Friday, 18 May 2012

World Soccer: June 1983

SV Hamburg: champions of Europe. That statement might jar your sense of reality unless you transport yourself back to June 1983 when World Soccer reported on the European Cup Final.

The reigning Bundesliga titleholders had out-thought and outplayed their opponents, Juventus, to win 1-0 in Athens, the only goal of the game scored by current Wolfsburg manager Felix Magath. Keir Radnedge described in detail how the Italian outfit had been found wanting in the grand finale, not helped by the new signings brought in to improve the Turin club.

“One year ago, their midfield was the best organised in Calcio” said Radnedge, yet Liam Brady had been ousted from the team in favour of Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek -  initially to little effect. The two stars of the 1982 World Cup struggled to adapt to life at the Stadio Comunale and were soon campaigning for a change in team tactics. Though that would ultimately reap its rewards, the 1983 European Cup Final arrived too soon for them to play at their best as Juventus were silenced by the managerial brain of Hamburg boss Ernst Happel.

Happel, leader of the Dutch side that almost reached the 1978 World Cup semi-finals, overcame the absence of one or two key players to create a masterplan which frustrated the Turin side. Players such as Jürgen Milewski, Horst Hrubesch and Wolfgang Rolff were allowed the space and freedom to switch positions, run at the Juventus defence and generally cause panic while their opponents stuck rigidly to their positional setup.

Radnedge summed up the Italians’ enforced tactical inferiority concisely: “Magath’s early goal meant that for Juventus the age-old Italian tactic of defend and strike on the counter-attack was useless. They had to come forward, and they didn’t seem to know how.”

The Road to Mexico

Sharing the opening page of World Soccer in June 1983 was the news that FIFA had unanimously chosen Mexico as hosts of the 1986 World Cup Finals. FIFA had originally given the hosting rights to Colombia as far back as 1974, but the South American country had stepped down in 1982, admitting they couldn't afford to stage the event.

Mexico ultimately won the bid to be the 1986 hosts when the world governing body’s executive committee met in Stockholm. Canada and the United States had also submitted bids, the latter ruffling a few feathers by enlisting Pele, Henry Kissinger and Franz Beckenbauer for their presentation.

As it is, FIFA president Joao Havelange needed little persuasion in awarding Mexico its second World Cup Finals, but some were surprised. The Brazilian had seen fit to only send an investigative commission to Mexico, dismissing the other two bids without further consideration. “Canada and the United States failed to reply to some important questions” said Havelange. “We could not keep on postponing the decision.”

Brian Glanville, writing in his column on page 20, was outraged for different reasons. He believed the 1986 World Cup should have gone to Brazil. Glanville felt that a Brazilian bid was doomed to fail because of the inharmonious relationship between Havelange and Giulite Coutinho, president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation. He cited Don Balon who claimed the FIFA president had allegedly made a trip to Mexico City in the private jet of Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, millionaire chief executive of the TV chain Televisa. Hardly conclusive proof of underhandedness, but worth thinking about, claimed Glanville.

Club clash

Elsewhere in his column, Brian Glanville commented on Robert Maxwell’s on-going attempts to merge Oxford United and Reading into a new club, Thames Valley Royals. Glanville stood with both feet firmly in the anti-merger camp, saying “At the time of writing, it appeared the opposition to the merger had but modest chance of success, but I must say I wish it no success at all.”

Assessing Maxwell’s motives for combining the two clubs at a new location in Didcot, he went on to say: “When did families, per se, ever go to watch a game en masse in Britain? And why should they start now, just because Robert Maxwell dumps a leisure centre in the middle of the Thames Valley, with its egregious population of 1.8 million?”

Both sets of fans made their opinions known in the form of protests, while Maxwell threatened to close down Oxford United if the merger didn’t go ahead. It’s just as well he didn’t: Oxford United won the Division Three championship the following season, reached Division One in 1985 and would have played in the UEFA Cup in the 1986/87 season were it not for the ‘Heysel’ ban on English clubs in European competition.

Finals galore

As well as the European Cup, the finals of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup also featured heavily in this issue. For Alex Ferguson, there was the chance to bask in the glory of a 2-1 extra time win over Real Madrid in the Cup-Winners’ Cup Final.

