Italy IV Division

Italy. Ranked number 1 by UEFA and as if celebrating its leading position, the Federation decided to increase Serie A from 16 to 18 teams next year. Thus, 2 teams were relegated and 4 promoted from Serie B this season. There was more – tough battle for survival involved half the league, 8 teams. Only 3 points divided the 9th placed from the 15th. Scheming was still going on, so Ascoli had 5 points deducted as a punishment – that placed them last. If they were not penalized, they would have been 11th and the already mentioned 3 points would have divided the 9th from the 16th. That at the bottom. At the top – a change of guard and big return of Milan not only to the top of Italy, but to the top of Europe. It was a team defining European football for the next 5 years, pretty much introducing the 1990s, shaping the future. But at the moment it was clear yet – step by step, at the moment they just returned to the leading position in Italy. And step by step, let start from the bottom of the bottomless Italian football.
IV Division – or Serie C/2. The usual 4 groups of 18 teams each. The top 2 teams in each group were promoted to third level. The last 3 – relegated to 5th level.
Girone A. Civitavecchia, Saviglianese, and Carbonia ended at the bottom and were relegated. Up the table:
Virtus Entella Bacezza – 12th with 31 points.
A possible photo of Sorso of this season – 11th with 32 points.
Pistoiese – 8th with 35 points.
Intriguing finish at the top – 3 teams ended with 41 points. Head-to-head results decided the final standings and Massese’82 was unfortunate in that and placed 3rd.
Montevarchi finished 2nd and promoted.
Carrarese was declared champion and, naturally, promoted up.
Girone B.
Pro Patria – last with 18 points. Hopelessly behind everybody – the terrible slump and ones upon a time strong and respected club seemingly had no end.
Suzzara and Sassuolo were just above Pro Patria and also went down.
Casale was lucky to survive – by a point better than Sassuolo.
Novara – 12th with 30 points. At least not as bad as Pro Patria, but 4th level seemed permanent.
Again 3 teams competed for promotion, but were separate by a point at the end. Telgate – which was Intim Helem before the beginning of the season – finished 3rd with 46 points.
Venezia-Mestre clinched 2nd place with 47 points and was promoted.
Mantova won the championship with 48 points and went up.
Girone C. Galatina P.I., Angizia Luco, and Jesi finished at the last three positions and were relegated.
Giulianova ended 13th with 29 points.
Gubbio did very well – 4th with 40 points. But that the maximum – they were entirely outside the promotional race.
It was not much of a race anyway – Fidelis Andria was solid 3rd with 45 points, but they had nothing to do with top spots either. Perugia and Casaranowere much stronger than the rest of the league and only competed between themselves for the top position. Seemingly, goal-difference decided at the end – both teams ended with 51 points.

Casarano was 2nd.
Perugia won 1st place.
Girone D. Pro Cisterna, Valdiano’85, and Ercolanese were relegated.
Latina escaped relegation – a point better than Ercolanese.

Trapani – 13th with 30 points.
Atletico Catania – 10th with 33 points. Not bad for a club formed only 2-3 years ago.
This could be considered as a real surprise and big achievement: Giarre finished 2nd with 45 points and was promoted to Third level.
Palermo had no rival – champions with 49 points and climbing back to Third Division.
A bit of a ‘monkey business’ happened right after the end of the season: Entella Bacezza, Nocerina, and Pistoiese were not admitted to the next season for having financial problems and Jesi, Sassuolo, and Suzzara were readmitted.


The UEFA Cup. Brand new winners in every European tournament this year. Take it as you like. As a example of the general decline of the game during this decade, which more or less leveled most clubs equal – as long as you keep a team physically fit and tactically minded, you can prevail over anybody. Fighters canceled out artists and having great stars and big money no longer guaranteed success. Or take it as a sign of the embedded democracy of the sport – no aristocracy to rule for ever. A small club with sound policy could make successful team, capable of overcoming anybody, including Maradona-led super-expensive squad. Or take it as reshaping of order – big clubs for various reasons failing and declining and other teams rising from depths. The cliché ‘there are no weak teams’ was born in the 1980s and it was largely true: there were fewer and fewer weaklings, who would be just eliminated walking. One had to fight all the way and against everybody. And the big European clubs did not like it – they were not winning trophies, too many small clubs obstructed their way, degraded them, made life difficult, took away the glory. Hence, new efforts to reorganize European football so only the big clubs would play and win – attempts to create exclusive European league of the big clubs seemingly came at the end of every decade, targeting the UEFA organized European tournaments.
Given the current situation of the clubs, no surprises in the first round of The UEFA Cup and only two in the second round: to a point, the elimination of AC Milan by Espanol (Barcelona) – 0-2 and 0-0 – and certainly Jiventus’ loss to Panathinaikos (Athens) – 0-1 and 3-2. It was on away goal rule, but that was mighty Juventus losing to Greeks! Milan’s loss was easier to excuse – the club was painfully coming back from their almost destruction in the end of the 1970s and was still in shaky rebuilding stage. However, it was Milan learning the lesson from the loss and taking rapid measures to ensure no such things will happen again – Juventus missed the boat, at least for awhile. In the third round one more Italian scalp was taken by Espanol – this time Inter’s (1-1 and 1-0). In the ¼ finals Barcelona saw the end of their own road – lost to Bayer (Leverkusen) 0-0 and 0-1. It was no fun at all: Bayer won at the holly home of Barca. So, the ½ finals had a bit strange teams playing and went against the odds of tradition as well: Espanol eliminated FC Brugge in overtime, the regular matches ending 0-2 and 2-0, but the Spaniards played the leg at home and managed to score in the additional time. Bayer eliminated fellow West Germans of Werder – 1-0 and 0-0.
Thus, Espanol (Barcelona) vs Bayer (Leverkusen). Who would believe it a few months earlier? But both teams had excellent campaigns – Bayer did not lose a single match so far: 5 wins and 5 ties. Espanol had 6 wins, 3 ties and lost one match. To predict the outcome of the final was practically impossible – the opponents were seemingly equal. Given the German tradition of winning finals out of nothing, slight favour for them, but a tiny one – after all, nobody played doggy football as the Spaniards.
The first leg was in Barcelona.
Espanol took full advantage of home turf , neutralized the Germans and
scored 3 goals.

Losada excelled – he scored twice.
3-0 Espanol at the end. Looked like the Cup was theirs… if ones forgets who they were playing against.
The second leg in Leverkusen – Bayer chose to play at home, which meant twice smaller attendance than Espanol had in Barcelona. But home is home.

Handshakes before the match meant nothing – it was fierce European football of the 1980s. If played today, two red cards are right there. In the 80s – nothing, just ‘manly tackles’.

N’Kono’s leg is also suspect, but it was desperate and fruitless attempt to save the ball. Well, he did not on this occasion.

The Germans gradually took the upper hand – prevented the Spaniards from attacking and

attacking more effectively.
Bayer had to return 3 goals – it was no joke,

so they attacked and

Finally Bum-Kun Cha made it 3-0 in the 81st minute. At the end it was 3-3 aggregate – the Germans did the impossible for others, but so far only restored the equilibrium. All their goals were scored in the second half – it was quite difficult to overcome Espanol, but in the same time crashing them in the second half also meant that tiredness and desperation affected the Spaniards.
Bayer had the advantage somewhat – it did not materialized in the extra time and penalty shoot-out followed. Full drama.

