Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
Read earlier columns
How good were the Uruguayans of the 20's and 30's?
Why do so many consider the Brazilians of 1970 as the greatest team ever? It
may be because they were a very entertaining side, playing the attack under
all circumstances and they fielded five or six magnificent players, capable
of tricking each opponent and always having in mind the goal of scoring more
goals than the other team, rather than letting in less. Better 5-3 than 2-0,
that was Brazil that days. Gerson was a very skillful midfielder, as was
Rivelino, and Tostao was a great player too. I've always been an admirer of
the cyclone that Jairzinho was, and Pelé was a truly wonderful player,
although I have been one of the very few to suggest that there have been a
number of players that can be considered better than the so-called King of
But then, there is also another side of the story. Brazil 1970 had an
erratic goalkeeper in Felix, and their defenders were mostly poor. Carlos
Alberto certainly wasn't, although his real strenghts were in attack, but I
have always looked at Piazza, Everaldo, Brito and Marco Antonio as moderate
defenders. Every other team with at least one or two decent strikers could
brings these guys into serious trouble. Look at it this way: the best team
ever should at least have good players on each position, good in relation to
international level. It should not have real weaknesses, like these
Brazilians surely had. Seven good or very good players may not be enough to
be named as the best ever. But then, who else? Which team had good players
in defense, midfield ánd attack? And a good shotstopper? Great technical
abilities and tactical sense? Not many, I guess. I think there's one team
that is constantly overlooked, mainly because no-one of us has ever seen
moving pictures of these men. We have to imagine what they could do, just by
the stories we read about them. But the Uruguayan team of the 20's and 30's,
the world champion of 1930, to me is a strong contender for the title of
best team ever.
They won the Olympic title in 1924 and 1928, and they did so in a majestical
style. They won all their matches but one, the final in 1928 against
Argentina who managed a draw against the Celestes, only to be defeated 2-1
in the replay. In total nine wins out of ten for Uruguay, 32 goals scored
and conceded only seven. Overcoming rivalry from Argentina, Germany, Holland
and Italy (with Combi, Rosetta, Caligaris, Baloncieri and Schiavio in the
team!). At that time it was beyond any doubt that Uruguay had the best team
in the world, even better than England and Scotland who had dominated world
football till then. And Uruguay was admired so much, because they had
changed the game, with their brilliant technique and fine positional play.
The World Cup of 1930 proved what all insiders already knew: Uruguay was the
Captain José Nasazzi, nicknamed The Marshall, was the backbone of the team.
He was a leader, being captain in every one of his 41 international matches,
equally strong in defense and attack. A tough guy, especially from a mental
point of view. He was one of the very first players to use the
off-side-trap. Nasazzi was the Passarella of his days. He got assistance
from Ernesto Mascheroni, who later also played two caps for Italy.
Mascheroni was a tall and very calm defender, who turned out to be a great
success during the World Cup. Goalkeeper Enrique Ballestrero surprisingly
won a place in the team, after no. 1 goalie Andres Mazali, a legendary
figure who was in goal during both Olympic victories, went out to party just
before the start of the tournament. He was thrown out of the squad by
teammanager Alberto Supicci. Ballestrero did very well, had a somewhat risky
style but he knew exactly what to do. He caught the ball rather than
punching it away, was dominant in the box and hardly ever made a mistake.
After the final he was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
The great orchestrator of this magnificent team was José Leandro Andrade.
Although he had his best days behind him, the big star of 1924 and 1928
still was the best midfielder in the world. He was a wizard on the ball, and
although tactics were of no interest to him, he always knew where to be on
the field. Andrade was by many considered as the world's best player in the
first half of the twentieth century. Lorenzo Fernandez, a very versatile
player, was the central midfielder in this team. The former striker was
technically very good, and he was a braveheart. He never gave up. Alongside
him on the left was Alvaro Gestido, one of the lesser known. He was a gifted
player and a strong runner, capable of helping out in defense and attack.
And that a bunch of players they had in attack! Uruguay could have fielded
two world-class lines. Especially the inside-trio was great. Old Hector
Scarone was brilliant of the ball and scored a lot of goals, today he's
still the leading all-time topscorer of the Uruguayan team. Pedro Cea was a
skillful playmaker who provided his fellow-men with good and intelligent
passes, and one-handed Hector Castro kept superstar Pedro Petrone out of the
team. On both flanks they had plenty of choice. In the end, Pablo Dorado won
the battle for a place on the right, going on to open the score in the World
Cup final against Argentina. On the left, to surprise of many, Santos
Iriarte established himself as the go-to-guy. He made his debut in the first
game against Peru, and played only once for Uruguay after the World Cup. But
he was strong during the four games that led to the title, and he scored the
important third goal against the Argentines. These five edged Anselmo,
Urdinaran and Borjas out of the team, last two had starred during the
Olympics 1928, as had others like Arremon and Campolo.
I won't say that this team was the best ever. But they are strong candidates
for sure. Of course, I've never seen them play myself, since these men
played 70-80 years ago. I only saw the photos, and read the stories. And I
read what contemporaries said about them, how they rated them. A team that
wins three tournaments in a row against sometimes great opposition, with so
many famous players in the team, is a strong contender to be at least named
among the very best of all time. Remains only the question: who on earth has
moving pictures of their games on film or video? Whoever has it, do not
hesitate and bring them to me. Or no, I'll come to you and take them with
me. Wherever you reside!
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