-the-cuff Mount Everest of CL era managers

Awards

  • Man Of The Match: Fernando Redondo, ran the show, untouchable at times
  • Best Hair: Steve McManaman, with honourable mentions to Gaizka Mendieta & Ivan Campo
  • Viewing recommendations: So-so, too lopsided for a ringing endorsement, highlights below worth it for McManaman’s goal alone though

Throwback: When Liverpool & Chelsea Still Did Battle In Europe

Well it didn’t take long for Steven Gerrard to find his way back to Anfield. The writing is on the wall, then: It may not be this blip that ousts Jürgen Klopp, but at some point The Normal One will get the axe. Why wait? Give it to Stevie now, I say! What could go wrong?

Such is the nature of the fixture list beast, that you get Chelsea in the league after bombing out to Wolverhampton in the FA Cup. From ’04/05 to ’08/09 the two sides met in each of the five Champions League editions, thrice at the semi-final stage. From those Liverpool advanced twice, winning one final and losing another, both against AC Milan in ’05 and ’07 respectively. Whilst Chelsea advanced to the ’08 final which they lost to Manchester United. Continue reading

RSC Anderlecht vs Austria Vienna, European Cup Winners’ Cup Final 1978

If ever there was a team to stamp its mark on the European Cup Winners’ Cup it was RSC Anderlecht. Going into the deciding game of the 1978 edition the Royal Sporting Club were now featured in three consecutive finals. Their record stood at 1-1: In 1976 they won 4:2 against West Ham, in 1977 they fell 0:2 to Hamburg.

Together with Club Brugge and Standard Liège RSCA stood at the forefront of a golden age for Belgian football. National champions Brugge had made it to the 1978 European Cup final. While their compatriots would lose to a supreme Liverpool side, Anderlecht were the clear favorites in the Cup Winners’ final. The Belgians had won six of their eight games in the competition, drawing another and losing just one. Only Hamburg in the Second round kept the aggregate score within a one goal difference. Lokomotiv Sofia, Porto and Twente hardly stood a chance.

Vienna, by contrast, inched their way to Parc des Princes where the final was staged. Cardiff City were beaten 1:0 on aggregate. Against Lokomotíva Košice they prevailed after two draws virtue of having scored the only away goal of the tie. Penalties were needed against both Hajduk Split and Dynamo Moscow. Curiously Split failed to convert even one penalty.

Nevertheless Vienna made it to the final. According to Elo the probability of an Austria win after 90 minutes stood at only 13%, forcing extra time would occur in one of every five cases.

An inkling of hope was derived from, as the French commentary introduced him, “numero huit, Pro’aschka”. Only 22 years old, playmaker Herbert Prohaska was already the focal point of the team. Against Anderlecht the seminal talent faced his stiffest test yet. Continue reading