Yugoslavia:The European Brazil


On the 25th of March 1992 the national football team of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia played its last match which was to forget since the country was in state of disentigration and civil war which raged in Croatia in 1991 and started in Bosnia-Herzegovina,while the country would cease to exist formally a month later on the 27th of April 1992.But the story of the Yugoslav national team is a story colluded with the history of the country itself.After WWI the Kingdom of Serbs,Croats and Slovenes which was from 1929 known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was founded and a year later the Yugoslav Football Federation was founded in Zagreb.On the 28th of August 1920 for the first time Yugoslavia played its first international match at the 1920 Olympic football tournament in Antwerp where they were trounced in the first round 7-0  by Czechoslovakia,while in the consolidation round for the eighth-place match were defeated 4-2 with Jovan Ruzic (who played for Saint-Etienne and Nice) and Artur Dubravcic scoring the first two goals for the Yugoslav national team.In the 1924 Olympic football tournament in Paris,Yugoslavia was trounced again but this time by the eventual winner of the tournament Uruguay 7-0,but it was in the 1st edition of the FIFA World Cup in Uruguay where the Yugoslav national team would shine besides that because of the political situation in the country where after the murder of Croatian republican politician Stjepan Radic in the parliament became tense,Croatian clubs refused to send their players so the Yugoslav national team was made by players from two clubs from Belgrade-BSK and SK Jugoslavija and with two of their most biggest starts Blagoje Marjanovic and Aleksandar Tirnanic who were from BSK.The Yugoslav national team was the youngest at the tournament with an average age of 21 years and 258 days.In its first World Cup appearence Yugoslavia was in the group with Bolivia and Brazil and they won both matches (2-1,4-2) and advanced to the semifinal of the tournament when they faced the host and the eventual of the tournament,Uruguay which they lost 6-1.That would be the first and last appearence of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the World Cup since they missed the 1934 and 1938 FIFA World Cup in Italy and France since FIFA instituted a system of qualification which for the 1934 FIFA World Cup in Italy put Yugoslavia in a qualification group with Switzerland,Romania and Finland.But it were Switzerland and Romania to qualify,while for the 1938 World Cup in France faced Poland in a two-leg match in which the first played in Warsaw lost 4-0 while in the away leg won only by a single goal which was insuficient for qualifying for the World Cup in France.But it after WWII that the Yugoslav national team would rise to prominence,after the victory of the Yugoslav Communist Partisans in WWII and the establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,the national team bursted into the scene.The first international match which Yugoslavia played after WWII was actually on the day when WWII in Europe ended,on the 9th of May 1945 where Yugoslavia faced Czechoslovakia in Prague,which was the first team they played their first international match back in the 1920 Olympic football tournament.This time Yugoslavia lost 2-0,but then came the Yugoslav national team which would in the next four Olympic football tournaments win medals.With names such as Zlatko Cajkovski (later would coach Bayern Munich and win Bundesliga titles),Stjepan Bobek (one of Croatia’s first football stars and all-time scorer of the Yugoslav national team),Bernard Vukas (legend of Hajduk Split in the 1950s) and others in the 1948 Olympics football tournament the Yugoslav national team would go to the final only to be beaten by Sweden which had the Gre-No-Li trio of Nils Liedholm,Gunnar Nordhal and Gunnar Gren.

While in the 1952 Olympic tournament featured the identical lineup only with the legendary goalkeeper Vladimir Beara and players like Branko Zebec (later coached Hamburg in which he won a Bundesliga title) and Vujadin Boskov (coached Sampdoria in which he won a Serie A title and other numerous clubs),again the Yugoslav team reached the finals but this time it was the mighty Hungarian team of Puskas,Kocsis,Hideguti and others and again Yugoslavia lost.In those two Olympic football tournaments were Yugoslavia’s strongest squads besides that Yugoslavia qualified for 1950,1954 and 1958 World Cups.

