Monday, April 07, 2008
The Undiscovered Turning Point
And since no recent football news has piqued my interest particuarly (apart from some fairly predictable first-leg results in the Champions League quarter-finals), herewith another excursion into the past.
The latest of my old World Cup acquisitions has been the legendary quarter-final from the 1966 tournament, between Portugal and North Korea.
To set the scene: Portugal, making their first appearance at a World Cup, packed with players from the glorious Benfica side of the sixties, are the favoured team. They have blitzed the first round, defeating Brazil and Hungary (back when they were a team to be respected) on the way.
The North Koreans were the tournament unknowns, who had demolished an underdone Australian team to qualify for the finals. Starting off with a loss to Russia, they had gained confidence with a draw against a leaden-footed Chile before providing the shock of the event, beating a 10-man Italy in the final group match, and progressing to the knockout phase. They were not particularly well-endowed technically, but their speed and interplay in the attacking third was quite impressive...as was their finishing.
You probably know the story. Amazingly, the Koreans went 3-0 up in the first twenty minutes against a stunned Portuguese side. Thereafter, the great Eusebio took charge, banging in two penalties and two other goals, before helping to lay on the match-sealing final goal for his tall team-mate José Augusto. The match finished 5-3 to Portugal...a true World Cup classic.
One of the things I love about watching these games that have been committed to legend is the chance to discover key moments that, for whatever reason, rarely get mentioned in the accepted version. The tale goes that, once Portugal stepped up a gear, it was only a matter of time before the Korean citadel collapsed.
Yet there were a couple of very interesting turning points at a crucial moment of this game, that are worth a serious look. Just as there were in the supposedly one-sided 1986 semi-final between Argentina and Belgium, where the Belgians had two clear, critical runs at goal in the first half (both of which would almost certainly have resulted in goals) wrongly, in fact ridiculously, ruled out for offside. It's surprising how many significant details get tossed in the bin, in the wash-up.
But I digress.
In the 40th minute of the 1966 game, North Korea are still 3-1 ahead. They are tiring (as they did so markedly in the second half), but still more or less in control. Portugal have looked shaky at the back throughout, and sure enough, another short pass in the defensive third gets intercepted by the impressive left-winger, Yang Sung-Kook. He rides a desperate foul by the Portuguese captain Mario Coluna and surges on, with three team-mates running up alongside him and only two Portuguese defenders in sight. A goal would surely have been likely.
Suddenly, the Israeli referee Ashkenazi whistles. For Coluna's foul!
It's one of the most absurd decisions you will ever see. The play is pulled back just at the moment when Yang, unchallenged, is on the edge of the area, with the central defenders being drawn across to him. A clearer example of when to play the advantage rule would be hard to find.
The Koreans get no change out of the free kick, and only a minute later comes incident No. 2. North Korea's right-back, Shin Yung-Kyoo, is moving the ball out of defence; the Portuguese centre-forward, Torres, clatters into him from behind. It's a clear foul, yet Ashkenazi waves the play on. Sure enough, the Portuguese push forward, the ball comes to Torres again...and he is tripped in the area, ironically by Shin himself. Penalty.
Eusebio slams it home, it's 2-3, and the tide has turned.
Who knows what would have happened had the sides entered the tunnel at 4-1 instead?
Nowadays they would have had a few red carded.
They were a disgrace as was the referee
Nowadays they would have had a few red carded.
They were a disgrace as was the referee...
There was some pretty brutal fouling in that game (which I've also seen, by the way), and yes, the ref (George McCabe) was a disgrace, but the Portuguese weren't the only ones dishing it out.
Another of the little-known footnotes: right at the end of that game, Pele himself committed an absolutely horrendous foul on a Portuguese defender.
Having said all that, Brazil were pretty unlucky in that tournament, for a number of reasons.
And to think a minnow like N Korea would beat an established power like Portugal ...
You know that just wouldn't do sir!
It's funny - it sounds like refereeing decisions have and will always decide the outcome of games.
Insert rolly eyes here.
Whoa, that's an interesting one.
I'll have to track down a recording of that England-Portugal semi some time.
For one, England changed the venue of the game some 10 hours before the match so Portugal had to travel 1000 miles and thus their players got very little sleep and no warm up. Check this if you want.
Then have a look at the tackles made on Augusto and Coluna (both of whom were targetted and in the end made the team of the tournament), Martin Taylor would be proud.
Not to mention the game between England and Argentina, when Argentine superstar Rattin was sent off for no apparent reason, the English players were even confused. Later it was found that he said a Spanish word which was "offensive" in German so the ref sent him off.
I don't know how your Latin is but here is a link.
Wikipedia isn't the greatest source and I've been dreadfully looking for a better source, but here is what they say.
"In the semi-final match against England, Eusebio scored Portugal's only goal on a penalty in the 82nd minute. Portuguese supporters continue to remember the game for the unusually high number of disallowed goals. Eusebio alone was said to have had 4 goals called back by the offside flag."
Eusebio was known as the happy and smiling player in Portugal no matter what, that he never got upset if his team lost. He was completely in tears after the match, footage of this is available on youtube.
Nothing against the English really, but the 1966 WC was a joke.