Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The Pioneers, Part 2
So, to Australia’s matches at the 1974 World Cup. And first up:
Australia v. East Germany
There must have been plenty of nerves jangling before the start of this game. The two countries were both playing their very first World Cup game (it would be 24 years before another pair of debutants, Croatia and Jamaica, faced each other in their opening group match).
The East Germans were favoured, of course. They had edged past Romania in their European qualifying group, scoring eleven goals in their final three games, and had posted an impressive series of results in pre-tournament friendlies.
Australia’s team was largely an unknown quantity. They had played two warm-up games against Uruguay at home (the latter featuring the notorious “karate chop” incident which ended Ray Baartz’s chances of appearing in Germany), and friendlies against Indonesia and Israel en route to Germany. On the whole, they must have been only slightly less mysterious to the football cognoscenti than the North Koreans of 1966.
Australia took the field in what was supposedly a 4-4-2, but it gave rather the appearance of a 4-5-1, with Branko Buljevic – nominally a striker – dropping back into a virtual left midfield position for much of the time. The East Germans played a fluid 4-3-3. The stadium was barely half-full - the World Cup was far from the marketing and TV bonanza of today.
The opening was tense. Australia had clearly set out to defend resolutely and attack mainly on the break, and indeed they played rather better without the ball than with it in the early stages. Peter Wilson, the central defender and captain, was impressive in his positioning and heading power, but less so in his distribution, especially from free kicks.
Twice in the initial period, Colin Curran broke upfield from left-back to good effect, combining well with the front pairing of Buljevic and Adrian Alston. With Manfred Schaefer alert at the back and Curran’s excursions making Australia an awkward proposition on the break, East Germany didn’t have things all their own way for the opening twenty minutes. A wild long shot from their left-back, Siegmar Wätzlich, was about all they managed.
Sadly, Johnny Warren, playing on the right of midfield, picked up an early injury in a tackle and his effectiveness was greatly limited thereafter. It was surprising, in fact, that Rale Rasic kept him on the field for the entire ninety minutes.
The East Germans were not averse to a bit of calculated fouling, but the Australians’ free kicks went to waste all too often; the general method employed, a hefty whack into the mixer, was predictably ineffective. There were two exceptions late in the half, however; once Ray Richards laid the ball off cleverly to Alston, whose shot lacked the requisite power and accuracy, while Doug Utjesenovic almost scored what would have been a stunning goal with a narrow-angled free kick late in the half. The East German sweeper, Bernd Bransch, managed to get his foot in the way.
On the half-hour the East Germans finally managed another half-chance, Jürgen Sparwasser evading Schaefer but blazing wide. Then it was Adrian Alston’s turn to come to the fore.
On an inspired infield run from an outside-right position, he skipped past three East German defenders before being fouled by the centre-back, Konrad Weise. Soon afterwards, he tormented Weise again, this time by the left corner-flag, to be eventually brought down again. It should perhaps be mentioned here that in a later game, the same East German defender reportedly kept a certain Johan Cruyff uncharacteristically quiet.
The Germans finally engineered a palpable chance a couple of minutes from the break. The left-winger Eberhard Vogel, by far their best player of the night, got away from Richards on the left and crossed for the centre-forward Joachim Streich, marked a little too loosely by Schaefer. The blond striker had his header saved by the legs of Jack Reilly.
Half-time, and the Socceroos had surpassed themselves. As they headed into the sheds, Warren giving Schaefer a deserved pat on the back, the commentator John Motson remarked that the Australians had “defended remarkably well”.
The second half began even more hopefully for the Socceroos, with East Germany resorting to long balls and aimless passing in the search for a breakthrough. The manager, Georg Buschner, sensibly replaced the right-winger Wolfram Löwe, who had been getting nowhere against Curran, with the teenager Martin Hoffmann. Slowly, East Germany began to assume the initiative.
Hoffmann’s presence was only incidental to the opening goal, however. After a fairly innocuous passing move from the Germans, the ball reached the baby-faced Jürgen Pommerenke on the left. Suddenly, a quick through-ball caught the Australian defence off guard; Sparwasser had nipped into a gap in the inside-left channel. As Schaefer appealed vainly for offside, Reilly dashed out of his net to narrow the angle; Sparwasser deftly jabbed the ball past him, and as it rolled inexorably towards goal, Curran’s attempted clearance only succeeded in finding the inside netting. 1-0.
