Finland. The championship.

Finland established complicated championship formula, seemingly suitable for the level of the game in the country: two-phased championship. At first standard league format was played. The second phase continued with the top 8 clubs of the league playing mini-league final tournament for the title. Every team carried half of their first-stage points to the final. The bottom 4 clubs plus the top 4 clubs of the second league proceeded to relegation/promotion tournament. Bonus points were given, depending on each club’s place in the opening stage – 4 points for the highest placed, going down to 1 point for the lowest. This combination worked fine for sifting out inferior teams, but in the same canceled winners of lower divisions and up and down movements were not guaranteed. OTP Oulu, Reipas Lahti, KTP Kuopio, and KPV Kokkola were the bottom 4 in the first stage of top division. MP Mikkeli, RoPS Rovaniemi, MiPK Mikkeli, and Kuusysi Lahti were at the top of the second division preliminary stage. The 8 clubs made the relegation/promotion group, which proved second division members better – at this moment – than the top flight teams. Only KTP Kuopio finished among the top 4, going to play first division football next year. KTP Kuopio finished 1st, but places are a bit misleading – all four teams finished with 11 points, a combined record of earned and bonus points. RoPS Rovaniemi, MP Mikkeli, and MiPK Mikkeli were promoted.

The final tournament for the title mirrored the preliminary stage – OPS Oulu, TPS Turku, HJK Helsinki, and Haka Valkeakoski were well above the rest of the league. With 30 points, HJK Helsinki and Haka Valkeakoski ended 6 points ahead of the 5th placed KTP Kotka. The original superiority brought instant advantage before the second stage started: the top clubs kept the gap by carrying more points. The top 4 were tightly packed in the first stage and went also together in the second – there was no outstanding favourite in neither phase. At the end, TPS Turku finished 4th with 23 points, HJK Helsinki got bronze medals with 24 points, Haka Valkeakoski clinched silver with 25, OPS Oulu were champions with 26 points.

OPS Oulu won a consecutive title, repeating their success in 1979. They did not dominate the championship at all, prevailing by a single point, but in itself their record is remarkable: OPS lost only one match this season. Their only loss came during the preliminary tournament – nobody managed to beat them in the final stage. But the champions did not depend on defensive tactics: they attacked and scored a lot. With 70 goals, they outscored the second best, Haka Valkeakoski, by 13 goals.

Arguably, those were the best years of the club, but on a larger scale, they were unknown. It was a team best measured only by Finnish standards: about 15 players were used in the campaign, mostly young. Among the regular substitutes were 21, 19, and 16 years olds. Two national team players and 2 Olympic team players, whose performance at the Moscow Olympic Games left no memory. More or less, the typical Finnish squad… perhaps what made difference was the employment of two foreigners:

Hugh Smith, 23-old Scottish midfielder, and

Keith Armstrong, 23-years old English forward. The duo came together from Hong Kong, where they played previously, after failing to impress English and Scottish clubs. They shined in Finland, however, and both cherished hopes of breaking into British professional football. Given their age and evident success abroad, their hopes were perhaps plausible, but there is no escape from measuring Finnish football against top European leagues: Smith and Armstrong instantly elevated the class of OPS Oulu and helped the club to a second title – the foreign stars, however, failed to establish themselves in Heart of Midlothian and Workington…

But let not judge OPS Oulu harshly: they were happy champions, prevailing over close and equal pursuers.


Luxembourg. Little worth mentioning.

Olympique Eischen and

Alliance Dudelange won promotions to first division.

One club was hopeless outsider in first division – US Rumelange. Last with 11 points. Half of the league fought for escaping relegation. Chiers Rodange was the looser, finishing 11th with 16 points. At the top of the table 4 teams were above the rest – Union Luxembourg finished 4th, 7 points ahead of the 5th placed. Progres Niedercorn got bronze medals with 30 points. Jeunesse Esch/Alzette and Red Boys Differdange fought the title and single point decided the winner. Red Boys finished 2nd.

Jeunesse won their 17th title – not a surprise at all, since the club was already the strongest club in the small country. As a whole, the top 4 were the usual better clubs at that tine.

Progres Niedercorn reached the Cup final and tried to win a trophy compensating for the lost title. But their opposition was also ambitious – Spora Luxembourg fought for survival this year and at the end finished 7th. However, Spora was one of the historically most successful clubs. The final ended without a winner. Spora prevailed in overtime 3-2.

A great ending of the season – Spora ensured another season in the first division and won the Cup. This was their 8th Cup and first trophy since 1965-66, when they won their 7th Cup. As for champions, Spora did not win the league since 1960-61. The club was declining – the best years were already in very distant past before the Second World War. Few trophies were added after the war, but may be a revival was beginning at last?

Standing from left: FIEDLER Jean, WÜNSCH Romain, HOSCHEID Pierre, BERCKES Louis, SAUBER Paul, PETRY Dirk, PLETSCH Gérard, BAUMERT Alain, ZENDER Raymond, LORANG Roger (Trainer).

First row: ZEUTZIUS Fernand, MOLITOR Marcel, MANNON Jean-Louis, MOUSEL José, URBING Gérard, ROB Pascal, MANNON Alain, FIEDLER Carlo.

Well done, but the names mean nothing outside Luxembourg.



After sinking to the bottom of international football, let’s continue from there. Which country was at the very bottom in Europe hardly matters – Malta and Luxembourg were pretty much the only countries which seemingly did not move in any direction during the 1970s, Malta perhaps even more stagnated than Luxembourg. The previous season a complicated championship formula was used, but it was back to standard championship in 1979-80. The league was going to be reduced to 8 teams the next season, so 3 teams were relegated and only one promoted.

Zurrieq was the winner of second division, going up. Locally, good for them, but the newcomers were not going to make any impact on the top league. Like many Maltese clubs Zurrieq did not have a stadium of its own and played at the national stadium in Valletta. Thus, home and away games fixtures were such only statistically.

Given the reduction of first division, the fight for survival was to be very important and bitter this season. In theory. In practice, what happened only justified the reduction: Zebbug Rangers, Qormi, and St. George’s were clearly much weaker than the other clubs and finished at the bottom: St. George’s last with 5 points, Qormi – 9th with 7, and Zebbug Rangers – 8th with 8 points. Marsa, the club which ended 7th, had 13 points – hardly in danger at any time during the championship. To illustrate the pitiful performance of the relegated clubs: their combined record would have been good for 6th place, bellow Hamrun Spartans on worse goal-difference.

At the top of the league the title was not exactly a big contest. Hibernians, Floriana, and Sliema Wanderers fought large for silver and bronze. Hibernians lost the race and finished 4th with 26 points. The other two finished with 28 points each and Sliema Wanderers clinched silver medals on better goal-difference. Floriana ended with best defensive record in the league – they allowed only 6 goals.

The favourites were all the usual suspects and the winner was the most usual of them. Valletta lost only match this season and won 14 out of 18 total matches. They scored much more goals than any other club – 59. The second highest scorers were Sliema Wanderers with 47. At the end Valleta finished 3 points above Sliema Wanderers and Floriana, which seems a small lead, but this is only because the league was small and therefore the number of matches was not big enough to provide for building big lead. It was easy sailing for Valletta and they added one more title.

Nothing new… once again Valletta triumphed.

If there was a disappointment this season, it could be Hamrun Spartans.

They finished 5th with 20 points. 6 points behind Hibernians and 6 points ahead of Birkirkara. But Hamrun Spartans should have been one of the favourites… well, according to tradition.

The Cup did not produce big surprises either: the traditionally stronger clubs dominated. Valletta was unable to reach the final. Hibernians and Sliema Wanderers were the finalists, both determined to win and compensate for the not very successful championship.

Hibernians (Paola) won 2-1. The Peacocks won their 4th Cup after a long weight: their 3rd was won in 1971.


The African Nations Cup

The third big international championship of 1980 ended months before the European Championship and the Olympic Games – the 12th African Nations Cup started and ended unnoticed by the world. It was not because it was dwarfed by bigger events – African football still did not count. Nigeria was hosting the final stage: 8 finalists playing in 2 round-robin groups, followed by the semi-finals and final. Nigeria qualified directly as hosts and Ghana – as holders of the title. For the remaining 6 places qualification stages were – as ever – many. And just ever many teams declined to play one after another – Niger in the preliminary round, Burundi, Tunisia, Uganda, and Somalia in the first round. Only in the second round all scheduled matches were played. There were no qualification groups, but standard cup format of direct elimination. The only drama happened in the first round – Guinea and Cameroon exchanged 3-0 wins, went into overtime and penalty shoot-out, won by Guinea. Cameroon was eliminated at home. At the end Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia, and Guinea qualified – no major surprises really. May be Zaire and Tunisia were a bit of surprising absentees, but Tunisia refused to play and Zaire was declining, relatively speaking, for in Africa there was no real classy team, but fairly equal in their undeveloped stages teams.