In the 1950 World Cup in Brazil the Yugoslav team which won the silver medal in the London Olympics didn’t made it past the 1st round where in the last game of the group stage were defeated by the host and runnier-up of the tournament Brazil.In the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland they made it past the 1st round but West Germany who later won the World Cup against Hungary in the final was better and won the quarterfinal match 2-0 and it happened again in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden where both teams met again in the quarterfinal but this time West Germany beat the Yugoslav team by a single goal.In the next two Olympic football tournaments the Yugoslav squad was much weaked but it nevertheless achieved success.In the 1956 Olympic football tournament in Melbourne,Yugoslavia its third consecutive silver medal when in the final in which they were defeated by a single goal faced the USSR which on its squad had players like Lev Yashin and the “Russian Pele” Eduard Streltsov.Finally it was in the 1960 Olympic football tournament in Rome that Yugoslavia won its gold medal when in the final they defeated Denmark 3-1,that will be their last medal in the Olympic football tournament until the Olympic games in Los Angeles in 1984 where they won the bronze medal.In the same year the Yugoslav team reached the final of the 1st ever edition of the European Championships which was held in France where again they faced the USSR and lost after extra-times 2-1.In the 1962 FIFA World Cup in Chile where after they won their qualification matches against Poland and South Korea,they made it to the semifinals after being 2nd in their group with the USSR,Uruguay and Columbia and after beating West Germany in the quarterfinals.In the semifinal the team of Skoblar (who was three time top scorer in the French Ligue 1 with Marseille),Jerkovic (one of the best players of Dinamo Zagreb in 1960s),Galic (who made a career in Partizan Belgrade,Standard Liege and Reims) faced the Czechoslovakian team led by Josef Masopust,unfortunately Yugoslavia lost the match 3-1 and their third-place match with the hosts of the tournament,Chile by a single goal and ended fourth however that was the best result of the Yugoslav national team in the World Cup.Yugoslavia wouldn’t see the World Cup until 1974,since they failed to qualify for the 1966 and 1970 editions which were hosted by England and Mexico.Also they after they finished 2nd in the 1960 European Championships they missed the 2nd edition of the tournament which was held in Spain,but they were present in the 1968 European Championships where they beat the 1966 World Cup champions England by a single goal which was scored by one of the greatest players who evered played for Yugoslavia and Red Star Belgrade Dragan Dzajic,also Dzajic scored the goal in the final against Italy but the match ended in a draw which resulted in a replay which the Italians won 2-0 and again denying Yugoslavia a title of European Champions.The 1960 and the 1968 European Championships were the best results of the Yugoslav national team since they didn’t qualified for the 1972,1980 and 1988 editions,while for the 1992 edition were booted out of the tournament due to the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and in 1976 edition which Yugoslavia was the host they finished fourth.In the 1974 FIFA World Cup in West Germany which Yugoslavia qualified for the first time since the World Cup in Chile,Yugoslavia was placed in a group with Brazil,Zaire and Scotland.The team which consisted of Enver Maric,Ivan Buljan,Ivica Surjak,Luka Peruzovic,Dusan Bajevic and other finished 1st in the group and after they trounced Zaire 9-0,West German newspapers called them a favorite to win the World Cup in West Germany,but in the next round it was shown how the Yugoslav team was weak when the they lost all three matches including a 4-2 beating by West Germany who went to win the World Cup on its own soil.After they didn’t made it in 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina,they made it to the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain and besides they had names like Safet Susic (had a great career as a player of FK Sarajevo and Paris Saint-Germain,also was the coach of the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil),Vahid Halilhodzic (trained numerous clubs in France and was the coach of Algeria in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil),Velimir Zajec (had a playing career in Dinamo Zagreb and Panathinaikos,while he coached Dinamo Zagreb,Panathinaikos and Portsmouth).However this was one of the weaker Yugoslav sides ever and the team crashed in the group round after a draw with Northern Ireland and a defeat against the hosts of the tournament,Spain while they won their match against Honduras.Yugoslavia wasn’t featured in the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico,but in 1984 they won the bronze medal in the Olympic football tournament in Los Angeles which featured players like Nenad Gracan (spent most of his career in Rijeka,and currently is the coach of the U-21 Croatian national team),Mehmed Bazdarevic (spent most of his career in Zeljeznicar and in Frace,currently is the coach of the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team) and Srecko Katanec (played for Olimpija Ljubljana,Dinamo Zagreb,Partizan Belgrade and other clubs,currently coach of the Slovenian national team).

But Yugoslavia’s biggest success came in 1987 in Chile when they won the FIFA World Youth Championships which featured a lineup of a number of players who will later make the backbone of the success of Croatia in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France where Croatia finished 3rd in the tournament.The squad under coach Mirko Jozic (coached Colo-Colo and the Croatian national team in the 2002 FIFA World Cup) would feature players like Robert Prosinecki (won with Red Star Belgrade the 1991 European Champions Cup,played for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid),Igor Stimac,Zvonimir Boban (made a great career in AC Milan),Davor Suker (top goal scorer of the 1998 FIFA World Cup,played for Arsenal,1860 Munich,Dinamo Zagreb and others),Robert Jarni and Predrag Mjiatovic (had a great career for Real Madrid).Yugoslavia passed the group stage in which they were with Togo,Australia and the host of the tournament,Chile.On their way to the final against West Germany they would beat Brazil (2-1) and East Germany with the same result,while in the final agaisnt West Germany after 1-1 in both regular and extra time they would win the title in penalty shootouts.

The 1990 FIFA World Cup would be the last tournament in which the national team of the Socialist Federal Reublic of Yugoslavia would feature.With Ivica Osim as coach and a lineup which would feature Dejan Savicevic (made a great career with AC Milan),Davor Suker,Alen Boksic,Robert Prosinecki,Zoran Vulic,Srecko Katanec,Faruk Hadzibegic,Darko Pancev and others Yugoslavia made the quarterfinals of the tournament where they faced Maradonna’s Argentina in Florence,but after a 0-0 in regular and extra-time they were defeated in penalty shootouts and it was the last of the Yugoslav national team on the world stage.

After the 1990 World Cup in Italy Yugoslavia quickly disentigrated and most of the country ended in a civil war,but its results and players who made the Yugolsav national team from the 1950s lineup which featured Vladimir Beara,Bernard Vukas,Stjepan Bobek,Zlatko Cajkovski,Vujadin Boskov,Branko Zebec and others through the 1960s and 1970s generation of Dragan Dzajic,Drazen Jerkovic,Josip Skoblar,Ivan Buljan,Enver Maric,Ivica Surjak,Dusan Bajevic and others to the late 1980s generation who won the bronze medal in Los Angeles,won the FIFA Youth Championships in Chile and some of them were featured in the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy ware considered they best players which European football ever had and countries of ex-Yugoslavia to this day give players of great quality which make their marks in European football,besides that Yugolsavia doesn’t exist any longer and its national team played its last match in March 1992.But those who wore the blue Yugoslav shirt are not forgotten and their names made football history books.


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