Eventually Bayer scored and
Espanol missed. 3-2 Bayer.
Final 1st Leg, Sarria Stadium, Barcelona, att 42000

RCD Espanol (1) 3 Bayer Leverkusen (0) 0
45′ 1-0 E: Losada
49′ 2-0 E: Soler
56′ 3-0 E: Losada

RCD Espanol: N’Kono; Job, Miguel Angel, Gallert; Soler, Orejuela (Golobart 66), Urquiaga,
Inaki; Valverde, Pichi Alonso (Lauridsen 69), Losada
Bayer Leverkusen: Vollborn; Rolff, De Kayser, A.Reinhardt, Hinterberger; Cha Bum-Kun (Gotz 18),
Tita, Buncol, Falkenmayer (K.Reinhardt 75); Waas, Tauber
Referee: Krchnák (Czechoslovakia)

Final 2nd Leg, Ulrich Haberland Stadion, Leverkusen, att 22000

Bayer Leverkusen (0) 3 RCD Espanol (0) 0 aet
57′ 1-0 BL: Tita
63′ 2-0 BL: Gotz
81′ 3-0 BL: Cha Bum-Kun
Leverkusen won 3-2 on penalties

Bayer Leverkusen: Vollborn; Rolff, Seckler, A.Reinhardt, K.Reinhardt; Schreier (Waas 46), Buncol,
Falkenmayer; Cha Bum-Kun, Gotz, Tita (Tauber 62)
RCD Espanol: N’Kono; Miguel Angel, Golobart (Zuniga 73), Utquiaga; Job, Orejuela (Zubillaga 66), Inaka, Soler; Pichi Alonso, Losada
Referee: Keizer (Netherlands)
Dramatic victory.

Goes without saying the winners were happy.
Espanol (Barcelona) lost its chance to win international trophy. Too bad. Too unlucky – losing without losing. This may have been the best squad in the history of the club,but only second best at the end – which does not count. Thomas N’Kono missed his chance to win European trophy. Pichi Alonso, Soler, Losada, Laurdisen – it was not a bad team, yet, hardly a great one. Pretty much equal to the opposing squad in class, therefore, the result was fair and luck decided the outcome. Not in Espanol’s favour and second chance was already highly unlikely.
The winners – Bayer (Leverkusen) was going up for some time, so it seemed only natural to reach the top. Top row from left: Thomas Hörster, Alois Reinhardt, Falko Götz, Jean-Pierre De Keyser, Wolfgang Rolff, Christian Schreiner, Herbert Waas.
Middle row: Trainer Erich Ribbeck, Masseur Dieter Trzolek, Klaus Täuber, Tita, Erich Seckler, Ralf Falkenmayer, Markus Feinbier, Knut Reinhardt, Bum-Kun Cha, Peter Zanter, Betreuer Harald Wohner, Co-Trainer Gerd Kentschkel.
Crouching: Thomas Zechel, Florian Hinterberger, Rüdiger Vollborn, Bernd Dreher, Andrzej Buncol, Christian Hausmann.
One more team to do more with less: Bayer could not really compete with big German clubs for big stars, but it had wonderful coach – Erich Ribbeck and handfull of strong players: the Brazilian striker Tita, the Polish national team player Buncol, the South Korean great Bum-Kun Cha, already a legend at home and old hand in West German football. Rolff represented domestic talent. The rest were competent second-raters and there was no more Bayer could dream of even with European cup in their hands – but it was solid team and as every West German team always ready to fight to the last second no matter the odds. Bayer was at its peak this year.
First time winners deserve a second look – instant legends at home, but it was also highly unlikely they would repeat such international success. That is the other reason for a second picture – let look at them now, for there will be no more European trophies. If you don’t like them, take Aspirin.

Cup Winners Cup

Cup Winners Cup. As usual, few surprises in this tournament and most of them due to the draw. The 1987 finalists 1.FC Lokomotive (Leipzig) was eliminated in the first round – but they lost to Olympique Marseille and only 0-0 and 0-1. In the 1/8 finals Hamburger SV was eliminated, but again it was a tough draw: they played against Ajax (Amsterdam) and lost both legs 0-1 and 0-2. Real Sociedad also fell victim of the draw, to a point: Dinamo (Minsk) eliminated them on away-goal – 1-1 and 0-0. Hajduk (Split) was another team with a tough luck – they played against Olympique Marseille and lost heavily away – 0-4. Recovery was practically impossible and they won only 2-0 at home, but crowd violence eliminated even this small comfort and UEFA awarded 3-0 win to the French. The only tough duel – or rather one between equals, making difficult any prediction – was between Atalanta (Bergamo) and Sporting (Lisbon). The Italians prevailed thanks to 2-0 home victory and 1-1 in Lisbon.
The ½ finals opposed Ajax to Olympique Marseille – the reigning Cup holders won the first leg in Marseille 3-0 and the second leg was more or less meaningless. The French won it as a consolation – 2-1 – but Ajax went to the final. The other semifinal, at a glance, was one more draw blemish: Atalanta vs Belgian KV Mechelen. The supposed weaker clubs had to play between themselves instead of facing the stronger, which made the other pair. The Belgians won both legs with the same result – 2-1.
Note the achievement of Atalanta – they played in Second Division, yet, reached the ½ finals of the Cup Winners Cup and perhaps with a bit of luck could have been at least finalists, if not winners.
Thus, the 1988 final was to be played between neighbours of very different standing: famous Ajax, having a great team at last, and seemingly on the road of repeating its great success in the first half of the 1970s vs little known, modest Belgian club, which popped out of the blue and now had a chance to win the trophy against the whole ‘wisdom’ of the 1980s – money ruled and small clubs had no chance to win anything. Both finalists had splendid campaigns so far: Ajax eliminated Dundalk 4-0 and 2-0, Hamburger SV 1-0 and 2-0, Young Boys 1-0 and 1-0, and Olympique Marseille 3-0 and 1-2. They lost only one match and received goals also in one match – which was meaningless one, so it was almost perfect record. KV Mechelen eliminated Dinamo (Bucharest) 2-0 and 1-0, St. Mirren 0-0 and 2-0, Dinamo Minsk 1-0 and 1-1, and Atalanta 2-1 and 2-1 – they were unbeaten all the way to the final.
It was natural so see Ajax as favourite – the pedigree, history, new exciting team, ambition to comeback and to win a second consecutive Cup Winners Cup. KV Mechelen was the underdog, but it was Belgian club and the old rivalry with the Dutch and excellent form pretty much neutralized whatever advantages Ajax had – Belgians traditionally were very difficult opponent to Holland making one hesitate favour Ajax. Yet, class and tradition was in their favour – after all, Ajax won the tournament in the previous years and the team was fantastic. True, Marco van Basten left to play in Italy and also their coach Cruijff departed, leaving as usual a mess after himself – Barry Hulshoff was hastily elevated to coaching position and if anything had the chance to prove his own worth. As for van Basten – Bergkamp was already at hand. A new strong defender – Peter Larsson – was added from IFK Goteborg. Mechelen had its own great Dutch coach – Aad de Mos, few ambitious Dutch players eager to prove they were not bellow the stars of their own country and Erwin Koeman played along with Ajax’ stars in the national team of Holland. Add a handful and Belgian national team players, led by wonderful goalkeeper Michelle Preud’homme and the Israeli national team star Ohana. The team had suspect short temper and often finished a game with less than 11 players – a handicap taken in mind, although the final contradicted it.
The finalists lined up in front of 40 000 supporters in Strasbourg,
captains van’t Schip and Sanders shook hands and the final started.
And what a dazzling match it was – both teams attacking in breathtaking speed. It was more exciting and entertaining match than the European Champions Cup final, keeping everybody on tiptoes from start to finish.

KV Mechelen was more than a match to mighty Ajax- they played fierce game, occasionally more creative and dangerous than Ajax.
Not famous, but hardly lesser players than the Dutch – here it was de Wilde making trouble.
And Ohana was very difficult to guard.
There was no way to tame Mechelen.

Of course, Ajax was not toothless, but Belgian defense was alert and competent. There was a suspicion for penalty not given for Ajax early in the early minutes, yet as a whole Mechelen created more dangerous moments in front of Menzo.
The opponents were well matched, neither giving way, neither prevailing.
A final worth watching, a game spectators crave for. And it was not risky Mechelen losing a man, as expected, but Ajax – Danny Blind brought down Clijsters in the 16th minute and was sent off. Well… the English TV commentator expected yellow card in the spirit of the 1980s, when nobody saw red short of murder, but it was pure and clear red: a great counterattack left Clijsters one on one with Menzo. It was still quite away from penalty zone, but it was 100% scoring position and Blind hardly had any other option, but to bring down the Belgian. Mechelen did not score from the free kick, but Ajax was left with 10 men – and it did not show, they played as well as before.
It was more a matter of chance than anything and Mechelen used their own in the 53rd minute when den Boer scored a great goal, finishing lethal attack with a header. Ajax tried and tried, but no luck and Preud’homme was solid as a rock. It was still 1-0 at the final whistle. Modest KV Mechelen won one of the most memorable finals of the 1980s!
Getting the Cup Winners Cup – what a moment!