Group A, which played in Lagos produced no upsets and surprises – the hosts were favourites by the virtue of hosting, and Egypt was traditionally a favourite.

1.NIGERIA 3 2 1 0 4- 1 5

2.EGYPT 3 2 0 1 4- 3 4

3.Ivory Coast 3 0 2 1 2- 3 2

4.Tanzania 3 0 1 2 3- 6 1

Group B, played in Ibadan, was tougher: Guinea, which judging by strong years at international club level, must have been good as a national team too, Ghana – not only the reigning African champion, but more or less considered to be the strongest African country in football, and Algeria and Morocco – which, along with Egypt, had old and better organized football than the rest of the continent. North prevailed over South – not really a ground-braking news.

1.ALGERIA 3 2 1 0 4- 2 5

2.MOROCCO 3 1 1 1 2- 2 3

3.Ghana 3 1 1 1 1- 1 3

4.Guinea 3 0 1 2 3- 5 1

In the semi-finals Nigeria eliminated Morocco thanks to early goal – Owolabi scored in the 9th minute and that was enough. Hosts have their privileges… no matter where, no matter when, hosts get easy draws. Nigeria played only in Lagos – which means huge support.

In Ibadan Egypt and Algeria dominated half of the match each and ended in 2-2 tie. Egypt had a 2-0 lead by the 47th minute, but the Algerians scored two goals in the 55th and 62nd minute. The winner was decided by penalty shoot-out – Algeria prevailed 4-2.

The last two matches were played in Lagos. Morocco won bronze after beating Egypt 2-0. Labied scored both goals – the first early in the game, in the 9th minute; the second – near the end, in the 78th minute.

The final was attended by 80 000! Even if the numbers were inflated by creative accounting, they were huge. So little attention was paid to African football, that something important was missed: the sport was very popular. Facilities were not great, clubs were poor, training was not even amateurish, but the popularity of the game meant that sooner or later African football will go up. So far quality was low… and the final testifies to that. Some footage can be seen today and it makes it clear how far behind European and South American football the Africans were: technical skills were there, but the teams were still naïve, tactically poor, physically weak. The last few minutes of the game are particularly impressive: the Nigerians killed time by sheer technical ability, but walking. As for why the Algerians were not able to win the ball… well, the only possible explanation could be that African players were good with the ball in their feet – without it, they were kind of lost, lacking defensive skills. But no matter – in front of jubilant home crowd, Nigeria scored 3 goals. Algeria – nil. With the final whistle, the happy crowd poured on the pitch.

Final (Lagos, National stadium; att: 80,000)

22- 3-80 Nigeria 3-0 Algeria

[Segun Odegbami 2, 42, Muda Lawal 50]

[Nigeria: Best Ogedengbe, David Adiele, Christian Chukwu,

Babatunde Bamidele, Alloysius Atuegbu, Godwin Odiye

(Ikhana Kadiri), Felix Owolabi, Okey Isima, Segun

Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Adokie Amiesemeka;

Algeria: Mehdi Cerbah, Chaabane Merzekane, Abdelkader Horr,

Mohammed Khedis, Mustapha Kouici, Bouzid Mahyouz, Ali

Fergani, Lakhdar Belloumi (Guemri), Salah Assad, Tdej

Bensaoula (Rabah Madjer), Benmiloudi;

referee: Gebreyesus Tesfaye (Ethiopia)

Nigeria won her first trophy!

Missing here is the only famous member of the African champions: their coach.

The Brazilian Otto Gloria had – and has – great reputation. It is based largely on his work with Benfica (Lisbon), but his CV is impressive by all accounts. At 63, he was not exactly ‘hot’ and perhaps not up to modern football – Gloria is associated largely with football in the 1950-s and 1960s, already outdated – but still was good: he made Nigeria African champions and perhaps his presence laid strong foundation for Nigeria becoming a top team since 1990. As for the coach himself – one more trophy added to his impressive collection of 4 Portuguese titles, 5 Portuguese Cups, 2 Brazilian titles – one Carioca, and one Paulista, and bronze World Cup medals with Portugal. In terms of teams coached, perhaps Nigeria ranks at the bottom, along with CF Monterrey (Mexico), but he conquered Africa with group of players nobody heard of.

And that is the trouble with the champions: not a single one became really famous. They have local importance and even that is arguable. The already mentioned Segun Odegbami was big Nigerian star at the time, but he played only a single season outside his home country and it was not even in the top North American league. Winners usually become instant legends and no doubt most of the African champions are in Nigeria, but in global terms they remain anonymous. It is hard to compare Odegbami to, say, Jay-jay Okocha.

The captain of the champions Christian Chukwu is often considered the best Nigerian defender ever, but it seems mostly historic recognition of first winner. Chukwu never played outside Nigeria – compared to Celestine Babayaro’s career, this is nothing. No European club rushed to hire any of the new African champions – the Nigerians suffered the fate of the previous African champions: Ghana, Zaire, etc. More than mere football was at play, of course, but compared to losing finalists Nigerian remained anonymous. Lakhdar Belloumi was wanted by Barcelona and only Algerian rules prevented him from going to Spain. Rabah Madjer won the European Champions Cup with FC Porto and his goal at the final is remembered to this very day. Circumstances were against the Nigerians surely – at that time only France, Belgium, and Portugal were interested in African players, but only from their former colonies – Nigeria was not among them, Algeria was… No matter what, it was great success for Nigeria, a historic victory, important for long-term development of football in the country and the whole continent.


Olympic finals

The ‘small’ final for the third place. Instead of playing for gold, USSR and Yugoslavia met for bronze. The Yugoslavs made few changes, the Russians stuck to their usual team. Nothing new, nothing exciting… both teams made many mistakes, the Russians possessed the ball more, the Yugoslavs depended on wingers. Nothing exciting and no goals in the first half. In the break Beskov replaced Gazzaev with Oganesyan and the change invigorated the Russians.

Oganesyan attacking. In the 67th minute he scored. Andreev scored second goal in the 82nd minute. Dassaev saved one or two dangerous Yugoslavian shots and that was all: USSR 2 – Yugoslavia 0. Toplak was a bit dismissive of the last game – he said that Yugoslavia traditionally loses from USSR, his players were tired after having no vacation during the summer, but preparing for the Olympic, and that matches for 3rd place ‘have their own logic’ – a veiled nonsense, hiding the obvious fact that Yugoslavia was not interested in this match, even the coach. Beskov said what Soviet coaches said for years after one more failure: that Soviet players as a whole – not just his selection – must increase physical preparation, must work on tactics, learn to fight for possession of the ball, and work hard on organizing attacks. Long lasting platitudes, familiar to everybody in USSR. His real criticism, if not hot anger, was addressed to his strikers: he said their finishing shots evoked only sadness in him. With this comments stopped and the team was forgotten – so much so, that even a picture of the bronze medalists seemingly does not exist. One more failure, marking the end of terrible decade.

Perhaps the closest to the Olympic team photo is from June 1980 of the team who played against Brazil at Maracana: standing from left: K. Beskov – coach, O. Romantzev, V. Bessonov, A. Chivadze, R. Dassaev, V. Pilguy, Yu. Gavrilov, S. Shavlo, T. Sulakvelidze, S. Borovsky.

Crouching: V. Khidiatulin, V. Evtushenko, R. Chelebadze, S. Rodionov, Kh. Oganesyan, S. Andreev, F. Cherenkov.

Borovsky, Evtushenko, and Rodionov were not in the team for the Olympics; Gazzaev, Baltacha, Nikulin, and Prokopenko were not in the squad above, but were included in the team which finished with bronze medals.

And the great final at last. As the whole Olympic tournament, the culmination was more gray than great. DDR depended on its athletic, physical collective kind of football – and this team was visibly not capable of anything else. Czechoslovakia was careful, slower, also with strong emphasis on collectivity. The opponents clashed in unpleasant way: the Germans were rough, the Czechoslovakians responded in kind, both teams committed many fouls, and eventually 6 cards were shown – 4 yellow and 2 red. Berger (Czechoslovakia) and Steinbach (DDR) were sent off. The best moments of the game were curiously provoked by the heavy rain which started 10 minutes before the end of the match. If there is something to sum the final, it was the single goal – it saved the viewers from suffering extra time under the pouring rain. The ball deflected from the chest of the German goalkeepr Rudwaleit towards Svoboda and kicked it in the net in the 77th minute.

Ball in the net – the whole difference between winning and losing. There is something in this photo… Czechoslovakian relief and German resignation. As if both teams knew this is the end and nothing else can be done: the whites lucky, the blacks unlucky.

Final: Moscow, Lenin Stadium.

