The opener – V, Anton Ondruš

At EURO 1976, a Slovak defender break the ice. His name, Anton Ondrus, may not say too much for actual football lovers, but it is important to know that this guy, alongside other few lads contribute, in that 1976 to Czechoslovakia’s first and only important international title. It was the last edition at which participated four teams and the first semifinal took place on the 16th of June, between Czechoslovakia and Netherlands. 19 minutes in the game and Ondrus made his own fans, which were at Zagreb (the tournament was once again hold in Yugoslavia), very happy. A qualification in the final was very near but things were far to be settled. In the 77th minute the opposite squad equalized and the game went in extra time. What is more shocking is that the goal of Netherlands was also scored by… Ondrus! Yes, an own goal! Fortunately, the Czechs recovered quickly, scored twice in the last six minutes of the second extra half and assured that their team would play the final. But against RFG it looked like ten times harder.

And it was, because after 90 minutes the two were level, 2-2, but Czechoslovakia had 2-0 in the 25th minute. 30 more minutes were added and the score still remained. A penalty shoot-out was coming and Ondrus took in his kick. With 5 out of 5, the Czechs won the title and became the fifth European Champion. After another four years, they didn’t hold their title, but still finished on an honorable third place. Those were exactly the years in which Ondrus appeared for the national side. In fact, he made his debute in 1974 and quit the ‘job’ in 1980, after the final tournament. During the six years he gathered 58 matches and scored 9 goals, including the one mentioned above, but missed to play with Czechoslovakia at a World Cup, because they didn’t make it to such a competition in that period.

Apart from the national team, Ondrus hadn’t many performances, but still won two national titles (1974 and 1975), one national Cup (1974) and three Slovakian Cups (1972, 1974 and 1976) with Slovan Bratislava, club at which he started football and at which he appeared in two periods: 1970-1977 and 1978-1980. In fact he got only a year of break, when he decided to wear Dukla Banska Bystrica’s shirt. After 1980, he retired from the national squad and left his native country to play abroad. A season in Belgium, between 1981 and 1982, at Club Bruges, wasn’t very successful as he only appeared in seven games. The sweeper then went in France and here, at CS Thonon he played 116 games and netted six goals between 1983 and 1987, reaching the age of 37. The French club wanted in those years to try an historical promotion in the first tier, but lost it at play-off in 1982. After, they struggle in the second division and the 1986-1987 season was their final in this tier, as they finished 16th and relegated.

Retired for one year, Anton went on playing another season, between 1988 and 1989 at FC Biel, of Switzerland. The Swiss squad also relegated at the end of that stage, this time from the top flight, which was a sad thing if we consider that the team founded in 1896 has won a national title in 1947 and finished second twice (1948 and 1960).

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The opener – IV, Gerd Muller

Or we might just call him ‘The Man who won everything’. And no, it’s no exaggeration, because the German won all the trophies that he could achieve in an outstanding career with the national team and also with Bayern Munich. But we must refer first at the main reason that made this text possible: the opening goal from EURO 1972. Muller was then two years after an incredible World Cup where he netted in ten and so, Belgium, the hosts, couldn’t stand him too much, so after 24 minutes he put one in. And another with 19 minutes to go and so RFG won the semifinal with 2-1 and qualified in the final, which would eventually also won, 3-0, against SSSR. The striker scored again twice. A first European title for his country and a title of top scorer for Gerd, but nobody wasn’t surprise as Muller was by then in the pick of his form.

