Cold War Classic #9: Hungary vs England, 1981

Our regular guest series over on MuseumOfJerseys.com is back, with installment number nine 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 take a look at when player names were briefly popular on international shirts in 1981, as England would most definitely find out.

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Cold War Classic no.9 – Hungary vs England, 1981

…By the time the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the classic three-stripe motif first seen on French kits 20 years earlier had evolved to large post-modern blocks covering one or both shoulders with the adidas trefoil receiving a similar fate. And, following their historical cameos, front numbers began to appear full-time on shirts used in international tournaments. Another new addition seen at the 1992 European Championships was the player’s last name on the back above the squad number.

Like front numbers, names had appeared on American football jerseys and in other American sports for decades, including the North American Soccer League of the 70s and 80s. As it turned out, adidas’s updated Equipment design for the 1990s was not really the ideal template with which to introduce the concept to European football, as it meant the letters would have to pass through two different colours if it was a medium-to-long name…

READ ON

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What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #8 (Gallery)

Last time in WFISTLL, we zoomed in on the Belgian league scene of the late 80s and early 90s with a whirlwind of pics and gifs illustrating the gritty supporter culture present in that time and place. Now we return to our usual format of a selection of images that demonstrate what used to make football so interesting, in a variety of classic 20th century ways.

Superb away jersey, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 14/09/1988:

Umbrella crowd, fence, classic hoarding and graphics, Chile vs Yugoslavia, Under-20 World Cup (hosted by Chile), 10/10/1987:

Raised stands and large entrance-way with row of people, Turkey vs West Germany, European Championships qualifier, 24/04/1983:

Snow-patch pitch, East Germany vs Scotland, European Championships qualifier, 16/11/1983:

Competing anthem bands (although the lot on the right look like children in comparison?) and angular team line-ups, West Germany vs Netherlands, World Cup 74 final, 07/07/1974:

Confetti pitch, Internazionale Milano vs AS Roma, Serie A, 24/03/1988:

Arabic Marlboro advert, Zaire vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations 74 (hosted by Egypt), 12/03/1974:

Amazing old-old school end with supporters on roof, Portugal vs Italy, friendly, 15/04/1928:

Rain plus no roof equals many, many umbrellas, Czechoslovakia vs Netherlands, European Championships 76 semi-final (hosted by Yugoslavia, match in Zagreb), 16/06/1976:

Classic graphics, USSR vs Netherlands, friendly, 28/03/1990:

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #4

In this gallery series we take a look back at a somewhat random assortment of flags and banner collectives at both international and club level from the 80s and 90s (and maybe even the 70s some day), united through being made correctly and hung the way banners were supposed to be hung (that is, chaotically). The first three installments can be found by clicking here, here and here.

Luxembourg vs Hungary, World Cup 94 qualifier, 09/09/1992:

Malta vs Italy, World Cup 94 qualifier, 19/12/1992:

Vitesse vs Parma, UEFA Cup 94/95, 13/09/1994:

(Click here for our Supporter Snap Back episode on this match)

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:
(Noteworthy: use of “Celtic cross” right-wing symbol)


(Click here for full image)

AS Roma vs Bayern Munich, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 20/03/1985:

Athlone Town vs Derry City, League of Ireland 94/95 Premier Division, 22/04/1995:

Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav First League 89/90, 19/11/1989:


Netherlands vs Germany, European Championships 1992, 18/06/1992:

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Champagne Kit Campaigns #4: Ireland 1992/1993, World Cup 94 Qualifiers

After looking at the unique and interesting style in which both Norway and Russia successfully managed to qualify for World Cup 1994 (with Netherlands 1978 in between), as promised we once again return to the early 90s for our latest Champagne Kit Campaign project. This time it’s the turn of the Irish Republic, making it an unintentional four in a row of teams who wore Adidas in this series (albeit briefly in the case of Russia, which was an anything-but-brief installment).

Background:

Since the late 70s Ireland had worn three stripes on their kits, but unlike much of Europe it was not the coveted three stripes of Adidas. Well, it basically was, but not produced by them. Domestic brand O’Neills had taken over production of the Irish kits in 1976 and flagrantly used the sleeve design – also adding it to the collar and cuffs – for the national team shirt, as well as their club and Gealic games kits (and would expand to taking inspiration from other styles in the future). A legal battle eventually declared that O’Neills would actually be allowed to continue using the three stripes – in Ireland only.


Ireland in three striped kits of the O'Neills variety, vs France, World Cup qualifier, 14/10/1981.

Although some of the shirts became legendary in their own right, it did sort of feel like an Adidas rip-off, while the neighbours from the North had been wearing the “real thing” since 1977. But in 1986 Ireland too switched to Adidas, finally giving “legitimate stripes” to the country.

Unlike some of their other kits, the new kit partners never attempted to replicate O’Neills’ practice of often adding the tertiary colour to the middle stripe (at least on a shirt) and a French/Belgian flag-stripe layout also never materialised. But the simple green and white style perhaps suited the colourway more, as during Adidas’ reign bold orange trim replaced the more understated yellow/gold of O’Neills and was soon represented on the collar, crest and cuffs instead.


Ireland's Adidas shirt that added orange to the white collar and cuff trim, seen at Euro 88, vs England, 12/06/1988.

In late 1991, the crest was updated from the “green shamrock in an orange ring” (originally introduced briefly on an O’Neills Irish jersey in the 70s) to a half green/half orange circle containing a small shamrock and FAI text, divided by the white trails of a shooting ball. While the crest had been “upgraded” rather needlessly (although not as needless as the “modern marketing” crest change to come in 2004), the rest of the kit used in the 1990 World Cup and into 91 remained mostly unchanged when Ireland debuted the new badge away to Turkey in November.




Above, Ireland crest 1977/1987-1991; Below, Ireland crest 1991-2004.

After successfully making it to Euro 88 and World Cup 90, failure in the following European qualification system meant participation in the inaugural US Cup in 1992 instead – essentially a friendly tournament. But this foreshadowed the next task at hand: qualification for the 1994 World Cup, also to be held on American soil.

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Ireland, 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualification

Despite not making it to the Euros, Ireland had been undefeated in the qualifying campaign and were seeded in pool 2 for the World Cup draw in December 91. But with a whopper 7 teams in their eventual Group 3 (with two qualifying spots up for grabs), a difficult and diverse path lay ahead as drawn along side them were:
Spain from pool 1, who were rivals from the previous World Cup qualifiers; soon to be European Champions Denmark from pool 3; Northern Ireland from pool 4, with whom there was still high political tension and again a repeat opponent of the 90 edition; and the recently post-communist states of Lithuania, Latvia and Albania, who were all experiencing their own challenging times.

**For more information on how the collapse of communism in Europe effected these qualifiers, click here for Politics On The Pitch #1**

UEFA Qualifying Group 3:

Spain
Republic of Ireland
Denmark
Northern Ireland
Lithuania
Latvia
Albania

Match 1, home to Albania , 26/05/1992:

Before the 1992 European Championships had even started, Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers began with the arrival of Albania for the first ever meeting between the two countries. The visitors had already kicked-off the group away to Spain the previous month in a game that saw the home side debut it’s new Adidas Equipment template (complete with new “pyramid”/triangular Adidas logo), while Albania wore a virtually plain all-white strip.

As Ireland were of course also with Adidas, maybe it was expected that they too would debut a new kit (although to be fair Spain had just switched over from Le Coq Sportif). But as had been the case in friendlies earlier in the year against Wales, Switzerland and USA, the new crest sat across from a trefoil once again on the bespoke “shadow-chevron” green jersey, with it’s white v-neck and orange trim. Unlike the 1988/89 edition, the sleeves were cuff-less when short on this shirt, although the white and orange was applied to the cuffs of long-sleeved versions used in 90/91. The top was accompanied by the usual white shorts and green socks, with three stripes applied to all:

On the back was in fact the first part of the shirt that had evolved since World Cup 90, in the number font. The new Adidas style, featuring three diagonal stripes in the top corner rather than striped numbers themselves, had debuted away to England in March 91 (pic below), hinting at what was to come of the over-all layout later:

From the above graphic can be seen the Irish crest, as well as it’s Albanian equivalent. At first glance the latter’s “planet and star(?)” theme appears to be just some 80s stock image that a TV person had found, but the Albanian FA had long used something similar – a ball with a scroll around it rather than a planet – so an official, hastily produced rendering seems the most likely source.

More important than a TV graphic was what the Albanian team themselves were wearing. Following the collapse of the previous regime in 1991, the traditionally poor country was experiencing one of many periods of turmoil in it’s history, and as a result the national team had not traveled with a kit or training equipment (including balls). In a situation you can read more about here, with MuseumOfJerseys.com’s piece on the topic, a deal was made in which money was donated and a Cork sports gear factory – producing Adidas-licensed apparel at the time – stepped up to make a set of kits the day before the game.

It was not the first time that domestic upheaval had effected Albania’s international football, as they had taken a long hiatus from competition in the 70s. Now with a new tentatively-democratic system, an updated crest (separate to the one discussed above) had been created by Albanian government decree 11 days earlier and was faxed over to Ireland to be included on the jerseys the day before the game. The template of the shirt itself was the same “Equipment style”, with three bars over each shoulder, that Albania had just come up against when playing Spain, in which their own plain white kit (along with some similar financial help from the Spanish FA) was seemingly a result of the same situation:

Albania’s shorts and socks featured trefoils, mish-mashing the kit in terms of Adidas motif-generations. But the unusual scenario had a occurred where one of Europe’s weakest sides had ended up in a more up-to-date shirt than their superior quality hosts, at the hosts’ own cost:

Ireland weren’t the only nation in this UEFA qualifying system to still use an “old” Adidas style, as another collapsing state in Czechoslovakia failed to progress to the Equipment line for the rest of their existence, while Portugal, Norway and the Faroe Islands all played in similar shirts to each other that featured a trefoil and stripes, although these were basically hybrid attempts which bridged the generations with the incorporation of joined shoulder bar “flashes”.

Either way, while Ireland won the match 2-0 it would turn out to be an even more historic occasion as the last time that three stripes would appear on an Irish jersey-sleeve in a competitive game to date:

Result: Ireland 2 – 0 Albania

US Cup, June 1992:

While aficionados of the US Cup (1992-2000) might be upset at us for not classing it as a competitive competition, the four team invitational was indeed the scene as Ireland once again used the same jersey that had debuted in it’s original form more than two years before, when taking on the hosts on May 30. But frontal numbers were required on players’ shirts at the tournament (the first time that they would be seen on an Irish shirt) and all-green/all-white home and away strips were also used against Italy and Portugal (not the first or last time for either, but rare), all of which combined with the new crest and updated number-style to make the two of the most surreal Irish kits of all time (again, check out what Museum of Jerseys had to say on the matter).


Ireland in all green wearing the rare sight of frontal shirt numbers along with a trefoil, vs Italy, US Cup, 04/06/1992.

It would be interesting to know if Ireland would have used the same outfits had they qualified for Euro 92, commencing three days after the US Cup ended (which also would have added player names on the back) or if they would have switched to the Equipment style sweeping across Europe, as the other qualified Adidas-contracted nations had done.

Either at football association or manufacturer level, it somehow seems that an upgrade may not have been considered quite as urgent for Ireland without a place at the premier international tournament of that summer, although with the new crest, back numbers, front numbers and colour-combos, everything else about the kit had been quietly evolving around it nevertheless. And the fact that they did not switch meant that the Irish shirt at the US Cup was one of the very few instances of an international jersey featuring both a trefoil and a frontal number (with the original example dating back to 1972 – again head to MOJ for our own story on that).

Match 2, home to Latvia , 09/09/1992:

The qualifying campaign resumed in the autumn as Ireland faced another first-time opponent in Latvia, but – unlike Albania who Ireland had merely avoided in previous draws – this was mostly because Latvia had been part of the USSR from 1944 to 1991. The Latvians were lucky to even make it into the draw, as only they and their fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania had become independent early enough to be accepted by UEFA, with Russia later inheriting the Soviet Union’s place.

The big story on the pitch was that Ireland finally graduated to a new kit and for the first time wore an Adidas Equipment template, with it’s centralised, updated Adidas logo incorporated into the collar. While the likes of  France, Spain, CIS, Ghana, Azerbaijan, and, for at least one match as we have seen, Albania, used the version with basically a large divided triangle on each shoulder, Ireland entered the field that September day with three white diagonal bars coming over the right shoulder, corresponding to green bars on the opposite short leg – one of which pleasingly also contained the brand logo (reflecting the original plan for the shirt itself as seen on the Liverpool version from the season before):

This template was used in the period by the likes of BulgariaFinland Sweden (with a centralised crest), and domestically for the Irish Cork City. But it proved even more popular outside of Europe at international level, as shown by AustraliaCanada,  Japan, Nigeria (see the shorts and socks, “mashing” Adidas generations in the opposite way to Albania), SenegalZambia and the USA, who had worn it twice against Ireland already in 1992.