Czechoslovakia: 1. Stanislav SEMAN, 2. Ludek MACELA, 3. Josef MAZURA, 4. Libor RADIMEC, 5. Zdenek RYGEL, 7. Ladislav VIZEK, 8. Jan BERGER, 10. Lubos POKLUDA (63′ – 6. Petr NEMEC), 11. Werner LICKA (73′ – 9. Jindrich SVOBODA), 14. Oldrich ROTT, 16. Frantisek STAMBACHER.

DDR: 1.Bodo RUDWALEIT, 2. Artur ULLRICH, 3. Lothar HAUSE (81′ – 14.Mathias LIEBERS), 5. Frank BAUM, 6. Ruediger SCHNUPHASE, 7. Frank TERLETZKI, 8. Wolfgang STEINBACH, 11. Dieter KUHN (58′ – 10. Werner PETER), 12. Norbert TRIELOFF, 13. Matthias MULLER, 17. Wolf-Reudiger NETZ.

Goal: Svoboda, 77′

DDR – silver medalists. Their coach Krause was happy after the final – he stressed on the positive: the team was new, but managed to prevail over USSR (in a friendly before the games), the top team of 1979 – Yugoslavia (although the Olympic team Yugoslavia had little to do with the A team of the same country), and it was not a shame to lose by a single goal by the bronze medalist of the 1980 European championship (although the A team of Czechoslovakia had little resemblance to their Olympic squad). Krause modestly pointed out that his team was the least experienced of the top four teams (although his own team list said otherwise) and expressed his satisfaction that his boys followed his ideas during the tournament (that much was true, although the ideas were torturous to watch). Now it was time to look to the future, that was all. The East Germans were right to be happy – they were Olympic champions in 1976, now got silver – success is success.

The new Olympic champions: first row from left: Zdenek Sreiner, Petr Nemec, Oldrich Roth, Frantisek Stambachr, Werner Licka, Zdenek Rygel, Michalko (?) – team doctor.

Standing: Rostislav Vaclavicek, Libor Radimec, Ludek Macela, Josef Mazura, Frantisek Kunzo, Stanislav Seman, Jindrich Svoboda, Jaroslav Netolicka, Zigel (?) – masseur, Knecht (?) – team’s chief.

Missing on the photo: Ladislav Vizek, Jan Berger, Lubomir Pokluda, and coach Frantisek Havranek.

Havranek was happy – Czechoslovakia won Olympic gold for the first time – but commented less than the East German coach: he praised the East Germans for their athleticism and expressed satisfaction that he was able to prepare few good strikers during the years working with the Olympic team. As for the future, he echoed the German coach – it was too early to say, he was going to talk in length with Czechoslovakian national team coach, but he thought some players will become first players in the coming qualification campaign for the 1982 World Cup. Modesty was understandable – apart from the expected politeness after Olympic final, there was not much to say about football: the tournament was obviously weak and getting weaker. Olympic football was rapidly losing ground. The teams were not exciting, very few players impressed and among them were hardly any discoveries. The boycott changes almost half of the participants in the last minute: Nigeria played instead of Ghana, Zambia replaced Egypt, Iraq instead of Malaysia, Syria instead of Iran, Cuba instead of USA, Venezuela instead of Argentina, and Finland instead of Norway. It was not substantial change, though – those boycotting were hardly better than their replacements. What was clear, but the time was right to say, was that Olympic football needed big change if wanting to attract some attention: change of players’ eligibility. Allowing professionals to participate. But such a change required change of eligibility rules for all sports – the direction was clear and in a way sad, but needed time. For the game of football itself, the 1980 Olympics contributed absolutely nothing – Olympic football was declining into obscurity, into not even second-rate, but into utterly unimportant competition.


The Moscow Olympics got another evaluation – not everyone was happy with the games. Many years later one of the Nigerian players recollected his time in Moscow.

Segun Odegbami was one of the biggest Nigerian stars of the 1970s, playing for Shooting Stars and for Pensylvania Stoners of ASL – American Soccer League, one of the lower North American leagues, in 1980. He was a member of the Nigeria Olympic football team that traveled to North America for the Montreal Summer Games in 1976 but ending up boycotting the athletic event at the last minute. The player known as “Mathematical” because of his formal university training as an engineer in addition to a high technical level of skill counted two goals when Nigeria blanked Algeria 3-0 in the Final of the African Cup of Nations in March of 1980, just four months ahead of the Moscow Summer Games. The Green Eagles goal-scorer recalled his time in the Soviet Union in an article, “My Olympic Moment – Segun Odegbami”, appearing at the official website of the Nigeria Olympic Committee: “ Montreal was very different from communist Russia (the Soviet Union). The atmosphere was totally different. Where you eat, sleep and feel freedom in Montreal, Moscow was so secretive everything was done in fear. You didn’t know who was watching you.

In Canada you could move freely but in Moscow even to get in the Games village (for athletes) there was all kinds of gadgets and security gates.

Even within your room there were all kinds of restrictions as to what you could do. You couldn’t plug your tape recorder into the light socket. We were told everyone was being seriously watched.

It really was like being in prison …” It was not only football, which was kind of bland in USSR, it seems.


The road to the final

Group B was the closest to surprise:

Czechoslovakia and Nigeria ended 1-1. African success. Czechoslovakia was unable to beat Kuwait too – 0-0. But they won 3-0 against Colombia, a team which Kuwait was unable to beat. Nigeria lost to Colombia 0-1 and to Kuwait 1-3. Obviously, Czechoslovakia underperformed, but at the end everything was just as expected to be:

1. Czechoslovakia 1 2 0 4-1 4

2. Kuwait 1 2 0 4-2 4

3. Colombia 1 1 1 2-4 3

4. Nigeria 0 1 2 2-5 1

Group 3 went as expected.

The Spanish captain Francisco Buyo blocks East German attack. The future Real Madid goalkeeper played with number 3. The match ended 1-1. DDR won their other games – 1-0 vs Algeria and 5-0 vs Syria. The young Spaniards were not exactly a revelation… they were unble to win a match, finishing with 3 ties. Algeria prevailed over Syria 3-0 and finished above Spain on better goal-difference.

1. DDR 2 1 0 7-1 5

2. Algeria 1 1 1 4-2 3

3. Spain 0 3 0 2-2 3

4. Syria 0 1 2 0-8 1

Group 4 also went as expected, except for one thing – here was the only coach who was openly critical of his team, going against the grain: coaches, journalist, Olympic and FIFA observers generally spoke benevolently of the tournament. Teams were weak, football was of low quality, everybody knew that and there was no point to criticize. Ivan Toplak was the only one who abandoned the good-natured evasive platitudes, usually quickly moving from commenting a match or a team to the safe grounds of praising facilities and hospitality. Yugoslavia clearly did not take the group matches seriously – the notoriously moody Yugoslavs, knowing that the opposition is too weak, did not put much of an effort. They finished 1-1 with Iraq, 2-0 with Finland, and 2-1 with Costa Rica. It was the match with Costa Rica enraging their coach.

Yugoslavia was too strong for the other teams – even the photo suggests it. Looks like another Yugoslavian goal in the net of the helpless Costa Rica. But no… The Yugoslavs played just enough to win – they scored an opening goal and went to sleep. Then put a little effort to restore their advantage after Costa Rica equalized and went back to sleep. ‘It is shameful to play like that at the Olympics. Zlatko Vujovic alone ought to score 6 goals at least. All teams must be respected and my boys did not do this’, fumed Toplak after the game. Iraq ended 0-0 with Finland and won 3-0 against Costa Rica. Costa Rica lost 0-3 to Finland.

1. Yugoslavia 2 1 0 6-2 5

2. Iraq 1 2 0 4-1 4

3. Finland 1 1 1 3-2 3

4. Costa Rica 0 0 3 1-9 0

The group stage ended exactly as expected, which more or less voided the ¼ finals – no favourites were to meet each other at this stage. Skip this and go right to the semi-finals… Carlos Parreira spelled it out: ‘We have no chance against USSR. We can only try to put obstacles to their attacks.’ The defensive concept worked – USSR won, but not impressively.

Gavrilov scores the winning goal in the 61st minute. Two minutes earlier Kuwait equalized… USSR had great difficulties against Kuwait – a match which was supposed to be a walk-over. The unfortunate goalkeeper was anonymous… the world learned his name a couple of years later: Eltarabulsi was between the goalposts of the pleasant Kuwaiti team at the 1982 World Cup. And it was thanks to 1982 World Cup his name was properly established – the 33-yearls old in 1980 Ahmed Al-Tarabulsi was written Eltarabulsi and it did not seem to matter, for he was obviously destined to obscurity.

DDR vs Iraq – no contest here. Physically superior Germans crushed Iraq from the start. In the 22th minute they scored their 4th goal. Which practically finished the match for both teams. 4-0 was the final result.