Tiny Mechelen making the round of triumph.

Aad de Mos – the mastermind of the victors, a Dutch beating the Dutch.
Happy winners – de Wilde, in the middle, was unable to finish the final because of injury, but the Cup was his!
That was it.
Final, Stade de la Meinau, Strasbourg, 11 May 1988, att 40000

KV Mechelen (0) 1 Ajax (0) 0
16′ A: Blind sent off
53′ 1-0 M: Den Boer

KV Mechelen: Preud’homme; Clijsters, Sanders, Rutjes, Deferm; Hofkens (Theunis 73), Emmers,
E.Koeman, De Wilde (Demesmaeker 60); Den Boer, Ohana
Ajax: Menzo; Blind, Wouters, Larsson, Verlaat (Meijer 73); Van ‘t Schip (Bergkamp 57), Winter, A.Mühren, Scholten; Bosman, Rob Witschge
Referee: Pauly (West Germany)
It was sad to see such wonderful team to lose. A team bursting with talent – Dennis Bergkamp was not even a starter, let alone few others sitting on the bench. Sad for Arnold Muhren unable to add one more trophy at the end of his career. Sad it was, but Ajax lost to equally good team – it was not losing to boring and scheming opponent. Unfortunately, this final clipped the wings of squad and ended prematurely the second great period in the history of the club – this was a squad expected to repeat the success of Ajax of the early 70s, certainly it had the talent and the flair. It also practically ended the career of Barry Hulshoff as a coach. Let say coach Hulshoff was not a match to player Hulshoff, let say Ajax politics were to blame for it to a point – true, Cruijff was never easy to work with, but the club should have hired strong replacement when Cruijff left the club to join Barcelona again. Or may be they should have appointed experienced Spitz Kohn as a head coach – if anything, he made the successful Twente team in the early 70s and worked as assistant coach of Ajax already. Instead, they put the other Cruijff’s assistant as an interim coach… it was quite clear that Hulshoff is temporary solution, something hardly expiring anybody. Now they lost, Hulshoff was easily blamed, he was a convenient scapegoat. At least at the final Ajax did not show any shortcomings because of Hulshoff – they played the same exciting attacking football as taught by Cruijff and it was the same team (minus van Basten and plus Larsson). Frankly, it was club politics to blame not that much for the lost final, but for cutting short the ascent of the squad – the ghost of cheap decision came back: in 1973 they replaced Kovacs with suspect coach and that who killed the great team, now they replaced Cruijff with similarly weak coach and lost the future.
Of course, it is always great to see the underdog win. Against the odds and so on, but the victors truly deserved the glory. And not only because second-raters prevailed over stars – Mechelen played exciting football, they were at least equally good as their opponents, showed no fear, tried no dirty tricks. Not famous, thus, nobody paid much attention to them previously, but the club was carefully building the team and shaping it for a number of years – what we saw in 1988 was the polished product of years of work. Of course, the club had no means to hire big stars, but they used their money wisely – let point out that Michelle Preud’homme had little chance to become number one in the Belgian national team at the time. He was somewhat second-best and it was easier to get him when nobody was really looking. But before him Mechelen had another unfortunate ‘second-best’ – Theo Custers captained them, back from a spell in Spain. Both goalkeepers stayed in the shadow of Pfaff for years, Preud’homme was younger and better keeper than Custers. Mechelen developed this way, with some players making the core of the team for some years. A good coach was hired too – Aad de Moss, like his players, was somewhat second rank so far. So was Erwin Koeman – he reached the Dutch national team thanks to his performance for KV Mechelen. Eli Ohana was really noticed because of his playing for Mechelen – an Israeli national team player, but Israelis were not considered first rate players in Europe. The other Dutch players were outside the interest of big clubs in both Holland and Belgium – yet, den Boer scored the wonderful winning goal and none was bellow the standards of up and coming great stars of Ajax. KV Mechelen came out of the blue to European glory, but they deserved their success. And at the end it was not Ajax getting players form the underdog but the other way around – it was Johhny Bosman, number one striker of Ajax so far (rated above both van Basten and Bergkamp in the club), joining KV Mechelen after the final. It was impossible to think KV Mechelen would stay on top of European football for long – they were too small to compete with the money Spanish and Italian clubs had, or the Germans, or even their domestic rivals like Anderlecht and FC Brugge, but they were not one-time wonder either: small the were, but lovely, carefully made and keeping level head. Frankly, one of the best things happening in European football in the 1980s and one of the most optimistic sides during bleak years of ugly tactical football – entertaining attacking team, playing with imagination and skill. Proving that football was not going to die.
These lovely winners deserve one more look – this time the full squad! The wonder to do more with less.

