World Cup. Preliminary

Preliminary troubles. The chosen mascot of the 1990 World Cup proved to be… perfect.
Modern football came to the point of looking as badly constructed robot with easily replaceable, but equally unimpressive parts, a cheap toy of mass production, which is outrageously priced. The name ‘Ciao’ was also symbolic – it means both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’: hello to the crowning event of football to say bitter goodbye to the game.
Scandals and problems erupted well before the finals, most of them of political nature. On one hand was the fact – and not a new one – that Italy by the end of 1989 did not even start building and preparing stadiums and infrastructure and FIFA’s inspection was very unhappy about it. The Italian response was indignant: ‘What do you want, this is Italy! We do everything in the last minute.’ And political reasons were sited as an excuse, namely constant elections and changes of government on every level. Of course, corruption was easy to see, but was never mentioned. Meantime Communism was rapidly collapsing and the European map was already changing – Germany was practically unified, although by the start of the World Cup not yet in football terms, so there were no East Germans included in the German national team. USSR started its disintegration, which was not yet affecting the national team, for there were no players from the Baltic republics and Georgia, but the end was approaching and this will be the last time a team named ‘USSR’ to appear. Yugoslavia was also increasingly going to collapse and in the nastier possible way – in a long and messy civil war. Signs of that were present in football already – Zvonimr Boban was involved in fight between Croatian fans and Serbian Police, ‘in the name of Croatia’, as he put it bluntly, and for that he was banned from football, thus, from the national team, thus, weakening the team of Yugoslavia, which was also to appear for the last time in its ‘classic’ kind. Czechoslovakia will appear for the last time too, although its disintegration was civilized – football was affected already, though: Lubos Kubik and Ivo Knoflicek defected to the West before 1990. Politics perhaps played minor role in that – both were unhappy with rules for transfers abroad imposed by the Czechoslovakian Federation and run to the West to join Fiorentina (Kubik) and St. Pauli (Knoflicek). They were promptly banned, creating immediate problem for the national team coach, but the sudden and rapid political changes in 1989 changed things in their favour: 1990 started without official Communism, banishment was voided and both players were returned to the national team. No so lucky Romanian star defender Miodrag Belodedici, who also defected – to Yugoslavia. Running away from Ceausescu’s paradise was unforgetable crime – Belodedice was tried and sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison. And the Romanian Federation immediately cried to UEFA and FIFA that the player breached his contract with Steaua, so he was banished for 1 year and was able to really join Crvena zvezda (Belgrade) only after serving his ban. By the summer of 1990 he was still the wanted criminal and was not included in the Romanian national team.
The Colombian case – or rather, why was not there a Colombian case? The country was in the deadly grip of, practically, a civil war between whatever government was ruling, the leftist guerillas controlling large parts of the country, largely jungle, and the drug cartels spread from the cities to the jungle. That drug money went to fuel Colombian football was general knowledge. The brutal murder of a referee in 1989 canceled the national championship as a protest and was believed to be related to the cartels. Naturally, nobody in Colombia was thinking of withdrawal from the World Cup – football was national pride and Colombia reached the world finals for only second time. But why FIFA did not take some measures apart from usual threat with sanctions if Colombia decided to forfeit the World Cup? Well, FIFA always maintained the position that it is not political organization… which was not true for quite a long time too: South Africa was expelled from FIFA because of apartheid. Israel was out of participating in Asia because of the Arabic countries insisting on that and was a pariah, attached to Oceania – but a member of Oceania – in World Cup qualifications. From another side, during the 1980s doping became a problem and tests became a routine practice, especially at World Cup finals. Cocaine was one of the forbidden substances and Colombia was the producer of it. Like it or not, FIFA was taking political decisions for a long time already, yet, pretended to be apolitical even when it came to sport’s matters like doping. And FIFA chose to ignore the Colombian case, to stay silent and do nothing… domestic matters. Of course, taking Colombia out of the finals was not going to be simple – if done in the last minute, then Israel was the team to replace the Colombians and that meant… new scandals with the Asian and African Federations, leading to boycottes. It was cynical to avoid the Colombian situation, but that was the taken stance. It was even more cynical that Colombia would have been heavily sanctioned if forfeiting on its own the World Cup, but luckily government, drug cartels and leftist guerillas were united when it came down to football – nobody wanted to miss the finals.
Bellow all that were problems of football politics, quite familiar, long lasting and typical. First, Austria – all concentrated on the coach and early: during the qualifications. Otto Baric was replaced with Josef Hickersberger in 1988 and at first nobody saw evil. But slowly… the team captain Tony Polster, playing in Spain for Sevilla, was increasingly disliked by the fans and criticized in the media. The reason was egoistic play, which eventually transformed into question of patriotism: why some foreign-based player, thinking only of money and himself? Indirectly, the problem escalated when the national team played in other cities than Vienna and local fans insisted local players to be included in the squad. And who was promoting Polster? The coach… Polster was met with boos whenever Austria played a home game, never mind he was the only real star of the national team and his goals practically qualified Austria to the finals. Hickersberger increasingly was seen as dictatorial and disliked by the players, until a scandal burst between him and the 34-years old veteran defender and team captain Heribert Weber. The scandal was triggered by coach’s decision to leave Weber out of the starters because of sickness for the important match against DDR. Weber wanted to play and left out, said that he will never play for Hickersberger. And sent ultimatum to the Federation – ‘either he, or I’. The Federation ruled ‘wisely’ after the game was finished and Austria won: Hickersberger stays, Weber out. Practically, that left the national team, short on talent at that time, without a key player. Also, without the only player with World Cup experience – goalkeeper Lindenberger was also part of the 1982 World Cup team, but only as unused substitute. Such ‘tremors’ affected the whole team – now the players were quite against the coach, saying that behind every Austrian coach lurks Ernst Happel, a great coach universally disliked for his dictatorial methods. Looking ahead, during the finals everybody lamented ‘if only Otto Baric was coaching’. Poisoned atmosphere, especially aggravated by the fact that Austria did not have enough talent at the time and leaving somebody out of the team for whatever reason only meant weakening – oh, the days of Prohaska, Krankl, Pezzey, Concilia… there were no such players now, simple as that.
Belgium. Walter Meeuws successfully qualified the national team to yet another World Cup, but beginning with the last and unimportant qualifying match and following with preparatory friendlies the team seriously underperformed. Meeuws was no longer safe – many felt that he was reached his limit already. He also managed to alienate the players accusing them openly that they were not serious and do not put much work, thinking more of their clubs than of playing for their country. Eventually, the poisoned atmosphere made Meeuws quit 3 months before the finals and the suddenly the national team was without coach. Retired Guy Thys was asked to coach the team in a rush and he accepted. Thys had huge authority and all stars played under him in the past – he quickly restored order.
Costa Rica. The team qualified for the first time to World Cup finals and whatever lurked in the back was invisible – as soon as the national team lost 3 games at the Marlboro Cup in USA, the problem came up in front: the new President of the Federation, just elected, immediately sacked the national team coach Rodriguez. The results were just a pretext – it was known than both men disliked each other greatly and Rodriguez acted against the new President. Who retaliated with vengeance. Great Menotti was asked to take the team – he flatly refused – and the next man to be asked was Bora Milutinovic, who accepted. But the players were angry and wrote an open letter, signed by 7 of the best players, insisting the old coach to be restored. Some thought of quitting the national team if Rodriguez was not back at the helm. However, the significant point was ‘We are not against Milutinovic, we only want Rodriguez’ – thus, there was no hostility towards the new coach. The Federation President stayed firm on his decision, rightly thinking that the chance to play at the World Cup will be stronger motivation than supporting Rodriguez. Milutinovic made the best diplomatic move under the circumstances – he brought the team early to Europe to acclimatize it, which practically meant the team was far away from domestic turbulence.
