The all-time World Cup

January 25th 2005
Paris, Stade Colombe
1-0 (0-0)

      GOALS                   88'  1-0  Svatopluk Pluskal

      REFEREE                 Gottfried Dienst (Switzerland)

      ATTENDANCE              34,000

      YELLOW CARDS            Pesek-Kada, Dobias, Nedved (CZE)

      CZECHOSLOVAKIA (Coach: Rudolf Vytlacil, system 4-4-2)

       1 Frantisek Planicka            (-17)
       2 Karol Dobias
      19 Svatopluk Pluskal
       4 Anton Ondrus
       3 Ladislav Novak
       7 Antonin Panenka
       6 Karel Pesek-Kada (captain)
      10 Josef Masopust
       8 Pavel Nedved                  (-65)
       9 Zdenek Nehoda                 (-60)
      11 Antonin Puc

      12 Ivo Viktor                    (+17)
      13 Josef Silny                   (+60)
       5 Jan Popluhar                  (+65)

      BULGARIA (Player/Coach: Dimitar Penev, system 4-3-3)
       1 Borislav Mikhailov (2nd captain)
       2 Aleksander Schalamanov
      18 Dimitar Penev
       6 Trifon Ivanov
       3 Boris Gaganelov
       7 Stefan Boskov
      13 Dimitar Jakimov
      10 Hristo Bonev (captain)        (-73)
      14 Petar Jekov                   (-82)
       9 Georgi Asparukhov
       8 Hristo Stoichkov

       4 Nasko Sirakov                 (+73)
      20 Todor Diev                    (+82)


    Just when the battle seemed to be all over and everyone had settled for the first goalless draw of the tournament, Czechoslovakia struck as yet. Svatopluk Pluskal, the central defender, rose above Bulgaria's playing coach Penev and headed a Panenka corner past Mikhailov. That way the win didn't land with the team that could claim the most rights. Though neither the Czechs or Bulgaria had really convinced in this encounter of East-European sides, Bulgaria all in all had the better of the match.

    Barely 15 minutes had gone past before a real drama for Czechoslovakia came about. Goalkeeper Planicka dived into Asparukhov's feet and stayed lying on the ground. It soon became clear that he couldn't carry on, treatment didn't help, and the 1934 finalist had to be replaced by Ivo Viktor. Planicka, as was found out afterwards, had broken his arm; a sad and premature end to the tournament for the goalkeeper on whose capabilities Czechoslovakia relied a lot on. Now Viktor was a superb goalie too, not many teams had as much depth in their squad on the goalkeepers position as the Czechs, and he played a match without making a single mistake.

    Before the Planicka-accident nothing important had happened, or it had to be that referee Dienst kept a tight rein over the game. Above all Czechoslovakia made it a physical match, but Dienst showed a yellow card to the hot-tempered captain Pesek-Kada and Dobias, and this way he kept things under control. Later in the match Pavel Nedved received one too. Bulgaria was dangerous through their great technician Jakimov in midfield. The match-up with Antonin Panenka was one between real footballers, men with confidence in their own technical abilities without caring much about the opponent. Jakimov released Asparukhov but Viktor was in the right place to parry the shot. Moments later the playmaker tried himself, but saw his rasping volley go just wide.

    Czechoslovakia chose the direct approach and tried to use the quick counter-attack. With two strikers playing wide they left space in the center of the attack for their midfielders to run into. This required a lot of stamina from Masopust and Nedved, but they didn't get many chances once they appeared in Mikhailov's domain. The Bulgarian defense, led by Trifon Ivanov, had a calm night. Both Nehoda and Puc were no big threats. Then suddenly, just before the break, excitement. Dienst awarded a penalty to Bulgaria after a clumsy foul from Novak on Jekov. Stoichkov, who else, put himself behind the ball but shot it wide from the post. If anything was clear, it was that the goals would be expensive this match.

    In the second half the game advanced but nothing changed. Vytlacil tried his luck with Silny instead of Nehoda, who had achieved little. Silny did a lot of work, Masopust benefitted from it and went close with a low drive, Mikhailov didn't surrender. Bulgaria on their turn had a goal disallowed when Stoichkov found the net, but Dienst had seen a push in the back of Anton Ondrus, awarded a free kick to the Czechs and spoiled the party for Bulgaria. This wasn't Stoichov's match. The decision seemed to be okay. Of course, not with Stoichkov. It would have been the first time in his career that he agreed with a refereeing decision not going his way.

    Obviously both teams tried to secure at least one point. Czechoslovakia replaced Nedved, who had run out of steam, with defender Popluhar and that took away all possible doubts about their intentions. The Bulgarian captain Hristo Bonev, who had a quiet game too, went off slightly injured and Nasko Sirakov came in. He made his presence felt when he showed up in the Czechoslovakian box twice. His shots howver missed precision. Everything pointed to a stalemate, until Pluskal broke the deadlock. Bulgaria had no time for a revival.

    In this very even group an important win for Vytlacil and his men. For Bulgaria however new chances came with the matches against Yugoslavia and Scotland. No reasons for depair yet. It seemed it would be close in this group until the very end.

    Next Friday the first real topmatch in the All Time World Cup when Italy and Hungary meet in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. It will be great match-up between one of the world's best defenses and one of the world's greatest attacks. Vittorio Pozzo, the Italian coach, has many options to choose from. What to think about: Baresi or Scirea, Facchetti or Maldini. Or what about the eternal combat between Rivera and Sandro Mazzola? Will father Mazzzola, Valentino, play or Giuseppe Meazza? Italy can certainly field two great sides, but Pozzo must choose just 11 players. How will they fare against Hungary? Puskas leads his teams packed with magnificent strikers: Kocsis, Schaffer, Schlosser, Hidegkuti, Sarosi, Kubala and Czibor. Surely defensively they are not on the same level, but this will be match to await with great expectations. Romualdas Arppi Filho from Brazil handles the whistle.


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