Unlike all of the above though, the Irish version was given the added feature of trim on the v-neck collar: white/green/orange, like an Irishified-Russian flag. At club level trim was used on the “dual-shoulder bar” shirt of Glasgow Rangers, as well as the “single-shoulder” Olympique de Marseille jersey, and was standard on the separate but related German style. But at international level, it appears that Ireland may have been the only side in either of the two main templates granted the honour of trim, demonstrating their standing at the time:

Using a slightly deeper green than the previous couple of editions and with subtle vertical shadow striping, it turned out that the Irish colourway was perfect for the template. The crest that debuted nearly a year earlier also at last looked in place, as well as the number style on the back. The collar trim was the icing on the cake, with the whole ensemble looking particularly classy.

In saying that, it is worth mentioning the reservations held by some at the application of what was basically enormous corporate branding across the sacred green jersey. But given the ever-evolving nature of football and football jerseys, and the purely objective style of the shirt, we are not too hung up about it.

Another thing separating the new design from it’s predecessors was that the shirt was made out of two main pieces of material for the front and back and sown along the top of the sleeves and down the sides, rather than separate pieces for each sleeve (a system still used on some other teams’ versions). A baggier style was replacing the tight fitting gear of the previous decade and the sowing technique had become a popular practice among kit makers in the early 90s, as can be seen on a jersey we Retro Shirt Reviewed (that we described as a Reebok equivalent to the same Irish jersey here).

Some players such as Tommy Coyne displayed the long sleeved version, showing that the cuffs were also green this time. And speaking of “long”, the shorts were considerably longer than the last kit also keeping with the universal football trends, although not at their maxium:

We mentioned earlier how the game against Albania was to be the last competitive setting in which three stripes (at least thin ones) would appear on an Irish jersey sleev. We specified the shirt rather than kit, as they continued to be used on the socks for this match. Liverpool in the same template were wearing socks with plain white turn-overs, which was presumably the intended design to match the kit, but the Swedens and Bulgarias of the world had also continued to use striped versions, seeming to indicate that it was simply a design choice left up to each club or country:

As Ireland romped to a 4-0 victory, it is worth mentioning the visitors who were using a crestless version of the multi-shaded geometric Umbro template also being employed by Northern Ireland at the time (their first since leaving Adidas in 1990). But unlike the North, Latvia’s shorts unusually featured an Umbro double diamond with no Umbro wordmark, a style that had been last been common in the 70s and wouldn’t be again until the 2000s.

Result: Ireland 4 – 0 Latvia

Match 3, away to Denmark , 14/10/1992:

Having gotten two of the less challenging home matches out of the way, Ireland were next due tough back-to-back aways in October and November against the other two top teams in the group. First up was Denmark, who had been the opponents in a 1985 qualifier when Ireland had last worn an O’Neills kit, featuring the short-lived shield-less shamrock crest.

Before the game the Irish squad informally surveyed the pitch in their delightful green and navy tracksuits with large white hoops on the arms. Continuing the theme of overlapping branding, a trefoil was the Adidas logo on the tracksuit rather than the “three diagonal bar triangle” (for want of a better name) on the kits:

Ireland’s last two visits to Copenhagen back in 78 and 84 had seen them face the red shirts of Denmark in away kits – white/white/white and white/green/white respectively (with the latter featuring superb green/yellow/green trim) – seemingly to accommodate black and white TV and those with green/red colorblindness. But it was not to be the debut of a new away kit here as Ireland emerged in a green shirt for the first time in Denmark since 1969, which has remained the only instance at the time of writing with two more repeats of the fixture to date:

Confirming the “colourblind clash”, the Danes were in the same Hummel home kit they had unexpectedly won the European Championships in four months earlier, minus the tournament mini-number on the front of course. To make matters slightly more concerning to the ultra-fastidious, like the right side of the Irish shirt there was a lot of white on the shoulders and the white shorts meant a clash in that department (as had been the case against Latvia), but the white Danish away socks were preferred to the regular red:

The Irish kit meanwhile had surprisingly evolved again slightly since the Latvia match, technically meaning three different kits in as many qualifying games. This time, the “old” Adidas stripes on the socks were joined on the lower part with the new Adidas triangle logo:

Adding to the fluidity of the kit, there was one player in an entirely different pair of socks: Terry Phelan. Phelan had a habit of tucking the tops of his stockings inside themselves for his clubs, but here for Ireland he appeared in socks featuring neither stripes nor Adidas logo. It would be nice to think of him as a sort of modern day Johan Cryuff, refusing to be chained by the commerciaised stripes of Adidas (ignoring the massive ones on his shirt and shorts of course), but apparently it was relating to calf muscle problems which required a looser sock:

Ireland managed to keep the score at 0-0, proving they may well have been adequate contenders for the Euros had they managed to get there, with Denmark having only been granted a place due to the banishment of Yugoslavia. The large traveling support, as well as such players as goalkeeper Pat Bonner in an exchanged Dnaish jersey, celebrated the hard-earned point like a win:

Result: Denmark 0-0 Ireland

Match 4, away to Spain , 18/11/1992:

Before the next match with Spain in Seville, John Aldridge’s time at Real Sociedad provided the opportunity for him to give an interview in Mersey-flavoured Spanish, which in turn provides us with a closer look at the trefoil tracksuit top:

For the fourth group game in a row Ireland were up against a team on the red-spectrum (a bit of a stretch for the Latvia jersey, but still, it would clash with a red-clad team). But for the first time in this campaign, the same kit was used on two consecutive occasions as the sock variation seen against Denmark was retained (except of course by Phelan) :

Unlike with Danish games, here there had never been a shorts clash due to the home sides beautiful blue hallmark, which pretty much negated the colourblind issue and prevented Ireland ever needing to use an away kit in Spain:

While Spain had started the campaign ahead of Ireland in terms of up-to-date kit fashion, the Irish had actually surpassed Spain by this point thanks to the goalkeepers. Zubizarreta in nets for the home side was wearing a template which had been seen as early as the previous World Cup:

But as in the last two games, Bonner at the other end was in a new Equipment template seen below, which we will come back to look at later. After a disallowed Aldridge goal for a questionable off-side, Ireland held on to another well deserved draw, closing out the year undefeated and with four clean sheets. Having swapped with Schmeichel in Denmark, Bonner held on to his jersey this time – unlike the Spanish shirt-wearing Niall Quinn beside him:

Result: Spain 0 – 0 Ireland

Match 5, Ireland vs Northern Ireland , 31/03/1993:

After a February warm-up friendly against Wales in Tolka Park, Ireland next welcomed their co-habitual island cousins from the North, who at one time undoubtedly held the grander achievements of the two with World Cup appearances in 1956, 82 and 86, before the Republic had made it to any tournament at all. But with Ireland’s progression to two of the last three major competitions and some impressive results therein, as well as a 3-0 home victory the last time the fixture was held in October 1989, things had definitely shifted.

By this time Northern Ireland had switched from the style employed by Latvia to a newer, large-collared template, but of course could not wear their first choice green in Dublin. As with the previous generation, navy hearkening back to the original Ireland (UK) shirts was the theme of their away kit used here, with green-bordered white vertical stripes combing to create a pajama-like effect:

On their way to a repeat of the 1989 result, including a Steve Staunton goal scored directly from a corner (his second in less that 12 months for Ireland having accomplished the same feat at the US Cup), incredibly the home side’s kit continued to change, and again it was the socks. Although it would turn out that stripes would return later, now at last the same style used by Liverpool was introduced with plain white turn-overs. The one difference in design was that the lower section was also plain, where a crest appeared on the Liverpool version:

Once again though, uniformity was not archived due to the presence of Phelan. His own trim-less socks were also conspicuous by the fact that they at least appeared to be a slightly different shade of green:

Result: Ireland 3 – 0 Northern Ireland

Match 6, Ireland vs Denmark , 28/04/1993:

With five games gone and no goals yet conceded, the following month saw the return of the Danes to try and dirty Ireland’s clean sheet record going in to the half-way point of the campaign. Unsurprisingly, the first choice shirt was retained by the hosts:

Ireland also took to the field again wearing the new socks seen against Northern Ireland, confirming their place as a permanent fixture, while this time a lack of Terry Phelan in the squad meant that it was finally the first instance of the kit was being worn correctly by all players. Unlike in Copenhagen, here the visitors did wear an alternate strip as white shirts and red shorts replaced red and white respectively, with the white socks seen before remaining as part of it’s intended ensemble:

Ireland did at last concede a goal, but equalised to give both teams a share of the points. With six games completed and six to go, the result left the Irish still outside the two qualification places despite their unbeaten record, serving as a reminder of the “undefeated failure” of European qualification. Even though Ireland did have two and three games in hand over Spain and Denmark, and with the two toughest away games on paper already satisfactorily navigated, three potentially-tricky trips to the “unknown” east were yet to come, with a date in Northern Ireland’s intimidating and grim Windsor Park looming on the last match day in November.

Result: Ireland 1 – 1 Denmark

Match 7, away to Albania , 26/05/1993:

A year to the day after Albania had worn donated kits in Ireland’s first group game, the return fixture was to take place in Tirana. As a brief aside on the south Balkan side, thankfully by this stage the Albanians had nailed down permanent gear for themselves and were wearing a tidy Umbro strip with white trim, as pictured below from their away game against Northern Ireland in 1992:

But while not the style used back in Dublin, one Adidas artifact had actually remained for Albania through the goalkeeper, who in early 1993 (seen below away to Lithuania in April) was for some reason using the same Adidas template as Ireland’s goalkeeper tops:

Although the use of a mismatched-manufactured goalie jersey was not uncommon at the time, it may have been an indication that all was still not perfect in the Albanian camp. This would be confirmed as the need for a change strip at the following month’s visit to Denmark saw the unnatural use of a basic all-blue and white Hummel kit – clearly a donation from their hosts with whom the brand is most associated (perhaps as any white and red away kit, if they indeed owned one at this point, might have clashed too much with the Danes’ red and white):

Albania would later finish out the group wearing Uhlsport, amazingly giving them a least 4-5 different brands worn throughout qualifying. But getting back to the visit of Ireland, the all-red Umbro kit was worn and a new non-Umbro/Adidas goalkeeper kit was also in use:

Surprisingly, the home side became the second team to score against Ireland by taking the lead. But the boys in green (and a lot of white) came back to score twice, keeping their qualification hopes alive in an amazingly archaic stadium that featured steep concrete terracing surrounding much of the pitch:

Result: Albania 1-2 Ireland

David O’Leary Testimonial, May 1993:

With so many teams in Ireland’s group, there was little time or need for friendly matches, apart from the low-key affair against the Welsh. Three days after playing in Albania though, there would be a game that would be considered a friendly for a least one team involved. The occasion was veteran defender David O’Leary’s testimonial match, in which an Irish selection was to take on Hungary in Dublin.

But due to some sort of misunderstanding, FIFA and Hungary were under the impression that the game was a full international and the Hungarian players who played were awarded full caps that stand to this day (thanks to kit collector and expert Barry Rojack for this information). For the Irish, as with all their testimonial sides, shirts baring the Opel logo that appeared on replica versions were used, creating a new unique club-like feel and giving us another rare example of a sponsor being used in a (half) international game.


The Opel wearing Ireland XI celebrate going 1-0 up after 10 seconds, David O'Leary testimonial, vs Hungary, 29/05/1993.

Considering which club side was using the same template with the same sponsor at the same time, we would like to call this the “Bireland Munich” jersey. The appearance of players like Phil Babb in the game, who would not earn full caps while the Equipment shirt was being worn, also added to the other-worldly effect. Despite the Irish XI going  2-0 up, including a goal after just ten seconds from Roy Keane, Hungary came back to score four in the second half and take the win, at which their commentator was naturally very excited.


Phil Babb in action for the Irish XI the year before making his full debut, in a shirt he would never play in at senior level, David O'Leary testimonial, 29/09/1993.

Match 8, away to Latvia , 09/06/1993:

To the untrained eye, Ireland’s first trip to Riga may have appeared to have been an exact kit-match of their previous meeting in September 1992. Of course because of Ireland’s updated socks this wasn’t the case, but it was not the only reason. The hosts too had slightly altered their strip, as a crest was now applied to the shirt and opposite short leg, and the double diamond on the shorts now had it’s Umbro wordmark:

Another two goals and a return to a clean-sheet meant that the first half of Ireland’s Baltic mission had been successfully completed.

Result: Latvia 0-2 Ireland

Match 9, away to Lithuania , 16/06/1993:

A week after the Latvia win, Ireland were in Vilnius for the last game of the summer to take on their one remaining opponent in the group, again for the first time ever. Lithuania had perhaps been the strongest of the three weaker sides so far, with draws against Denmark and Northern Ireland, and wins over Albania and Latvia.