European Champions Cup

The European Champions Cup. At a glance, the first thing to note is crowd violence and other infractions of the rules. English clubs were banned because of their violent fans, but the violence already infected the whole continent – Real Madrid had to play their home leg against Napoli behind closed doors and in the second round had to play away from Madrid their home leg. Albanian champion Partizani was expelled from the tournament after their first leg against Benfica. The Yugoslavian saga of the 1986-87 championship ended with Vardar (Skopje) representing the country in this tournament, but the actual champion was Partizan (Belgrade) by court ruling. Quite a mess.
Apart from that, some interesting surprises: Napoli, arguably at their peak with Maradona leading, was eliminated in the first round by Real Madrid. Even punished to play without fans on the stadium, Real won the first leg 2-0 and and in the second Maradona and company managed only a home tie 1-1. The other surprise in the first round was the elimination of Dinamo (Kiev) by Glasgow Rangers – true, Rangers made expensive strong team, but Dinamo was practically the excellent national team of USSR. In the second round the current Champions Cup holders FC Porto lost to Real Madrid both legs – twice 1-2. In the ¼ finals Real Madrid took the scalp of Bayern – 2-3 and 2-0. Here was the end of the road for Glasgow Rangers too, eliminated by Steaua (Bucharest) 0-2 and 2-1. Steaua looked like going to triumph again – they certainly were not one-time wonder. But it was not going to happen – Benfica eliminated them in the ½ finals 0-0 and 0-2. In the semi PSV Eindhoven stopped Real Madrid without actually beating them – both legs were tied, but the Dutch won on away goal – 1-1 and 0-0. It was already second lucky victory of PSV – they eliminated Girondens Boredeaux in the ¼ finals exactly the same way, somewhat benefiting from lucky draw, giving them the second leg at home in both ¼ and ½ finals. Thus, the finalists were Benfica (Lisbon) and PSV Eindhoven. A tough one – Benfica wanted to come back to the top of Europe, to repeat at last their great years in the first half of the 1960s. PSV Eindhoven wanted to emerge from the shadow of Ajax and Feyenoord at last – after all, they never managed so far to succeed internationally the way the other two big Dutch clubs did. Both finalists were kind of ‘jinked’ – for years, no matter how strong teams they had, they failed to concur Europe and even sunk to secondary positions in their countries – FC Porto was internationally better and so were Ajax and Feyenoord. Anyhow, the Dutch seemingly had the stronger squad at the moment – as far as individual names count. The Dutch revival was better pronounced than the similar Portuguese revival, so PSV was more expected to win the final. Their European cmapiagn so far was flawless – they lost only one match and that in the opening round of the tournament (the away match against Galatasaray – 0-2 – but they already had won the first leg 3-0). Benfica had somewhat easier easier draws all the way to the final (Partizani Tirana, AGF Aarhus, Anderlecht and Steaua) – the Dutch faced Galatasaray, Rapid Vienna, Girondens Bordeaux and Real Madrid. All that meant nothing when the referee started the final.
There was something symbolic in the captains of the opponents: Gerets, who went through huge misfortune because of his involvement in the Belgian bribing scandal earlier in the decade and Sheu, already a veteran from the largely weak and unfortunate years of Benfica, when they won nothing and lost a lot of respect. The captains, like the clubs, had a lot in stake – may be their last chance to get back respect, to prove they were winners.
The match itself was nothing much… both teams were dedicated to attacking football, fast and surprisingly clean, but typically 1980s – it was difficult to create a scoring opportunity. Defenses got the upper hand always. Both goalkeepers had little to do, especially van Breukelen. It may have been the tactics – Benfica used somewhat old-fashioned strict lines. In defense Mozer played wonderful match, but hardly ever reached the central line – he patrolled deep back, killing Dutch attacks. Ahead, Benfica soon became predictable and ineffective – Pacheco, operating on the left wing was always passed to, but Gerets won every duel. By the end of the first half it was clear that nothing good may happen this way and the best would be either to look for the other wing (where Magnusson operated in the first half), or move Pacheco far away from Gerets. Which Toni and his assistant Eusebio realized and started the second half with Pacheco moved to the right wing and Magnusson to the center. Did not work better, unfortunately – looking always for Pacheco severely limited the attacking options of Benfica – speedy and dangerous Chiquinho and to a large degree Magnusson were isolated, did not get balls. The aggressive and competent Dutch defense had no trouble destroying repetitious, but always the same attacking efforts of Benfica, which midfielders kept further back and rarely helped the strikers. Elzo was the moving force there and he was also the only danger, for Sheu was surprisingly quiet. But in any case the Dutch always had numerical dominance and destroyed any attacks at early stage. Benfica had only one scoring opportunity in the regular time and it came late in the second half, created by their substitute Vando, who was a bit more effective against Gerets than Pacheco.
PSV Eindhoven also suffered from their structural approach – Lerby, Ronald Koeman, Gerets, and Nielsen were the prime movers and shakers. Three defenders and Lerby, who generally started attacks from very deep back. Great coverage of the whole field, but the problem was that PSV’s strikers were isolated and especially in the first half only making the numbers – Kieft and Vanenburg almost touched the ball. Thus, the four players of the deep back started and finished attacks – but starting an attack from so far behind limited the finish also far from Benfica’s net: long shots from Koeman, Lerby, and Nielsen, which, if on target at all, did not trouble alert Silvino. Such emphasis on defenders placed explains why PSV Eindhoven played with 5 defenders – van Aerle generally covered for his teammates going constantly ahead, but also PSV practically played without strikers. However, with time, PSV Eindhoven took the upper hand, putting Benfica in defense. Yet, the visible supremacy materialized with dangerous opportunity only from the 70th minute on. And blew away their scoring chances – Vanenburg missed 3 chances, but it was Linskens missing a 100% scoring opportunity. A desperate efforts by Silvino and finally Mozer blocked Vanenburg once and after that Silvino made two great saves. It was 0-0 at the 90th minute and it was 0-0 after extra-time.
In the penalty shoot-out it was goal for goal, all kickers focused and giving no chance to the goalkeepers. 5-5 and then the Dutch made it 6-5. Veloso stepped in and…

van Breukelen saved.
The Dutch jumped from the grass – no voodoo-ceremonies back than, the teams watched the penalties sitting in the center – and
run to embrace their goalkeeper. The moment of triumph at last.
Gerets received the Cup
The usual smiles and lifting the coveted Cup.
Well, who was the real hero? Gerets, Koeman – or still van Breukelen, whose save won the trophy?
Final, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, 25 May 1988, att 70000
PSV (Eindhoven) (0) 0 SL Benfica (0) 0 aet
PSV won 6-5 on penalties

PSV (Eindhoven) (trainer Hiddink): Van Breukelen; Gerets, Van Aerle, R.Koeman, Nielsen, Heintze; Vanenburg, Linskens, Lerby; Kieft, Gillhaus (Janssen 107)
SL Benfica (trainer Toni): Silvino; Veloso, Dito, Mozer, Alvaro; Elzo, Sheu, Chiquinho, Pacheco;
Rui Aguas (Vando 57), Magnusson (Hajiri 111)
Referee: Agnolin (Italy)

Penalty shoot-out details:
PSV: Koeman, Kieft, Nielsen, Vanenburg, Lerby and Janssen scored
Benfica: Elzo, Dito, Hajiri, Pacheco and Mozer scored, Veloso (shot saved)
Well, the curse of Bela Gutman still worked… Benfica lost. Eusebio failed to win the Champions Cup as a coach (well, assistant-coach), Toni failed to win it both as player and as a coach. Sheu had to finish his career with blemish of never achieving anything internationally with his beloved club. It was a good team – Silvino was worthy replacement of Bento, the Brazilians – Mozer, Elzo, Chiquinho, and Vando (or Wando) – were very strong, Mats Magnusson provided Northern stable efficiency and seriousness, Moroccan talent Redoune Hajry (or Hajiry) was reliable substitute, Sheu, Veloso, Pacheco, Rui Aguas were solid Portuguese stars and national team players. It was very, very good team, which lost only on the chancy penalty shoot-out. But lost…
At last PSV Eindhoven won the European Champions Cup – finally they came even with Ajax and Feyenoord and also were a great part of the Dutch revival. Given the squad and the final match as well, they seemingly deserved to win: they were the stronger team at the final and created more scoring opportunities. However, they did not score and did not win… which evoked the old problems from the 1970s: great team, but unable to win when matters most. Ambition and talent were there, the team had very strong campaign, but… their last 5 matches in the European tournament were all ties and they prevailed either on away-goal rule or, at the final, on penalty shoot-out. That left a bit of doubt about their real class – especially because the names clearly spelled out ‘class’: Guus Hiddink coaching Gerets, Lerby, Nielsen, van Breukelen, van Aerle, Heintze, Kieft, Vanenburg, Gillhaus, and having more talent than available positions, so Frank Arnesen (Denmark) and Hallvar Thoresen (Norway) sat on the bench. By names, PSV Eindoven was much heavier than Benfica and should have won – as it happened, they were only slightly dominating… and it could have been the already mentioned difficulty with the leading players from the defense: PSV’s game was based on Lerby, Ronald Koeman, Gerets, and Ivan Nielsen in every phase of the game, thus isolating great scorer as Kieft and Vanenburg. Defenders defending, organizing the play in midfield and finishing attacks – it was limiting creativity and the usefulness of almost half the team. A well organized opponent was able to reduce the danger coming from 4 players covering the whole field all the time – concentrate on them and pretty much forget the others, for the ball was not going to them anyway and those four no matter how fit and skillful were still defenders and had to keep their minds on defending all the time. Yet, the boys won and it was great – such players deserved to win big, especially Gerets and Lerby, who were getting old. With reservations or without, PSV Eindhoven won the European Champions Cup at last and it was great and largely fair.


