Over the years, especially since the war, international football has seen a number of teams rise to prominence, and then be swept away by the next wave. These teams haven’t necessarily won everything, scooping the board of honours over a given period. More accurately, they have been the teams that have been widely acknowledged as the game’s leaders. The players at the forefront of the game’s development, setting new paradigms and patterns that others have copied or adapted.
Some ended their time in the sun with a hatful of trophies; others entered the field and left again, empty-handed. On occasions, there’s a game when the handing-on of the torch can be identified. In the World Cup of 1974, for example, Johan Cruyff’s ‘Oranje’ destroyed a street-fighter of a Brazil team that would have embarrased Pelé and the ‘Joga Bonito’ Samba Boys of four years earlier. It was a game when the Dutch ‘Totall Voetbal’ won the day and cherished the stewardship of ‘the beautiful game’ for a few years. In other times though, the change is seamless, but no less apparent for that.
In the fifties and sixties, two magnificent teams rose above the rest to dominate football for a generation. In the early part of the fifties, it was Hungary and the Magnificent Magyar team of Puskás, Hidegkuti and the cherry-shirted magicians playing under Gusztáv Sebes. The team that went from May 1950 to February 1956, winning 43 games, drawing a mere half-dozen, and losing just one – that one game however was the World Cup Final of 1954, and it denied the Hungarians the crown that would have rubber-stamped their dominance. Continue reading →
It’s been labelled as a curse of the modern game and in post-match discussions probably causes as much controversy as any other subject, and a great deal more than most. What am I talking about? Some call it simulation. Others call it diving. For the purpose of clarity, whichever euphemism people choose to disguise it as, it is of course cheating.
You’ve all heard the managers and players justifying or bleating about it afterwards. “There was contact.” “He went down very easily” “It was soft.” “It was minimal.” There’s even my all-time favourite: “He was entitled to go down!” I’m not quite sure whether such entitlement was an inalienable right passed down from a particular deity, or just an element of the country’s constitution. I’m thinking probably neither. Continue reading →