The still relatively new host nation, who used an Umbro template featuring a black zig-zagging line, had apparently yet to settle on first choice kit colours, as orange shirts and green shorts were used at home and away to Spain, but with an all-green strip preferred when playing Albania and Denmark. Seemingly, with Ireland’s famous green jersey in mind, orange shirts were kindly chosen here to allow the visitors to continue using their own regular home kit:

Similarly to how the Irish away shirts worn previously in Denmark were apparently no longer required, here it seemed that compared to days gone by (check out our reviews of Bulgaria vs West Germany, 1984, and Bulgaria vs Ireland, 1977) rules on less-obvious clashes had been relaxed. But with the amount of green on show from both sides, as well as both teams’ kits blending in with with the green, white and orange of the ever-present Irish away support’s banners around the ground, the unplanned use of an all-white away kit in the spirit of the US Cup may have actually been the best option for the visitors:

Any perceived visual difficulty was rendered irrelevant though, as a single goal was enough to give Ireland another two points (as three points for a win had yet to be introduced). The tricky summer tour of the east was over.

Result: Lithuania 0-1 Ireland

Match 10, home to Lithuania , 08/09/1993:

Going into the crucial last stretch of games, it was the Lithuanians again next in Dublin. Here we will once more refer to Museum of Jerseys’ feature linked to earlier, as a similar situation arose to that of the Albania game the previous year.

The visitors proved that who ever was in charge of their kits had perhaps merely chosen orange by pure luck last time, and in fact didn’t have a clue what Ireland would be wearing as here Lithuania arrived with only their green strip. As the idea of Ireland reverting to a charge kit was obviously out of the question, a set of white Adidas trefoil jerseys with green v-neck trim was loaned to the former Soviet republic, accompanied by black shorts and matching white and green socks:

It was actually quite a nice look, even though the only player still wearing the red badge of Lithuania was the goalkeeper. But unlike Albania in Dublin – who had basically been able to create a unique version of their home strip with the correct colours and badge – this was a second instance in the group after Albania’s other blue-strip situation in Denmark of a hastily arranged, completely made-up kit.

The situation was quite ironic after Ireland had nearly had done the exact same thing in the previous game, had the Lithuanians decided to use green as a home shirt colour that day. Instead, Ireland’s Lansdowne Road stadium had once again witnessed a game in this campaign between two sides wearing different generations of Adidas templates – now with the roles reversed in terms of the Irish being the more up to date side – and unlike the Albania game it was also a long shorts vs short shorts affair.

A comfortable 2-0 win completed an important five wins a row for Ireland, with a sterner test against Spain coming up next. The excellent form brought top spot in the Group, although both the Danes and the Spanish had a game in hand.

Result: Ireland 2-0 Lithuania

Match 11, at home to Spain , 13/10/1993:

Before the game against Spain, who had last succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in Dublin in 1989, Ireland wore tracksuit tops-come-anthem tops that were similar to those shown earlier before the Denmark game. There was one major difference though, as a simple Adidas wordmark had replaced the trefoil, again foreshadowing what was to come on the actual shirts the following  year.

The traditional green/white/green strip of Ireland and the red/blue/black of Spain seemed to combine to create quite a delightful aesthetic when the two teams would play. This was amplified with the addition of the large amounts of white and yellow respectively on the Adidas Equipment templates of both teams used here:

The only difference in the kits to the previous meeting was the updated Irish socks. But there was one Irish player who was in the exact same attire thanks to his individual preference, as Terry Phelan had continued his sock-switching practice after returning to the team in the summer:

Through substitutions could be seen another of the Irish teams jackets (along with the ever pleasing UEFA official tracksuit style of the 90s) featuring another new Adidas theme of three large vertical stripes. This had yet to appear on a shirt, but something not far off was also in the pipeline:

As promised, below we get  a better luck at Pat Bonner, with a humorous banner hung on the fence behind him. In our opinion the selected colourway of yellow, black and green could not have been better for an Irish goalkeeper jersey in the template:

Despite the beautiful jersey, the home crowd were shocked as the Celtic stopper was powerless to prevent Spain going 3-0 up within half an hour, making a mockery of the aforementioned banner. Having also at last switched to a newer style, Zubizarreta at the other end was interestingly now wearing a goalkeeper version of the Ireland outfield template in grey tones:

John Sheridan pulled one back for Ireland in the second half, but cap-wearing English manager Jack Charlton and his bench looked on concerned (yet stylish) as qualification was now far from guaranteed going in to the last-day showdown with the North. Furthermore, and perhaps even more depressing to Big Jack, it was the last time Ireland would play in the home Adidas Equipment shirt:

Result: Ireland 1-3 Spain

Match 12, away to Northern Ireland , 17/11/1992:

Having been defeated 1-0 away to Denmark on the same day Ireland lost to Spain, Northern Ireland were mathematically out of the running to qualify by the time the last round of fixtures came around. But the next best thing would clearly be to eliminate the Republic in Windsor Park.

The wins over the two Irish sides for the Danes and Spanish in October had left Denmark in top spot with 18 points, while Spain and Ireland behind them on 17 points each were separated only by the Spaniards’ superior goal difference. But Spain and Denmark were also playing each other on the last day, meaning points would be dropped somewhere, and this left the North needing a win in order to definitively block Ireland’s progress.

As Northern Ireland was largely supported by those who fell on the “British loyalist” side in the region’s decades long conflict (as opposed to ethnic Irish nationalists desiring an independent reunification of the island, who would have been more likely to identify with the Republic’s team), the Irish national anthem was roundly booed before the match. With the yellow lights of a dark and moody Belfast setting the backdrop, given the tense atmosphere it may not have been wise to have sang along anyway, as due to security risks only a handful of away fans had made the journey “up the road.”

One thing that couldn’t be booed by anyone though was more new “anthem tops” being worn by Ireland. First, during the warm-up older green sweatshirts had actually been used that featured a trefoil and a “logo-less” Opel sponsor, which would have appeared to have been a remnant of the squads’ World Cup 90 line if it wasn’t for the updated crest:

Then when the two teams properly emerged, a spiffing new over-garment was on show; this time featuring a lot of black and the addition of orange to the trim:

Meanwhile at the dugout the older navy themed jackets were still around, including at least one trefoil being worn by physio Mick Byrne, while the UEFA official nonchalantly assumed style-icon status near by:

Besides the politics the most important thing by far was the kits, as with Northern Ireland back in their green/white/green home strip it was finally time to see the away version of Ireland’s Adidas Equipment kit. It was nearly a straight reversal of the home version, apart from the fact that the collar trim was now green/white/orange rather than white/green/orange, and the shade of green used seemed brighter compared to the home strip – at least under Windsor’s lights:

Of course the main issue was that the green/white/green vs white/green/white match-up had created an overall clash, as elements of both teams kits blurred together at a glance. As we have mentioned earlier, any guidelines on avoiding such clashes were not being enforced at the time. But we love Museum of Jersey’s idea that had the referee deemed the Irish kit unsuitable, a theoretical Irish orange third kit (conceived by ourselves) would have been a hilariously apt replacement considering the setting:

At half-time during the Irish broadcast, an interesting advertisement for Mars was shown (followed by an even better commercial promoting Street Fight 2 Turbo for the Super Nintendo, staring Rik Mayall) in which a fictional (and headless) Irish team prepared for a match wearing the 88/89 home kit, minus a trefoil on the shirt:

An Adidas sports bag is visible at one point though – despite earlier having been edited to appear blank – followed swiftly by a close up of a Puma boot, and later a trefoil does actually sneak in for a split second. While the players are getting ready, “fans” can be seen eagerly entering the “stadium” with one amazingly wearing the 1987 Irish shirt which had not yet featured orange trim on the cuffs or collar:

As the team emerges (still on the ad here) and the fake crowd erupts into ecstasy, an unusual Irish crest unused on an actual shirt is also shown, with the words “Football Association” appearing instead of their initials as in the original “FA Ireland” version:

After the break in the actual match, Northern Ireland’s manager Billy Bingham confidentially swaggered out from the dressing rooms and gestured to the crowd in an attempt to rile up the home support even more.  Underneath his large black and green Umbro coat was an eye catching purple tracksuit top, with quintessentially intricate 90s patterning and IFA insignia:

The fact that the top was not covered up by the coat indicates that the November evening can’t have been too cold. This was confirmed on the pitch as many players used short sleeve jerseys, but the likes of Aldridge and Alan Kernaghan (the latter having represented Northern Ireland as a schoolboy) played their part for Ireland by modeling the long-sleeved version of the debut shirt. And speaking of personal preferences, at last Terry Phelan fell in line by wearing the same socks as the rest of the team, but, true to form, with as little of the green trim showing as humanly possible:

Later, news came in that Spain had gone 1-0 up against Denmark, inserting them into first position and dropping the Danes behind Ireland on goal difference as things stood. This had come despite an early sending off for Zubizarreta. Meanwhile, his Irish counterpart Bonner – who had also surprisingly also been sent off the previous year in the US Cup – was distinguished from his team mates in being able to retain his yellow and black home strip, which contained white trim on the socks à la the 1990 kit:

To the visceral delight of the crowd, on 74 mins Northern Ireland went 1-0 up meaning their opponents were once again outside the qualification positions. But the shock was equally palpable just four minutes later as substitute Alan McLoughlin scored the equaliser, and the accompanying audible reaction of the small away contingent displayed an understandable loss of any earlier sense of caution:

That was how things would stay until the end, when the RTE broadcast switched over to the dying stages of the Spain vs Denmark game as the reigning European Champions desperately sought a goal. It was a nervy few minutes for Ireland, as had Denmark succeeded in scoring, the point gained would have secured top spot while Spain’s goal difference would ensure they still beat Ireland to second place.

There was no need to worry though as the Spanish held on, meaning Ireland and Denmark both finished on 18 points with a goal difference of +13, but Ireland’s “goals for” tally of 19 – compared to the Dane’s 15 – just about gave them the edge. The group seeding had turned out to be spot on, as it ended in  the exact same order it was drawn; Denmark were out, and the Republic of Ireland had officially qualified for their second consecutive World Cup.

Among the scenes on the pitch back in Belfast, the goal scorer McLaughlin passionately embraced Bonner, who had turned out to be the only man in the Irish squad to have played in the exact same kit in every game since the old kit used all those months before against Albania:

This fact meant that the alternate goalkeeper top – if one had even been prepared – never saw the light of day. But at last the outfield away had made what would turn out to be it’s one and only appearance, as new strips were introduced the following  year in the lead up to the World Cup. Given the significance of the game in which it was worn, as well as the iconic design and our particular fondness of away gear as well as this particular template, we give it the nod as the greatest “one-off” Irish jersey and kit of all time.

 Result: Northern Ireland 1-1 Ireland

IRELAND QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP 1994 

Breakdown
Team: Republic of Ireland 
Years: 1992, 1993
Competition: World Cup 94 qualifiers
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 12
Kit Colour Combinations: 2
Kit Technical Combinations: 5

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Youtube Links:

Ireland vs France, 1981
Ireland vs England, 1988
England vs Ireland, 1991
Ireland vs Albania, 1992
Ireland vs Italy, 1992
Ireland vs Latvia, 1992
Denmark vs Ireland, 1992
Denmark vs Ireland, 1992
Spain vs Ireland, 1992
Spain vs Ireland, 1992
Ireland vs Northern Ireland, 1993
Ireland vs Denmark, 1993
Albania vs Ireland, 1993
Northern Ireland vs Albania, 1992
Denmark vs Albania, 1993
Ireland vs Hungary, 1993
Latvia vs Ireland, 1993
Lithuania vs Ireland, 1993
Ireland vs Lithuania, 1993
Ireland vs Spain, 1993
Ireland vs Spain, 1993
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1991
Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1991

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International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #6 (Gallery)

In this photo-series we take a look at some low-fi old school examples of ultras and hooligan group banners, club supporter group banners and regular club flags, when used in the context of an international match. This was particularly common for countries who would rotate home stadiums on a regular basis and hence visit a lot of clubs’ home grounds (with the most prominent example being Italy), while away games provided the opportunity for the likes of England’s firms to display banners that would not have been seen at Wembley. 

Italy vs Argentina, friendly, 21/12/1989
“Sconvolts” and others of Cagliari Calcio:

England vs Germany, US Cup, 19/06/1993
Bristol City
:

Germany vs Portugal, World Cup 98 qualifier, 06/09/1997
“Dietmar
Bottrop” and “Menden Sieg” of FC Schalke 04, “Blue System” of “Hamburger SV”, and many others:

Switzerland vs Scotland, Euro 92 qualifier, 11/09/1991
Arbroath FC:

Switzerland vs England, friendly, 28/05/1988
Hull City, “Blades Business Crew” of Sheffield United, and “6:57 Crew” of Portsmouth FC:

Slovenia vs Ukraine, Euro 00 qualifier, 13/11/1999
“Green Dragons”
of NK Olimpija Ljubljana:

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Politics On The Pitch #4: Groups of Death Part 1 (1950-1969)

Back in Politics On The Pitch #3 we looked at how the football world adjusted to life after World War 2, with carefully selected qualification groups removing the chance of “politically awkward” clashes. Now we take a look back to when this was not necessarily the case, and at some historical competitive fixtures with a non-sporting significance that could not be ignored.