The crisis in the United Arab Emirates was rather trivial: great Mario Zagallo qualified the team to the finals for the first time and seemed untouchable national hero. On the strength of the successful campaign, he asked for more money and was fired instead. Hard to tell why, since money were not a problem for the Sheikhs. In his place another Brazilian was quickly hired – Carlos Alberto Parreira, who coached Kuwait at the 1982 World Cup. Already well known and respected coach, so it was not exactly hiring somebody in a panic, but still it was a change and disruption.
Italy, as a host, had the ambition to win the World Cup and noting less would suffice. Azeglio Vicini was to coach the team with this objective and for awhile everything was fine. But when the finals came close and the team stop winning criticism piled up and both coach and team were under terrible pressure, constantly scrutinized and criticized. The atmosphere was poisoned and the only way for Viccini to silence his critics was to win the championship.
If in Italy style was not an issue and the way only important thing was winning, Brazil was more complicated – from the 1960s on the battle was between those wanting traditional artistic football and the pragmatics wanted ‘European’ disciplined kind, which translated always as defensive football. Sebastiao Lazaroni represented the ‘Europeans’, not the first and not the last of this breed, but now the focus was on him. Brazilians, in general, wanted to win, but playing beautiful football. With Tele Santana they pleased the eye and lost two World Cup. Naturally, the new coach had to introduce the opposite approach… and it was fine until seen and Lazaroni emphasized strong defense – and nobody liked it. Then the team won Copa America for the first time in quarter of a century at least and everything was fine, Lazaroni was the man. Then the euphoria ended and it was recalled that the boys won Copa America, but did not please the eye. Lazaroni fought back in a way more alienating than soothing: ‘You (the Federation) hired me, now you have to suffer me.’ Like Viccini in Italy, Lazaroni was not fired, but quickly the situation developed reached the point of ‘win or die’.
Cameroon brought the fantastic into usual scuffles between displeased public and national team. By 1990 the coach was Soviet citizen – Valery Nepomniachi. He qualified Cameroon to second World Cup and the unknown name naturally created interest – the Cameroonians introduced him as a pupil of Valery Lobanovsky. If someone asked the Soviets about him, he would learn only that nobody knew this guy, this making his name rings particularly true – it is roughly translated as ‘not remembered’. And there was nothing to remember – he was obscure coach in what soon was going to be independent Turkmenistan, mostly coaching juniors. Pupil of Lobanovsky? Nepomniachi recalled seeing Lobanovsky about three times in the corridors of the Federation, may be saying ‘hi’. At one point Cameroon asked for some Soviet coach and the Soviet Federation gave them Nepomniachi to work again with juniors. But when the national team coach suddenly left, Nepomniachi was remembered. Not immediately… at first the Minister of Sport in Cameroon declared that he was taking charge of the national team and bellow him a coaching trio was to do the bothersome practical work – Nepomniachi was offered to become part of the trio and accepted. Eventually, he was climbed to head coach, leading a successful qualification campaign – the whole process of his transformation was ‘smooth’: with every new win he ‘naturally’ climbed higher mostly by praise. One win and he was wonderful coach, second win – leading coach, third win – a great coach. And that way the initial trio disappeared and Nepomniachi was the great head coach of Cameroon – but not the only one… for it was Africa and there more than anywhere else politicians interfered with the running of the national team. Often Nepomniachi was told who to select, who to play, how many players of this club to take and how many of the other club to take or not to take. Yet, it was not just happy sailing – in early 1990 Cameroon lost the African championship and the mood was to sack Nepomniachi at once. He managed to survive somehow, perhaps by making compromises suitable to the politicians – at least, the case of Roger Milla strongly suggest that: Milla not only was out of the national team, but out of football. He had retired and occasionally played for fun, but his name was so big in Cameroon that the media constantly called for his return. Nepomniachi heard the call most likely from the politicians and decided to try Milla in the last training camp before the World Cup in Yugoslavia. True, including Milla was not advised by all – the player had his enemies as well, who pointed out to Nepomniachi the difficult character of the veteran, which was only to add to various other frictions in and outside the team, the biggest of which was the long lasting poisonous rivalry between the star goalkeeper N’Kono and Bell. Nepomniachi tried Milla in a game, without really expecting anything good, but the veteran surprised him not only with excellent form, but with fitting perfectly and taking the leading role in the team. This more or less settled the tensions and the future of the coach. At least for the moment.
Argentina was also rocked – the team did not a game since July 1989. They finished 3rd in Copa America. Carlos Billardo was under pressure, but the focus of attention was somewhat taken away from him because of various problems of star players: Maradona, his lack of form, and drug use: the shaky form and pretenses of Brown, Clausen, Batista: various demands of Valdano and constant complains of Diaz. Of course, everybody in Argentina knew what is best and gave advise – or rather demands – to Billardo, including the country’s President Menem. Nothing new… and hardly helped by Billardo’s attitude and combative answers. To a point, settling camp in Europe well before the start of the finals was wise decision to take away the team from poisonous scrutiny at home, but… it was a squad of 9 players, for the rest were playing in Europe and still involved with unfinished championships – part of the preparation, for instance, was going to Naples to watch Maradona’s Napoli play. Billardo said that he was satisfied with the form of the star and therefore everything will be fine.
Still, the jewel of the scandals before the World Cup belonged to the Dutch. It was a tradition… and went the same way as in 1974, 1978… it was like Holland could not go to finals without major scandal and ‘temporary’ measures. After winning the European championship in 1988 Rinus Michels stepped down and was replaced by Tijs Libreghts, who qualified the team easily. Yet, he was fired in April 1990 because of weak performance of the team and bad relations with the players. The same as in 1974 and 1978… a new coach was hired in the last minute and only for the final round. The problems were also the same – the players wanted bigger bonuses, the Federation was unwilling to pay more. This battle was crucial for Libreghts: he tried to take middle position and to mediate between players and Federation with the result of alienating both sides, neither wanting him anymore. The players – at least the big number coming from Ajax – wanted Cruijff, but the Federation did not want to deal with him. Cruijff did not want to deal with the Federation either, making his usual biting critical and ironic comments. Leo Beenhakker was temporary hired – just like Michels in 1974 and Happel in 1978, only for the finals. Somewhere in the shadows Rinus Michels lurk in advisory position. Libreghts meantime went to the courts to sue the Federation for breach of contract. In another country… but it was Holland, so the scandals was actually seen as optimistic sign: the Dutch seemingly performed best when in the midst of scandal – such was the tradition: 1974, 1978… this time they also had all the stars at hand, unlike 1974 and 1978.
And the finals were coming in all that, so scandals were scandals, but much more important was becoming the ranking, the predictions, the expectations.
Perhaps it will be best to recall a betting agency rather than more ‘professional’ views: this is how Germans ranked the teams in betting terms. Hardly more different that ‘official’ ranking and ‘professional’ predictions/expectations. It will be good to see how close the betting ranking came to actual results. This quotation did not differ much from what was expected by specialists and pundits… Perhaps the most important thing was how England and Spain was seen: no matter what was hoped at home, objectively nobody thought these two teams capable of winning the World Cup. Strong – yes, winners – no. Also run. That was the reality in 1990.
The all-time World Cup table was going to change. What else?