On a bleak, rain-soaked night in Gothenburg, Eric Black and John Hewitt scored the goals to maintain a seventh consecutive season in which a British team had won a European trophy. “This is the greatest moment of my life” said Ferguson. “It was a magnificent performance in the conditions and I thought we thoroughly deserved victory.”

The two-legged UEFA Cup Final was won by Anderlecht, 2-1 on aggregate over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Benfica. The Belgian side had become a force to be reckoned with in European football, appearing in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Finals of 1976, 1977 and 1978, winning the first and last of those. Here, under the managerial leadership of legendary Belgian midfielder Paul Van Himst, they travelled to the second leg in Lisbon with a 1-0 lead from the first match in Brussels.

Though Benfica scored first through a 32nd-minute goal by Han Shéu, they relaxed too much, allowing Anderlecht to score a valuable equaliser six minutes later through Juan Lozano. The goal appeared to knock the wind out of Benfica’s sails, thus allowing the Belgians to comfortably stay on top in the second half and finally win the trophy.

On the domestic front, Manchester United needed a replay to overcome Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup Final having drawn 2-2 at the first time of asking.

In the second match five days later, Brighton played well for the first 25 minutes before United struck four times – twice through Bryan Robson – to seal the victory. It was Man United’s first major success for six years and, as Paul Parish reported, spectators “would have fonder memories of Wembley’s excitement than the slide-rule boredom produced in Athens [in the European Cup Final].”

England hosts UEFA U-18 tournament

Staying on English soil, Keir Radnedge reported on a French victory over Czechoslovakia in the UEFA European Youth Championship Final held at White Hart Lane. World Soccer’s Associate Editor explained how the FA had made a bad job of organising the event, attracting only 30,000 spectators in total across the 28 matches. “In West Germany and Switzerland in the past” said Radnedge, “large crowds have been roped in by the simple expedient of giving away thousands of free tickets in local schools.” Not here and not back then, as it turned out, although the FA would soon catch on in a bid to fill Wembley Stadium more often in future.

Graham Taylor’s England side eventually finished third in the tournament, beating Italy 4-2 on penalties at Watford’s Vicarage Road ground. Taylor felt that the Italians were the best side in the tournament, but Keir Radnedge reserved a more critical view:

“The big disappointment was centre forward Roberto Mancini, the 18-year-old who cost Sampdoria £1.2 million a year ago. Apart from looking a little heavy for his height, he gave a distinct impression of a man who found this tournament too far beneath him after the hurly-burly of calcio.” Whatever happened to him, I wonder?

Transfer talk

With the domestic season over, World Soccer considered the rising stardom of Celtic’s 21-year-old striker Charlie Nicholas. The Glasgow-born footballer joined the Parkhead club in 1980 and had averaged better than one goal every two games by the time this issue had been published.

Reporter Alex Gordon was quick to praise the goal-scoring talents of Nicholas, giving a timely forecast about where his immediate future may lie. “All the speculation of his joining Liverpool/Spurs/Manchester United/Aston Villa/Real Madrid/SV Hamburg/Uncle Tom Cobbley United hasn’t sidetracked this amazingly mature and extremely popular young man.”

As it is, Charlie Nicholas left Celtic only days after this article reached the news-stands, but the fact that he was heading for Arsenal had not been so well predicted. The Scotland international apparently had a free choice of contracts from many of Europe’s top clubs. Liverpool, however, were probably the least likely club to snap up the future Sky Sports pundit. It was rumoured they were about to table a ‘measly’ £1 million bid for Nicholas AND Celtic’s star midfielder, Paul McStay. Hardly a surprise, then, that ‘Champagne Charlie’ never got to grace the pitch at Anfield…

Back page

Finally, with all the talk of Anderlecht doing so well throughout World Soccer’s pages, it was apt that the back cover depicted Ludo Coeck, the skilful Belgian midfielder who in 1983 moved from Les Mauves et Blancs to Internazionale.

Coeck made nearly 300 appearances for Anderlecht and enjoyed a 10-year-spell in the Belgian national team, scoring once in his side’s 10-1 win over El Salvador in the 1982 World Cup.

Unfortunately the move to Inter wasn’t a successful one for him and after a brief switch to Ascoli he returned to Belgium by signing for Molenbeek in 1985. Tragically, Ludo Coeck’s life was cut short when, at the age of only 30, his car crashed through roadside barriers near the Belgian town of Rumst. He died in hospital two days later, only two years after this edition of World Soccer was published.


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