Background:

Despite being widely recognised as one of the most corrupt organisms on the face of the planet, and turning their flagship tournament into a money making facade where sport is basically an afterthought (it is on this site too to be fair), FIFA is responsible for some good.

The World Cup’s hideous over-commercialisation can always be countered by the fact that the festival of football does bring simple folk from random corners of the world together when their teams are drawn. The often good-natured affairs, as well as the conscious global gaze upon each match, displays through the medium of football that no matter where somebody’s from, their class, race or if they’re religious, humans do have common ground through our unifying love of the game.

Even teams representing states of competing ideologies and their fans can come together in friendly rivalry, as an average population can often be far less enthusiastic about hating their fellow members of the species than their national regimes, or stereotypes, might lead you to believe. With countries like Cuba and North Korea joining the USA and it’s allies in the organisation’s ranks, the case of FIFA’s corruption is at least equal opportunity corruption.

But of course FIFA’s global inclusiveness also creates the opposite situation, where two peoples with a genuinely tense political or ethnic history (or present) are occasionally brought together for a sporting manifestation of their international grudge. At times this will be deemed concerning enough an issue for a country to not play altogether, as was the case when the British nations withdrew from FIFA in 1919 in protest at the continued inclusion of the Central Powers teams after World War 1.

Many times these games have gone ahead though, which inevitably creates interesting situations in the stadium, and on some occasions the simple novelty or expectation of an interesting draw is enough to secure its place in history. In this vein we will now look back at some of the most noteworthy groups, tournaments and match-ups from the 20th century that had elements beyond mere football competition.

  • 1954 World Cup Qualifiers

Group 1:

Norway
Saar Protectorate
West Germany

For the 1954 World Cup qualifiers, FIFA itself rather than it’s regional confederations was still arranging all qualification groups. They were organised by geographical consideration, although not necessarily by continent as Egypt and Italy proved in Group 9. Groups 7 (Hungary and Poland) and 8 (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania) comprised solely of eastern European communist representatives.

However it was Group 1 that stood out for it’s inclusion of a small side making it’s one and only appearance in a competitive campaign, and another much larger new state making it’s first in it’s current form. The group did not actually pit sworn rival nations against each other, quite the contrary. But the two referenced participants were born out of the greatest period of slaughter the world has known.

Located in southwest Germany, the Saarland (after the River Saar, which flows from northwest France into Germany) had become the French and British ruled Territory of the Saar Basin in the aftermath of World War 1. A plebiscite with 90.4% in favour returned the region to German hands in 1935, but ten years later the Allies would be back and again take control of the now renamed Westmark of the Third Reich. Following the end of World War 2, the region was partitioned from the rest of Germany and placed squarely under French control, becoming the Saar Protectorate in 1947.

The mostly ethnic German population still considered their land as part of Germany and never intended Saar to become it’s own country. Never the less, such national symbols as a flag (paying homage to both nations involved with the colours of the French flag divided by a white Nordic cross) and an international football federation were created. The clubs of Saar competed in the local Ehrenglia league, with the strongest club 1. FC Saarbrücken competing and winning in France’s Ligue 2 as guests in 1948/49.


Flag of The Saar Protectorate.

Three months after the Saar Fussball Bund was admitted to FIFA in 1950 (having rejected merging with it’s French equivalent the previous year), the Deutscher Fussball Bund also rejoined, now representing the Federal Republic of Germany, aka the partitioned state of West Germany, but claimed mandate over Germany as a whole. Both teams were placed in Group 1 of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers along with Norway, whose status as part of the Nazi occupied lands in WW2 under the puppet Quisling regime officially made this the “Reich group”.

By the time the qualifiers were to begin in 1953, Saar had already played a number of friendlies and had participated in several other sports at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. But as stated, they preferred not to be referred to as their own country, and in football the term “selection” was more commonly used than national team. Given the area’s German self-identification, it seems slightly frustrating that one of their few shots at international football competition was “wasted” on their follow countrymen, and not someone more exotic.

The Saarlanders would go on to display the prowess of German football even if  confined to a very small area, by defeating Norway 3-2 away from home and earning a 0-0 draw in Saarbrücken. Logically then, their bigger, but no more proudly Germanic neighbours would prove impassable. A 3-0 home win in Stuttgart on 11 October 1953 was followed by the last game of the group in March 1954, as West Germany again scored three (with the home support politely applauding each goal) but Saar at least grabbed a consolation penalty on home soil.


Interesting section of Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, West Germany vs Saar Protectorate, World Cup '54 Qualifier, October 1953.

The West German’s 5-1 demolition of Norway also guaranteed that Saar would not finish bottom of the group, securing a German one-two final positioning. As West Germany went on to win the World Cup they had qualified for, the people of Saar doubtlessly would have been rooting for them and over joyed at their success. As the following year, 20 years after the original plebiscite to join Nazi Germany, another referendum was held with the same result. The Saar Protectorate was absorbed into West Germany and once again became the region of Saarland in 1957, ending it’s brief adventure in international football.

 
The crowd applaud the home side's goal in a 3-1 defeat, Saar Protectorate vs West Germany, World Cup '54 qualifier, March 1954.

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  • 1958 World Cup Qualifiers

CAF/AFC Second Round

Egypt
Indonesia
Israel
Sudan

For the next World Cup, FIFA handed over responsibility to the regional confederations for the organisation of their own qualification systems, and enforced defined geographical zones. This proved particularly problematic in Africa/Asia (with the CAF and AFC sections combined for this campaign), first as Turkey withdrew in protest at not being included in Europe. They had been scheduled to play Israel, who progressed automatically into a second round group (somewhat surprisingly Cyprus were also in Asia, giving it three different teams who would later “become” European)

This created another issue due to the Arab League boycott of Israel, the current iteration of which being in effect since the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1949. The Arab League members of Egypt and Sudan hence refused to play Israel – who had actually previously competed as Palestine British Mandate before their independence in 1948 – and withdrew. It was to be the first of two successive World Cup qualification campaigns from which the pair would withdraw without playing a game, as for 1962 – with Egypt then competing as United Arab Republic –  FIFA refused their ultimatum to reschedule matches to avoid the monsoon season.

Another mostly Islamic state in Indonesia was the remaining team left in the group, and although they were prepared to play the Israelis, they were not prepared to travel the entire length of Asia to do so. Like Israel, the Indonesians had once competed under their pre-independence colonial name: the Dutch East Indies. But this time FIFA refused the Indonesian request for the game to be played on neutral ground which forced them to also withdraw, meaning that Israel had made it through two rounds to an intercontinental play-off without touching a ball. Here they would be at last stopped, as Wales were happy to play and defeat them for a place at the tournament.

UEFA Group 6

Finland
Poland
USSR

Back in the UEFA section itself, countries were also still placed in groups rather than drawn by seed. Cross Iron-Curtain encounters were now becoming more common, although still somewhat regional with Finland going to the USSR and Poland, Greece to Yugoslavia and Romania, but again slightly further afield for Wales who were placed with Czechoslovakia and the newly created East Germany (who’s entry during the years of Saar existence meant there had been three different German federations in FIFA at one point).

Group 6 with Finland, Poland and the USSR was the most emotionally charged on paper with both the Finns and Poles being former colonial subjects of Russia, and much more recently the Soviets’ (unsuccessful) Winter War against former and partition of the later (as well as events such as the Katyn Massacre, although Poland was by this time a satalite-state of the USSR). But knowing the steadfast resolve characteristic of all three peoples, it was surely business as usual as the Soviet Union ultimately made it to their first finals (Poland had previously competed too at 1938).


Finland vs USSR, World Cup '58 Qualifier, August 1957.

UEFA Group 1

Denmark
England
Republic of Ireland

On the other side of Europe, the Republic of Ireland met their own former colonial masters of England for the first time in a competitive setting, along with Denmark in Group 1 (with the English coming out tops). Although distrust of Englishness remained for many, with 36 years having elapsed since the Irish War of Independence the encounter was perhaps now not as significant as it would become later in the century when tensions on the island of Ireland dramatically increased once again.

At this time Ireland was also somewhat sportingly-divided between football and it’s own native Gaelic sports, with the rules of the latter forbidding those who played, or indeed watched, the “foreign” (English) sport of soccer from their ogranisation. Those who preferred football were sometimes scornfully looked down upon as “less-Irish” than those involved in Irish games, with more nationalist types therefore likely avoiding international football altogether.

  • 1966 World Cup and Qualifiers

World Cup Semi-Finals and Final

England
Portugal
USSR
West Germany

The ’66 World Cup in England was somewhat of a reunion for several of the major players from World War 2. While England, the USSR and West Germany had all qualified for the previous two editions, the West Germans had avoided their old regime’s two European enemies in ’58 (who played each other in the group stage) and all three had been knocked out in the quarter finals of ’62 before having a chance to meet.

But in 1966 the Germans would finally come up against their former double-fronted foes, first beating the Soviets in a Goodison Park semi-final before the famous final defeat to the hosts, which also crucially involved a Soviet linesman erroneously awarding England’s third goal.


Many men in suits and ties watch West Germany vs the Soviet Union in Goodison Park, World Cup 1966.

Asia/Oceania Qualifying Group

Australia
North Korea
South Africa
South Korea

The other stand-out thing was the appearance of North Korea, although the authoritarian dictatorships present in their fellow qualifying countries of Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Hungry, Portugal, Soviet Union and Spain at the time makes it not so novel. Their surprise debut at the finals was helped by the withdrawal of their South Korean cousins, citing logistical reasons in the combined Asian/Oceanian qualifying group. Given that few states held political ties with the North Koreans, all games were to be hosted by their allies Cambodia, but South Korea had been expecting Japan and left the group after the decision.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the group was also to contain South Africa (a weak Australia was the fourth team). Kicked out of the Confederation of African Football in 1958 due the apartheid regime’s player policy – by law only an all-white or all-black team could be selected – South Africa were in fact admitted to FIFA in the same year and placed in the Asian zone for the time being. But FIFA did give them one year to comply with their own anti-discrimination laws, which of course wasn’t done.

While the rest of the African teams boycotted the qualifying system entirely due to the lack of an automatic qualifying spot – as well as the original acceptance of South Africa into FIFA – South Africa were banned before their group games started (formally expelled in 1976 following the Soweto uprising) and wouldn’t play another international until 1992. This left North Korea with just two easy games against the Australians to qualify.

  • 1970 World Cup Qualifiers

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 1

Australia
Rhodesia 

The following tournaments qualifiers saw a similar situation: this time the unrecognised state of Rhodesia switched continents to play in the Asian/Oceanian section. Like South Africa, the country was ruled by a white minority elite, who had broken away from the British Empire in 1965.

But as Rhodesia agreed to FIFA’s regulations regarding mixed-race squads, they were allowed to stay in. Their only group opponent was Australia, with both games (and a third play-off game after two draws, won by Australia) played in Mozambique after the Rhodesian players could not attain Australian visas.

AFC/OFC Second Round, Group 2

Israel
New Zealand
North Korea 

Israel were also back in Asian/Oceanian having played in the UFEA zone for geographical reasons at the previous qualifiers (and originally Syria too before withdrawal). Although no other Middle Eastern side was involved this time, their presence still caused an issue as now North Korea refused to play them on political grounds and withdrew.

Victories over New Zealand and Australia meant that Israel were now going to their first World Cup, but under the initiative of Kuwait they would be expelled from an AFC with more middle eastern influence in 1974, and return to playing European and, later, more Oceanic opponents in the following decades.

CONCACAF Semi-Final Round, Group 2

El Salvador
Honduras

One of the most famous war related match-ups occurred during this campaign in the semi-final round of the North/Central American and Caribbean CONCACAF section, when El Salvador were drawn with neighbours Honduras. It is often said that their violent three games (again a play-off was needed and held in neutral Mexico City) sparked what is known as the Football War between the two countries, a 100 hour conflict (and so also known as the 100 Hour War) that remains officially in dispute at the time of writing.

While intense rioting had occurred at the two regular group games (as it was considered a group of two as opposed to a two-legged knock-out game), as well as violent play on the pitch, it was more a case of perfect timing rather than the actual cause of the war, as tensions had already been growing between the countries for bigger reasons. With the backing of large American fruit corporations, harsh new land and tax laws had come into effect in Honduras, that were particularly threatening to the large, undocumented El Salvadorian ethnic minority in the country.


Supporters of both teams and riot police, El Salvador vs Honduras, World Cup '70 qualifier, June 1969.

By the day of the play-off on 26 June, 1969 (3-2 to El Salvador after extra-time), the smaller but more populous El Salvador officially cut of ties with Honduras and would invade on July 15th starting the war. The situation was resolved through negotiation from the Organization of American States, lasting 100 hours, but the reluctance of El Salvador to withdraw meant their troops remained occupying part of the country until August. The bad blood between the two states, who share a common language, religion, general look and very similar flags, proves that not matter how close groups of humans seem, we can always find other reasons to hate each other.