Football hit rock bottom. The World Cup showed exactly that and it was the logical conclusion of decade plunging into the abyss.
Even the official poster of the finals was reminding a coffin. During the 1980s problems piled up, most of them voiced out, but not addressed – the sport was into fundamental crisis. From aging and increasingly dangerous stadiums to fan violence, which spread like the plague from country to country. By now a football match was really like a war – an invasion of merciless army of fans destroying everything they met on the road to the stadium. Win or lose, the carnage was always present. It was not better on the pitch, where tactical fouls, hunting of the best players of the opposition, vicious tackles, physical battle, time wasting, simulations, and constant complaining of every call of the referees were not just elements of the game, but became the game itself. Referees were no better – their too many mistakes were no longer viewed as mistakes, but deliberately done ‘against us’ and the referee, never really liked, now was considered entirely incompetent, but ill-minded devil. Coaches behaved in a way, which only fueled the fire: jumping, gesticulation, screaming, protesting and abusing the referees every time they blew the whistle. Their ’emotions’ were calculated to increase the tensions and succeeded. A football match was no longer fun and joy, but mean and dangerous event, in which only victory counted, no matter how achieved. Violence ruled the game and everything surrounding it. And by the end of the 1980s something else was evident: a leveling of players and teams. Yes, it was great to see many lowly teams, particularly those from Africa and Asia, improve and coming close to the traditional football leaders, but the traditional powers were not getting better – they were getting worse. Everybody was playing the same kind of football, with the same tactics, it was difficult to distinguish one team from another . The players were also becoming generally the same, similar robots just from the assembly line of mass production. The 1990 World Cup just illuminated all the ills of the game – it was the dullest World Cup finals ever, the final match was simply a shame, leaving the bitter taste in viewers of three hours entirely wasted. Football was dying and the only way to bring it back to some kind of life was by radical surgery. Thus, rules had to be changed and an era of constant changing of rules started. Yet, one key element, perhaps the most important one for the ills of the game, was increased in importance: money. Big money. In 1990 ‘classic’ football expired. Something different was born. Something artificial. Something like a sick patient kept alive only by constant medical intervention, plugged in machines and mechanisms – unplug them and the patient will collapse dead immediately. What started in 1990 was the road on which a player with fantastic salary is terribly injured before even the season started and is constantly complaining of ‘unhappiness’. 1990 was the dead end.