Sparwasser was now rampant. Soon after the goal, he glided past Rooney and shot just wide. Australia did what they could on the break, but although Buljevic continued to display some fine touches and an admirable knack for drawing fouls, the Germans were now on top. For one thing, Alston was finding it harder to get into the game.
If the East Germans’ first goal had owed something to defensive inattention, their second was of the highest quality, and few teams would have been ashamed to concede it. Shortly after Reilly had saved well from Streich, a neat touch from Sparwasser released Vogel on the left, with Utjesenovic out of position; the winger rounded Schaefer with ease and sent in a perfect cross to Streich, who met the ball with a ferocious half-volley which whistled past Reilly. The Socceroo goalkeeper would barely have sighted it.
The game petered out. Curran drifted upfield in the final quarter-hour, but the Australians, clearly tired from their long defensive exertions, were unable to press remotely effectively. Strangely, too, Rasic persisted with the manifestly unfit Warren on the other wing; a substitution (Ollerton or Abonyi, perhaps?) might have resulted in some increased verve from the Socceroos.
The East Germans, too, were content to sit on their lead. Sparwasser hit the outside of the post ten minutes from the close following an incisive right-wing move, and Vogel too had a couple of half-chances in the final minutes. At the other end, Alston managed another sinuous right-wing run, but his eventual shot was blocked.
A two-goal loss was widely perceived as a success for the part-timers from down under. The West Germans, who had found beating Chile hard work, were next…
Any bootlegs doing the rounds by any chance? ;o)
Maybe a little bit of that. I'm just re-watching the West Germany game, and we gave them an awful lot of space in the middle of the park, probably more than they deserved. But it's understandable, given that it was our first ever WC. I think the general shape of the team was OK and they really worked for each other, which is a tribute to Rale.
Definitely some technically good players in there, Buljevic especially (Alston was no slouch either).
...Any bootlegs doing the rounds by any chance?...
Not at the moment...but patience is a virtue. ;-)
Definitely some technically good players in there, Buljevic especially (Alston was no slouch either)....."
It's hard to blame Rasic for wanting some damage control, particularly after losing Ray Baartz for the tournament proper. From all accounts, he was far and away our best player and would have left a massive headache for Rasic to re-focus his tactics. Perhaps there still should have been a place for Abonyi.
Buljevic seems to be underrated figure, although Rasic seems to have a high regard for him to this day. Mind you, Mr. Rasic is known to look back at his reign with Rale-coloured glasses at times.
On a related topic, I've read a recent book which attempts to debunk one or two myths surrounding the supposedly taciturn nature of Peter Wilson (compared to Johnny Warren's golden boy status), with a certain SBS Head of Sport describing him as a 'dull Englishman'. It seems like he was in fact a larger than life character, and the whole squad looked up to their skipper in a big way.
I'd love to hear things from Wilson's perspective, but we will most likely never hear his side of the story.
".......Not at the moment...but patience is a virtue. ;-)....."
I'm a very patient man. ;o)
...which attempts to debunk one or two myths surrounding the supposedly taciturn nature of Peter Wilson (compared to Johnny Warren's golden boy status), with a certain SBS Head of Sport describing him as a 'dull Englishman'. It seems like he was in fact a larger than life character, and the whole squad looked up to their skipper in a big way....
Matt Hall's chapter on Wilson in the first edition of The Away Game is interesting in that respect. I haven't read Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters yet, but I probably will soon - and it will be interesting to read JW's impressions of 1974 now that I've seen the games. In the one game he played (v. East Germany) he was an absolute passenger, but that wasn't really his fault. But Rale not replacing him is a complete mystery to me.
Not a bad read, altho he's a bit harsh on Graham Arnold IMO, and slightly too sycophantic towards Hiddink, but you've probably heard all that before....
It's an interesting read from the POV of describing Germany 06 first, then devoting the latter part of the book to the Asian move and some of the history of Australian football, as well as some speculation of the future.
But be warned, he describes Craig Foster as an astute football observer. ;o)