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Youtube Sources:
West Germany vs Saar, 1953
Saar vs West Germany, 1954
Finland vs USSR, 1957
USSR vs West Germany, 1966
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969
El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #3

We now take another enjoyable look at a selection of classic flag and banner hanging efforts from days gone by, highlighting both clubs and countries with arrays big and small, but always heroic.

FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:




FC Carl Zeiss Jena vs Sparta Rotterdam, UEFA Cup 83/84, 02/11/1983:

Belgium vs Netherlands, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 16/10/1985:

Shamrock Rovers vs Dundalk FC, FAI Cup Final 1987, 26/04/1987:

Spain vs Greece, friendly, 24/09/1986:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Kispest Honvéd vs Nîmes Olympique, Cup Winners Cup 96/97, 26/09/1996:

Finland vs England, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 22/05/1985:

Slovenia vs Italy, Euro ’96 qualifier,  07/09/1994:

Universitatea Craiova vs Dacia Unirea Brăila, Romanian Cup Final 1993, 26/06/1993:

 

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Champagne Kit Campaigns #3: Russia 1992/93, World Cup ’94 Qualification

With the World Cup currently taking place in their country at the time of writing, it seems appropriate that our latest Champagne Kit Campaign goes back to look at Russia’s first ever time to compete in qualification as an independent state. We say “seems” since this is pure coincidence, as we are not doing anything special for the World Cup (although we will say it does contain the best collection of kits at a tournament since 1994 in our opinion).

This is our second look at World Cup ’94 qualifiers in the series after our examination of Norway’s 92/93 kits in episode #1 (followed by the Dutch at World Cup ’78 in #2), and it will definitely not be the last time that we revisit the period. Back in Politics On The Pitch #1, we also broke down how the collapse of communism in Europe at the time effected these qualifiers, which is of course extremely relevant to this Russia team, so check it out for more information if that type of thing is up your street. Now, on with CKC#3.

Background:

Russia’s international footballing history began at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, as following unofficial games against amateur sides in 1910 and ’11, the Russian Empire would field a team for the first time at that year’s tournament. Amber shirts and black shorts were used in these early years, representing the old imperial horizontal tri-colour flag of black, yellow/amber and white; colours which continue to be associated with nationalism in the country today.

The first opponents were Finland, who were in fact part of the Russian Empire at the time, and a 2-1 loss to their subordinates was followed by a 16-0 massacre at the hands of the German Empire.


Flag of the Russian Empire, 1858-1883.

This modest start on the pitch continued, as Russia’s first games on home soil saw them concede a combined 21 goals and scoring none over two games in three days against Hungary in Moscow in July, with both games drawing 3000 spectators. This grew to 8000 for the visit of Sweden the following May, when Russia would score their first home international goal in a 4-1 defeat.

Things continued to improve as a 1-1 draw with Norway in September came next, before away games in July 1914 saw back-to-back 2-2 and 1-1 draws in Sweden and Norway respectively.

But any chance for further progress stopped here, as international sports competition was interrupted by the international political competition of World War 1. The away game against Norway, as it turned out, would be the last match that a “Russia” would compete in for 78 years, as after the War, the Empire was overthrown before another match could be played.

The new entity of  the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Союз Советских Социалистических Республик (CCCP) in Russian, or simply the Soviet Union, was created on December 30th, 1920. Several unofficial games would be played in the ’20s and ’30, but the first and only official match of the era for the Soviets came against Turkey in 1924. Naturally, red shirts were adopted by the new side reflecting the red of socialism and the state’s flag, with a stylised “CCCP” for a crest.


Flag of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union take to a snowy field for their first official match, vs Turkey, 1924.

After World War 2, the USSR and their communist ally countries of Europe refused to take part in the the qualifiers for the upcoming 1950 Brazil World Cup, as the Cold War began to set in. But they would return to the international scene for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and by the Melbourne games four years later had adapted their shirt with what would become one of the most iconic shirt features of all time: the “CCCP” letters were now displayed across the chest.


Blurry "CCCP"s across the Soviet shirts, vs Yugoslavia, Olympics, 1956.

The Soviet Union would go on to win the first ever European Championships in 1960 and would remain as one of Europe’s most prominent sides for the next three decades, rarely missing out on World Cup qualification. At the 1966 edition, a change strip of white shirts with red trim and blue shorts was used against North Korea that would inadvertently foreshadow the future Russian colourway, but was quite possibly based on the flag of the Soviet naval ensign.


USSR's "Russia kit", vs North Korea, World Cup 1966.

Soviet naval ensign.

By the 1980s, a hammer and sickle themed crest was added to the shirts, which were now being made by Adidas. In this decade several iterations became quintessential examples of kit-style in the era, and would go on to be some of the most favoured shirts of many kit historians and casual fans alike.


USSR in one of their several iconic shirts of the '80s, vs England, Euro 88.

Classic USSR away kit, vs Netherlands, friendly, 1989.

As the 1990s began, the state of the Soviet Union was closing in on the end of it’s existence as communist regimes across eastern Europe collapsed. The football team would make the most of the little time they had left though, as after World Cup ’90 they would contest a whopping 27 games across friendlies, minor tournaments, unofficial games and Euro ’92 qualifiers, until the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991.

A friendly away to Scotland in February 1991 seemed to be the last time that the CCCP lettering was worn across the torso of the shirts (in this instance an away shirt), as the following month against Germany a new strip was debuted employing an eccentric Adidas template. The new shirt featured a “checkers” design on one shoulder and sleeve, and other patterns reminiscent of World War 1-era dazzle camouflage for ships (so henceforth we shall refer to this template as the “dazzle shirt”), but was devoid of a CCCP.


One of the last times the "CCCP" would be seen on a Soviet shirt, away to Scotland, friendly, 1991.

USSR, for the first time wearing what would turn out to be their last home kit, vs Germany, friendly, 1991.

A Euro ’92 qualifier away to red shirted Hungary in April saw the debut of the away version of the shirt, as part of an all-white ensemble. But then, a May game against England in Wembley for the “England Challenge Cup” saw a return of the previous “CCCP”-baring home shirt. It seems this was brought for it’s short sleeves as a warm weather alternative, as for their other game of the competition – vs Argentina at Old Trafford – the long sleeved dazzle shirt was again used. The England tie would prove to be actual the last time that the CCCP would be seen on a Soviet national team shirt.


USSR wearing their last away shirt for the first time, vs Hungary, Euro '92 qualifier, 1991.

USSR going back to CCCP shirts one more time as a warm weather option, vs England, friendly tournament, 1991.

USSR back in the "dazzle shirt", vs Argentina, friendly tournament, 1991.

Later in the month, the home shirt’s own short-sleeved version saw use for the first time at home to Cyprus in the European qualifiers, as part of an all-red strip. A warm weather version of the away shirt was also worn that summer, such as against Italy in another friendly competition: the Scania 100 Tournament.


USSR wearing the short sleeved version of their home shirt as part of an all-red strip, vs Cyprus, Euro '92 qualifier, 1991.

USSR's short-sleeved away shirt, displaying "dazzle camouflage" features, vs Italy, friendly tournament, 1991.

The year concluded with a final Euro qualifier away to Cyrpus in November, with a 4-0 win securing qualification for the Soviet Union had they continued to exist as a political entity. The white kit worn would be the last ever strip to be used by a Soviet side, as amid continuing turmoil, the Union formally dissolved on the 26th of December, 1991.


The last ever match of the Soviet Union, vs Cyprus, Euro '92 qualifier, 1991.

However, it was not to be the last time that the dazzle shirts would be seen in international football. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had been formed immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union as a confederation of the former Soviet republics, and as a “successor state” of sorts, a football team was created to inherit the USSR’s Euro ’92 spot.

The CIS played it’s first international in Miami against the United States in January 1992 in the short sleeved version of the last Soviet away jersey, with the long sleeves used in a follow up tie against the same opposition (who wore all-blue on both occasions) in Detroit days later.

In the absence of anything else, a Spanish language report of the game used a Russian flag to represent the CIS in match graphics, the presence of which – along with the continued use of a shirt featuring a hammer and sickle on the crest – demonstrated the confusing transitional nature of the era. The red ’91 Soviet home shirt also saw a revival and was worn one last time in a pre-Euro ’92 friendly against England.


CIS wearing the USSR's away kit in their first international match, vs USA, friendly 1992.

The Russian flag being used to represent the CIS, vs USA, friendly, 1992.

CIS wearing the USSR's all-red, vs England, friendly, 1992.

By the tournament itself, CIS would finally have their own kit in the form of the new Adidas Equipment range, and it was confirmed that like the USSR, red was being used as first choice shirt colour. White stereo shoulder bars dominated the shirt, with the CIS initials appearing in the centre of the chest in lieu of an actual crest. The new “Adidas Equipment” brand logo replaced the trefoil for the first time, while the white shorts only added a player number to said brand logo, both in black.


The CIS finally debut their own kit, vs Germany, Euro '92.

The numbers on the back of the shirts were white, but the presence of the shoulder bars proved problematic with regards players names – being used along with front-numbers for the first time in an international tournament. So as not to clash with the white of the bars, black was used for the letters, which over the red background were not exactly legible either.

The issue seemed to demonstrate that the template had not really been designed with the new kit requirements in mind (France also used the template at the competition but did not experience the same problem due to their two red outer bars, while Sweden in the other “mono-shoulder” version used yellow trim on their outer-right blue letters to avoid the issue).


The back of the CIS shirt, demonstrating the black lettering used for player names, vs Germany, Euro '92.

In their following game against the Netherlands, the CIS would use the away version of the new shirt for the first and only time, before returning to the red shirt for their last game of the competition against Scotland. It would be the last time that a CIS team would ever take to the field, making them what has to be the shortest-lived international side to ever compete at an international tournament.


The one and only outing for the CIS away kit, vs Netherlands, Euro '92.

The CIS' last appearance in international football, vs Scotland, Euro '92.

Finally we are approaching the conclusion of what is still just the background to our featured campaign. But this has all been relevant to what was about to happen. Well, maybe not that stuff about the colour of the player’s names, but we though it was interesting.

With the conclusion of the Euros, the need for a combined CIS side was no more and a new Russian team officially succeeded both the USSR and CIS in FIFA cannon, taking their allocated spot in the upcoming World Cup ’94 qualifiers in the process. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were also granted places, but as the earliest former-Soviet states to declare independence, they were the only ones besides Russia allowed to take part.

The likes of Ukraine had lobbied for a tournament between the nations who had made up the USSR instead, but this was blocked by Russia who naturally didn’t want to miss out on their chance at World Cup qualification.

 
Flag of Russia.

Before the qualifiers got under way though, there was still time for one friendly game and on August 17th, 1992, Mexico visited Moscow’s Lokomotiv Stadium to play in what was to be the Russia’s first international match as a modern state.

Amazingly, the short-sleeved version of the white Soviet dazzle shirt was brought back from the dead yet again (insert some sort of obvious Rasputin joke here), now being employed as a home jersey for Russia who were to wear white as a primary shirt colour. The only difference to what the USSR would have worn the year before was the shorts, which were the same as the CIS (minus numbers) rather than the shorter in length red-trimmed pairs used by the Soviets, which also meant that the kit contained both a trefoil on the shirt and Adidas Equipment logo on the shorts.


Russia wearing the old Soviet Union away shirt as their first ever home shirt, vs Mexico, friendly, 1992.

This meant that the jersey in question had now been worn by three different teams representing three separate political entities – also surely the only instance of it’s kind – as well as  the interesting dichotomy of a post-communist Russian side wearing a hammer and sickle insignia on their chests.

The use of the shirt did make sense though, as considering the turmoil of the time, it is not really surprising that producing new sports gear was not on top of anyone’s agenda. Of the available options to hand, it was evidently felt to be more appropriate to revert back to the less obviously Soviet shirt, rather than wear one which blatantly proclaimed “CIS”.

And so would be the state of Russian football and it’s kits going into the World Cup qualifiers of October 1992. With the upcoming tournament set to be hosted by their old Cold War rivals in the United States, surely a country with such stature and proud sporting tradition would have their own national team shirts ready to start a journey that would lead to a first appearance on the world stage…

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Russia, 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualification

On December 8th, 1991 – eighteen days before the USSR dissolved – the World Cup qualifier draw took place. The addition of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania helped to boost the number of participating European teams from 32 to 39, which dropped to 38 after the withdrawal of Lichtenstein who had been set to take part for the first time.

But the the changing political map inevitably meant the disappearance of  states also, with this having a profound effect specifically on Group 5. The group as originally drawn had contained the USSR and Yugoslavia – itself in the process of collapsing into chaos – as the first and second seeds:

While Russia would ultimately be awarded the Soviet Union’s place on June 1st, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now not including Croatia, Slovenia, or FYR Macedonia) had been suspended by FIFA and UEFA a few days earlier, after UN sanctions relating to the region’s escalating war. The immediate impact was losing out on their Euro ’92 spot, but also removal from the World Cup qualifiers (now down to 37 teams).