The Supercup. Played in February 1989 between PSV Eindhoven and KV Mechelen. Perhaps an early sign of what was coming: teams full of foreigners. Now, Belgian football always permitted many foreign players, so it was not them, but the Dutch. They also had lax rules about the number of foreigners on the field, but it was rarely used option. A look at the leading clubs from the 1970s shows that they practically never used more than the European standard of 2 foreign players on the field – in the Supercup games PSV Eindhoven used Gerets (Belgium), Danes Lerby and Heintze, Chovanec Czechoslovakia), Romario (Brazil). All starters – a sharp contrast to the 70s, when Ajax, even when having 3-4 foreigners never started with more than 2. But that is a minor point, only suggesting for the coming changes in European rules and attitudes. The Supercup final was the usual lukewarm affair: PSV Eindhoven’s motivation was questionable. Still, it was a battle between teams was little international success, so adding one more cup would have been important to both teams, espacially teams coached by already well known ambitious coaches – Aad de Mos and Guus Hiddink, both Dutch. To a point, it was Dutch clash, for Mechelen had 5 Dutch players in the starting 11. PSV Eindhoven was the classier team by far, but the Belgians were not only well made team, but also at their peak. Yet, motivation was a factor… and it showed best in the first leg, played in Belgium: modest Mechelen was the better organized, inventive and dangerous team. It was not before they lead by 2 goals the Dutch woke up – until then Gerets, Ronald Koeman, Lerby, Vanenburg were practically unseen. Vanenburg remained absent the whole game and Lerby was quite disappointing. Seemingly, Hiddink was unable to utilize Romario yet and his presence was odd – the game was not structured to help him at all. There was little creativity in attack and few scoring options – and the little PSV made, they blew it away without troubling Preud’homme much.
This photo pretty much sums the games: the Belgians usually got the ball. The Dutch were late and often lost.
It came to that – obviously superior individually Dutch players failed. Like Ronald Koeman here, missing a penalty. The Dutch mostly failed in midfield – no creativity came out of their midfielders and it was up to Ronald Koeman to surge ahead and try both organizing and finishing attacks. At first PSV played curiously outdated football with strict lines and Lerby so deep back that he was playing more like sweeper than midfielder and from such deep position his long passes ahead became simply too short to create any danger and practically never reached Romario. Meantime Mechelen completely outplayed the Dutch, pressed hard, moved them into entrenched defense and the domination produced 2 goals in 2 minutes. Only after the second goal PSV Eindhoven woke up, but Mechelen, now having to defend themselves were doing it well and tried to go ahead at the first opportunity. With Gerets and Ronald Koeman now constantly attacking, it was became clear that well organized team like Mechelen would take advantage of their absence back. And in the 50th minute all was over – Mechelen scored a third goal. After that the illusionary dominance of PSV Eindhoven ended – and more: only desperate efforts by Lodewijks and Gerets preventged a forth goal and after that two great saves by Lodewijks kept the result ‘only’ 0-3.
PSV Eindhoven won the second leg, but Gillhaus scored the only goal of the game in the 78th minute! The final was decided in the first leg, that was that.
1st Leg, Achter de Kazerne Stadium, Mechelen, 1 Feb 1989, att 7000

KV Mechelen (2) 3 PSV (Eindhoven) (0) 0
16′ 1-0 M: Bosman
17′ 2-0 M: De Wilde
50′ 3-0 M: Bosman

KV Mechelen: Preud’homme; Emmers, Sanders, Rutjes, Versavel, Hofkens, E.Koeman (Deferm 58),
De Wilde, Bosman (Wilmots 89), Den Boer, Demesmaeker
PSV (Eindhoven): Lodewijks; Gerets, Valckx, R.Koeman, Veldman, Van Aerle, Lerby, Vanenburg,
Romario, Gillhaus, Janssen (Ellerman 72)
Referee: Kirschen (East Germany)

2nd Leg, Philips Stadium, Eindhoven, 8 Feb 1989, att 17100

PSV (Eindhoven) (0) 1 KV Mechelen (0) 0
78′ 1-0 PSV: Gillhaus
Mechelen won 3-1 on aggregate

PSV (Eindhoven): Lodewijks; Gerets, R.Koeman, Heintze, Vanenburg, Van Aerle, Linskens (Valckx 66), Chovanec, Ellerman, Romario, Gillhaus
KV Mechelen: Preud’homme; Sanders, Rutjes, Emmers (E.Koeman 39), Deferm, Hofkens, Bosman,
Versavel, Demesmaeker, De Wilde, Den Boer
Referee: Fredriksson (Sweden)
PSV Eindhoven lost the Supercup with their most successful team! Hard to judge why: the Supercup never attracted big interest, especially in the big clubs. February is a very odd time for strong team to play relatively unimportant tournament – there is always the ongoing domestic championship in mind, there is an European tournament most likely to look for. Better concentrate on important things and keep players healthy for them. It is not the time to be in peak form. But there was something else – tradition. Back in the 1970s, when PSV Eindhoven had wonderful squad, they won practically nothing on the international scene. They played exciting football, yet, when mattered most they usually failed. It was the same again… great squad, their best international year, but again inconsistency: they lost to inferior Nacional (Montevideo) the Intercontinental Cup and now the Supercup to modest opponent. One would think a club well respected name would be eager to win as much as possible when on top of Europe. Well, they did not.
KV Mechelen won the Supercup. What a story! Modest , internationally almost unknown, they won twice over great Dutch clubs and won the Cup Winners Cup and the Supercup. However, international obscurity somewhat blinds people to what really happened: KV Mechelen was carefully building their greatest ever squad for a number of years, gradually adding good additions and getting stronger and stronger. After their success in the spring of 1988 they acquired Johnny Bosman from Ajax, for example. Michelle Preud’homme was already recognized as a great goalkeeper – although so far a second choice for the national team of Belgium. There were few other national players of Belgium – Emmers, for instance. Erwin Koeman won the 1988 European championship with Holland. The Israeli Ohana was also national team regular. Add the young talent Wilmots. Not an anonymous team, but not full of stars: it was more than decent squad coached by talented and ambitious Aad de Mos – both coach and players aimed to prove their worth. And they did: the Supercup may not have been a very valuable cup, but Dutch second and third raters (Hofkens, Rutjes, den Boer) practically outplayed world-class stars like Ronald Koeman, Vanenburg, not to mention the foreigners. Wonderful victory of the underdog.

Intercontinental Cup

The Intercontinental Cup. Nacional vs PSV Eindhoven. Tradition supported Nacional, classy names – the Dutch, who were not just full of fresh European champions, but also had Belgian, Dannish, and newly acquired Brazilian stars. It looked like David (De Leon) against Goliath (Van Breukelen, Gerets, Ronald Koeman, Heintze, Lerby, van Aerle, Vanenburg, Romario, and Kieft). The weather was supportive, unlike the snow blizzard of the previous year.

Captains Gerets and De Leon in the still peaceful moment before the start of the match.
Then the battle went in earnest.

The game progressed with different success.
Who missed the ball – strikers failing to reach it and score or strikers in defense, failing to deflect a deadly kick?
De Lima beaten by van Beveren.
Romario beaten by De Leon and Sere?
Nacional scored first, thanks to Ostolaza in the 7th minute. The Dutch equalized in the second half – Romario in the 75th minute. Regular time ended 1-1.
Two more goals were scored in the extra-time – this time PSV Eindhoven went ahead – Ronald Koeman scored in the 95th minute – but Nacional came back in the 119th minute. Just before the end, Ostolaza scored again. 2-2 and penalty shoot-out followed. And the drama continued with both teams taking the lead and then losing it to 6-6.
Sere, lucky or not, was the man to watch – so far Gerets, Lerby, and Kieft failed to beat him.

And now Sere saved the shot of van Aerle, but van Breukelen was helpless and Gomez made it 7-6 Nacional.
Gomez was the hero.
Yet, Sere was equal or may be more deserving hero.
Tokyo, National Stadium
December 11, 1988 Att: 62,000 Ref: Jesus Diaz Palacios (COL)
PSV Eindhoven (NET) 2-2 (0-1) aet Nacional (URU)
0-1 7′ Ostolaza
1-1 75′ Romário
2-1 95′ Koeman
2-2 119′ Ostolaza
PSV Eindhoven : Van Breukelen – Gerets, Koot, Koeman, Heintze (86 Valckx), Lerby, Van Aerle, Vanenburg (69 Gillhaus), Romário, Kieft,
Nacional: Seré – Gómez, De León, Revélez, Saldanha, Ostolaza, Vargas (71 Morán), Lemos, De Lima, Cardaccio (113 Carreno), Castro

Penalty Shoot-out

PSV Nacional
Koeman 1-0 Lemos 1-1
Kieft 1-1 Carreno 1-1
Gillhaus 2-1 Morán 2-1
Romário 3-1 Castro 3-2
Lerby 3-2 De León 3-3
Ellerman 4-3 De Lima 4-4
Valckx 5-4 Revélez 5-5
Gerets 5-5 Saldanha 5-5
Koot 6-5 Ostolaza 6-6
Van Aerle 6-6 Gómez 6-7