Schnuphase scoring from a penalty the first goal for DDR in the 4th minute. Wait a second: by the rules, players participating in the World Cup matches were not allowed to play at the Olympics? Think again… Schnuphase was not the only ‘exception’.

Czechoslovakia – Cuba. No surprises either – even the Cubans thought they outdid themselves by qualifying to the ¼ finals. Czechoslovakia won 3-0.

A contest? What contest? Cubans were generally looking at the backs of the Czechoslovakians – Pereira here is not even close to Mazura.

Yugoslavia – Algeria. May be the only quarter-final with some intrigue. Toplak took Algerian team seriously on two accounts: first, he knew it, because both countries met the previous year. Algerian midfield was quite good and Toplak took measures to neutralize it. Second, Yugoslavia played leisurely so far – the players did not take the opposition seriously enough, which was dangerous. One of the Yugoslavian commentators used a single word to describe the team’s performance so far: ‘criminal’. At the end, it was not at all the possible strength of Algeria, but the ‘criminal’ attitude of the Yugoslav players the biggest danger for their advance. However, this time they played. A bit.

One more Yugoslavian goal. The difference was huge – Algeria looks entirely helpless and clumsy. The only Algerian player showing some skill was Rabah Madjer – he will be a hero in mid-1980s. As for Yugoslavia, the ‘Plavi’ still did not play at the top of their abilities, but even pulling a bit of class was enough not only to win easily, but to impress. Yet, they carelessly missed many scoring opportunities.

And at last real matches… the semi-finals opposed USSR to DDR and Czechoslovakia to Yugoslavia. The Soviets were supposed to win. DDR played defensive and physical football – nothing impressive. But the Russians were not impressive either. It was not a pleasant game. In the 16th minute DDR had a corner kick, Dassaev made a mistake, and Netz scored.

Khidiatulin – number 4 – going into attack. The Soviets dominated the match and DDR were largely concerned with defending, but, as the picture shows, the Russians were rather chaotic. The match ended 1-0 DDR. USSR was eliminated… and curiously there was no critical outrage. The reaction was quite ambivalent: Genady Radchuk wrote that ‘in today’s football results are needed today, not tomorrow. We expected victory, not just a promise for the future.’ Yet, he continued in the same paragraph, that it will be very dangerous to criticize the team…

The other semi-final reminded the European finals: nobody considered Czechoslovakia a favourite, the team was not impressive compared to the other top teams, expectations even of the Czechoslovaks were modest, and the team did not play great football, but only disciplined tactical one. And it worked… perhaps because of the Yugoslavian attitude: not taking seriously the opposition so far and playing leisurely, the Yugoslavs had great difficulty to change gears. It took them 30 minutes to organize their game. Key players – Mirocevic and Cukrov – underperformed and had to be substituted. Yugoslavia found its game only in the second half and started very powerful attacks, but Czechoslovakia was prepared and their defensive tactics never failed. They were leading 2-0 since the 18th minute and essentially had only to keep breaking the Yugoslavian attacks, which, as time was running out, were increasingly frustrated and therefore lacking precision. After the match Toplak bitterly commented that in the second half he realized that his team can score a goal only by accident. Heavy prize was paid for not taking seriously the tournament from start. Pantelic, considered the best and most famous among all Olympic goalkeepers, made two terrible mistakes early in the match – the Czechoslovaks did not miss his net both times. Modest Czechoslovakia reached the Olympic final.

Review and group A

The Olympic tournament attracted little attention – Russians went to see the games, of course, but internationally and especially in terms of discoveries and innovations, nobody expected anything and rightly so. There were only 4 serious teams, who are not to meet each other before the semifinals. Every group had a strong favourite and the rest were too weak for any surprise or upset. The groups were: Group A – USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, Zambia. Group B – Czechoslovakia, Kuwait, Colombia, Nigeria. Group C – DDR, Algeria, Spain, Syria. Group D – Yugoslavia, Iraq, Finland, Costa Rica. No need to points out the obvious favourites. The rest, including Spain, were nobodies by all accounts – in every group the battle was going to be for the 2nd place and it was unpredictable. Momentary form would decide half of the teams proceeding to the ¼ finals. There were no famous players, so it was no wonder coaches attracted most attention, for they were the most famous members of the finalists: Ivan Toplak was at the helm of Yugoslavia – one of the well respected Yugoslav coaches in the 1970s, his task obviously was to test and prepare players for the A team, going through rebuilding. Jose Santamaria lead Spain – the Uruguayan star of the great years of Real Madrid had not similar role to Toplak’s, only not so urgent. Spain was very young team, clearly testing promising youngsters, who may become leading players after 4-5 years. Otto Gloria was at the helm of Nigeria. The man who made Benfica top team in the early 1960s had a different role now: to bring some professionalism into talented, but ill-trained Africans. Kuwait had Brazilian coach for the same purpose – one Carlos Parreira. At the time, he was not famous yet, but at 37 years of age, he had vast experienced – the African championship, beating Algeria at the final. More or less, that was all, so really only team USSR needs closer scrutiny.

USSR was the biggest favourite – hosting the Olympics put special expectations on Soviet sportsmen in every sport, including football. The political aim was to show the world the supremacy of the Communist way of life via sporting victories. Under the general aim there was a more specific one: USSR badly needed victory – the whole decade was full of frustrations and disappointments. By 1980 USSR was at very low point, not even able to qualify to major international tournaments. They missed 2 World Cups, they missed 2 European finals, they lost 2 Olympic tournaments. Olympics were frustrating for separate reasons as well – they belonged to Eastern Europe, therefore to USSR as a flagman of the Communist world. Yet, team USSR not only did not win Olympics since 1956, but did not reached even the final since this same year. Mere ‘vassals’ eliminated the ‘masters’ in 1972 and 1976. Now, on home turf, it was time to win at last – and hardly anybody doubted Soviet victory, for they were the only team which was pretty much the A national team of the country. It was also expected that orders not to play hard against USSR will be given to at least Czechoslovakia and DDR. Yet, the mood in USSR was strange – there was little criticism after lowly Greece eliminated USSR and went to the 1980 Euro finals. Beskov was not sacked for the failure. Instead, the page was closed and new goal was elevated in 1979 – preparation for the Olympics was the most important and to hell with secondary distractions like European finals. May be reasonable approach, if it was followed to the letter – Beskov’s A team was a bit rag-tag during the European qualifications and remained so for the Olympics. Dynamo Kiev players were not in favour – the team was based on Spartak Moscow, which Beskov also coached. There were only 2 players from Kiev – Baltacha and Bessonov. In itself, it was not the most important thing – the really important thing was that it was still shapeless team. The aim was clearly building a new national team and the base of it was already in place – most of the Olympic players were soon to become world famous and the stars of the exciting Soviet team of the 1980s – but they were still inexperienced and clearly the whole team was still in the stage of searching the right combination before even tuning a regular squad. Since this team came under the name of Olympic team, no particular attention was paid to its shortcomings: it was supposed to be ‘different’ team than the A national team. So, there were players, who were considered as national team material at the time, but clearly part of ‘trying’ stage: Prokopenko (Dynamo Minsk), Gazzaev (Dynamo Moscow), Nikulin (Dynamo Moscow). The back-up goalkeeper on the other hand showed fear: Vladimir Pilguy (Dynamo Moscow) was good, but at 32 he was also on his way out of the national team, where he never established himself anyway. In and out for years, he played only 12 matches for USSR to this moment , most of them friendlies. Seemingly, Beskov wanted insurance… he was uncertain of his own discovery Rinat Dassaev. Dassaev, although with 7 caps for USSR already, was still unknown even in USSR – everybody knows his name today: Rinat Dassaev. Right? Well, in 1980 he was listed Renat – even officials in USSR were not yet aware of the correct spelling of his name. Since only 17 players per team were permitted at the 1980 Olympics, team USSR was suddenly suspect – 4 players were not exactly promising great future, the rest had little experience and there was no certainty that they will became regulars and make a strong national team, and in the same time various promising youngsters were out. So were established stars – the biggest absentee was Oleg Blokhin. It was curious approach – it did not look serious enough. It did not look like Beskov was the right man to ensure victory. It was a team neither here, nor there – not the A team in full force, yet not entirely different Olympic team. It was not entirely team for the future, but not a team based on former respectable players getting last chance to succeed internationally either. One really expected the Soviets to put their very best for a home victory, which politics demanded. But even with such misgivings, team USSR looked much stronger than any other – DDR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia had clearly weaker teams than their A national teams. Team USSR deserves to be given in full not that much because of its strangeness, but because most names will ring a bell – most players will become very familiar soon after 1980.