Born on 3rd of November 1945 Nordingen, a city of approximately 20 thousand inhabitants from Bayern, Gerd Muller started at local TSV 1861, at the age of 15. Three years at junior sides, and a stunning season at the senior side, between 1963 and 1964, brought him the transfer to Bayern Munich. The 51 goals scored in 31 matches (!) convinced the German giants to sign him. Bayern was playing by than in the second tier, but the striker hadn’t a problem with that. He scored 33 times in 26 games, won first place and brought the squad to Bundesliga. Here, the story begun, so from 1965 and until 1979, one of the most important pages from the history book of the club was written. Four titles (1969, 1972, 1973 and 1974), four Cups (1966, 1967, 1969 and 1971), three European Champions Cup (1974, 1975 and 1976), one Cup Winners’ Cup (1967), one Intercontinental Cup (1976), two European top scorer titles (1970 and 1972), seven German top scorer titles (1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1978), four European Cup top scorer titles (1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977), 607 matches and 566 goals. All for Bayern. Is this enough? It should be, but it isn’t, because he performed even better.

So he won 27 distinctions with Bayern or individual while playing for them, but Muller also done a great job for the national team. He had a quite short spell here, as he appeared first time in 1966, at 21 years, and last time in 1974, when he was only 29. Eight years, but eight years filled with glory. Besides the European title mentioned in the first part of this short story, he also achieved the World Cup. Not in 1970, when he scored 10 goal, but in 1974, when RFG hosted the tournament. He only put in four pieces this time, but including one against Netherlands in the final game (2-1). After that, he ended contacts with the national side. He gathered 68 goals in 62 matches, with made him one of the few players from the history of football which scored for his national team an average of more than a one goal per match. And considering his high numbers he stands very far in front. Still, Miroslav Klose may overpass his goal scoring record, because he has 63 goals by now and with only six to go he’s quite close. But Klose played more than 114 matches for the national side, so the difference is obvious. The two also share Germany’s record of goals scored at the World Cup, with 14 each.

After 1979, Gerd Muller didn’t retired, but chose to play two more years, which were spent at Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a squad from Florida, USA. He reached the Championship final in 1980, but didn’t win it. In almost three seasons here he didn’t won anything, but kept his goal appetite and netted 38 balls in 71 matches. And because a short description of Gerd Muller couldn’t be something else than a endless enumeration of trophies, records and statistics, let us end it by sharing the total professional matches played and goals scored of this unbelievable striker. So, between 1963 and 1981, in nearly two decades, Muller appeared in 709 games and put in 655 goals!!! Sure, Pele and Romario claim that they scored more than one thousand and they probably did, but nobody can compare the achievements of them with the achievements of the probably best striker that Europe gave to football.

Unfortunately, Muller’s health was put in danger by alcoholism, but luckily, Bayern Munich, didn’t forget what he had done for the club and gave him all the help that he needed. The officials and former team mates convinced him to fight against his addiction and after, from 2008, named him assistant coach at the second.

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The opener – III, Dragan Džajić

In 1968, the first match of the tournament, between Italy and the SSSR, hadn’t a scorer, because the teams ended 0-0 and the finalist was decided by a coin toss! It was Italy, the home side which will face in the last act Yugoslavia. The Serbs lost the final from 1960 and they will repeat the sad story once again. But first, they put out England in the semis, after a late goal scored by Dragan Dzajic in the 87th minute of the match ended 1-0. That was a shocker, as the Englishmen were World Champions in activity. And yes, this was the first goal of the competition from the left wing of Red Star Beograd. The player also scored in the final, but it ended 1-1 against Italy. So the match had to be replayed. And it was, but this time the hosts did not make any mistake and won the trophy after 2-0. In fact, Dzajic scored all the goals of his team in the tournament. One with only three matches. If Galic is known to be one of the best scorers for Yugoslavia, Dragan is one of the most capped as he gathered 85 international matches and 23 goals during 14 years, from 1964 to 1978. Only Milosevic and Stankovic, with 102 games a peace, are better ranked.

And his debut came in June 1964 in a defeat over Romania, with 2-1, one home soil, at Beograd. Besides the European Championship from 1968, Dzajic also appeared at a World Cup. The one from Germany in 1974. Yugoslavia qualified from the first phase after two draws 0-0 with Brazil and 1-1 with Scotland but also after a record win, 9-0, over Zaire, a match in which Dragan put in a goal. After two more years, the player participated with his national side at another European Championship, this time hosted by themselves. Dzajic scored twice, but Yugoslavia lost both matches, both after extra time and so finished only fourth.