Debut. One steps down, another steps in. Marcos Evangelista de Morais debuted in 1989.
We know him as Cafu and he made records, but that was in the unknown future in 1989, when he was made his shaky start with Sao Paulo. He was both like and unlike Socrates and not because of the position he played: unlike Socrates, Cafu was not highly educated boy from middle-class family, but the typical Brazilian story – a poor boy from the favela, growing up surrounded by drugs and crime, not by books of the Greek philosophers. One of six children, Cafu was born on June 7, 1970 and raised in the Sao Paulo’s Jardim Irene favela and pretty much the only escape from impoverished life was football. But it was not easy… Cafu was rejected by youth teams of Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, Atletico Mineiro, Portuguesa… and that was perhaps the reason he was involved with futsal for two years. Rejection seemed to be his fate even after Sao Paulo eventually took him and he made the youth squad winning Copa Sao Paulo – he was noticed, invited to the first team, and… placed on the bench in 1988. As the number on his shorts shows, Cafu was a winger at the time. As winger, he was found unsatisfying – and his chances of playing were almost zero. But Tele Santana coached Sao Paulo at the time, and that was sheer luck – the original problems for Cafu were not lack of skill, but physicality and endurance. Cafu, however, responded with somewhat un-Brazilian toughness and determination – he put big effort in physical preparation, eventually reaching a point that his work output on the field was impossible to ignore. Tele Santana considered that and suggested move from winger first ti midfield and shortly after to right full-back position. Cafu agreed and everything changed. Not right away, but still somewhat suddenly – in 1988 Cafu was firm reserve with no chance to get more than occasional game or two as substitute. 1989 was still like that at first, but… in 1990 Cafu was invited to the Brazilian national team. Since 1990 and what followed was unknown in 1989, the year only records the difficult debut of Cafu. Like Socrates, he was not recognized at once and his debut at 19 years of age was not instant spark of emerging mega-star.
Unlike Socrates, the boy form the favela worked so hard, he reached the national team in less than an year after his professional debut. And soon number 11 will be replaced for good.


Retirement. One of the most beloved and admired players of the 1980s Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira played his last games this year.
Born on February 19th, 1954 in Belem, Para state, Socrates debuted in 1973 Botafogo (Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo state).

He played for his home team – his middle class family moved to this city because of his father work and Socrates grew up there – for 5 years, somewhat repeating the fate of Ademir da Guia of Palmeiras, with whom he is pictured here: admired at home, but unable to get national, not to speak of international, fame for some time. Socrates really got noticed around 1978. During his early years the tall striker made quite an unusual move for a player – he started and eventually completed University studies in Ribeirao Preto, getting medical degree. For Botafogo he played 99 games in 5 years, scoring 35 goals, entertaining the local crowd with his trademark back-heel passes, even scoring penalties this way. Botafogo he never forgot.
In 1978 Socrates moved to Corinthians, finally becoming a true star. In 4 years he played 135 games for Corinthians and scored 74 goals. He debuted in the Brazilian national team in 1979, repeating to a point the case of his friend Zico, who also debuted for Brazil rather late. But it was not just the dazzling football which made Socrates a star – his influence and opinions went outside the football pitch:
His political views and involvement made a history not just for Corinthians – his stand against military dictatorship forced his club to play with political adds on the team shirts: ‘Democracy’ and ‘cast your vote on 15th ‘. At that time Socrates also moved back from center-forward and number 9 to playmaker and number 8.
To a point, Socrates was already an anomaly – 192 cm tall, but thin as a rail, he was not perfect for center-forward position in times when burly defenders played rough physical game. His height was even more unusual for playmaking midfielder, so he played somewhat a mix of a straiker and playmaker. Not very fast and largely preferring slow tempo, he had great acceleration, somewhat reminding Cruijff, who was also fragile-looking player with no great speed, but explosive acceleration. Already established key player of wonderful Brazil of 1982, Socrates was destined to go to Europe, as all South American stars were eager to do.

In 1984 Socrates donned the jersey of Italian Fiorentina. But he stayed in Europe just one season, playing 26 games and scoring 6 goals for his new club. 30-years old by now – going to Europe a bit late, like Zico – it was not his age which made his European career short: it was mostly his character. Independent, not much concerned with money, loving Brazilian life too much and not really liking to train, Socrates disliked cold and demanding European professional football and quickly returned home.
Now he joined the most popular Brazilian club, Flamengo.
Should have been the perfect choice from a political point of view: the left-leaning Socrates playing for the people’s club, for the club of the poor.
And also playing together with his friend Zico should have been magical and personally satisfying. But… age and lifestyle were taking their tall. Zico was also getting old and the pairing of the two was perhaps not very well thought move: they somewhat duplicated each other and were not always effective together because of similarity of position. Socrates played only 12 games for Flamengo, scoring measly 3 goals, and in 1988 he was no longer part of the club.
Next stop – Santos, the club of Pele. It was like Socrates paying homage to Brazilian icons – Flamengo, Santos – but it was gradual going home… The season with Santos was not bad – in 1988-89 the aging star played 25 games and scored 7 goals. But ‘aging’ was the key word now… Socrates was no longer the same.

In 1989 he moved to Botafogo (Ribeirao Preto) and after 6 games called it quit. Thus he made full circle, finishing his career exactly where he started it. After 303 official games and 125 goals Socrates stepped down.
For Brazil Socrates stopped playing in 1986 – after the World Cup fiasco, when it was decided that the old stars had to be replaced by new team.
Socrates debuted for Brazil when he was 25-years old in 1979 and ended his national team duties in 1986, when he was 32-years old.
Along with Zico, they were the face of the wonderful Brazil built by Tele Santana.
It was playing for Brazil Socrates became a darling for millions around the globe – elegant, highly technical, graceful, imaginative, always a gentleman on the field, Socrates returned to the fans what was rapidly disappearing in the 1980s: the sheer pleasure of watching football. Alas, the wonderful Brazil and Socrates did not win a World Cup… and in a time increasingly recognizing only success, Socrates became also a symbol of failure somewhat: what good is dazzling play, if you lose? Still, he played a total of 60 games for Brazil and scored 22 goals.
Winner of loser, Socrates – or Dr. Socrates as he was often called – had a charm appealing the fans, even those who subscribed to the cold philosophy of winning no matter how – Socrates was somewhat a player of the gone romantic past: a nice guy, intellectual and bohemian, who disliked training and loving holding court in the neighbourhood pub with glass of beer in one hand and cigarette in the other. He was accessible, humbly, good companion, interesting to meet and chat with, egalitarian, and when stepped on the pitch – highly entertaining. Teammates and fans liked him, listened to him, and respected him. Coaches liked him and listened to him, putting benevolent bling eye to his missed practices, skipping demanding physical exercises, drinking and chain smoking. Club officials get along and respected Socrates and also put a bling eye to his unprofessional lifestyle. Socrates did not hide his preferences – he was honest and open about it: ‘take me as I am, for I am not changing’. His career had no major scandals – doing what he likes in times demanding Spartan professionalism, he was never involved in scandals like those hunting George Best and Diego Maradona. Yet, his lifestyle affected his career – for a big international star, Socrates played only 302 games in 16 years. Considering that he played mostly in Brazil, where even lesser players appear about 40 times in a year, Socrates’ numbers are small… then again, it is hard to tell what counts for official games in Brazil.
Socrates retired and his life continued in the way he liked best: largely in the pub, chatting with ordinary people. Yet, he was Socrates, not just another faded old star recalling nostalgia when drinking himself to death with nothing better to do. Socrates truly became Dr. Socretas, practicing medicine as family doctor. Well, most of the time he did that, but also did not abandon football. Coaching was not his forte – perhaps because coaching presenting problems similar to that he had as a player: training and discipline. He tried coaching three times: Botafogo (Ribeirao Preto) in 1994, LDU (Quito, Ecuador) in 1996, and lastly one more small Brazilian club – Cabofriense – in 1999, but it was sporadic activity and is hard to tell was he incapable coach, or just disinterested in the profession, taking it sometimes in whim, but not really wanting to make a career. Coaching, seemingly was like playing for him – mostly love of football, but not to be taken all that seriously. He, however, take much more regularly journalism – both in writing and on radio and TV. To be a commentator was more satisfying to his intellectual nature and he wrote column on politics and economics as well as on football. With time Dr. Socrates became largely a neighbourhood sage figure – mostly to be found in the cafe ready to chat. His bohemian nature made his retirement a statistical joke, for he added one more game to his record and that far away from Brazil:

In 2004 Socrates came back and in lucrative England at that.
He was contracted for 1 match as player-coach of semi-professional Garforth Town – and came on the pitch as a substitute for 15 minutes. It was rather pathetic appearance, but still a mockery of his retirement and statistical havoc as well: which year should be considered for his last – 1989 or 2004? And 12 minutes count as official game, so at the age of 50 Socrates completed his official record to 303 games total. But if playing – or sitting on his ass – 12 minutes in a non-league semiprofessional club in England counts, then why not beach football or whatever games Socrates was involved with even before 1989? Let statisticians worry about that – Socrates was too well loved by anybody else, so we can forgive him anything. His moments with Garforth Town were instantly memorable – what a thrill to see him with their jersey! The charming power of ‘anti-athlete’, as he honestly called himself. Fans easily forgive Socrates that his less talented brother Rai actually brought real success to Brazil and oveall had more lucrative career – Dr. Socrates gave us pleasure, one of the few artists of the game after the end of the 1970s.

World Cup Qualifications. Oceania. Group 14

Oceania – group 14. The weakest continent, which did not have designated spot at the finals as usual. Perhaps not fair, from Australian point of view, but objectively speaking only Australia and New Zealand were there and both countries ranked very lowly in the football scale. It was even difficult to have meaningful qualifications in this group. And because of that Israel was placed in this group – a fantastic combination, but Israel, expelled from Asia for many years, was homeless team and out of desperation FIFA attached it to tiny Oceania. Three teams, having to fly literally half the planet for away match. At least all participants were able to afford such spending, which was not the last either – the winner of Oceania had to play further qualification playoff against the winner of South American Group B. Really, a team of this group would hope only on miracle to qualify them to the World Cup finals and only the fact that all participants were wealthy countries made them play under such difficult and expensive circumstances.

1.Israel 4 1 3 0 5- 4 5
Israel won the group and rightly so, for they had a few players well established in European professional football and there opponents entirely lacked professional stars. The ugly face of 1980s football showed itself as well: in the last and decisive group game in Sydney, the Israelis were shocked by hostile Australian fans waiving banners with Nazi swastikas. Yet, team Israel extracted 1-1 draw and left Australia triumphal.
2.Australia 4 1 2 1 6- 5 4
Here is the Australian team unable to beat Israel in Sydney and thus finishing second. Hopes for second World Cup appearance ended, but nothing really surprising: Australia perhaps had better football in 1989 than in 1974, but still it was lowly level and the team was nothing much.
3.New Zealand 4 1 1 2 5- 7 3
Among the weak, they were weakest – even the empty stands show it. Well, it is rugby world ‘down there’. New Zealand manage to win their home match against Australia – 2-0 – which was a matter of local pride and to a point blocked Australia from going ahead, but that was all.
Israel won the group of Oceania and had to meet the winner of South American Group B next. Colombia. Up and coming Colombia, led by Carlos Valderrama and the first leg was in Bogota.
Team Israel put a good fight, but lost 0-1. The minimal loss gave them a strong chance, but only a chance: the result is somewhat misleading – and repeated in later years. South Americans often underestimated their opponents from ‘undeveloped’ continents and suffered as a result. Nobody could deny that team Israel did their best, but also it was certain that Colombia was the stronger team by far. Two weeks later in Ramat Gan Israel was unable to beat the Colombians – the visitors extracted a 0-0 draw and reached the World Cup finals. As a whole, Israel had strong campaign, but difference of class won at the end.
And with that the qualifications came to end – 22 teams were going to Italy in the next year: Romania, Sweden, England, USSR, Austria, the Netherlands, West Germany, Yugoslavia, Scotland, Spain, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, USA, Egypt, Cameroon, South Korea, and United Arab Emirates. Host Italy and reigning World Champion Argentina completed the finalists. Meantime, Communism was rapidly collapsing in Europe and the rapid political changes already made a tricky situation – it was not all that certain that some countries will be in 1990 and what could be the new European map. Germany unified by the end of 1989 and there was no more West Germany – at the finals Germany was going to play. USSR and Yugoslavia gave strong signs of falling apart and even if full disintegration would not happen, at least it was becoming clear that their national teams will be weakened with players refusing to play for them for nationalistic reasons. The old order was collapsing and football was affected by that. At least for Europe, it was the last year and qualifications of ‘classic’ small Europe – soon it will be vastly enlarged with teams of old, but not recognized in football terms, and newly made countries. Changes were taking place in the whole football world – 1989 was, in a sense, the last year of ‘stable and familiar’ football globe.