1. Rinat Dassaev (Spartak Moscow) 2. Tengiz Sulakvelidze (Dinamo Tbillisi) 3. Aleksander Chivadze (Dinamo Tbillisi) 4. Vagiz Khidiatulin (Spartak Moscow) 5. Oleg Romantzev (Spartak Moscow) 6. Sergey Shavlo (Spartak Moscow) 7. Sergey Andreev (SKA Rostov) 8. Vladimir Bessonov (Dinamo Kiev) 9. Yury Gavrilov (Spartak Moscow) 10. Fyodor Cherenkov (Spartak Moscow) 11. Valery Gazzaev (Dinamo Moscow) 12. Vladimir Pilguy (Dinamo Moscow) 13. Sergey Baltacha (Dinamo Kiev) 14. Sergey Nikulin (Dinamo Moscow) 15. Khoren Oganesyan (Ararat) 16. Aleksander Prokopenko (Dinamo Minsk) 17. Revaz Chelebadze (Dinamo Tbillisi).

Genady Radchuk, one of the best Soviet football commentators, casually mentioned that the rules for European and South American teams forbade using players who played at World Cup matches. Who exactly made the rule is unclear and was it really followed is also unclear, but in the Soviet case it was easy to follow it: the last qualification match for the World Cup USSR played in the first half of 1977. Almost all of the participants in it were not called to the national team for a long time already. The Olympic team was the new national team, which did not start the next World Cup campaign yet.

USSR opened their Olympic campaign against Venezuela – captains Romantzev and Sanchez shaking hands with mutual puzzlement, for neither team knew much about the opposition. The Soviets played pretty much the same team which appeared as the A team less then a month before against Denmark. It was an easy sailing – 4-0. Zambia was no more difficult either – 3-1. Cuba was even weaker than the previous opponents – 8-0. There was no much to comment… so vast was the difference between USSR and the anonymous teams. In the second half against Cuba Beskov replaced Dassaev with Pilguy, giving a chance to the back-up goalie to play a little.

Cuba won the other two matches and finished 2nd in the group, thus going to the ¼ finals.

1. USSR 3 0 0 15-1 6

2. Cuba 2 0 1 3-9 4

3. Venezuela 1 0 2 3-7 2

4. Zambia 0 0 3 2-6 0

Nothing worth mentioning… Cuba got a bit of praise, for ‘overachieving’, but if another team finished second, it would have been the same.

A moment from the match between Cuba and Zambia – the players are quite surprised by… the ball.


The Olympic Games

The second big international tournament of the year was the Olympic Games. The Olympics always attract big interest, but in the 1980 even more so. First, because Moscow hosted them and the Soviet political ambition to outdo everything done to this moment immediately brought critical comparison to Hitler’s Olympics in 1934. It was to be more than sports – it was to be a showcase of Communist supremacy, aiming to win ideological battle. Politics affected badly the games – the West was not happy to participate in something designed to humiliate democracy. USSR provided a way out, but also politicized the games for the West too. The second point was the Soviet invasion of Afganistan – now now the West had a reason to protest and eventually refuse to participate in the games. The issue became entirely political, accusation flew both ways and no side was satisfied – USA called for boycott , but not every country followed, so to a point the boycott failed. USSR tried to emphasize sporting spirit and accused USA of sabotaging purely friendly event – but few were convinced.

At the end sportsmen from participating countries marched to the opening as ever.

Mummy-like Brezhnev announced the Olympics officially starting.

And the mascot Misha wished success to everybody. All of these were interpreted depending on political standpoint – perhaps the first Olympics burdened with so heavy double meaning.

Football was hardly affected by the confrontation – actually, it was, but 4 years later when the Communist countries retaliated by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics. In 1980 it was perhaps the sport least suffering by the political stand off: Olympic football lost its importance long time ago, it was considered a domain of Eastern Europe, and the interest in it was small. There were problems with participation, the status of players and whole teams, statistics, and the whole formula for years – they diminished both the importance of Olympic football and public interest in it. Tensions were largely European, for South Americans were not very interested in Olympic football and played by the rules. The rest of the world played by the rules too and easily so, for there was no professional football in Asia and Africa, and very little in North America. Europe was the only battlefield – first of all, not every country bothered with Olympic football. This created problems with qualifications – amateur football was secondary matter at best for most federations. Money were short. This lead to qualification groups based on geography – the Eastern Europe grumbled, because now the Communist countries were grouped together. Teams, better than their Western counterparts were eliminated. ‘Not fair’, cried the East. The West responded by old accusation: that Easterners used their national teams and their players were hardly ‘amateurs’ – unfair advantage over purely amateur Western teams. With time, the whole amateur issue became muddy, because rules differed from one country to the next in the West and it was not the real situation of a given player, but rather what was written on paper making him professional or amateur. Sometimes violations were not even objected by either side of the dispute, because objection would trigger even bigger digging in the backyard of the protester. The main result was fantastic statistical mess – as a rule of thumb, Eastern European countries counted their Olympic matches as matches played by their national team. Western European countries did not do that. But, with time, the Eastern Europeans also started making separate Olympic teams – and this brought even bigger statistical mess, for there were players never appearing for the A team, but still got matches because the Olympic team appeared in official statistics. In 1980 the mess caught the Easterners as well – during the Olympics Soviet journalists complained about the statistic numbers of Czechoslovakian and East German players: they looked fake and it was impossible to figure out on what those numbers were based. Coaches were puzzled and unable to really evaluate the strength of the opposition, journalists had no idea who some players were – the names were unknown, but their records showed otherwise. As for statisticians and historians… the puzzle was unsolvable. What was the legitimate criteria was growing mystery: the official registration showed the number of ‘international matches played’. And here is a sample of East German players: Kuhn – 75 matches, Schnuphase – 69, Liebers – 53, Hause – 51, Terletzki – 50, Trieloff – 46. At the bottom of the list was the 30-years old Netz with 6 matches. Fairly well known player, but with so few caps, unlike his teammates. Those with most matches were national team players, but nobody had so many matches for the A team. Journalists considered that the records showed a grand total of matches played for the A national team, B team, the Olympic team, and all junior formations. And… still the numbers did not tally.

The biggest mystery of all was Rostislav Vaclavicek – 34-years defender of Zbrojovka (Brno), whose registry showed 48 ‘international matches’. But he never played a single game for Czechoslovakia – that is, for the A team. The only conclusion the Soviet journalists came to was that may be Czechoslovakian Federation counted all international matches a player participated in during his career – including unofficial friendlies of the club a player played for. Still, there was no solution… with all his ‘impressive’ international record Vaclavicek was only a reserve. A new suspicion loomed from that: it looked like some teams decided on race for records – and suddenly team USSR appeared inexperienced, for compared to Vaclavicek the Soviet players had nothing to show… their most capped player was Vagiz Khidiatulin with 17 caps. Bessonov followed with 16. But even the Soviet numbers were a mystery… both Khidiatulin and Bessonov were still new to the national team. There numbers showed what? Matches for the A team? The Olympic team? Or combined record? There was no distinction between teams – on July 12, less than a month before the Olympics started, USSR played a friendly against Denmark. The accounts show a match of the A team. Denmark certainly played with their national team. ‘Olympics’ were not even mentioned ones in the articles on the match – just an ordinary friendly of the A national team. Which consisted of the very same squad playing 20 days at the Olympics. Under the same coach too – the other ‘suspect’ finalists at least had different coaches for their A and Olympic teams, a clear sign of separation, of different teams. At least USSR, DDR, and Czechoslovakia officially had ‘amateur’ football – Yugoslavia did not exactly claim that. Players there had ‘contracts’ with their clubs, it was openly spoken of and written about. Who was amateur and who was professional in Yugoslavia then? If Zlatko and Zoran Vujovic, Milos Hrstic, Ivan Gudelj, Dragan Pantelic, Tomislav Ivkovic were still young players and may be without professional contracts, it was unlikely that established for years players like Boro Primorac, Milan Jovin, Milos Sestic were ‘amateurs’ training after work by 1980. Like the entire team USSR, half of the Czechoslovaks, and at least a third of team DDR, the Yugoslavs were current national team players or up and coming youngsters destined to play for the national team. Of course, the role of the Olympic teams was more or less trying future national team players, but there were so many current ones on one hand, and so many not merely promising youngsters, but ready to play for the A team as soon as the Olympic games end. It was a mockery of the whole distinction between national and Olympic teams – and this was not lost on Western countries either, which during the 1970s gradually started using not part-timers, but players already included in professional teams. Lines were blurred, problems increased not only of what was a legitimate amateur, but what is a match of the A national team and what not. To sum the problems: if one looks records today, the already mentioned Rostislav Vaclavicek has 0 matches for Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Bessonov has 79 matches for the national team of USSR and 6 for the Olympic team – separate records, although the Olympic one includes only the matches played at the 1980 Olympic finals, suggesting that the USSR Olympic team played no other games at the time – just the finals. Frank Terletzki has a grand total of 4 matches for DDR – and nothing else, which means that A and Olympic teams were separate entities in DDR even when using the same players. Boro Primorac – 14 for Yugoslavia, started in 1976. Francisco Buyo, the future goalkeeper of Real Madrid, playing for Deportivo La Coruna in 1980, has 11 matches for the amateur national team of Spain – despite the fact that he was ‘loaned’ from La Coruna by Huesca in 1978-79 and played for professional clubs since 1975. And Frantisek Stambachr won Olympic gold less then two months after winning European bronze with the Czechoslovakian A team – yet his record shows only matches played for the A team: 31 between 1977 and 1983. No wonder Western countries called for changing rules and permitting professionals to participate in the Olympic games – by 1980 even the Communist countries had trouble figuring out their own teams and who and what was legitimate amateur. After all, one cannot really oppose the status of, say, Buyo, if counting the preparatory games of his ‘Olympic’ teams as A-national team friendlies. Other factors piled up – just after the Olympics the African Federation officially permitted professional football on the continent: given the resources there, hardly a single African country would have been able to finance two different national teams. The same was true for Asia at that time and most of Central America as well – the International Olympic Committee wanted vast participation in the games, so it was clear that unless rules were changed, fake and corrupted records would flood Olympic football and tensions, scandals, and never ending mutual accusations, followed by boycotts may even kill the Olympic games.


