They all have gone. All the big guns had already been sent home, save one, by a resilient bunch of rag-tag gunslingers from Euro-2008 in fantastic display of marksmanship when it mattered most. The amazing “sudden Draws of Death” in the dying moments of footballing sands of time have covered up some forgettable dull matches. For the tame co-hosts Switzerland and Austria, its all about home away from home farther. No host nation with impressive performances in both World Cup and European Championship trophy has ever played such apathetic style of soccer at home.
Remember what “rank outsiders at home” South Korea and Japan superbly did in 2002 World Cup as co-host nations? Super-coach Guss Hiddink (Holland) took the well-inspired home team South Korea upto the Semi-Final stage as he did with Russia in this Euro-2008, whereas Japan were knocked out by the eventual champions Brazil in the pre-quarters. Hiddink had taken Holland upto the semi-final in World Cup as a coach.
Here in Euro-2008, the sensational Flying Dutchmen brought down Les Bleus (France) by ripping apart the Azzuri (Italy) sky by playing a near-Total Football, which sometimes falter to deceive in crunch time. The best Total Football Team was the Flying Dutchmen led by Johann Cruyff who were unfortunately beaten in the 1974 World Cup Final led by “Kaiser” Beckenbeaur’s West Germany (2-1), the home team.
More unfortunately, the last of Total Footballers, ie, Holland in 1970s, once again were beaten by Daniel Pasarella led host Argentina in the next 1978 World Cup Final Match, 3-1, in extra time. Ironically, the hot favourite Dutchmen were beaten by same margin, ie 3-1 by more opportunistic Russians in Euro – 2008 qtr-final in extra time. Had not the host Argentina fixed their last knock-out match outrageously with 6-1 “half-football” match against the neighbouring Peru, who were already eliminated before that fixed-match, the Flying Dutchmen would or could have won the World Cup itself !!! Host Argentina needed a near impossible task to thump the dark horse Peru with a 3 goals margin without letting in more than 2 goals to pole-vault a young Brazilian team in then qtr-final League match for the last Semi-final spot.
Like Bennito Mussolini (1938 World Cup) and Adolf Hitler (1936 Olympic), the Argentine Military Junta literally bought the 1978 World Cups Finals and then shamelessly bought out third place Peru for a 3-0 or 4-1 or 5-2 win with millions of dollars plus economic aid package. Buy-out Peru “struggled hard” to let in just 6 goals and even “struggled harder” to refrain from scoring just 1 goal in real counter attack, thereby gifting 2 extra goals and checked themselves to score just 1 goal as conspired. A beautiful game indeed!
In the 1982 World Cup, the eventual winners, Italy, booked themselves a place in the 2nd round with last minute goals, thanks to the Italian Super-sub Paolo Rossi (Higher goal scorer with 6 goals, repeated again in 1990 WC by another Italian Super-sub Salvatore Schillaci). However, it was the losing Finalist West Germany who ‘co-fixed’ their last league match with neighbouring Austria, 1-1, at the expense of the undefeated Cameroon (3 draws) with a disgusting “walking football” to ensure a safe place in the 2nd round as the top two group leaders in goal difference. In the Espana ‘82, Michel Platini led “Carre Magique” Frenchmen (the best ever French team who won European Cup two years later in 1984 with attacking centre-half Platini as the top scorer with 9 goals ) were beaten shockingly with the mother of all-comebacks by West Germany.
The hot favourite France were leading 3-1 upto the 2nd half of the extra-time, but the physically strong Germans equalised with two stunning goals in 10 minutes and beat the French in a heart breaking penalty shoot-out for the Final match with Italy who were good enough to hold their 3-1 lead to lift the WC trophy, thanks to the “Butcher of Bilbao” Claudio Gentile, G. Bareisi and Giuseppe Bergomi, the three full-backs and the versatile Bruno Conti and Marco Tardelli, the two half-backs, to form two-tier defence formation.
The hard tackling Claudio Gentile literally chopped down one young maestro called Maradona and neutralised the Brazilian centre forwards and midfielders with bone-cracking tackles. When asked as to why he was so hard on young Maradona and other great players, Gentile like a Mafia Don, shot back, “No, signor, this is not a dancing school-class.” That’s how the famous “Butcher of Bilbao”, Claudio Gentile and Co successfully dealt with the “two-man German Panzer Armee”, i.e, Peter Hans Briegel and Karl Heinz Rummanigge, with a back-to-back 3-1 World Cup Final match scoreline. In Mexico ‘86, the last of attacking WC Final match with thrilling goals at both ends, Maradona led Argentina beat “Kaiser” Beckenbeaur’s West Germany 3-2.
The only questionable part of it was that of the lively left-back Lothar Mattheus was literally forced to engage and baby-sit the danger-man Maradona by Beckenbeaur which left a huge gap in the otherwise originally solid defence put up in real Teutonic discipline formation. A wrong move in sending 8 Germans forward in the last 10 minute of the regulation time gave Maradona to put through Burruchaga to score the decisive match winning goal in the 84th minute. The rest is history.