World Cup Qualifications. Asia. Group 13

Asia. Group 13 – two teams going to Italy. The qualifications went through two rounds – at first the participating countries were divided into 6 groups, which winners went to final round and the top two teams in the final group qualified to the World Cup finals. In 5 of the first round groups games were played in the familiar way: every team hosted one leg against its opponents and played the second leg away. Subgroup D (South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Nepal), though, had all games played in Seoul and Singapore. Originally, five teams were in this group, but India withdrew. It was not the only country to withdrew from the qualifications – Bahrain (Subgroup B) and South Yemen (Subgroup C) did the same, leaving the actual groups uneven: two groups had 3 participants and the rest – 4 teams. In a way, there were two big surprises in the first round:

Japan finished 2nd in Subgroup F, behind North Korea, and
Iran lost the battle for top position in Subgroup E to China dramatically – on goal-difference.
Japan’s elimination was seemingly more surprising – Iran lost ground because of Islamic revolution and regime which came to rule the country in the late 1970s, which affected negatively football, but Japan was developing steadily during the 1980s and was rapidly becoming one of the leading football countries in Asia. But solid professionalism was only in its very first steps and perhaps that was why Japan failed.
The final round between the 6 group winners took place in Singapore – a round-robin tournament between teams representing the leading football strongholds in Asia: the Arabic West and the Pacific coast in the far East. Since economic wealth goes hand in hand with football, the winners pretty much represent that as well: economic rapid development and oil money.

1.SOUTH KOREA 5 3 2 0 5- 1 8
No surprise there: South Korea was perhaps the best developed Asian country at that moment – careful building of the game, step by step towards full professionalism brought results and South Korea reached World Cup finals again – 1986 finals were just a stepping stone, continued now on higher level.
2.UAE 5 1 4 0 4- 3 6
United Arab Emirates came rather surprising second, but in the same time their great success was not entirely out of the blue: UAE were part of Arabic West rich on oil money and investing in football. Unlike South Korea, team UAE had to fight against equal foe.
Their key match was against China – here Khalil Mubarak just equalized and thus turned the game in UAE’s favour. It was the only match the team won, but it was against their biggest rival – 2-1.

The great Mario Zagallo coached UAE to their success – an instant hero, of course, but the Brazilian of Lebanese descent was not to coach UAE in Italy (replaced by another Brazilian, who would become famous coach as well). Thus, UAE reached World Cup finals for the first time – what a thrill.
3.Qatar 5 1 3 1 4- 5 5
Not bad, even close to qualification, but… unsteady. They lost badly to North Korea – 0-2 – and that was more or less the end of their hopes.
4.China 5 2 0 3 5- 6 4
China – pictured here in a game against Iran in the first round – entertained high hopes for going to Italy, but the game against UAE killed them.
5.Saudi Arabia 5 1 2 2 4- 5 4
Cannot judge them harshly – Asian football was pretty much equal and depending on chance, momentary form, sudden drops of form. The Saudis were neither better, nor worse than the others, but it was not their time to reach World Cup finals.
6.North Korea 5 1 1 3 2- 4 3
Perhaps the weakest team in the final group, driven more by political motivation than anything else. Did what they could, but perhaps their really big aim was prevailing over South Korea – and they lost the battle 0-1. After that they lost all remaining games.

World Cup Qualifications. Africa. Group 12

Africa was also Group 12 with 2 teams qualifying. Like CONCACAF, the tournament went through elimination stages, culminating into final 3rd round where two pairs of teams met and the winners qualified to play in Italy. At first and second stages countries withdrew: Lesotho, Ruanda, Togo, and Libya. Eventually, the 3rd stage was reached: Algeria vs Egypt and Cameroon vs Tunisia. Depending on outcome, African football could make one important historic step – never before a team from Africa appeared 3 times at World Cup finals. But it was not to be this time…
Egypt killed the historic chance – they kept Algeria at bay in Constantine to 0-0 tie and in the second leg beat them 1-0 in Cairo. Egypt reached the finals, Algeria did not qualify for third time to the finals.
Meantime Cameroon ended the decade with second qualification to the World Cup finals – they won at home against Tunisia – 2-0 in Yaounde – and then won the second leg in Tunis 1-0. Here are the winners in Tunis: Second row from left: Jean Manga Onguene, Nlend Ajouma, Omam Biyik, Cyril Makanaky, Jean Claude Pagal, Emmanuel Kundé, Andre Kana Biyik, Louis Paul Mfede, Joseph Antoine Bell, Jules Denis Onana. Bottom: Emile Mbouh, Stephen Tataw, Hans Agbo, Lotin Ernest Ebongué, Eugene Ekeke, Bertin Ebwellé Ndingue, Bonabenture Njonkep. Cameroon did it again, confirming its high standing in African football aand also the legendary status of Jean Manga Onguene – a star player in the 1970s and now coaching Cameroon to its second World Cup.

World Cup Qualifications. CONCACAF

Central and North America – CONCACAF. Group 11. Two teams qualified and normally one of them was indisputable certainty – Mexico – but… scandals played its role in the complicated qualifications. In the second round of the qualifications Mexico was found guilty of infringement of age rules and disqualified. Since there are no age rules in national team competitions, it must have been in some junior-team tournament. Rumors of cheating and manipulating birth certificates were going around for years, but mostly African countries were suspected of such things. In any case, practically no country was suspended so far – Mexico was the first. Without the heavy favorite… anything was possible in the CONCACAF qualification. And the wild possibilities depended on events outside the playing field.
The political situation in El Salvador led to messy final stage: the last 2 games between Guatemala and El Salvador were annulled by FIFA. Before that the match between El Salvador and Costa Rica, played in San Salvador, was abandoned. When the game was interrupted, Costa Rica was leading 4-2 and later FIFA awarded the same result to Costa Rica. Thus, the final stage of CONCACAF qualifications ended in this order:
1.COSTA RICA 8 5 1 2 10- 6 11
The country reached World Cup finals for the first time. Great success, indeed, but the Costaricans did not achieve it entirely by playing. Twice victories were awarded to them and if the abandoned game in El Salvador was not important, the disqualification of Mexico was crucial – if Costa Rica had to play against Mexico, most likely it would have been eliminated. Good lucky strike, but otherwise the team played well.
2.USA 8 4 3 1 6- 3 11
Luck had nothing to do with the achievement of team USA – they played as well as they could and reached the finals. USA reached finals once again, but practically for the first time after proper qualifications.