West Germany 1980

The new European champions were different matter – they had established and new stars, very able team, which was also young and not quite at its peak, and most importantly West Germany returned to the right track. The changes after the 1978 fiasco seemingly brought back the Germans to exciting total football and they had a team playing like the fantastic team of the first half of the 1970s. And this team was most certainly to stay on top for many years. There were similarities with the the great team of the early 70s and tradition was seemingly at work. Of course, the coach was credited for that.

Lothar Matthaus, Calle Del’Haye, and Jup Derwall – a picture of optimism.

German tradition was the key to success – Derwall, after years as an assistant to Schon, replaced him in 1978, just like Schon replaced Sepp Heberger in 1964, after working as Herberger’s assistant for years. Stability was obviously the key – Derwall was only the 4th manager of the German national team in history. Helmut Schon was assistant coach for 8 years and Derwall was his assistant 8 years too. Like Schon, he experienced success first as an assistant. He knew very well the ins and outs of working with the national team. Continuation of the line was fruitful – if Herberger waited almost 20 years for his success, Schon achieved it in less then 10. Derwall won a title after only 2 years at the helm. It was the first major tournament West Germany played under his guidance – another optimistic sign. Herberger made West Germany world champions, Schon doubled the success if his teacher, winning the European and the world titles – Derwall, like Schon, won the European championship first, and since he was expected to stay as long as those before him, he was expected to outdo them after such a start. Tradition certainly was bringing results. Tradition is conservative, however. Derwall was no innovator, he made no radical change of a team which obviously needed that in 1978 – instead, he lamely continued the approach of Helmut Schon. The picture above is a bit misleading: Derwall had the guts to include young players – Matthaus was only 19 years old – but his exciting new team was also a result of circumstances. In West Germany Derwall was observed critically and rightly so: facing the need to start from scratch, he chose to continue Schon’s approach, which obviously reached a dead end. Nigbur, Fischer, Bonhof, and Cullmann were key players for Derwall – the survivors of Schon’s team. Three 1974 world champions… but what kind? Only Bonhof was a starter and not right away back in 1974. Cullmann was the eternal back up player. Nigbur hardly ever played for the national team – a total of 6 matches during the 6 years he was included in the national team. Fischer was not a stable first choice either. Bonhof was the prime star and also the youngest of the quartet, but he was also part of the team which lost the 1976 European final and crushed so badly in 1978. There is little doubt that Derwall insisted on these players – injuries of Nigbur and Fischer made him look for other options. Bonhof and Cullmann were in the 1980 squad… Bonhof was out because of late injury, Cullmann was obviously insufficient, yet, Derwall played him as much as possible. The new team happened because Derwall did not have his chosen stars… and he had to give up on Cullmann. Reluctantly at that. Derwall clearly had no guts to get rid of Schon’s reserves, of second-rate players, stigmatized by staying in the shadows of great players for many years – he was intending to continue the line of Schon going down. It is no wonder that the big discoveries in 1980 were exactly of players replacing the injured ‘stars’. Even the only innovation Derwall made was a copy of Schon’s and it was made out of desperation. Doubts about Derwall’s qualities can be summed like this: the new German team looked like a copy of the great West Germany of early 1970s, the team was finally shaped at the end of Euro 1980 – a copy of the 1974 World Cup team, and Derwall made it only because he had no other option. On the positive side – he had the guts to select young players, his team returned to the kind of football the Germans abandoned after 1974 – both successful and exciting to watch, and it was team for the future, given the age of the players. After all, the new European champions were the only really balanced team at the finals, with plenty of strong replacements, and the new stars – most of them defining the 1980s – came from it. Thus, unlike Belgium, the whole German team needs closer scrutiny.

Tony Schumacher. 26 years old rival of the other discovery that year – Pfaff. Five years ago he was almost without future, but perseverance and character elevated him to first choice at 1. FC Koln. He won the Bundesliga first and eventually was invited to the national team. Becoming a starter was a bit chancy – if Nigbur was healthy, Schumacher was to warm the bench – but he really jumped on his chance and was one of the big discoveries at the European finals. One big plus was that he was not stigmatized like the unfortunate keepers, who spent most of their careers in the shadow of Sepp Maier – Nigbur, Kleff, Kargus, Franke grew old playing rarely for the national team and always found deficient, for they were compared to Maier. Schumacher came in view after Mayer retired and was much younger than the already mentioned, who were pushing 30. The future was clearly his, he arrived – like Pfaff – at age, when goalkeepers usually start to mature. He filled the gap left by Maier for many years to come – it was easy to envision West Germany with a great goalkeeper for the next 10 years. Problem solved.

Manfred Kaltz. Already a star, considered one of the top full backs in the world. At 27, he was at his peak. A modern full back, reminding a bit of Breitner between 1972 and 1974. Energetic, covering large space, instrumental in attacks, scoring, and not exactly pinned to the right side of field. He was part of rapidly rising Hamburger SV, which was very helpful too, for other HSV players were included in the national team and teammates knew each other in and out. Versatile defender – he was used as a stopper by Schon in 1978. Of course, he was a copy of Breitner – his creativity was limited, he was not great in his essential job – strikers often outwitted him, and he was space-limited – unlike Breitner, roving everywhere, Kaltz largely occupied the right side of the field. He was also more defensive player – unlike Breitner, who rapidly evolved into playmaker.

Uli Stielike. Derwall moved him back to be a libero – a great move, even when commanded by necessity. The skills of Stielike were well known and he was the mover and shaker of Real Madrid. He was also exactly what the prophets of total football preached – versatile player, comfortable at any position: so far, Stielike played at almost every post in attack and midfield. Moving him back as a libero repeated the great move of Beckenbauer years before – space was opened for Stielike to conduct the team’s play. Essentially, Derwall did what Schon did years earlier and it was the right move. Stielike was not as ellegant as Beckenbauer, not he was so imaginative, but he was reliable and creative. Perhaps a bit poorer version of Beckenbauer, but only a bit – with Stielike, German defense remained iron strong, increasing the attacking strength in the same time. 25 years old – coming to his peak and having many years ahead of him.

Karl-Heinz Forster. 21 years old, coming from rising VfB Stuttgart. May be he needed some time to build chemistry with Stielike to the point Schwarzenbeck had with Beckenbauer, but Forster seemed better player than Schwarzenbeck already. He was more versatile, capable of playing not only as a sweeper and stopper, but as a left full back too. He also went into attacks more frequently than Schwarzenbeck and, most importantly, he was not just addition to a great and particular libero, but stand on his own. With him, the German team had not to worry for central defender for the next ten years. At least.

Bernard Dietz. The oldest and most experienced player in the squad. At 32, he was not yet showing decline. Spirited and modest left full back and captain of the team. A modest player, never considered a big star and playing for modest MSV Duisburg for years, Dietz was something between his predecessors Hottges and Vogts: very stable and spirited full back. He was less given to attack than Vogts, but more than Hottges. Disciplined player, willing to follow coach’s demands, but more conservative than both Hottges and Vogts, who on occasion played at different side of the pitch, and Vogts even in midfield. The age was the only problem – he was not going to last for long and seemingly there was no other strong enough left full back in West Germany, but either one of the Forster brothers or Briegel were capable of playing at the left side of defense, so the problem was not big.