Yellow cards: Lerby, Ellerman, Koeman; Saldanha, Morán, Castro, Revélez.
Nacional won the Intercontinental Cup.
Proud winners!
PSV Eindhoven lost dramatically. Standing from left: Gerald Vanenburg, Ronald Koeman, Sören Lerby, Addick Koot, Wim Kieft, Hans van Breukelen. Crouching: Romario, Juul Ellerman, Berry van Aerle, Jan Heintze, Eric Gerets. One may feel sorry for this wonderful squad, but in the same time such a starry team should have been able to beat inferior squad and they did not. Still, it was the greatest season for PSV Eindhoven – but no Intercontinental Cup. They failed to conquer the world and equal Feyenoord and Ajax.
Nacional (Montevideo) – winners against the odds. Standing from left: Ostolaza, Sere, Cardaccio, Tony Gomez, Revelez, de Leon. First row: Vargas, Yubert Lemos, Pintos Saldaña, de Lima, Castro. Trully heroic squad and one should mention again Ostolaza and Sere – the first scored regularly for Nacional during the Copa Libertadores campaign and the second excelled also regularly through the whole year. And both delivered in the last and may be most important match – one scoring both regular goals, the second keeping the ball out of the net during the nerve wrecking penalty-shoot out. Nacional won its 3rd Intercontinental Cup and it was great achievement: Nacional equaled the record of fellow rivals Penarol with 3 Intercontinental Cups – thus, the Uruguayans were the most successful at this level. But unlike Penarol, which played 5 finals and lost 2, Nacional had perfect record: they played 3 finals and won them all. A great victory and time for joy – who would know that will be the last Uruguayan victory of Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup? From the distance of time it makes it even more memorable and significant… alas, negatively significant: looking at this squad without great players, the future looked bleak for Nacional, for any Uruguayan club. The last international success of Uruguayan club.

South American Player Of The Year

The South American Player of the Year. A tough one – there were 2 separate awards, one organized by the Venezuelan newspaper ‘El Mundo’ and one organized by the Uruguayan ‘El Pais’. By Venezuelan rules any player was legible, no matter where playing. By Uruguayan rules – only those platying in South America. Since in both the winner was the same, no conflict this year, but let say that ‘El Pais’ had the upper hand in the long run and is more or less the recognized award. Let also add that the Venezuelan rules were somewhat ignored by the participating journalists: 12 players appeared in the top 10 and all of them played in South America – Maradona was doing great things in Europe, but… that was far away. Yubert Lemos of Nacional (Montevideo) was at hand and got votes unlike Maradona and other European-based stars. At the top was Ruben Paz, seconded by Hugo de Leon.
‘El Pais’ repeated the same order, but differed in number 3 – Brazilians Geovani (Vasco da Gama) and Taffarel (Inter Porto Alegre) shared 3rd place in ‘El Mundo’, but in ‘El Pais’ Jose Pinthos Saldanha (Nacional Montevideo) was 3rd – and he was not in the top 10 in ‘El Mundo’! Bias… in the Uruguayan classification three Uruguayans were the top 3. But may be not simply bias – South America was increasingly depleted from great stars, all of them moving to Europe. Add the other traditional destination – Mexico – and even second-raters were leaving South America in flocks. There were no longer great teams, where one can see 6-7 famous stars – now one could be lucky to see a team like Newell’s Old Boys with few young talents, who certainly will go to Europe before even becoming fully famous. Classifications were practically made from leftovers and it is interesting to see that no player of Newell’s Old Boys made the top 3 of ‘El Pais’ and even the top 10 of ‘El Mundo’. Such was the situation that one should take the awarded number one with a grain of salt.

Ruben Paz was voted number one in both ‘El Mundo’ and ‘El Pais’ voting. The attacking-playmaker Uruguayan was 29 years old, currently playing for Argentine Racing (Avellaneda). Famous player, no doubt, but consider his position – probably the most beloved and sacred number 10! Wonderful player, but not Maradona or Francescoli. Perhaps not close to Valderrama either. And even somewhat in decline – he came to Racing in 1986, practically dumped by the French Racing (Paris), for which he appeared only 6 times! His compatriot Francescoli moved to the same Racing (Paris) and immediately was a key mover and shaker star player in France – Paz meantime played back in South America.
He was no failure in Avellaneda – on the contrary, he immediately impressed and became perhaps the most important part of something looking like a revival of Racing after 20 years of painful struggle. But Racing did not win the Argentine championship and even did not play in the Copa Libertadores… such was the South American reality. The continental champions practically had only one great player, but Hugo de Leon played only half season because of his heavy injury. Newell’s Old Boys had only promising team in the eyes of the observers and their players were discounted. Other great South American clubs had a poor year and won nothing, so it was painful to select players from them – although it was may be reluctantly done. At the end Ruben Paz somewhat combined the traditional inclination of journalists to vote for strong players from currently successful clubs – Racing was relatively successful and Ruben Paz shined in it. Good for him, but perhaps Hugo de Leon deserved more to be voted Player of the Year – unfortunately, he was just a defender, not dazzling playmaker. And from the other side of spectrum – Romario also played only half the season in South America, moving to Holland in the summer and thus becoming illegible at least for ‘El Pais’. So Carlos Valderrama. So others. Nothing against Ruben Paz, but his major advantage seemingly was playing the whole season in South America.

