Danny Peacock April 17, 2020

Funny how life works… Only a couple of months ago I was saying how much I’ve fell out of love with the game, VAR ruining it, Liverpool ruining it, money this, money that, I could no longer be bothered to watch the next ‘big match’ through my overpriced Sky subscription.. End it now!!! I don’t care!!!

And so they bloody did!!!

Now this pandemic for me has been ‘slightly’ blown out of proportions but then I’m a ‘get up and get on with it’ kind of guy… I’ve respected and understood the Governments implications and actually I’ve quite liked it… I’m all good with getting paid to stay at home… Although now, four weeks into lockdown with 3 more weeks to go I’m starting to think… Can we have a bit of football back?

I even started watching a bit of Belarussian football with Dinamo Brest winning their second league game of the season at Slutsk until my Betfair account started buffering… It seemed everyone was watching it… Millions globally tuning in… Ukraine International Artem Milevsky scoring the winner in front of 1,050 at the (Step 7 ready) Stadyon Haradski but in truth much more were viewing from Minsk to Manchester down to the simple fact that it was the only game of football on in the world at the time.

Since then we’ve been given fantastic highlights of memorable matches and what I’ve realised in the time reflecting and tuning into streams of past games is just how much I’ve forgotten as a football fan!!

Take Careca for example… I simply forgot ‘HOW’ bloody good he was!!!

In fact a young Careca was apparently set to star in the 1982 World Cup for Brazil, yes the famous ‘best team that never won it’ but an injury before the tournament meant that they ended up playing with a pretty average centre forward in Serginho instead. What might have been if the final piece to that Brazil jigsaw was in place?

Careca had pace, a bullet shot, could head the ball, had a trick up his sleeve, a natural goalscorer… For those who forgot (like me) or perhaps weren’t even born when he was playing, he had the finishing ability of Alan Shearer and the tenacity of Luis Suarez with a bit of Sergio Aguero’s predatory? Some player was Careca.

Only this week I watched the 1986 Quarter Final played between Brazil and France… An astonishing amount of shots in the game that ended 1-1 with France going through on penalties, a fluid attacking game of football from start to finish and one that defies the conditions of two hours in hot surroundings in Guadalajara. Really fit players with one intention, to go out and create chances.

France included Michel Platini, a man with swagger, touch, guile, a player who like Careca who I had forgotten just how good he was. Often playing with a cigar on seemingly but smoking that cigar whilst on the edge of the opposition box. I’ve always been an advocate of Zinedine Zidane… He’s my modern day idol.. I love him and his awkward elegance… But remembering Platini made me question my stance on Zidane… Surely you can’t play the two of them together in the same team??? So who do you have as your greatest French number ten?

As well as Platini who scored that day France had the likes of Fernandez, Giresse, Tigana who’s athleticism and fitness evolved as the game grew. In defence Joel Bats saved the brilliant Zico’s penalty whilst Manuel Amaros would often marauder down both wings from full back taking thunderbolt shots at every opportunity… Again what a player he was… Third in the Ballon d’Or in 1986, the same year he was crowned French Footballer of the Year after previously voted FIFA World Cup best young player in 1982… And when it comes to best-ever French right backs… We always opt for Thuram. How time allows you to forget the greats.

Brazil were unlucky not to reach the semi-finals in Mexico. Like France they played with ‘inevitable’ fluidity in 86 coached by Tele Santana they had a rock at the back in a young Julio Cesar, a dynamic young left back in Branco and a tournament debuting Josimar taking the world stage by storm.

The goal Brazil scored against France was one of the best I have ever seen. Josimar takes a cleared header by Julio Cesar on his chest turns and clips to Socrates who plays back to Alemao who gives again to Josimar on the right touchline. Josimar feeds into Muller who swiftly turns two defenders and as a third dives in plays to Junior who with the outside of his left foot on the edge of the box slides to the overlapping Careca who smashed home past Bats as hard as he could. The goal almost a carbon copy of that England v Holland effort that included Gascoigne, Sheringham & Shearer some ten years later.

It got me thinking of those best teams to fail to go on to win the World Cup… Holland in 74 & 78 for example? Belgium were good in 86, but they were better in 2018 and should have perhaps lifted the trophy instead of France who beat them in the semi-final. If in 82 we say Brazil were the best team not to win it, they were again close in 86, although France were also a worthy mention with arguably the second best player in the world in their ranks, just as Italy should have won it led by Roberto Baggio in 90… and they famously say England’s best team was perhaps in 62 or 70…. Although those younger might argue we should have also won it in 2002?

What I’m remembering about football during lockdown is all that I’ve forgot. The great teams and players of the past. The game has given me so much pleasure over the years it feels that this time is now being used to allow me to reflect on just how bloody good it was. You can even bring back the backpass rule I say because if those matches in the 70’s and 80’s are anything to go by then there was nothing wrong with it in the first place.

Perhaps those editing these classic YouTube streams on FIFATV might even agree? It wasn’t always better back then, it’s not always been great since, but when it is great no matter the law manipulation or technology involved, there’s nothing better on earth than football at it’s very best. Although I suppose under current circumstances the NHS would give it a worthy run for its money??

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