3.Trinidad/Tobago 8 3 3 2 7- 5 9
The team tried hard, but could not make it. Not a big surprise.
4.Guatemala 6 1 1 4 4- 7 3
Did not play full schedule, but the games against El Salvador even if awarded in their favour could not elevated them higher.


5.El Salvador 6 0 2 4 2- 8 2
The political situation of the country greatly affected their performance – 3 of their games in the final round were abandoned.

World Cup Qualifications. South America. Groups 8, 9 & 10

South America. Three qualification groups here, but only two group winner qualified directly to the finals – the winner of Group 9 went to playoff against the winner of Oceania for a spot at the finals.
Group 8
1.URUGUAY 4 3 0 1 7- 2 6
Group favourtites, but lucky to win the group and only on better goal-difference. Sure, in terms of quality of the World Cup finals Uruguay was the best option, having world-class stars, but not everybody – especially in Europe – was happy: the brutal way of playing at the 1986 World Cup was well remembered and Uruguay was feared to taint ‘the reputation’ of the finals ones again.
2.Bolivia 4 3 0 1 6- 5 6
Surprisingly strong performance and one could be sorry the underdogs did not win the group. To a point, the schedule benefited their opponents: Uruguay had the last 2 games of the group at home, the first hosting Bolivia. It was highly unlikely the Bolivians could win in Montevideo, the only outcome which guaranteed them qualification. At the end, Bolivia came very close to going to Italy, but was denied on goal-difference.
3.Peru 4 0 0 4 2- 8 0
I sharp decline, Peru lost all games.
Group 9. As luck had it, ‘lesser’ teams played in it and the winner had to play against the winner of Oceania for the spot in Italy.
1.Colombia 4 2 1 1 5- 3 5
Up and coming Colombia clinched top position.
2.Paraguay 4 2 0 2 6- 7 4
A gritty team can win, but more often loses. Not by much, but loses.
3.Ecuador 4 1 1 2 4- 5 3
Ecuador was the outsider and finished last, but managed to drag down Paraguay.
Colombia faced Israel, the winner of Oceania, next. Won minimally in Bogota – 1-0 – but managed to keep scoreless draw in Ramat Gan two weeks later and thus reached the finals. Drug money aside, it was a team deserving the play at the World Cup finals – at least because of wonderful Valderrama.
Group 10. Whether or not this group was decided outside the field is debatable, but the scandal is well remembered at least in Chile. It happened in Rio de Janeiro, in the last and decisive group match. Brazil and Chile had equal points Brazil was leading 1-0.

A flare from stands apparently hit the Chilean goalkeeper Rojas. He dropped dead at one. Eventually, the match was abandoned and the case had to be ruled by FIFA. Investigation concluded that Rojas faked having been hit and injured. FIFA awarded the game to Brazil, but Chillean feel wronged even today. In any case, Brazil reached the finals not on the field.
1.BRAZIL 4 3 1 0 13- 1 7
Brazil came close to miss World Cup finals for the first time. Would have been enormous failure not only hardly anyone imagine finals without Brazil, but mostly because the newly build national team had huge potential. Yet, they managed to qualify. The picture is something like B-team of the country, from friendly played in June against Denmark in Copenhagen and lost 0-4. It mostly shows what Brazil had at the time, for a good number pf players here were stars, yet, without real chance to be starters for Brazil. Standing from left: ’Bernardo’ da Silva, ’Paulo Roberto’ Curtis Costa, ‘Ricardo’ Raimundo Gomes, Cláudio Ibrahim Vaz Leal ‘Branco’, André Alves da Cruz, ‘Acácio’ Cordeiro Barreto. Bottom, left to right: ’Valdo’ Cândido Filho, ‘Geovani’ Silva, Gerson II,  ‘Cristovão’ Borges dos Santos,’Bismarck’ Barreto Faria
2.Chile 4 2 1 1 9- 4 5
Chile really challenged mighty Brazil, but… the unfortunate incident in the crucial last group game taints the outcome with myth: Chileans feel they were wronged by FIFA, ruling in favour of Brazil. In reality, Chile had no chance to prevail over their mighty opponent: they were losing 0-1 when the match was abandoned and if played to the end, it was highly unlikely Chile could equalize, let alone win in Rio de Janeiro. Good effort, but scandalous finish.
3.Venezuela 4 0 0 4 1-18 0
Outsiders as ever, losing all games and scoring only one goal.