Libertadores Cup

Libertadores Cup. The draw did not play any tricks this year and consequently there were no surprises in the group stage. Chile and Venezuela were in Group 1 and the Chileans qualified: 1. Universidad Catolica, 2. Colo-Colo, 3. Sport Maritimo, 4. U. A . Tachira. Group 2 – Argentina and Ecuador: 1. Newell’s Old Boys, 2. San Lorenzo, 3. Barcelona, 4. Filanbanco. Group 3 – it was the toughest: Colombia and Uruguay.1. America, 2. Nacional,3. Millonarios, 4. Montevideo Wanderers. Group 4 – Bolivia and Paraguay. If there was a surprise, it was here – the Paraguayans failed. 1. Oriente Petrolero, 2. Bolivar, 3. Cerro Porteno, 4. Olimpia. Group 4 – Brazil and Peru. 1. Guarani, 2. Univeristario, 3. Sport Recife, 4. Alianza. Alianza (Lima) lost its team in an airplane catastrophe in December 1987 and had no time to recover – even Teofilo Cubillas came out of retirement to help, but miracle was not about to happen and it did not. For their last match Alianza did not have a coach – Moises Barack had resigned. In general, it was clear that South American football suffered by export to Europe – few great players stayed in South America and one painful result was the absence of great clubs – Penarol, River Plate, Boca Juniros, Flamengo, the other famous Brazilian clubs… As far as names were an issue, this Copa Libertadores vintage was almost anonymous.
In the second phase Universidad Catolica – Nacional 1-1 and 0-1, America – Universitario 1-0 and 2-2, Oriente Petrolero – Colo-Colo 2-1 and 0-0, San Lorenzo – Guarani 1-1 and 1-0. Bolivar and Newell’s Old Boys was most dramatic – the Bolivians won at home 1-0, but lost with the same result away and penalty shoot-out followed. In it Newell’s Old Boys prevailed 3-2.
Third phase: now the 1987 Cup holders – Penarol – entered. And were eliminated immediately by San Lorenzo 0-0 and 0-1. Newell’s Old Boys faced Nacional: the first leg ended 1-1, the second – 2-1 Nacional. America had little trouble against Oriente Petrolero – 1-1 and 2-0.
And now a curious thing happened – South America always had difficulties in structuring tournaments, for the countries on the continent are so few. A ‘normal’ formula was practically impossible and weird rules were frequently used. This year radical changes were made: for the first time a winner was decided by goal-difference. In case of a tie, extra-time was played and after that – a penalty shoot-out. There was no more third final match on neutral ground in case the normal legs were won by each opponent. The current Cup holder entered the third stage. Which meant only 3 teams were going directly to the semifinals… the old, old problem of odd numbers. It was not good, a 4th team had to be added – and it was Newell’s Old Boys. Why? Hard to tell… may be on combined record so far – better than the other eliminated in the Third phase teams.
In the semi-finals Newell’s Old Boys met the other Argentine team, San Lorenzo. And beat them twice 1-0 and 2-1. In the same time Nacional played against America (Cali) and managed to overcome them 1-0 and 1-1.
Strange it was, but Nacional was meeting the same enemies again and again – they played against America (Cali) in the group stage and then at the semi-finals. They faced Newell’s Old Bous in the Third stage and now were going to meet them again in the final. And it was highly possible that the team Nacional eliminated earlier would beat them and won the final, a South American irony. The only thing in favour of Nacional was that the second leg was in Montevideo. But much depended on the first leg, played in naturally hostile Rosario.
Substitute Jorge Gabrich scored for the hosts in the 60th minute.
Instant home hero, who replaced Sergio Almiron at half-time. He materialized the hopes of club and fans for winning Copa Libertadores for the first time. However, no other goals were scored in the first leg. Newell’s Old Boys was going with small advantage to Montevideo – but with advantage. Nacional’s coach was sent off in the 51st minute, but that meant nothing – he was not suspended for the second leg.
Newell’s Old Boys emerged on Centenario determined, but…
It was jumping in hell – the stadium was full and entirely against the Argentines. And Nacional did not disappoint its helpful and demanding fans – Ernesto Vargas gave them the lad in the 13th minute.
In the 30th minute Santiago Ostolaza made it 2-0.
Hugo de Leon made it 3-0 in the 80th minute, but… rules. At the end of the regular time it was technically 1-1, for at this point not goal-difference, but wins counted. Extra-time followed, which naturally exposed the ugly side of South American football – in the 115th minute Hector Moran (Nacional) and Jorge Pautasso (Newell’s Old Boys) were sent off. Nobody scored in extra-time and only now goal-difference became a factor. And Nacional won 3-1.
1st Leg [Rosario; att: 45,000] [Oct 19] Newell’s Old Boys Arg Nacional Uru 1-0 [Gabrich 60] [Newell’s: Scopini, Llop, Theiler, Pautasso, Sensini, Marino (Fullana 81), Franco, Alfaro, Rossi, Batistuta, Almiron (Gabrich 46);
Nacional: Sere, Pintos Saldanha, Revelez, De Leon, Soca, Lemos, Ostolaza, Cardaccio, Castro, Vargas (Carreno 89), De Lima.]
2nd Leg [Montevideo; att: 75,000] [Oct 26] Nacional Uru Newell’s Old Boys Arg 3-0 [Vargas 13, Ostolaza 36, De Leon 78] [red cards: Pautasso (Newell’s) 115, Moran (Nacional) 115] [Nacional: Sere, Pintos Saldanha, Revelez, De Leon, Soca, Lemos, Ostolaza, Cardaccio, Castro (Moran 11), Vargas (Carreno 54), De Lima; coach: Roberto Fleitas;
Newell’s: Scopini, Llop (Ramos), Theiler, Pautasso, Sensini, Marino, Franco, Alfaro (Almiron 46), Rossi, Gabrich, Batistuta; coach: Jose Yudica]

Glory to the champions of South America!
This was the best season in the history of Newell’s Old Boys (Rosario) to date – champions of Argentina and vice-champions of South America. Looking at the squad today, one would wonder how come they lost with Batistuta and Sensini, not to mention others, in the line-up – especially losing to almost anonymous Uruguayan squad. But there was nothing irregular in the loss – in fact, it was fair, considering that Nacional already prevailed over the Argentines in earlier stage. The world-famous stars were not world-famous stars yet, but a bunch of bright up and coming youngsters, still lacking experience. They were lucky to reach the final, but were not to be dismissed as just lucky – the success of 1988 was the result of a program started in 1972 by Bernardo Griffa: it was classic and simple program – develop your own talent. The club system was constructed with this aim in mind, taking care of the youth, paying close attention to the kids and introduced every talented one to the first team. The concept paid off in 1988 – it was home-grown team, full of bright youngsters bound to become great stars. As for losing Copa Libertadores – it was sad, of course, but still the biggest achievement of the club to this moment. The only trouble was objective problem: Newell’s Old Boys, as every South American club at that time, had no way of keeping its talent. So, there was no way to stay consistently strong… whatever Europe did not tale, Buenos Aires clubs did.
On the surface – nothing unusual, nothing strange: Nacional is one of the greatest South American clubs. This was their 6th Copa Libertadores final and their 3rd win. Familiar story… Uruguayans were traditionally successful. History and tradition were on their side. Yet, it was brave and unconventional victory, even miraculous – first of all, Uruguayan football was in decline, lacking both money and great talent. By the standards of the club, this vintage was quite plain. The player most praised in 1988 was their goalkeeper Jorge Sere – any bells ringing? No? Of course not and that sums it all. The miracle was Hugo de Leon, practically the only famous player in the team. In his own words, he came back from Spain heavily injured and thinking his career ended. Nacional did not think of hiring him, but he started training and cautiously the club offered him a contract. He was able to play again in the second half of the year and came back with a vengeance: what de Leon gave to the team was leadership, confidence and inspiration. And his ambition boosted the team too – he already won Copa Libertadores twice with Nacional in 1980 and Gremio (Porto Alegre) in 1983. He also felt he had a debt to pay to Nacional, thinking they lost the Intercontinental Cup in 1980 because of his absence (he was already sold to Gremio when they played againt Nottingham Forest). Loyalty made him even more ambitious, including that he was not forgetting Nacional gave him a chance a few months earlier when even he was thinking he was finished. To bring Nacional to victory was not easy at all – again according to de Leon, the situation was very different than in 1980: back then the club had money and a well made experienced team. In 1988 it was pretty modest team, which was largely made a great effort, putting everything aside just to play football. And may be because of that, it was rather unusual Uruguayan team – they played attacking football, constantly pushing ahead. Did not work in the domestic championship, but worked at international level. Hence, the 3rd Libertadores, but de Leon still had a debt to pay: the Intercontinental Cup was missing. He won it once, but not with his beloved Nacional.

Argentina I Division

First Division. 20 teams – 2 relegated not by final position, but on worst point average in the accumulated relegation table. 14 teams were from Greater Buenos Aires (including La Plata and Avellaneda) – such is the weight of the city: so many great clubs, impossible to ignore. The rest were also concentrated in the traditional big-club cities – Rosario and Cordoba plus one from Santa Fe.
Let start with the relegated on point average: they were Union (Santa Fe) – 18th in the championship, and Banfield – 19th in the season.
The final table was:
Talleres (Cordoba) last with 27 points.
Banfield – 19th with 28 points. Relegated. Standing from left: Solari, C.Díaz, D’Angelo, Vittor, Pogany, E. Vázquez. First row: Orte, Garcia, Aquino, Molina, Andrada.

Union (Santa Fe) – 18th with 28 points. Relegated. Standing from left: Humoller, Altamirano, Mauri, Passet, Jorge García, Cárdenas. Crouching: Armando, Toresani, Marcelo López, Alí, De Avila.
Racing (Cordoba) – 17th with 31 points. Standing from left: Luis Escobedo, Pascual Noriega, Marcelo D. Quiñones, Héctor Chazarreta, José T. Serrizuela, Juan M. Ramos.
Front: Luis Amuchástegui, Eusebio J. Roldán, José M. Bianco, Raúl de la Cruz Chaparro, Víctor H. Ferreyra.
Estudiantes (La Plata) – 16th with 32 points.
Instituto – 15th with 33 points. Standing from left: Renato Corsi (USA), Jorge F. Reinoso, Ricardo Kuzemka, Ramón Alvarez, Dalcio Giovagnoli, Enrique Nieto.
Crouching: Héctor Silva, Osvaldo Márquez, Ariel Cozzoni, Ricardo Rentera, Armando Dely Valdés (Panama).
Ferro Carril Oeste – 14th with 33 points. Second row from left: Claudio Cristofanelli, José Fantaguzzi, Oscar Garré, Héctor Cúper, Víctor Marchesini, Fabián Cancelarich.
Fornt row: Oscar R. Acosta, Oscar Agonil, Héctor D. Miranda, Daniel O. Fernández, Luis Fabián Artime.
Deportivo Armenio – 13th with 34 points.
Boca Juniors – 12th with 35 points. Terrible season for mighty Boca – just a point ahead of modest debutantes Deportivo Armenio. Standing from left: Hrabina, Carrizo, Cuciuffo, Gatti, Abramovich, Tavares. First row: Graciani, Melgar, Humberto Gutiérrez, Stafuza, J. L. Villarreal.. Well… take away old Gatti and Cuciuffo and there is practically nothing.
Independiente – another great nothing… 11th with 37 points.
Platense – 10th with 38 points. Standing from left: Aponte, Capozucchi, Juan A. Sánchez, Jones, Guillermo Rodríguez, Fortunato, Bellini. Front: Ivanovic, Boldrini, Espina, Alfaro Moreno.
Deportivo Espanol – 9th with 40 points. Worse goal-difference depraved them from a chance to compete for a spot in the Libertadores Cup – teams placed 2nd to 8th qualified to the tournament for that spot.
Argentinos Juniors – 8th with 40 points. Great days were over, but they still had a chance to appear again in Libertadores. At least at the end of the championship.
Rosario Central – 7th with 40 points.