By that time, he was playing for Red Star Beograd, a team at which he wrote history and he is considered one of the greatest players from all time. No wonder, if we find out that he played here during 15 seasons, from 1961 to 1975 and from 1977-1978. Only a short spell of two years at Bastia in France, forbid him to have de status of a one-club man. For Red Star he played more than 600 official matches and scored over 300 goals. He’s performances helped a lot the squad to win 10 titles: 5 Yugoslav Championships (1964, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1973), 4 Yugoslav Cups (1964, 1968, 1970 and 1971) – making three doubles and a Mitropa Cup in 1968. In 1971, he was very close to play the European Champions’ Cup final, after a 4-1 win over Panathinaikos on home soil, in the semis. But Dzajic, one of the key players from that encounter missed the second leg do to suspension and so the Greeks won 3-0 and qualified on away goal.

Born on 30th of May 1946 in Ub, he left his native country at the age of 29, to join Bastia. Here, he impressed with 31 goals in 56 league games played in two seasons and despite remaining one of the best players from the history of the club, he didn’t manage to win any trophy with the team from Corsica.


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The opener – II, Jesus Maria Pereda

In 1964, Spain won his first European title, on home soil, after defeating SSSR, the active champion, in the final, with 2-1. The first goal was put in by Jesus Maria Pereda in the sixth minute. But the same midfielder also scored the opener of the tournament, in the semifinal against Hungary, match which Spain also won with 2-1 on 17th of June, even though after extra time. I’m sure that this name doesn’t sound very familiar, but it had a lot of great stories behind him. Born on 15th of June 1938 in the Basque Country, Pereda made his senior debut in La Liga under the shirt of Real Madrid in 1958, a team which was dominating European football by that time, after four consecutive European Champions’ Cup trophies won. He didn’t played but two games, but that was enough to help him score once, in a 3-0 win over Real Zaragoza. Loaned to Valladolid and then sold to Sevilla, in 1961 he joined FC Barcelona, team from which he wouldn’t leave until 1969. So, eight seasons in ‘blau-grana’ and despite the squad wasn’t the powerful one from our days, he manage to win here two Spanish Cups (1963 and 1968) and one Inter Cities Fairs Cup, the unofficial ancestor of the Europe League, in 1966.

In eight years he appeared for Barcelona in 293 official games and scored 107 goals but he wasn’t a main man for the national team all though he had massive contribution to the European title won in 1964. His debut came in 1960, in a friendly won with 3-0 against England. By then he was playing at Sevilla. Pereda did remain eight years in touch with the national side, but won only 15 caps and six goals, including those achieved in the summer of 1964. His best match for his country took place on 27th of October 1965 in a World Cup qualifier against Ireland, which Spain won at home, with 4-1 and three of the goals were the work of Jesus Maria, nicknamed ‘Chus’.

Pereda ended his career at 34 years, after two last seasons under the colors of Real Mallorca, a second tier team in that period. After retirement he started working as a youth coach for Catalonia national team and after 2 years, in 1976, he took over the ones from Spain and never let them go until 1992! He coached the U16, U17, U18, U19, U20 and the U21 national teams from Spain! After a break of four seasons he chose to try also an experience of head coach of a club team. During the 1995-1996 campaign he led Xerez to a mediocre 11th spot in the third level. That was it. Unfortunately, Pereda died in 2011, because of cancer, at the age of 73.