Hans-Peter Briegel. 24 years old player of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, listed as defender. He played as full-back and at the end of the tournament he was voted in the top eleven as a left full-back, but his proper place was more like defensive midfielder. Difficult to pin down to particular post really. Briegel was especially strong even for a German and players of this kind tend to be brutes on pitch, but he was not. Of course, he intimidated the opposition, too powerfully build to push down, too fit to outrun him, too determined to brake him down emotionally, but he was good player, not just a tower of muscle without skills. Briegel solved the problem with defensive midfielder – a long lasting one, which always called for improvisation (Wimmer, Bonhof, Flohe, Cullmann – none of them played at this position in his club, or, if he did, eventually moved to another role). Briegel was particularly important discovery because he would cover either full-back, if needed – as he did, when Dietz was injured.

Bernd Schuster. Only 20 years old talent, playing for 1. FC Koln. Some specialists knew him already, but Ron Greenwood was lone and even eccentric voice when he named him one of the best before the finals started – Schuster was not a starter: he seemed to be back-up of Bonhof. That is, essentially defensive midfielder with play-making abilities, who, like Bonhof, would conduct the game from deeper back, and may be even restricted to more traditional role in the presence of Stielike. But the team had to be reshaped during the finals and Schuster not only became a starter, but was moved to a central paly-making role. Thus, the big problem existing since Overath and Netzer retired was finally solved – West Germany found at last great playmaker. Skillful, imaginative, with great leadership qualities. With Schuster the Germans seized to be boring marathon runners – the team suddenly had a flair. His age brought great confidence – this guy was almost a teenager yet. His best days were still in the future, he was surely to be the key player of the team for the next 10 years.

Hansi Muller. 22 years old and already a star – a young star, but a star. With Forster brothers, part of the rising VfB Stuttgart. An attacking midfielder with strong play-making inclination, he took the place of Uli Hoeness from the great old West Germany. However, Muller was heavily criticized and never fully accepted by German media: he was too technical for a German and tended to keep the ball too long. Like Hoeness before, Muller was a bit moody and unpredictable – often he underperformed or at least media thought so. The last negative side, also copying the situation of the early 1970s, was the rivalry with Felix Magath. Helmut Schon had a problem with Overath and Netzer – there was no way to play them both. Same was with Muller and Magath – which lead to tensions immediately: Magath was left on the bench and he complained to the media. Although Derwall did not give up on Muller, he was leaning towards plainer, but more reliable Magath – just like Schon preferred Overath over Netzer. Yet, for the moment the midfield was completed and given the age of the regulars – it was fantastic middle line not just for the moment, but for a long, long time.

Compared to the other lines, attack was shaky and unfinished – a promising, but momentary solution. The positive outweighted the negative, though: the line needed improvement, but it worked and given a little time will improve and settle.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. At 24 already an European star, one of the very best continental strikers at the moment. And for the future too. Starting professional football at the time when great Gerd Muller was still the king, relegated Rummenigge to the right wing – to a point, it was unfortunate and may be crippled a bit his development, but on the other hand, this development solved problems of the national team – back in 1974 Grabowski was placed as right winger as an emergency measure. In 1980 there was no great right winger in West Germany and Rummenigge was covering the gap. So far, so good – because of the nature of the center-forwards at the time. The question was how long such arrangement would work, because a player of Rummenigge’s caliber would hardly keep supportive or secondary role for long. Partly, the answer to the question depended on the construction of the whole team and on available strikers. Partly, it depended on personal ego and willingness to sacrifice stardom for team success. Partly, it depended on the authority of the coach. In real terms, the question was simplified to decision to base a team on Hamburger SV or Bayern. Eventually Rummenigge won – and West Germany lost – but in 1980 things looked fine. And there were options for variety precisely because Rummenigge was not a typical winger, but a center-forward capable of playing at the wing too.

Horst Hrubesch. The picture is symbolic one – Keegan needed a leather to get above Hrubesch. The top European player was a pale shadow of himself and England – a mediocrity at the European finals, when his ugly teammate became a star and won the title. A Cindarella story really – Hrubesch was included in the national team lately and reluctantly. He was not originally a starter. If Fischer was healthy, Hrubesch may not have been even in the squad. He was 29, he spent years playing second division football, and although he scored a lot, he was not a star, but rather one among similar big centers at the time, lacking great skills and even individuality – a tank. Of course, the problem was the shadow of Gerd Muller… since nobody could be Gerd Muller, his replacements were always found insufficient. Dieter Muller was the best promise, but he faded quickly. A string of heavy ‘tanks’ were used – Seel, Fischer… They were good, but on club level – in the national team they scored little and were blocked quite easily, for their game was predictable for modern defenders. The search continued. In itself, Hrubesch was not the solution – he was not better or different than Fischer. The solution was in the shaping of the new team – more creative wingers and midfielders. Defenses were busy preventing attacks form Hansi Muller, Rummenigge, Stielike, and were not able to read the creative directions of Schuster. Thus, attention was not focused on Hrubesch all the time, he had more freedom, and also he was not expected to be the sole finisher of attacks. The other great thing was that Kaltz – and eventually Magath – were accustomed to play with Hrubesch in front and to create opportunities for him. Better utilization. Hrubesch scored both German goals at the final and instantly became a hero – he delivered when it was most important. His rapport with the wingers was good, particularly with Rummenigge – the big forward served as a cover for sneaking from the back Rummenigge, keeping defenders busy with himself. At the moment, Hrubesch was the needed center-forward and since Hamburger SV was reaching its peak, it looked like he was a solution for the national team too – at least for the near future. Like the other new stars, he was not stigmatized player – Fischer was, for he was second or even third fiddle during the days of Gerd Muller.

Klaus Allofs. The 23-years old left winger of Fortuna Dusseldorf ended as the top scorer of European finals, but he was also the most criticized striker of the champions. Coming from a club which reached its peak at this time, Allofs was considered very promising, high scoring, somewhat typical winger. To a point, repeating Erwin Kremers of the 1972 team – limited to the left wing, he was practically unmovable to another post. Like Kremers, he was not always up to great performance, so looking for another option had to continue. But he was young and there were big hopes that he will mature in not so distant future. Scoring goals was expected of him and he scored when it mattered – a hat-trick against Holland. But that was all… leaving mixed feelings. In favour of him was the realization that modern football provided few opportunities for strikers – regular scoring was unlikely, but scoring at particular important match was most important. Allofs scored all goals in the difficult match with Holland – Hrubesch was dry until the final, when he scored all German goals. Allofs did not satisfy everybody, but was expected to develop further and as a whole – to stay in the national team for years to come, getting better. His moody play also helped, as strange as it may be – because Allofs was not entirely reliable yet, other tactical options had to be tried: using only 2 strikers, for instance. By default, West Germany had to use different tactical variety.

Exciting European champions – West Germany did not only come back, but had a team promising great future. The decline was over, new stars emerged, and Derwall seemingly had the mind and the skill to shape great team. And it was not a team limited to handful of players either – Bernd Forster, Felix Magath, Karl Del’Haye were eager to get a regular place. Lothar Matthaus, only 19-years old, made his debut. Eike Immel, also 19-years old, was in the team. Not included, but expected to be were other young talents, like Thomas Allofs. The new West Germany did not make revolution, but returned to the abandoned track of total football – and this was very optimistic sign, for already there was the strong feeling that total football was perverted into physical battle before its great possibilities were explored. West Germany killed total football, but now West Germany restored it – there was light again.

Belgium 1980

Only two teams were outstanding and talked about in positive terms: the finalists. On a larger scale, it was a testimony of impoverished football. On the other hand, both teams represented optimistic direction. Belgium was perhaps more discussed because they were a pleasant surprise. Unlike West Germany, the ‘Red Devils’ had few impressive personalities, but were more interesting in tactical terms. Of course, credit goes to their coach.

Guy Thys was little known before the European finals and hardly had the presence of a great coach – he talked modestly and never promised much. Yet, there was confidence in his words. He trusted his team and was not heavy-handed disciplinarian. Thys was right – his team delivered on the pitch and followed the requirements. Thys was master of tactical surprises – he knew the opponent’s style very well and adapted to it, using the weaknesses. On the surface and following the standard the norms of the time, Belgium looked like that:

Slightly modified 4-3-3, close to 4-4-2. At a glance, the scheme appeared deficient: classic right winger and typical center-forward. No left winger, which normally was interpreted as a limitation – the team depended heavily on the right, which was easy to read and block. But it was only on paper – Ceulemans was versatile and unpredictable. Not at all English type center-forward bolted in front of the net and waiting for crosses from the wings. Van der Elst was not always sticking to the right side either. Mommens had enormous operating field, helping the defense, playing as a midfielder when needed, and attacking as a left winger. Flexible player, contributing to specific tactical needs. The big figure of the team was a midfielder – van Moer, the only survivor of the 1970 Belgian team, which played at the World Cup. The surprising thing about van Moer was that he was 35 and looked his age – thus, nobody expected him to run endlessly from one of the pitch to the other and always to be in the midst of action. Van Moer had the energy, fitness, and stamina of 20-years old. He was the motor and the conductor of the team, but he was not the typical play-maker of the 1970s. He never shied away from dirty work, he constantly helped the defense, and started attacks from deep back. He also pressured the opposition in midfield like defensive midfielders did. But his passes were precise and lethal, he was able to keep the ball and to change the tempo of the game. Slightly behind him operated a pair of defensive midfielders – Cools and van der Eycken, securing the midfield and helping the defense. If Cools was typical defensive midfielder, van der Eycken was universal – he often rushed ahead, acting almost as a winger.