Velez Sarsfield – 6th with 41 points. Standing from left: Simeone, Sandoval, Rojo, Navarro Montoya, Meza, Lucca. First row: Cardozo, Adrián Bianchi, Zalazar, Claudio García, Macat. One guy will become world-famous in a little while.
Gimnasia y Esgrima (La Plata) – 5th with 43 points. Standing from left: Carlos G. Russo, Gustavo Moriconi, Oscar A. Olivera, Claudio Galvagni, Daniel Pighín, Osvaldo Tempesta, Ricardo Kuzemka.
Crouching: Gabriel Pedrazzi, Carlos A. García, Carlos Carrió, Gerardo M. González.
River Plate – 4th with 46 points. May be preoccupied with something else, may be not great enough to compete successfully on two fronts, may be the competition was too tough. Should have been title contenders, but at the end – 4th.
Racing (Avellaneda) – 3rd with 48 points. May be a revival at last? Let’s wait… Standing from left: Asteggiano, Lamadrid, Berón, Balerio, Perico Pérez, Fabio Costas. Front: Szulz, Decoud, Zaccanti, Medina Bello, Rabuñal.
San Lorenzo – 2nd with 49 points. Strong, but the title was not up to them. Standing from left: Zacarías, Bernuncio, Moner, Giunta, Chilavert, Larraquy. Crouching: Malvárez, Nannini, Perazzo, Ortega Sánchez, Barrera.
Newell’s Old Boys – champions with 55 points from 21 wins, 13 ties, and 4 losses. 68-22 goal-difference. They showed their aim from before the championship and had no real rival this season – finished 6 points ahead of San Lorenzo.
Newell’s Old Boys really deserved to win, if players are any real indication – their squad, with Sensini, Basualdo, Balbo, ‘Tata’ Martino, Dezotti, Scoponi, was way above any other squad by names. Shall we add one Gabriel Batistuta just in case? And this time names translated into class.
Give credit to their coach Josa Judica too. Great, popular, well known club, but provincial… so, it was their only 2nd title – the first was in 1974, when the won the old Metropolitan League. This time – no ifs and buts, a total success.
One last time – the champions!

Argentina Second Promotion Play-off

Second Promotion Play-off. 12 teams in it – 9 from Second Division plus the champion of Primera B Metropolitana – Talleres (RE) – and the top teams from Torneo del Interior – San Martin and Estacion Quequen. The formula of the tournament was cup-format – direct elimination in two legs. The and 3rd from Second Division started at the second round – the ¼ finals and the 2nd – in the ½ finals.
Douglas Haig lost to Huracan 0-3 and 2-2.
Talleres (Remedios de Escalada) was eliminated by Belgrano 0-0 and 1-4.
Atletico Tucuman lost to Colon 1-0 and 0-1 – possibly, losing a penalty shoot-out. Standing from left:Carlos Suárez, Miguel Gerez, Carlos Munutti, Miguel Diamante, Ramón Villafañe, Julio C. Lencina.
Front: Miguel Rearte, Luis Fabián García, Raúl Aredes, Luis C. Reartez, Antonio Apud.
Tigre lost to San Martin 0-1 and 0-1.
Estacion Quequen was eliminated by Chaco For Ever 1-3 and 1-1. Second row from left: Jorge D. Casaprima (PF), Claudio Mainardi, Carlos Viel, Sergio Mainardi, Luis Sánchez, Horacio Stelle, Ricardo Erasún.
Crouching: Roberto Crausaz, Ricardo Guerrero, Mario Márquez, Carlos Beguiristain, Luis Pekel.
¼ finals.
Belgrano was eliminated by Huracan 1-3 and 1-1. Standing from left: Lucio Del Mul – Juan C. Reyna – Alejandro Chiera – José Céliz – Daniel Sperandío – Gustavo Tognarelli.
Front: Rubén Rodríguez – Osvaldo Strecchia(Uruguay) – Edgardo Parmigiani – Mauro Pazzarelli – Omar Da Fonseca.
Cipolletti lost to San Martin 2-5 and 1-1.
Colon lost to Chaco For Ever 1-0 and 1-2. It was unclear how they eliminated Atletico Tucuman in the previous round and it is unclear how they lost here – surely, not on away goal rule.
½ finals.
End of the road for Huracan – eliminated by Chaco For Ever 1-0 and 0-1. Once again, unclear on what rule… Standing from left: Guillermo Nicosia, Hebert Birriel (Uruguayan), Eduardo Quinto Pagés, Pedro Fóppoli, Eugenio Gentile, Carlos Torino.
First row: Ariel Paolorossi, Daniel Messina, Héctor Herrero, Marcelo Bachino, Atilio Oyola.
No luck for Quilmes too – they lost to San Martin 0-0 ans 1-2. They lost the home leg… Standing from left: O. Aguilar, C. Jeannoteguy, J. Orengo, G. Puentedura, G. Escalante, E. Kalugerovich. First row: R. Kergaravat, O. Gómez, D. Leani, A. Llane, Juan Sotelo.
Final – Chaco For Ever vs San Martin. Provincial final opposing a team from Second Division to one technically from Third level. And the team from the lower level won both legs – 1-0 and 2-0. If anything, this was the justification of the complicated second promotion tournament.

Lady Luck abandoned Chaco For Ever at the very end – just a prove that one can run all the way on sheer luck… Yet, Chaco For Ever did very well – they were not a factor in the Second Division championship, finishing 4th 7 points behind the winners, but had strong second run in the promotion play-off, coming from behind and thus playing all stages. But they were not good enough to earn promotion… Standing from left: Raúl Valdez, Celso Freyre, Felipe Di Marco, Daniel Sperandío, Gustavo Ferlatti, Hugo Parrado.
Crouching: Luis E. Sosa (Uruguayan), Juan Argüello, Daniel Cravero, Carlos Rosas, Juan M. Sotelo.
San Martin (Tucuman) won the second promotion to top flight – thus, skipping Second Division. A club which should not be playing Third Level really, for traditionally they were among the strongest clubs outside greater Buenos Aires. But had the hard luck to be out of the new divisional system of the country. And they proved they belonged to the best – not to second and even less to third rate teams. 6 wins and 2 ties in the promotion campaign – they did not lose at all, really, the best team. Top row from left: Guillén, Belardi (PF), Daza, A. Juárez, Monteros, Solbes, Chabay (DT), Haymal, Unali, L. Moreno, J. C. Roldán (AC). Middle row: Rutar, Noriega, Troitiño, Ibáñez, R. Robles, Campos, Chazarreta, Medina, J. López. Sitting: Romano, R. Torres, Galván, Dilascio, R. Roldán, R. Martínez, Villafañe, Giménez, Benítez.
Well done, San Martin! Both promotions went to provincial clubs this year – a prove that the provinces did not deserve to be put down by supposedly deeply embedded Buenos Aires superiority.