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The opener – I, Milan Galic

In few than a month, the European Championship will start. The 14th edition. So, in my mind now is one single thing: who will score the first goal? OK, I’m also curious about who will win the trophy, who will become top scorer and who will be the best player of the competition. But first is first so, I’m looking forward to find out the first man to net a goal at EURO 2012. Until then, I can calm this curiosity by sharing with you the first scorer from every European tournament. And the first is the former Yugoslavian striker, Milan Galic, on 6th of July 1960. In those years, only four competitors took part at the final championship held in France, but I don’t believe this is very important. So, Galic scored in the 11th minute of the game against France, the hosts of the tournament, just 60 seconds before Vincent equalized. At the end, it was a stunning 5-4 for the team from Balkans and it resulted that the goal of Milan was really important.

Galic also netted one in the final against SSSR, also opening the score in the 43th minute, but the opposite side came back from behind and won the trophy in extra time. So, it wasn’t a gold medal, but a silver one can’t be neglected. Still, he took his revenge two months later, when he took Yugoslavia tot the Summer Olympics Title, in Italy. The striker scored in each game, including a hat-trick in the group stages against Bulgaria and a goal in the first minute of the final victory, 3-1, against Denmark. Few heard of him, but his performances were more than those mentioned above, because he also played at the FIFA 1962 World Cup and scored three goals in the group stage, which permitted his national team to go through and reach eventually the semifinals which they have lost as well as they also did in the 3rd spot encounter. In total, he scored 37 goals for his national team in only 51 international matches. He is the Serbian with the most goals from the history at the national team, alongside Savo Milosevic, but the last played a part of his career in the Serbia and Montenegro squad.

In those years he was playing at Partizan Beograd, at which he spent nearly a decade (1958-1966), period in which he gathered four league titles (1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965) and, the most important of all, the only European Cup final from the history of the club, in 1966, against Real Madrid. The Spanish side won 2-1, but Galic, the number 10, played all 90 minutes for his fellows. During those eight years, Milan reached 148 matches and 74 goals, which mean an exact average of one goal in two encounters. Born on 8th of March 1938 and aged 28 at that moment he was the perfect aim for Standard Liege, which signed him in 1966 and held him for four seasons, in which he appeared in 84 games and scored 33 goals. In the last two seasons he even became champion of Belgium, just after he also won the national Cup alongside the lads from Liege. After this experience he went on playing for three more years in France, at Stade de Reims, a famous team at that time, which had in the roll of honor six national leagues and two European Cup finals in 1956 and 1959, both lost against Real Madrid. Galic made a fine impression here, by appearing in 55 encounters, but didn’t manage to maintain his goal appetite, as he only netted 18 pieces. In 1973 he retired definitively from the pitch and never worked after as a coach.


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The story of a cherry foulard

Almost a year passed since Porto won the UEFA Europe League, but I can’t forget this episode, because one player impressed me so much. Naturally, he’s Romanian and his name is well known by all football lovers from our country: Cristian Săpunaru. Yes, I wrote about Cristi before, but I feel the need to do it again.

In such cases, all players are very euphoric and may forget to do many things and concentrate only to celebrate the success in the the best way they can. But Săpunaru isn’t like that. After the referee whistle blew and Porto was crowned champion, the defender got quickly three things: a Romanian flag, a message for Mihai Neşu and a cherry foulard tight to his arm, of his beloved team, Rapid Bucharest. It the first two looked quite naturally, the last one was the supreme proof that Cristi thinks of Rapid every time and everywhere.

Some ignorant people said that this was gesture of lack of respect for FC Porto, but only true supporters of Rapid could accept and understand the cherry foulard from around Săpunaru’s arm. Cristi spent his childhood in the center of Bucharest, where he was born and his first senior side was FC National. For this team he also debuted in the first league, but he still went in the Giulesti’s north kop to watch Rapid’s matches, whenever his schedule permitted. Finally, in 2006 his dream came true, and at 22 years he signed a contract with Rapid. He won a cup and a super cup in 2007 and a year after he scored the winning goal against Steaua, in a 1-0 victory on Giulesti Stadium. His value was increasing so an unexpected 6 million euro offer from Porto arrived. After only two years, Săpunaru left Rapid.