As the top seeds had lost a significant portion of the available players who would have joined the Russians in a united Soviet/CIS side, and the second seeds having vanished entirely, Group 5 was left unusually weak. Five groups of six teams and one of seven had originally been intended, but the Yugoslav suspension also created the odd situation where Group 5 contained only five teams, compared to the bloated seven of Group 3. Also worth mentioning is that only two points were still being awarded for a win rather than three at this stage, and the ultimate top two teams in each group would qualify.

Four of the five countries in Gourp 5 weren’t involved in the 1992 European Championships, so some qualifying games had already taken place in May and June of that year. Further fixtures in September and October meant that some teams had played two, or in the case of Iceland, three times before the brand new Russian side had even taken part in a group game. But later that month, the wait would finally be over.

UEFA Qualifying Group 5:

Russia
Hungary
Greece
Iceland
Luxembourg

Match 1, home to Iceland , 14/10/1992:

18,000 fans braved the cold in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium for Russia’s first ever competitive game in their modern form, and the somewhat appropriate visit of Iceland (especially considering the tradition of playing Scandinavian teams in the pre-WW1 era). The low temperature was evident at the two benches, where hats, gloves and indeed blankets were the order of the day:

But more important, of course, was what was being worn on the pitch, and in answer to our rhetorical pondering at the end of the Background section, Russia in fact did take to the field once again using the old Soviet away shirt as a home jersey; naturally now employing the long sleeved version for the more wintry conditions.

However, someone had at least dug up a set on which the crest had yet to be applied, and additionally the trefoil was covered up with a Russian flag. Perhaps this shows that bitterness towards the west hadn’t just dried up over night, or else more likely that there was no actual deal with Adidas in place and Russia were just “pirating” the shirts:

But in the absence of their own bespoke national team shirt, a way was still found to further differentiate that it was in fact Russia playing and not the USSR, as the shorts and socks were now blue and red respectively. This amazingly meant that a shirt originally intended to bare a hammer and sickle in it’s crest, was now the top section of a kit that’s colours made up the Russian flag:

Added to this brilliance is the sheer delight of a shirt matched with shorts and socks that it wasn’t designed to be used with. After the Adidas Equipment shorts worn against Mexico, the shorter in length trefoil style was back, and we also get what appears to be another of our old favourites; an outfield player wearing goalkeeper gloves for no other reason than to keep warm:

Iceland for their part were in their first choice strip of blue and white, and the white/blue vs blue/white of the two team’s shirts and shorts created a clash situation the likes of which we have seen Bulgaria continually try to avoid before (again see link above). But it was clearly a minor miracle that Russia were able to take to the field in “their own” kits at all, so it is maybe no surprise that nothing was said here:

With their nearly Soviet shirts/Russian flag kits, a second half goal by Sergei Yuran – a Ukrainian who like Andrei Kanchelskis had chosen to declare for Russia – was enough to give the hosts “all 2 points”,  in what was a historic game for the nation.

Russia 1 – 0 Iceland

Match 2, home to Luxembourg , 28/10/1992:

If conditions were bad for the Iceland encounter, then things were about to hit a whole new level two weeks later for the visit of another of Europe’s “minnows” in Luxembourg, as the Russian winter really began to set in. The match would most likely have been postponed in modern times, but as this was 1992 it went ahead and as a result may be one of the most heroic games in the history of the sport.

In comparison to the 18,000 in attendance for the previous fixture – modest for a country of nearly 150 million but respectable, all things considered – only 1750 spectators made it to the same venue. Part of the reason was a heavy snow, which from certain camera angles made it seem like the game was being played in the middle of desolate tundra rather than a football stadium. Despite obviously having been cleared using some sort of vehicle, a fine layer also covered much of the pitch, but enough was visible to allow for the sports game to proceed:

And it was a good thing too, as finally Russia were able to wear jerseys that they could call their own – albeit quite bare ones which clearly weren’t made for them. Adidas was again the brand, with the trefoil on the chest again covered with a Russian flag as the “caretaker crest”. But dark blue raglan sleeves were accompanied by red Adidas stripes, as well as the branding on the shorts and socks, making it quite clear what was being worn:

The blue shorts from the Iceland game were retained, but since Luxembourg were wearing all-red, white socks with blue trim were introduced.

The away team’s shirt was noteworthy for it’s use of another elaborate Adidas template of the era (a sort of cousin of the Soviet dazzle shirt, in spirit if not design), which may not have been used by any other national side (seen here worn by Legia Warsaw). The near-turquoise shade of blue as a secondary colour only adds to the beautiful strangeness:

As you can see above, leggings were employed by most if not all the players, another of our favourite old school practices (and you better believe someone was wearing goalkeeper gloves who shouldn’t have been). The eccentric Luxembourgian manager-legend Paul Philipp (apparently nicknamed “The Spasti One”) was well prepared for the Moscow freeze too, donning a stylish-but-practical parka, while also exhibiting the equally fetching orange Adidas Tango ball:

Continuing the impressive the side-line style was the unmistakably Adidas jacket being warn by the official in charge of substitutes. Bonus points are added for the large manual number indicators, while the sparse crowd can be seen on the snow covered terrace opposite:

The fans who had braved the elements were rewarded with an early goal from that man Yuran, which was followed by another from Dmitri Radchenko to give Russia their second victory. While the game against Mexico had been historic for being their first match, and the Iceland game their first competitive match, now Russia had played their first game in what were their own actual shirts. Kind of.

Russia 2 – 0 Luxembourg

Early 1993 friendlies:

Russia’s next two games came the following January in the Nehru Cup, an annual tournament hosted by India that the Soviet Union had participated in and won several times. While it is pretty irrelevant to our main subject, the make up of that year’s competition may be one of the most amazing and diverse assortments of national teams you could find, with Finland, Bolivia, Cameroon and North Korea (the eventual winners) joining Russia and the hosts. What we do not know is if Russia maintained their makeshift kits for the tournament, as presumably short sleeved versions were at least needed for the Indian heat.

But by the following month, when Russia took on the United States in Orlando – just over a year after CIS had played there in Soviet shirts – they did so at last wearing a kit that was entirely made for them. Adidas had been replaced by Reebok, who at this stage were just beginning to wade in to the football kit market, and a template that was used that we have seen before (see Retro Shirt Reviews #3).

The brazen incorporation of a huge Reebook logo motif on the shirt was quite the turn around from covering up the Adidas logo the previous year, with a smaller Reebok logo within the left shoulder section, and interestingly there were front numbers as well as finally an actual real crest. The shiny shorts, which too were shorter in length than the Adidas Equipment style, also featured a modified version of the big Reebok logo:

With this modern and stylish outfit, the last remnants of the previous era finally faded away (although the red away shirt and white shorts used due to the USA’s white shirts and blue shorts, gave quite an almost Soviet feel to the kit). Or so you would have thought…

That is because after completing the North American tour with two more games against El Salvador and the USA, Russia traveled to Israel for one last friendly in March before the qualifiers resumed, and incredibly went back to old Soviet shirts. This time the red version of the dazzle shirt was worn, again using a batch with no crest, but unlike the Iceland game the trefoil remained unobscured (perhaps not seen as an issue since this was a lower profile game). White “per-Equipment” Adidas shorts were used, but based on the stripe count, the white socks appear to have been of another brand:

Match 3, away to Luxembourg , 14/04/1993:

After the hellish conditions in Moscow for the previous tie (although hell is hot so that’s not really apt), 3180 were in attendance on a calmer spring evening at the classically European Stade Municipal in Luxembourg for the return game, thus giving a nation of less than half a million people a greater turn out than the biggest country in the world.

The hosts wore the same red kit as seen in Russia, while the visitors chose to go with all-white rather than blue shorts as before. But more notably, after having paid homage to their Soviet predecessors by bringing back a shirt that seemed done and dusted, Russia returned to Reebok once and for all.

The home version of the red shirt seen against the USA was used, but curiously the number was moved to the right rather than centrally like on the away. This seems to be because the red section of the big Reebok logo comes down at a more diagonal angle on the home shirt; too close for comfort to the also red numbers. The white socks used with the otherwise Adidas kit against Israel were also back, indicating that they were indeed Reebok made:

Goals from Kiryakov, Shalimov and Kulkov delivered a 4-0 victory as expected for the Russians, seen below following the third goal with marvelous Germanic country names and frilled flag graphics:

Luxembourg 0 – 4 Russia

Match #4, home to Hungary , 28/04/1993:

On a fine evening for football, 25,000 were in attendance at the Luzhniki for the visit of Hungary next, now the de-factor second seeds in the group. Having only come up against the two weakest sides so far, this was to be somewhat of a sterner test for Russia, although the visitors were in the midst of a particularly weak era.

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As Hungary’s red, white and green Umbro-made strip did not produce any sort of clash, Russia could go back to their first choice “flag kit” of white, blue and red:

It was the first time that the blue Reebok shorts were being seen (at least in a competitive setting) and what a shade of blue they were, as well as that amazing shininess:

To top off the day, goals from the two Ukrainian born players mentioned earlier and one from Kolyvanov in between gave Russia a 3-0 victory, keeping up their impressive 100% record in competitive football to date and with zero goals conceded. Of course more impressive to use was their streak of not yet wearing the same kit more than once.

But with the respectable crowd and comfortable weather conditions, full first-preference colours and kit with actual crest, and an emphatic victory over a regional rival with a proud football tradition, this finally felt like Russia’s first true big day as a national team.

Russia 3 – 0 Hungary

Match #5, at home to Greece , 23/05/1993:

As Russia’s march towards qualification went on, so too rose the crowd as the visit of  Greece attracted 35,000 spectators. Before the game, a minute’s silence took place. If anyone knows the reason why, do get in touch.

The all-white kit seen away to Luxembourg made a return for Russia, making it the first time so far that they had actually worn the same kit twice. This allowed the visitors to use their all-blue Diadora affair, which made more sense than the over-all clash that would have occurred if they had gone with blue shirts and white shorts against Russia’s apparent first preference of white shirts and blue shorts, like what happened at the Iceland game:

This seems like a good point to give our customary nod to the goalkeeper’s attire. Here, cult-hero Dimitri Kharine was in a classically early ’90s top featuring black sleeves, a busy yellow and purple/pink design on the torso with no crest, a multicoloured horizontal band (seeming to be dark yellow from a distance) that also appears at the end of the sleeves, and of course his trademark tracksuit bottoms:

More delightful Adidas FIFA gear was being worn by the sideline official; a tracksuit in the style (and colourway) of the shirt template that had been used by France a couple of years prior, among others. A less well-dressed, slightly suspicious individual (purely due to his out of place-ness) stands near by:

On the pitch Russia finally conceded a goal and dropped points, but a penalty from another Ukrainian born player Igor Dobrovolski was enough to keep the ever growing Luzhniki-faithful confident of progression to the World Cup:

Russia 1 – 1 Greece

Match #6, away to Iceland , 02/06/1993:

Russia next traveled to Reykjavík, and with a similar athletics ground and attendance (3308) to the Luxembourg away game, the visitors  were no doubt equally expectant of a similar result here which would secure qualification. But Iceland had taken a point in Luxembourg in their previous match, and more impressively had beaten Hungary 2-1 in Budapest a year and a day before this visit of Russia. Although conditions were better than for the reverse fixture the previous year, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was summer time by the Icelandic bench who were wrapped up very snugly:

Meanwhile, in the ten days since the Greece game, Russia had only gone and got themselves another new kit. The big Reebok logo was replaced by a solid blue shoulder/sleeve with red border, and both the crest and front number had been moved from their respective sides to the centre of the shirt. The more contemporary longer and non-shiny shorts style was also back on Russian lower-halves:

With Iceland in the same strip as in Moscow, Russia debuted another new combination in white, white and red, helping create more of a difference than before, although the large blue element on especially the shirt (but also the shorts reflected from the shirt sleeve onto the opposite leg) meant that there was basically enough similarity to potentially still cause problems:

Kharine was also in a new shirt which still featured purple prominently while grey replaced yellow as the accompanying colour, but like the previous version, no crest was to be seen:

For the second match in a row Russia went a goal down, before Kiriakov pulled one back for another 1-1 draw:

The point earned gave Russia 10 points to date, behind Greece on 13 who had already mathematically qualified. Iceland would continue their good form with 2-0 and 1-0 home wins next against Hungary and Luxembourg respectively to conclude their group games, but it was not to be enough as they could only finish on 8 points. Hence, Russia had qualified for their first World Cup finals.

Iceland 1 – 1 Russia

Summer Friendly:

In late July, Russia went to Paris for a friendly match against France. With the way the new Russia kit had fit together against Iceland, it seemed that perhaps white shirts, white shorts and red socks had been decided on as new first preference colours. But with the French also in their usual white shorts and red socks, a change was already needed.

