Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #11

Plunging head first into APMFVGFH time warp once again, this edition takes us to the heady days of the late 90s and early 2000s as we look at a groundbreaking series that straddled the millennia.

If it wasn’t clear from the blurry, vague image above, in this edition we are highlighting both LiberoGrande – released by Namco for the PlayStation in 1997 – AND LiberGrande 2: International –  released in 2000.

The name of the latter suggests that the series had expanded from clubs to also include national teams, when in fact national teams are all that’s playable in either game. But the main point was players rather than team, as instead of playing as a whole XII and continually controlling who was on or nearest the ball, as in most conventional football games, LiberoGrande demands the gamer select one world-class player to control for the entire match.

Having originally appeared as an arcade title, “libero grande” itself translates to “free big” in Italian, referring to the historic calcio position of libero (sweeper), and implying that the game gave the player more freedom than ever before. While nothing spectacular in terms of gameplay (as far as we recall), luckily we care not one jot about that in this series and over both games there are some funny and genuinely impressive moments.

For one thing, like International Superstar Soccer the actual player’s names are not allowed appear due to licensing reasons, and the 21 playable “characters” and 10 unlockables are all parodies, often with unintentionally hilarious results. But we always love some fan action in the coded stands also, and thankfully this game provides more of it than most.

After the title screen, the intro video immediately sets the tone for what this game is going to be like:

Later in the intro, it appears as if the game is being played in an ancient crumbling stadium, or one that’s been bombarded. Some commendable Danish banner hanging is also visible:

Before getting to a match, the gamer must select their player which includes a snap shot of the legend’s face. The real life equivalent of each is fairly easy to figure out, and a full list can be found on the LiberoGrande Wikipedia page, but given the Japanese origins of the game it is not surprising that many of them turn out like anime characters.

First is Raimundo, the friendly N64 Legend of Zelda villager:

Then there’s the inflatable Alfred Shaffer from England:

Lion-Man, Cornelio Valencia:

The Romanian Redneck, Godwin Hasdeu:

Concerned aunt, Jordan Krüger:

Arrogant pirate princes, Antonio Del Pacino and Robin Garrick:

Stoic Latin hero, Renato Gallegos:

And the only Serbian ever to have an “x” in his name, Dormen Smixolovic:

Some other interesting name choices include the combination of Oliver Bierhoff with an 19th century emperor, creating “Oswald Bismarck”; Andreas Möller going Ducth to become “Ajax Möbius”; Romario’s metamorphosis into a keyboard – “Roland”; and they transformed George Weah into “Gerald Wells”, an accountant from the American mid-west.

Another sidenote from the Wikipedia page is that someone thought it important enough to include the  “Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.” just in case the FIFA rules-audit people are skimming through old football game pages.

At last we come to the teams emerging – in this case the Netherlands and USA (the angle of the camera at first makes it appear as if the flags and country names are aligned to the wrong side, but this is rectified as the camera spins around). Immediately the eye is drawn to the crowd in the background as we see flares, strobos, tifo flags, and banner hanging from the Dutch supporters:

The pyro looks even more impressive for night games, and who better than Italy’s virtual ultras to demonstrate:

One thing we love in soccer simulators is when your players crumple the ground pathetically upon conceding a goal or being sent off, and happily, this is the case here. Upon France scoring against Italy early in a friendly game, an intensely huge “GOAL” scrolls along as the whole Italian squad drop to the grass to cry and pound the pitch, and ask God why they were born:

In the background, a quite disturbing celebration is taking place between two French teammates, who are engaging in unholy communion through some sort metaphysical alien bio-technology. But in quite a lovely kit:

You may have noticed above that the wavy flags continue around the pitch in the crowd, with four behind this goal alone:

Getting a closer look, the flags are quite massive with the white pole a pleasing touch, although the flag appears to be waving itself:

Moving on to LiberoGrande 2 as it was known in Japan, or LiberoGrande International in Europe, the game for the new millennium had an updated, clean look that we love:

As the caption says: “This is the ultimate Football game”. As in the last one ever? Here’s some more nice screens:

Libero 2 switches things up by focusing on the country first, rather the players. The team select screen is also great, with four elegant globes above the national flags:

Once you have your team the player then is selected, and this time it can be any of them. Here a nice Portugal kit is on display:

Lastly, we come to a match between Sweden and Germany in the San Siro. As the teams emerge, we see an immense traveling mob of Swedes in mostly black jackets with banners, flags, and bouncing in unison. The slight time delay between the rows creates an amazing effect:

It is one of the greatest scenes in any football video game:

LiberoGrande 2 would not be the ultimate football game, but it would be the ultimate game in the series. The idea of controlling a single player may have seemed boring and pointless to some at the time, but it was later adapted by both the Pro Evolution and FIFA series, showing that Libero really was a trailblazing legend of a game.