He played well in some matches in Portugal, but didn’t impose as a starter in the first line up so, after a season and a half, he returned on loan to Rapid, to play here a few months. He was the best player by far, but his three goals helped Rapid to win only seven points, not a qualification in the European Cups. Cristi was also the best man in the matches against Steaua, 5-1 and against Dinamo, 2-2, both held on home soil.

A special story is around the game with Steaua from April 2010. With a day earlier, Sandu Neagu, one of Rapid’s legendary players passed away and all Rapid’s players dedicated him the 5-1 success against their rivals. But Săpunaru did more than that, because of the close relationship that he had with Neagu. Some time ago, it looks like Sandu gave Cristi his Romanian champion medal from 1967. So, Cristi suffered the most when Neagu died and decided to help his family. Especially Robert, his five year child, who wants to become also a footballer.

Knowing all this, you may realize now that the cherry foulard around the arm was a natural gesture, a gesture imposed by Săpunaru’s big heart. And if you think that this is the only extravagant thing that he did in connection with Rapid since he plays for Porto, you are wrong, and a witness in this case can be Beto, the former Porto substitute goalkeeper, now playing at CFR Cluj. He was the room mate of Cristi for a while and now, arrived in Romania, he had say what was the only thing that he bothered him when he was in the presence of the defender: Săpunaru was listening loudly, all day long, in his room, at Rapid Bucharest’s official anthem!

And guess what? Săpunaru made recently a tattoo on his right arm that proves once more his unconditionally love for one beautiful and unique club, Rapid Bucharest.

Source: personal facebook

Source: personal facebook

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French epopees

Quevilly surprised everyone as they qualified in the French Cup final, after beating with 2-1, Rennes, in the last second of the match from the semifinals. The surprise was so huge, because the defeated squad occupies a first half spot in Ligue I, meanwhile, Quevilly struggles on 14th place in the third tier! But they made it in the final and might play in the Europe League, if Lyon, the other finalist will qualify for the Champions League. This is a ‘must have’ condition only if Quevilly won’t eventually win the trophy. And they should try hard to reach the cup, because, this may be a once in a life time chance for a team that plays mainly in lower divisions. Still, for Quevilly will appear for the second time in their history in the final of Coupe de France, after the 1927 edition, when they lost 0-3 against Olympique de Marseille.

But now, we won’t talk too much about Quevilly, because the team founded in 1902, but never recognized as a professional club still, has one step to take to be covered by glory. Until then, we will throw some words about Calais RUFC, the only club from the fourth French tier to ever reach a Cup last act. And it didn’t happen too many years ago. Calais was founded in 1901 and 99 years after, yes, in 2000, they missed by a whisker a historical trophy, as they lost the final against FC Nantes, in the last minute. 2-1, after they led the Bretons with 1-0 until the 50th minute.

Calais started very early the competition and the first game came against Campagne-les-Hesdin from Division 1 Departamental (eleven tier), in the fourth round. Gerard (3), Dutitre (3), Rioust, Hogard, Boulanger and Vermandel, secured an crushing 10-0 away victory, with five goals in each half. Well, nothing quite unusual and so an away match at Saint-Nicolas-les-Arras was about to go. The team from Regional League rose some problems, but three goals in the first half, from Jandau, Gerard and Becque, solved another equation: 3-1 win and qualification to the sixth stage of the competition. Here, another longed-name team was expecting, but this time for CFA2, which means only one level less than the one in which Calais was playing at that time. A tight encounter, but the victory was on the visitors side, thanks to Gerard and Dutitre, which were the men to overpass Marly-lès-Valenciennes with 2-1.

Mission completed and this meant the first match one home soil. The opponent, Bethune, was also from CFA2, and raised serious difficulties, but Dutitre, kept his calm and with a goal in the last minute of the first half, secured a final 1-0. The 8th round also brought the first adversary from CFA, exactly the same level of Calais. And when everybody expected a very tough and rough dispute, Calais surpassed with a crushing 4-0 over Dunkerque. Baron with two goals in the first ten minutes, Gerard and Hogard made it all very easy.