Russia went to white socks not yet seen, featuring a Reebok logo half way down. But the all-white look was decided against in favour of blue shorts, and since apparently none had yet been made to go with the new shirt template, the big Reebook logo/shiny style made a return creating another mis-matched kit (both in design and shade of blue):

Match #7, away to Hungary , 08/09/1993:

With the pressure now off, Russia could go to Hungary in September in a relaxed mood, although top spot in the group was still up for grabs between them and Greece.

As we have seen before in our debut edition of the Cold War Classic, Hungary seemed to have a habit of inexplicably wearing their away shirts at home. This seemed to have been the same here as both teams turned out in change kits, with the hosts ending up in Russia’s own home colour of white; odd since the two countries home strips had clearly been proved compatible at the reverse fixture in Moscow.

But the issue may have stemmed from the visitors, as Russia debuted another new shirt: a blue version of the template on the home shirt, with red replacing blue on the sleeve. Why this shirt was brought instead of the white one is a mystery, but presumably the presence of the large red block was deemed significant enough by the referee (who must have been stricter than the one in charge of the Iceland away game) to clash with Hungary’s red shirt, who instead then used their white away shirt and white socks to match instead of the usual green:

To make matters stranger, Russia had still yet to come up with accompanying blue shorts to match the new template, despite now even having a blue version of the shirt itself. As a result, the big Reebok logo shorts in blue used against France were retained, while red socks with solid white turn overs were seen for the first time:

Uzbek-born Andrey Pyatnitsky opened the scoring for the visitors, a player who was on his 4th national team, exceeding even the dazzle shirt. Pyatnitsky had featured in one match for the USSR in 1990 and was a CIS regular in ’92, but had also earned two caps for his home country of Uzbekistan before finally switching to Russia in 1993.

Hungary pulled one back shortly after, but a Kiriakov goal in the second half gave the advantage back to the visitors and was met with a hail of projectiles from Budapest’s unhappy Népstadion as the Russian players celebrated:

Aleksandr Borodyuk strike in the 89th minute secured an away win to keep Russia undefeated and end their mini-run of 1-1 draws.

Hungary 1-3 Russia

Autumn Friendly:

Russia had now played 7 of their 8 games in the group, and with final opponents and top-spot rivals Greece still play to Luxembourg in October in between, Russia used the time to play a friendly in Saudi Arabia. With the Saudi’s in white shirts, green shorts, and white socks, the Russians channeled the French by going blue, white and red:

But even though Russia could have worn the white shorts seen against Iceland which would have perfectly complimented the away shirt, for some reason the white big Reebok logo shorts were resurrected to also get their chance to be mis-matched with the away shirt:

Match #8, away to Greece , 17/11/1993:

After Greece had won in Luxembourg as expected, the last match of the group when Russia were to visit Athens became a virtual play-off to see who would top the group as both teams had 12 points going in to the game, although Russia had a superior goal difference in the case of a draw. But with both sides already on their way to their respective debut appearances at a World Cup, there was a festive atmosphere with plenty of pyro from the 75,000 in attendance at the Olympic Stadium to greet the teams:

Better late than never, but here we finally get a look at some excellent Russian tracksuit tops as the players  pose for their team photo:

This was another game where it seems like it would have made most sense to repeat the kit configuration of the previous tie, with Greece in all-blue and Russia in all-white to eliminate any confusion.  Instead we got a repeat of the colour swatch from Russia’s opening game of the group against Iceland, as Greece wore blue, white and blue with Russia in white, blue and red.

But the issue with the shirt template that seemed to have caused the away-kit vs away-kit situation in Hungary reared it’s head again, as evidently it was felt that the amount of blue on the sleeve of the home shirt would clearly clash with the Greek jerseys. And so the big Reebok logo joined it’s shorts counterpart and was resurrected, the first time it had been seen since Greece came to Moscow in May, but unlike on previous occasions front numbers did not feature. To appropriately conclude things, news socks were debuted; red versions of the ones which displayed a Reebok logo halfway down:

This is a game that we will come back to cover itself on the site some day, as unsurprisingly there was pyro on the pitch, and plenty of it as it was to be Greece’s night. The only goal of the game came in the 69th minute to seal the game and give Russia their first competitive defeat, and the team who had originally been fourth seeds topped the group.

In the light of their own qualification, this won’t have mattered too much to the Russians in the end. But more impressive than their achievements on the pitch in their first 14 months as team, was their amazing record of having worn seven distinctively different kits in their eight games of the group, summing up and wrapping up this incredibly interesting time period for the team, and the series of events that had led to it.

Greece 1 – 0 Russia

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Breakdown:

Team: Russia 
Years: 1992, 1993
Competition: World Cup '94 qualifiers
Kit Supplier: Adidas(unofficial?)/Reebok
Competitive Games: 8
Kit Colour Combinations: 5
Kit Technical Combinations: 7

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Aftermath:

This was not to be the end of Russia’s relationship with the big Reebok logo shirt as at least three more versions would be used through home and away kits in ’94, ’95 and ’96,  between various other Reebok kits. Which is perfect really considering what we have seen here. The other template with the blue seelve, meanwhile, never saw the light of the day again, clearly being deemed more hassle than it was worth. But it was a nice idea.

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International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #5 (Gallery)

In this series we look back to an era when supporters were often more likely to represent their local side on the terraces when the national team was in town (or abroad), rather than the national team itself.

Germany vs CIS, European Championships, 1992
KSC Fanclub
of Karlsruher SC:

Italy vs Slovenia, Euro ’96 qualifier, 1995
“Nord Kaos”, “Brigata”, “Arthur Zico Orsaria” and others of Udinese:

Netherlands vs Hungary, Euro ’88 qualifier, 1987
SC Heerenveen:

Finland vs England, World Cup ’86 qualifier, 1985
“Chelsea-Sutton”
of Chelsea FC:

Belgium vs Wales, Euro ’92 qualifier, 1991
CCFC and other banner of Cardiff City FC:

Netherlands vs Poland, World Cup ’94 qualifier, 1992
Lechia” with Celtic cross (far-right symbol) of Lechia Gdansk:

Italy vs Georgia, World Cup ’98 Qualifier, 1996
Vecchia Guardia“, “Brigata Ultra” and other groups of A.C. Perugia:

 

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Politics On The Pitch #3: World Cup 1950 Qualifying

To be honest, the following episode of Politics On The Pitch was originally intended as a Football Special Report. But as politics, war, and global history are so intertwined in the 1950 World Cup qualifiers, it seemed more than appropriate to transfer the post to Politics On The Pitch. One of the main tenants of this time was the inability of many teams to actually travel to the World Cup in Brazil, whether they had qualified of not. This was of course in large part due to the proximity of the World War 2, who’s shadow from 5 years before still loomed large and had left many nations in poverty.

Background:

One of the great things about mid-20th century tournaments was the random stuff like extra unscheduled play-off games as tie breakers; groups of four instead of a final game; and coin-tosses to decide things. But the first three FIFA World Cups were actually fairly straight forward affairs: four groups of 3 with the winners progressing to the semi-finals in 1930, and straight knock-out tournaments of 16 teams in ’34 and ’38 (eventually 15 in the latter after the the withdrawal of Austria due to the “Anschluss” with Germany).

Thankfully, the introduction of World Cup qualifiers for the ’34 edition onwards did provide some classic old-school chaos. As this was in the days before regional federations such as UEFA, all potential World Cup candidates were divided into 12 groups based on location. The pre-WW2 system was marked by:

  • The frequent withdrawal of participating nations.
  • Groups of mostly two or three teams, arranged by region rather than drawn.
  • Host nation Italy forced to qualify for their own tournament in 1934.
  • Automatic ’34 qualification for Czechoslovakia from a group of two as a result the Polish government’s denial of visas for their own team to travel.
  • ’38 qualifiers Group 1 containing four teams while the rest contained two or three.
  • The abandonment of games if teams had already mathematically qualified/could not qualify.
  • No British teams, who were currently on boycott of FIFA.
  • Egypt being the only African nation competing in either campaign, as most were not yet independent.
  • Participation of historical states such as pre-Soviet Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, the Irish Free State, the Second Spanish Republic (withdrawn by the ’38 qualifiers due to the Spanish Civil War), Palestine-British Mandate (made of Jewish and British players), Dutch Guiana and Dutch East Indies.

For no apparent reason, FIFA decided to take a break for the next two would-be tournaments. But with the World Cup set to return in 1950, new qualifiers were scheduled for ’49 and ’50. Some big countries would compete for the first time, while others disappeared. A world which had been ravaged and changed by World War 2 (economically and politically if not physically and emotionally) was entering a new era, and so with it came a new era for the tournament, and more importantly for us, it’s preliminary rounds.

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The 1950 World Cup Qualifiers

Info:

  • The 12-Group system of the pre-WW2 years was reduced to 10.

  • Groups 1-6 were to be of (mostly) European composition, with Groups 7-9 for the Americas and Group 10 for Asia.

  • Groups were arranged roughly by region, not drawn, with mostly different qualifying rules for each.

  • Two points were awarded for a victory rather than three.

  • 14 qualifying spots were available, with both Brazil (upcoming hosts) and Italy (champions in 1938) qualifying automatically to make 16.

  • West Germany, East Germay and Japan – still occupied after World War 2 – were not permitted to take part.

  • Eastern Block states such Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Hungary refused to take part.

  • No African teams were participating; the only currently independent African states were Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Liberia.

  • Other notable countries to not take part included Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China.

  • The first game of qualifying (Sweden vs Ireland) was played on 02/06/1949, and the last game (Scotland vs England) on 15/04/1950, just over two months before the World Cup kicked-off.

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Group 1

England
Scotland
Wales
Ireland-UK

***For the purposes of continuity, we shall refer to the team now known as Northern Ireland as “Ireland-UK”, but at the time of 1950 qualifiers it was just “Ireland”. We will come back to this later, but for some in-depth information regarding why, check back to the Northern Ireland section of Politics On The Pitch #2.***

This campaign was the first that saw the appearance of the the UK sides in FIFA competition. All had been members of FIFA since near the beginning of the century (England-1905, Scotland and Wales-1910, Ireland-UK-1911), but tension was already evident following a brief period of withdrawal (1920-1924) in protest at the continued inclusion of the Central Powers following World War 1.

A “permanent” split from FIFA was to come for the four federations in 1928, as a result of the new FIFA law requiring football associations to pay compensation to their athletes who played at the upcoming Olympics football tournament. But time heals all wounds, rules change and stubborn people die. Some combination of these meant that the UK nations rejoined FIFA in 1946, perhaps now craving more global competition in the absence of the recently completed World War 2.

Two qualification spots were up for grabs, and since the groups weren’t randomly selected, Group 1 could also double as the 1949/50 British Home Nations tournament; an ingenious practice that would return for the 1954 qualifiers. The combination was dropped following the introduction of non-local qualifying groups for 1958, but it was delightfully revived for Euro 1968 when that competition went to a group based qualification system, incorporating both the 66/67 and 67/68 Home Nations tournaments.

With each team to play each other once, Ireland-UK vs Scotland kicked off the group in Belfast on October 1st with a classic old school scoreline of 2-8 to the visitors. This would have been the highest scoring game in the entire global qualifiers, except for the fact that England then beat Ireland-UK 9-2 at home the following month on front of nearly 70,000 fans in Manchester. Crowd shots displayed the alarmingly dangerous density of the audience, doubtless desperate for any entertainment in this post-War rebuilding era.


Disturbingly packed terrace at Maine Road for England vs Ireland-UK, November 1949.

As Wales didn’t fare much better than Ireland-UK – only scoring one goal in their three games – England traveled to Scotland on April 15th, 1950 with both sides assured of qualification following two wins each,  but with top-spot and the Home Nations championship yet to decide. A nauseating 133,300 spectators compressed into Glasgow’s Hampden Park, with footage showing one of (presumably) many fans who had to be stretchered away from the crush. Men in traditional dress playing saxophones, along with dancing girls (reminiscent of a Nazi Youth rally) also entertained the masses.


One fan is stretched away from the Hampden crush at Scotland vs England, April 1950..

Pre-match entertainment.

A 1-0 away win secured the honours for England, now destined for their first ever World Cup appearance. Scotland in the second qualifying position could have joined them, but declined the opportunity, apparently as they had vowed only to travel if they had won the Home Nations. As we shall see, it would be a reoccurring theme.

ENGLAND QUALIFY

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Group 2

Turkey
Syria
Austria

Now you can see why we said Groups 1-6 were “mostly” European, as here we have what is basically the Middle Eastern qualifying section, plus Austria of course. The rules of this group, as well as Groups 3 and 4, were that the lesser two sides would play each other home and away in a First Round, before the winner would play the seeded team in the same way with a qualifying spot up for grabs.

Both Turkey and Syria were competing for the first time. Turkey had been set to take part in the 1934 qualifiers in Group 12, along with Egypt and Palestine-British Mandate, but had withdrawn before playing a game. Syria, meanwhile, had itself been a French Mandate until 1946 and were set to play their debut match as an independent state in the qualifiers.