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YouTube Links:

Libero Grande Italy vs France
Libero Grande Netherlands vs USA
Libero Grande 2
Libero Grande 2 Sweden vs Germany

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Football Special Report #5: Estonia vs Scotland, World Cup 98 Qualifier, 09/10/1996

In the previous edition of the Football Special Report, we looked at a classic post-reunification East vs West German club clash that featured one of the greatest strikes of all time (of the hand-to-face variety rather than a football kick). Now we fast forward a few years to Estonia and one of the shortest matches of all time.

Background:

Back in Supporter Snap Back #2, we talked about the somewhat regular pairing of Scotland and Switzerland in the early 90s through both international and club competition. But the Scots’ true rivals of the decade have got to be Estonia, with no less than 6 meetings between the two nations in 7 years from 1993 to 1999.

 
Flags of Scotland and Estonia.

While Scotland had come off the back of World Cup 90 and Euro 92 participation when the sides originally met in World Cup 94 qualification Group 1, Estonia were participating in their debut campaign after independence from the Soviet Union and unsurprisingly it was the experienced Scots who won the first encounter 0-3 on front of 1800 fans in Tallinn in May 93. The tally was repeated in the return tie at Aberdeen’s Pittodrie less than a month later, but this time it would also be the scene of Estonia’s first ever goal in competitive football – their one and only goal in the group as it would turn out.


Estonia score their historic first competitive goal against Scotland in Aberdeen, World Cup qualifier, 02/06/1993.

Portugal, Italy and, of course, Switzerland all finished ahead of Scotland, meaning USA 94 would be the only major tournament of the 90s that they would miss out on. After their return to a finals at Euro 96, Estonia loomed once more in the Autumn as the pair would again be battling it out for World Cup qualification in a tough Group 4 also featuring Austria and Sweden (and Belarus and Latvia).

On August 31st, Scotland started their campaign with a satisfactory draw in Vienna against Austria before defeating Estonia’s southern neighbours Latvia 0-2 in early October. On the same day Estonia also picked up their first win of the group, with a 1-0 victory over Belarus after the reverse scoreline when the sides had already met in Minsk in August.

Next up, five days later on October 9th, Scotland were to play Estonia and the team made the short Baltic journey north from Riga – obviously the result of excellent fixture scheduling by the Scottish Football Association also employed by Ireland in Latvia and Lithuania in June 93. A huge away contingent of the Tartan Army had watched the Scots win in Latvia and doubtlessly many also followed the squad across the border for the second of the double header.


Scottish banners in Riga showing their fantastic away support, Latvia vs Scotland, 04/10/1996.

All was normal up to this point, but at the under-21’s match the night before the game the Scottish staff discovered partial temporary floodlights in Tallinn’s Kadriorg Stadium not fit for international football, at least in their opinion. After making a complaint to FIFA, the governing body’s executive committee in Zurich agreed to move kick-off forward on the morning of the match from the originally scheduled 18:45 to 15:00 local time, eliminating the need for the inadequate floodlights.


Temporary floodlights in Tallinn's Kadriorg Stadium, 08/10/1996.

The Estonians were horrified at this last minute change, both from a logistical and television rights point of view, and threatened not to show up. The rescheduling also negatively effected Scottish supporters at home, as a school shooting memorial on BBC Scotland meant the game could not be shown live.

The Match:

An impressive 800 Scottish supporters are in attendance at the Kadriorg, giving the away fans an remarkable 80% share in the crowd of  the reported 1000 in attendance:

It’s time for the teams to come out and Scotland emerge in their classic mid 90s baggy Umbro shirt that had been debuted since the Euros (much nicer than either the Euro kit or the following World Cup kit in our opinion):

But the Estonians have been true to their word and are not present, giving Scotland a 100% share of the sides involved in the match. Witty as ever, the Scottish supporters make the most of the situation with chants like “One team in Tallinn” and “We only play in the daylight”:

The accused floodlights sit sheepishly by, their once dim glow now a distant memory never to be seen again:

The team lines up for one national anthem…:

…beefore jovial captain John Collins of AS Monaco shakes hands with the Yugoslavian referee, clearly loving the novelty of the occasion:

Much like Chile’s non-encounter with the USSR in 1973 (check out Politics On The Pitch #5 for more info), the Scottish team prepare to start a match against no opposition:

The ref blows his whistle and the Scots kick-off. Unlike with Chile though, where the home side scored a goal before the farce was ended, the whistle blows again three seconds later, as – shockingly – there is no opponent present to contest the match:

The away side are delighted as it seems the three points are their’s without having to break a sweat. Heroic captain Collins, among other players, emotionally raises his arms in glorious victory, like a lion rampant:

As the players stroll off they applaud their support, who amazingly sang for 100% of the match:

Not everyone is enjoying themselves quite so much, as a stoned faced Andy Goram storms off with eyes facing the down:

Perhaps this is more in attempt to keep attention away from his mismatched salmon goalkeeper shirt with yellow shorts and socks:

The Scottish occupied main stand continue to sing and will enjoy the rest of their night in the Estonian capital, with one step closer to France 98 completed:

Aftermath:

Or so they thought. As it turned out there would be another difference to the Chile-USSR affair, as in this instance FIFA did not award the game to the Scots with a 0-3 walkover as had originally be expected.

Following an executive committee meeting in November it was decided for the game to be replayed on neutral ground, much to the annoyance of the SFA. Accusations from some quarters were thrown at Swede Lennart Johansson, president of UEFA and chair of the committee, at attempting to give his native land an advantage in the group by forcing their rivals to replay the tie.

Funnily enough, at least one player would in fact be on home ground, as the Stade Louis II was chosen as the venue – stadium of John Collin’s Monaco. On February 11th, 1997, the game at last took place, with Johansson’s evil Swedish plan seemingly working as the Estonians were able to hold the Scots to a 0-0 draw (perhaps channeling Sweden’s period of rule over Estonia from 1558 and 1710).


Monaco hosts an international; is that a totenkopf in the middle of the Scottish flags? Estonia vs Scotland, World Cup qualifier, 11/02/1997.

Just over a month later, the sides would play again in Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, with a 2-0 victory for Scotland. But on April 30th, dastardly Sweden would again damage Scottish qualification hopes with a 2-1 defeat in Gothenburg.

With Sweden taking on Estonia on the last game of the group, it would be nice to conclude the story with the Baltic state redeeming themselves and throwing off their Scandinavian yoke once again to cause an upset allowing Scotland to qualify. It wasn’t to be, as the World Cup 94 3rd placed team won 1-0.

However Scotland’s win over Latvia at the same time, itself a former Swedish dominion, gave them 23 points anyway – two behind Austria but two ahead of Sweden. While the rest of the second place finishers entered play-offs against each other, this total made Scotland the best placed runners-up in qualifying which delivered an automatic qualification spot – much to the displeasure of a fuming Mr Johhansson no doubt.

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YouTube Links:

Scotland vs Estonia, 1993
Latvia vs Scotland, 1996
Estonia vs Scotland, 1996
Estonia vs Scotland, 1996
Estonia vs Scotland, 1997

*****

Cold War Classic #8: Finland vs East Germany, 1986

Our regular guest series over on MuseumOfJerseys.com is back, with installment number eight of the Cold War Classic. In each edition we usually discuss a vintage east vs west international matchup from the Cold War era, specifically relating to the amazing and fascinating kits of the time and their evolution. Detailed backgrounds are included, and all retro kits relevant to the story are expertly illustrated in glorious colour by MOJ top boy Denis Hurley. This time we look at branding and sponsorship on national team jerseys and focus in on two great nations – one which continues to exist to this day.

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Cold War Classics no. 8 – Finland v East Germany, 1986

…the brand we are talking about is of course adidas, which by the end of the era was being worn by the international football teams of every country in the eastern bloc. This apparent juxtaposition seems to prove that links to the west were more acceptable than may have been perceived, at least on state level, and that capitalist practices such as shirt branding were apparently compatible with communist ideals (even if trefoils were half-heartedly covered or removed at times). In retrospect, the adidas trend ties in with the eventual fall of communism in Europe, as, logically, they would not have been needed if all was going positively on that side of the Iron Curtain.

We have theorised before on how the need to realistically compete at the highest level, including when it came to kit and equipment, eventually trumped any ideological loyalty. Plus of course, there is the money. Adidas’ three stripes had started to appear on national teams’ kits of the region by the 1974 World Cup, with Poland, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria all donning the distinctive feature at the tournament. The Poland away shirt even displayed a trefoil too. Czechoslovakia were next in 1976, followed by Hungary, the USSR, Romania and Albania in the following years.

The last domino to fall was East Germany…

Read on

 

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