The 1/32 phase was coming and here, the little team held Lille, then in the second tier, in a 1-1 tie after 120 minutes, thanks to a piece from Cygan in the 68th minute. After, they executed them at shoot out with 7-6 and gained the right to play further against Langon-Castet FC, from the fifth league. Considering this, Calais shouldn’t have any problems and they didn’t as they beat the opponents with a convincing 3-0 (Gerard (2) and Dutitre). Now, the round of 16 was on its way, and Calais was going to face another second division side, AS Cannes, but their big advantage was, once again, the home soil, on which they also played the previous two games. 1-1 after 120 minutes again, with Hogard equalizing in the 118 minutes, but a different scenario from the spot. Calais won 4-2 and pushed through the quarter finals, was, finally, a first league team stepped on their way: RC Strasbourg.

It looked like the end from the point of view of many specialists, but Calais continued with the big surprises. And now, the victory came in the regular time, as the hosts shocked by putting an incredible 2-1, which qualified them for the first ever Cup semifinal. Once again, Hogard was the hero, but this time alongside with Merlen, both scoring in the first half.

Bordeaux was expecting, but fortunately for Calais, they match was going to be held by the stadium from Lens, so they had some support from the crowd. 0-0 after 90 minutes and the stoppage time was about to come. It came, and another history was written by Calais’ players during only a half an hour. Jandeau made it 1-0 in the 99th minute, but Lilian Laslandes equalized in the 108th minute, so it seemed like the game was reaching the penalty kicks. When most believed less, Milien (113) and Gerard (119) hit an incredible 3-1 win, which assured Calais the final, a last act played against FC Nantes, on Stade de France, in front of 78.586 spectators! The audience didn’t make the amateur players nervous and they opened the score in the 34th minute, when Dutitre surpassed the opposite captain, Mikael Landreau.

The miracle was about to fulfill, but in the second half, FC Nantes settled the balance evenly, as Sibierski scored in the 50th minute, before Caveglia gave the decisive hit, in the last minute. 2-1 and so a dream, a very beautiful one, came to an end. It was that kind of dream which you have, you enjoy and when it nears to its final, you wake up and realize that this wasn’t real World. For Calais was more than a dream, but an incomplete dream, one ended in a little nightmare. How can you call, if not like this, a goal conceded in the last minute?

The Calais people named this an ‘Epopee’ and they wanted to mark this by giving the name to their new stadium, inaugurated in 2008. From 1958, for a half a century, Calais played their home games on a small arena, called Stade Julien Denis. Only 2.100 spectators could be held by this location, from which only 742 could get access to a sit. So, after the performance from 2000, a thing was clear: Calais must have another, more modern, home base. And so, Stade de l’Epopee was built. With a new capacity of 12.432 places, the costs for the stadium rose up to 22 million euro.

First match, on 27th of September 2008, against Laval, in the 9th day of CFA2, gathered 11.825 spectators, which still remains the record. Unfortunately, after a white draw at half time, the visitors came very confident from the dressing rooms and ruined the local celebration, by putting in four goals. So it was 4-1, eight years after the miracle from Stade de France, and the Cup final against Nantes, looked in a very far past, even though less than a decade passed.

But did this little town from the North must have such a modern stadium? One of the most extreme situated cities from France, Calais has nearly 75 thousand inhabitants, but even though, their love for football isn’t very big, because of the poor performance of the squad. Excepting the incredible achievement from 2000, no other notable thing happened in the history of Calais RUFC. But maybe it will happen in the honor book of Quevilly two weeks from now. Let’s wait and see and maybe will enjoy another memorable moment of sublime football, after the story of Mirandes, from Spain. OK, they reached only the semifinals, but you cannot compare the Spanish Cup with the one from Spain. And in fact, Mirandes pushed out three sides from Primera…

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