In the first of many vintage Cold War black-ops moves, an American led military coup had overthrown the democratically elected Syrian government in  March, 1949. But eight months later, the country’s new authoritarian overlords will have been disappointed as their nation’s footballing representatives slumped to a 7-0 debut defeat at the hands of their Turkish neighbours to the north. Perhaps because the result was now a foregone conclusion – or due to the utter shame doubtlessly emanating from the generals – Syria withdrew before the return leg could be played, leaving Turkey to advance.


Players and officials at the end of Turkey's 7-0 defeat of Syria.

Turkey and Austria shared a history of their own, as the Ottoman Turks had been at the gates of Vienna more than once in the post-Middle Ages. This was probably not on the mind’s of their country’s footballers hundreds of years later, but even still the Austrians also withdrew before the games could be played.

Turkey thus qualified automatically for their first World Cup. Or that is they would have, if not for the fact that they TOO then withdraw. The Syrians were no doubt asking why the Turks couldn’t have just done this in the first place before humiliating them out of the competition.

NO QUALIFIER

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Group 3

Yugoslavia
Israel
France

Here we have a group that doesn’t even pretend to be geographically logical, but would actually perhaps look like the beginning of a modern UEFA qualifying group if not for the fact that Yugoslavia doesn’t exist any more. France were World Cup veterans having competed at all three previous tournaments, with Yugoslavia also making an appearance as one of the few other European representatives at Uruguay 1930, and now becoming the first Socialist state in the continent to take part.

Like Syria, Israel was a newly sovereign post-WW2 nation having been created in 1948. The Israeli  national team debuted against the USA later that year, but can trace it’s footballing lineage back to the aforementioned Palestine-British Mandate who competed in the ’34 and ’38 qualifiers. Like in later years, it maybe made more sense not to place the Irealis in a group with some of their more hostile neighbors, with this perhaps explaining why Austria were in Group 2 instead of this group, and vice-versa for Israel.

The first round took place over August and September, 1949, and the obvious gulf in quality seen in Group 1 and 2 continued as Yugoslavia beat Israel 6-0 in Belgrade and 5-2 in Tel-Aviv. The Yugoslav’s following games against France in October would prove more evenly balanced as both games ended 1-1, and since this was not a modern two-legged affair (sensible tie-breaking mini-games such as extra-time and penalties were distant future dreams at this point, and players in the ’40s would have undoubtedly been too unfit to play another half an hour anyway), the only solution was for the two sides to play each other yet again in a play-off on neutral ground.


Unique stadium, Israel vs Yugoslavia.

Italian news reel reviewing France vs Yugoslavia with crowd in the background.

The deciding game took place in Florence in December, with Yugoslavia finally running out 3-2 winners and qualifying for their second World Cup. Classically, after all that, France were also offered a place in the finals but declined, rendering the previous 270 minutes of football utterly pointless.

YUGOSLAVIA QUALIFY

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Group 4

Switzerland
Luxembourg
Belgium

Group 4 makes a little more sense geographically speaking, with the epic clash of central-west Europe’s richest, smallest, neutralist countries with long names in the first round. Compared to Groups 1-3 we finally get a bit of normality here, as all three countries had existed for some time before the qualifiers and would continue to exist to the present day.

On the pitch there was nothing too surprising either, as the Swiss picked up a 5-2 result at home in Zurich in June, 1949. Their advancement was sealed with a 3-2 win in Luxembourg, capital city of Luxembourg, in October. A nice, solid and dependable group so far, very relaxing compared to earlier. I have a good feeling that nothing can possibly go wrong.

But of course things would not be complete without a good-old withdrawal, and we get just that before another ball can be touched. Belgium had taken part in the first three World Cups, but the streak was broken through this self-imposed expulsion, graciously leaving Switzerland to qualify for their third successive tournament.

SWITZERLAND QUALIFY

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Group 5

Sweden
Ireland
Finland

Group 5 was set to be a refreshingly straight-forward affair, comprising of a straight round robin of home and away matches between the three teams and the resulting top side qualifying for the World Cup. While Norway had competed in the 1938 qualifiers, there was no sign of them here, leaving Ireland to take what presumably would have been their spot in the token Nordic group (Denmark and Iceland had yet to take part).

“But wait” you exclaim, “another Ireland!?” Yes, here we have our second Ireland of the qualifying system. Of course this team is now referred to as the Republic of Ireland, but at this stage they were just known as “Ireland”, same as Ireland-UK  from Group 1. Ireland-UK – as the successor team of the “original Ireland” that had competed while Ireland was still fully under British rule – were still calling themselves “Ireland”, and in-fact selected players from all over the island, despite only claiming league jurisdiction over Northern Ireland.

Amazingly, some players who represented Ireland in Group 5 ALSO played for Ireland-UK in Group 1 (Ireland had also previously capped Ireland-UK capped players). Both teams also wore green shirts with near identical shamrock themed crests, adding to the uniquely confusing situation.

Anyway, back to the group, and as mentioned earlier Sweden defeated Ireland in the first game of the entire qualifying system with a 3-1 win in Stockholm in June. They followed this up with an 8-1 trouncing of Finland in October, this time in Malmö to shake things up. Ireland had also beaten the Finns 3-0 in Dublin in September, and the return fixture, eight days after the 8-1 game, saw a 1-1 draw in Helsinki.

At this point, the poor old Finns (for whom we harbour a particular affinity) saw the writing on the wall and in typically logical fashion withdrew from the group instead of facing their final, meaningless group game (and in doing so conserved energy as well as avoiding another possible thrashing on home soil). This left Ireland’s home game against Sweden in November as a virtual play-off to get to the World Cup, even though Finland’s premature exit meant Ireland would have played an extra game than Sweden. The Swedes ran out 3-1 winners, qualifying for their third successive World Cup having finished fourth at France ’38.


More pack terraces at Ireland vs Sweden in Dalymount Park.

Ireland would have to wait another 40 years to make it to the finals but this need not have been the case as, in the wake of all the withdrawals, they were in fact invited to take part anyway by FIFA. But off course money doesn’t grow on trees, especially in economically struggling, post-“Emergency” Ireland (as WW2 was known there) and the offer was turned down due to the traveling costs. This really raises the question: what was point in attempting to qualify in the first place, or were they just not thinking that far ahead?

SWEDEN QUALIFY

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Group 6

Spain
Portugal

With their internal political issues well and truly resolved, a new Spain returned following their absence for 1938. Like the ’34 qualifiers they were placed in the “Iberian Group” with Portugal, with FIFA clearly deeming that one of the two simply needed to be at the World Cup.

In the previous version, Spain had breezed through with a 9-0 win at home propelling victory. This time Franco’s men didn’t score quite as many, but a 5-1 win in Madrid in April 1950 did basically the same job. Portugal at the time were in the midst of their own fascist dictatorship, or “corporatist authoritarian regime”, and they welcomed their peninsular pals to Lisbon eight days later. A 2-2 draw was played out allowing Spain to reach the finals as expected with little fuss.


Spain score the first of 5 goals against Portugal, on front of  a huge crowd.

Spain score the first in the 2-2 draw away to Portugal, in a ground devoid of side stand.

That is except for the fact that Portugal, of course, were then also invited to play at the World Cup, as a replacement for Turkey. And of course they declined, meaning all six European groups contained some sort of withdrawal or declination to play. This left FIFA throwing their hands up and shouting “Why do I even bother!” before bursting into tears, and then finally saying “fine then”, deciding to just leave the World Cup short of teams instead of inviting anyone else, dashing any last Luxembourgian hopes in the process.

SPAIN QUALIFY

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Group 7

Bolivia
  Chile
Argentina

After the mess that was Europe, we now come to the Americas where things are always calmer and more settled. The three teams were set to play home and away, with the top two progressing to the final. Would a nice competitive group, played to completion with the winners going through and the losers definitively not going through, be too much to ask?

The answer is yes, as 1930 finalists Argentina withdrew leaving Bolivia and Chile (also both present in 1930) free to qualify automatically without a single second of football being played. Obviously their scheduled games to be played against each other were cancelled, as they would have been utterly fucking pointless.

BOLIVIA AND CHILE QUALIFY

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Group 8

Uruguay
Paraguay
Ecuador
Peru

The intuitive among you (as well as those who look at nature and society in a deeper way and notice patterns) may well have already guessed the outcome of this group. And sure enough, Ecuador and Peru withdrew from the group faster than you can say “unstable puppet government propped up by the CIA”. They really could not wait to withdraw.

1930 champions Uruguay had boycotted the previous two tournaments, first in 1934 as an act of retribution against the European teams who had refused to travel to their home tournament in 1930, then along with Argentina in anger at FIFA’s decision to stage World Cup 1938 again in Europe rather then a return to South America. Paraguay had also made their only previous appearance in 1930. Both qualified again without a ball being kicked.

URUGUAY AND PARAGUAY QUALIFY

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Group 9

USA
Mexico
Cuba

As with the British Home Nations tournament of Group 1, Group 9 also doubled as the 1949 North American Football Confederation Championship; the last time that competition would be played until 1990. However, unlike the Home Nations, all the matches would be played in a host nation – in this case Mexico – and all take place over the month of September 1949, more in lieu with a traditional tournament. The teams would play each other twice with the top two advancing to the World Cup, as well of course as North American Football Confederation Championship glory to the country on top.

The group was like the ill-fated Group 7 in that all teams had previously played at World Cups. Mexico had been statistically the worst team in their only appearance to date in 1930. The US had also taken part, both then and in ’34 where they replaced Mexico as poorest performing participant.

A pre-Castro Cuba can boast not just a finals appearance, but an oft-forgotten World Cup quarter final to their name in 1938. This is slightly less impressive when you remember that they only had to win one game to make the quater-finals, but slightly more impressive again by the fact that they drew 3-3 with Romania after extra time and then beat them 2-0 in a replay. However, the 8-0 drubbing received at the hands of Sweden in the quarter final itself does slightly take the shine off things.

Things didn’t go so well for Cuba this time though, as their only point of the Group came from a 1-1 draw with the US. The return game saw the Americans run out 5-2 winners. But the top side had not been in doubt since day one when hosts Mexico had destroyed the USA 6-0, and proceeded to put the same number past them when the sides would meet again while conceding their only two goals of the campaign. Comfortable 2-0 and 3-0 wins against Cuba, including on the last day of the group, gave Mexico the NAFC crown and qualification, along with the USA in second.

And there it is, finally after nine groups we have found one that was actually played to completion, and with the agreed upon rules adhered to through to the end. The real miracle here is the the Cuban revolution thankfully held off for a few years, for if it had happened in 1949 it would have undoubtedly disrupted the group.

MEXICO AND USA QUALIFY

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Group 10

Burma
Indonesia
Philippines
India

Group 10 contained the only Asian side to have previously made a World Cup appearance in Indonesia, who played at the 1938 finals in their previous form of the Dutch East Indies. This feat is again made less impressive by the fact that they only reached said finals due the withdrawal (surprise, surprise) of their one opponent Japan. Tragically, after coming all the way to Europe for the World Cup, they were promptly beaten 6-0 by Hungary and sent straight home. Still, their name is in the history books. Well, their name when it was a different name.

India, meanwhile, had played their first game while still a British possession in 1938, and in 1948 had made their first appearance as an independent state. The Philippines had been around a surprisingly long time in comparison, with their first international dating back to 1913, but had not previously had the chance to qualify for a World Cup. Burma went into the qualifiers yet to take part in an international fixture of any sort.

And unfortunately this would remain the case, as wouldn’t you just know it, Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines all withdrew before the group drew could even take place. This left India to qualify by default in the one available spot, and you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

Except there is one last twist in the tale as India, true to these qualifiers to the very end, gave one final withdrawal. They powerfully withdrew from their default position of World Cup qualifier, amazingly with a view to prepare for the next Olympic games instead, proving that the World Cup was not exactly the global phenomenon it is today.

The infamous rumored reason had been that FIFA would not allow India to play barefoot at the World Cup, which seems too “sexy” of a story to be true and with more than a hint of racism. But while it apparently did not have a baring on their decision to pull out, they had in fact played barefoot to great effect at the 1948 Olympics, and would do so again at the 1952 edition.

NO QUALIFIER

***

Total Qualified Teams (13):

Bolivia

Brazil

Chile

England

Italy

Mexico

Paraguay

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United States

Uruguay

Yugoslavia

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And there we have it, qualifying done and dusted. Out of the 32 teams that entered, 11 out of the originally intended 14 qualified to join the hosts and champions, 15 either withdrew during qualifying or declined an invitation to the finals, and 9 didn’t play a game at all. Fair to say a roaring success as far as this time period goes. As for the actual 1950 World Cup, well you’ll just have to Google that for now, as it’s a story for another day (we mean that rhetorically, there are currently no plans for us to cover the 1950 World Cup).

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