World Cup Qualifications. Europe. Groups 4, 5, 6 & 7

Group 4.
1.NETHERLANDS 6 4 2 0 8- 2 10
Since only one team directly qualified to the finals from this group, the principle battle was for the first place between Holland and BRD. There were old scored to be settled as well, for the Dutch 1974 was never forgotten. They had the edge this time – reigning European champions, plenty of talent, including the top three European players, excellent football – as the photo shows, the team was formidable even without Gullit. Nobody won in the clash between Holland and West Germany, but still the Dutch won the group. They were on the road to concur the world – that how it looked in 1989.
2.West Germany 6 3 3 0 13- 3 9
Clearly in decline, but one cannot dare dismiss the Germans – whatever they lacked in skills, they compensated with battling character and great determination. The group was technically easy – only Holland was a problem and the Germans did not allow the better otherwise Dutch to beat them. Yet, they did not win the group and that was a problem… among the 3 second-placed teams to compete for 2 spots in the finals it was pure chance. England had the same record as West Germany. Denmark had better goal-difference. Luckily, West Germany had a point more than the Danes and clinched the finals.
3.Finland 6 1 1 4 4-16 3
No hopes for reaching the finals, of course, but considering the level of Finnish football third place was very satisfactory.
4.Wales 6 0 2 4 4- 8 2
Wales had no chance to reach finals, of course, but still they were expected to finish ahead of Finland. So, to a point the team failed… not winning even one game. But they brought the big scare to West Germany taking a point from them and thus effectively placed Holland at the top, leaving the mighty Germans to depend on luck.
Group 5.
1.YUGOSLAVIA 8 6 2 0 16- 6 14
Political troubles were already simmering in 1988, when the qualifications started for Yugoslavia, but nobody imagined disintegration and civil war even by the fall of 1989. As usual, the Yugoslavs were a team capable of reaching the finals and that was their aim – two teams qualified from their group, but it was a battle between 3 teams… quite equal teams: France was showing signs of decline, but Yugoslavia was also shaky. Scotland depended largely on fighting spirit for quite a long time, thus matching at least relatively weakened Yugoslavia and France. However, Yugoslavia stepped on the pedal and had a surprisingly good campaign given the players at hand. Comfortably on the top of the group as a result. This is the team ending 0-0 in a friendly against Brazil in 1989: standing from left: Panadić, Prosinečki, Stanojković, Spasić, Marović, Ivković; crouching: Savićević, Brnović, Stojković, Hadžibegić, Janković.
2.SCOTLAND 8 4 2 2 12-12 10
Quite frankly, Scotland had much more talented teams in the past, but whatever the Scots lacked in skills they compensated with grit and spirit. Reaching the finals was possible. At the end, it was reality – Scotland managed to finish ahead of France.
3.France 8 3 3 2 10- 7 9
Second row from left: Henri Emile (Int.), Joël Bats, Stéphane Paille, Sylvain Kastendeuch, Alain Roche, Marcel Dib, Basile Boli, Jean-Christophe Thouvenel, Franck Sauzée, Bruno Martini, Gérard Houllier (ent. adj.).
Sitting: Christian Perez, Daniel Bravo, Eric Guérit, Jean Tigana, Michel Platini (sél.), Jean-Pierre Papin, Jean-Marc Ferreri, Manuel Amoros.
In a nut shell, coach Platini did not have player Platini. Inevitable decline… the old great stars aged and stepped down and the new talent was not at the same level. Change of generations takes time. Torn between old and new, France was not a bad team, but it was not the team of early half of the decade and was beatable. Jean-Pierre Papin was the current bid name, but the absence of Eric Cantona shows the problems of the transitional time. France fought and lost. Minimally, but fatally – no finals for them.
4.Norway 8 2 2 4 10- 9 6
Like many ‘small’ countries, Norway improved a lot during the 1980s, but still was unable to really challenge traditionally ‘big’ teams. Strong campaign, but without really disturbing the status quo. This is the squad of one of the games against Yugoslavia – Norway lost both games by a goal, however, they extracted ties against France (at home) and Scotland (away).
5.Cyprus 8 0 1 7 6-20 1
Still outsiders.
Group 6.
1.SPAIN 8 6 1 1 20- 3 13
Such was the group that Spain was sure winner. They won, of course, but the fact that Ireland finished only a point behind them was a warning sign: Spain reached the finals, but was hardly a team to make great impact in Italy.

16 November 1988; The Republic of Ireland, from left to right, Kevin Moran, Packie Bonner, Ray Houghton, John Alridge, Steve Staunton, John Sheridan, Tony Galvin, Mick McCarthy, Tony Cascarino, David O’Leary and Chris Morris 

2.IRELAND 8 5 2 1 10- 2 12
Given the decline of Hungary, Ireland had a chance. And they more than used it – in fact, it was surprisingly strong campaign for a naturally limited team. This is the squad which faced Spain and beat it 1-0. Jack Charlton really made the most from his team. It was great to see Ireland going to World Cup finals. If anything, the boys were brave fighters.
3.Hungary 8 2 4 2 8-12 8
What is there to say? Hungary was already in long decline and there was simply very little talent at hand.
4.Northern Ireland 8 2 1 5 6-12 5
Sometimes spirit is not enough and that was the case of Northern Ireland. The other Irish had Stapleton, Whelan, Houghton, Moran… Northern Ireland had no solid big names.
5.Malta 8 0 2 6 3-18 2
This is the national side before the World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland played at the National Stadium at Ta’ Qali on 26th April 1989. Standing from: David Cluett (Floriana FC), Denis Cauchi (Floriana FC), John Buttigieg (Brentford, England), team captain Ray Vella (Ħamrun Spartans), Martin Gregory (Sliema Wanderers) and Edwin Camilleri (Hibernians). Squatting: Charles Xerri (Hibernians), Joe Galea (Rabat Ajax), David Carabott (Hibernians), Carmel Busuttil (KRC Genk, Belgium) and Michael Degiorgio (Ħamrun Spartans). Improvement was there, testified by players good enough to play in England and Belgium, but Malta still remained an outsider. The team on the picture lost the game 0-2 at home. However, they extracted 1-1 tie against Hungary in Budapest.
Group 7.
1.BELGIUM 8 4 4 0 15- 5 12
Much depends on draw… Belgium was in a group of relative equals. Yes, it was in decline, very mucg dependent of veterans, but among the opposition there was no formidable team and anything was possible. And no matter what, the Belgians were traditionally good fighters. So, like many times before Belgium was at least serious and solid and won the group. It was great to see wonderful player like Gerets going one more time to World Cup finals.
2.CZECHOSLOVAKIA 8 5 2 1 13- 3 12
May be this vintage lacked the talent of the 1976 European champions, but Josef Venglos and Vaclav Jezek were back at the helm and delivered. A mixed bag of a team, really, but having a core of strong players – Griga, Luhovy, Hasek, Straka, Nemecek, Chovanec, Moravcik. At least for reaching the finals in this group, that was enough. For more? Highly unlikely…
3.Portugal 8 4 2 2 11- 8 10
The great soaring of 1983-87 was gone, Portugal sunk into relative decline again and the team shows it: Rui Barros was pretty much the lone star. If there are not strong players, nothing could be done… Portugal tried as much as they could, but the limitations of the team excluded them from the finals.
4.Switzerland 8 2 1 5 10-14 5
Only luck would had them qualified – Switzerland simply did not have enough great players. Kubilay Turkylmaz was not enough to propel them higher. As expected.
5.Luxembourg 8 0 1 7 3-22 1
Naturally, outsiders. Got one point from Belgium, which amounted to a great success at the time for Luxembourg, especially because the point was earned in the away match. No matter that the game did not matter to Belgium.