The defense was what became typical in the late 70s – two very active and attacking minded full backs – Gerets on the right side and Renquin on the left, and a pair of libero and stopper in the middle. Gerets was particularly dangerous, for he was creative passer and also a scorer. Renquin was part of elastic and flexible left side, which had no typical midfielder and winger – the roles were interchanged. The center-defenders were less modern at a glance – neither Meeuws, nor Millecamps were typical libero and stopper – they acted as the needs of the moment required, staying conservatively back. Meeuws was something between sweeper and libero – he conducted the line, yet, he was not behind everybody else, for the great weapon of the Red Devils was the off-side trap, which required all players to be in a straight line. But straight line was easy to penetrate too, so it was a matter of good reading of the game. Meeuws moved back and forth as needed – unlike the English defense, which played outdated line formation and thus fell victim of speedy strikers coming from midfield. As for the role of libero – creative conductor of attacks Meeuws was not: van Moer did that. Meeuws and Millecamps were deliberately staying back in case Gerets and Renquin were caught far ahead of their positions. As a whole, Belgian scheme was defensive – players were deeper back positioned, minding numerical superiority in their own half of the pitch, killing the attacking efforts of the opposition and ready for speedy counter-attacks. The players were up to the requirements of total football – they were versatile, able to change positions and cover for each other, physically fit, unselfish, smart. The whole approach was collective, there were no stars around whom the game was built. Like the Germans, the Red Devils pressured and crowded the opposition. Like the Dutch they were constantly looking for attacking opportunities. Like the Italians they saturated their own half with tough defenders. Like the English they never gave up. Like the Czechoslovakians they had no outstanding stars, but acted as a collective. It looked like Belgium combined the best of different schools, but it was not just a mix of different ellements – Belgium was unpredictable, for it was very intelligent team – they changed tactics in a second: one minute they played rugged Italian defense, but as soon as they got possession of the ball, they started attack as the Dutch. Or the English. Or the Germans. One never knew what they will do. And behind the field players was a great goalkeeper – Pfaff. With him, the defense was relaxed and never panicked.

It was not only the approach of the team, but the novelty of the players: Belgium came as an underdog to the finals. Most players were practically unknown and were ‘discovered’ during the finals. The renaissance of Belgium was noticed, of course – Anderlecht and FC Brugge were already successful and talked about. But the success, particularly of Anderlecht, was due to foreign players – the stars were Dutch. Belgians played secondary role. Those, who came to the European finals did not play for the top teams – that was why nobody knew them. Pfaff played for semi-professional Beveren. Van Moer and Gerets – for Standard Liege, which experienced a crisis in the first half of the 1970s and lost its leading position in Belgian football. Perhaps the best ranked internationally was Francois van der Elst, the striker of Anderlecht. Individually, the Belgians were less impressive than as a collective. The European finals established 5 players – four new stars. One name was neither new, nor young, though.

Wilfried van Moer, here getting ready to tackle an Italian, was the most surprising discovery. Or rather rediscovery. The sole survivor of the old ‘Red Devils’ of the 1960s and the only player appearing at World Cup finals in the now very distant 1970. He was already forgotten – heavy injury kept him not only out of sight for a long time, but he was past retirement age already. At 35, he was playing for small Beringen. Guy Thys was clearly building younger squad and well veterans were not included. Originally, van Moer was not in the coach’s plans either – it was the insistence of the Belgian journalists putting van Moer back in the team. The journalists were right – the fiery midfielder was a revelation. He run like 20-years old, covering the whole field. A dynamo of a player, he was everywhere, energetically fighting for possession of the ball and then starting immediately dangerous attack. Not a typical playmaker at all – he was humble workaholic, not shying away from defensive tasks and not acting as a star veteran at all. He lead the team by example. Usually a veteran so old, even having a great tournament, is only mentioned – because of age, such a player practically has no future – but it was different with van Moer. His fitness, energy, skills gave impression that he has at least 3-4 years ahead of him.

Jean-Marie Pfaff clears the ball before Keegan reaches it. Pfaff was a discovery of the finals. Although he debuted for Belgium in 1976, he had few matches for the national team so far. Christian Piot was the big name for years and when he retired in 1977 it seemed that Belgium had no replacement. The ascent of Belgian football after 1975 somehow lacked promising goalkeeper – Anderlecht and FC Brugge depended on foreigners. Pfaff played for small club and although Beveren enjoyed perhaps its best years at the end of the 1970s, no stars came out of it. Since first choice goalkeepers usually are listed with number 1 at major tournaments, Pfaff seemingly was a reserve for the European finals to Royal Antwerpen’s keeper Theo Custers, also unknown player. But not only Pfaff was chosen to play, but he made huge impression and perhaps was the best goalkeeper at the finals. At 26, he was at the right age – since goalkeepers as a rule mature later than field players, he was precisely at the age when great keepers make their mark. Plenty of experience already and many years ahead of him, for keepers players longer than field players as well. Pfaff was here to stay – he was expected to be one of the best keepers in the 1980s, a player for the future. His impact was so great, nobody noticed – and rightly so, for third choice keepers hardly ever play – another name in the Belgian squad: Michel Preud’homme. As it happened, Belgium had two great keepers at hand instead of acute crisis, but 1980 was Pfaff’s year. He arrived – and he stayed on top for years.

Eric Gerets exits the pitch, listening to the team captain Cool (6) along with Vandereycken (7).One of the rugged bearded Belgians at first, he became famous quickly. Arguably, the biggest discovery among the Belgians. Not exactly young, but at his prime – 26 years old right full back of Standard Liege. Standard declined in the first half of the 1970s and lost its leading position in Belgian football to FC Brugge – perhaps the reason Standard’s players were still unknown: everybody was focused on Anderlecht and FC Brugge. The club was in the process of rebuilding, but the new team was not ready for success yet – Gerets was key part of the new team, he was noticed at home, Thys made him his first choice. Gerets debuted for the Red Devils in 1975, but 1980 brought him international fame. He was exactly what a modern full back was dreamed to be: excellent tough defender, who constantly participated in organizing – and finishing – attacks. Gerets was constantly moving similarly to Paul Breitner: although he was more conservative than Breitner, he did not restrict himself to the right side of the field, as full backs usually did. He was capable organizer, very fit, and a leader. Compared to Manfred Kaltz, Gerets was perhaps better, for Kaltz was a bit deficient in his strictly defensive role. Gerets was instantly seen as one of the stars of the coming 80s – and he fulfilled the expectations.

Michel Renquin, 24-years teammate of Gerets, covering the other side of defense. The left full-back debuted for Belgium in 1976, but like Gerets he got international recognition in 1980. Another modern full-back, equally comfortable defending and attacking, although more conservative than Gerets. Renquin was a particularly pleasant discovery, for there were few really strong full-backs at the time – some, like Dietz, were getting old, others, like Krol, moved to the center of defense, and Breitner to midfield. Renquin stepped in to close the gap.

Since the Belgian approach was defensive, no surprise the newly discovered stars were from the back lines. Yet, the last discovery was a striker.

Jan Ceulemans was the younger of the Belgian stars, but also the only one with European reputation – not a great star, but emerging one. At 23, the tall and strong striker already had 6 seasons in the Belgian championship. His scoring abilities were noticed quickly and FC Brugge bought him from Lierse in 1978. Ceulemans was quick to deliver – he ended 1979-80 season as one of the top European goalscorers with 29 goals. For Belgium he debuted in 1977. For a tall and physical striker, he was surprisingly mobile and versatile: he did not play as an English-type center-forward pinned in front of the net waiting for high balls, but operated on a wide field, often coming from deep back – and with time he moved even further back, becoming an attacking midfielder. He was unpredictable, difficult to block, and scored a lot, yet, he was not a selfish player. Like van Moer and Gerets, courageous, inspirational, and highly spirited player – a true leader. And of course one of the players for the future.

The new stars made Guy Thys move believable – he said that his team is not at its peak yet, that it was still unfinished team, to reach its potential in about 2 years. Apart from van Moer, the other discoveries were at the right age for exactly that. And more than that: they had great leadership potential, so clearly Belgium had the backbone already and with a bit more refining, the Red Devils were to be great team in the coming 1980s. The assets of Belgium were tactical richness and collective approach.