Montreal ’76 : Soviets Seek To Make Statement On Turf


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Standout striker OLEG BLOKHIN of Dynamo Kiev, who appeared at the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympic Games in addition to the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups, was the poster boy of Soviet football for the better part of two decades and forever remains the all-time scoring leader in the footballing history of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics having scored 42 goals in 112 ‘full’ international matches.
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There could be little question that, although the sport of ice hockey was always king in Canada, the SOVIET UNION was still eager to topple the host nation and storm to the gold medal in football at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.

Trainer VALERY LOBANOVSKY was placed in charge of the Soviet Olympic expedition and the Dynamo Kiev boss conveniently decided to select eleven players from his powerful domestic club team that had lifted the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1975. Nine of this Dynamo Kiev contingent would find themselves in the Startelf when the U.S.S.R. opened its programme against Canada at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Eight of these nine had been in the first team when Dynamo Kiev easily defeated Hungarian side Ferencvaros Budapest 3-0 at the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in Basel, Switzerland, fourteen months earlier.

The Soviets brought back just three players from the 1972 Olympic squad that had shared the bronze medal with Warsaw Pact ally East Germany at the Munich Games in West Germany. But one just so happened to be OLEG BLOKHIN, the most recent recipient of the Balon d’Or symbolic of the European Player of the Year. The 23-year-old attacker had paced the U.S.S.R. with six goals at the Olympic competition in Munich and the Soviets were counting on Blokhin to strike in abundance once again in Canada.

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West Germany international attacker JUPP HEYNCKES of Borussia Moenchengladbach shields the ball from Soviet Union midfielder VIKTOR KOLOTOV of Dynamo Kiev, the fifth-highest goal-scorer in the history of the U.S.S.R. national team, during the Final of the 1972 UEFA European Championships at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.
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Another Olympic returnee capable of generating goals was VLADIMIR ONISCHENKO, who had netted twice for Dynamo Kiev in the 1975 Cup Winners’ Cup Final. The 26-year-old winger had also been in the starting line-up when the U.S.S.R. lost to West Germany in the Final of the 1972 UEFA European Championships in Brussels, Belgium. Onischenko ultimately appeared in 44 ‘full’ internationals and scored 11 goals for the Soviet Union in his career.

The third Olympic veteran and another with a loser’s medal from the Final at Euro ’72 was VIKTOR KOLOTOV. The 27-year-old midfielder had scored three goals to finish in a tie for second on the Soviet squad at the 1972 Olympic Games. For his part, the attack-minded Kolotov would collect 55 caps and shoot an impressive 22 goals for the U.S.S.R. over the course of his career.

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LEONID BURYAK of Dynamo Kiev with the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup
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23-year-old midfielder LEONID BURYAK of Dynamo Kiev was a relative newcomer to the national team but was in the process of establishing himself while earning 47 caps and scoring eight goals for the Soviets. Buryak would be the only other player from the ’76 Olympic squad to later join Blokhin on the U.S.S.R. roster at the 1982 FIFA World Cup held in Spain. Another youngster in midfield, 21-year-old ALEXANDER MINAYEV of Dynamo Moscow, was the only regular field player for the Soviet Union in Montreal who did not come from the trainer Lobanovsky’s club team in Kiev.

Two more Dynamo Kiev men, yet another pair with loser’s medals from the Final at Euro ’72, anchored the Soviet backline in Canada. 28-year-old right fullback VLADIMIR TROSHKIN (31 caps, 1 goal) complimented offensive-minded centerback ANATOLI KONKOV, the versatile 27-year-old who totaled eight goals on his 47 ‘full’ international appearances for the Soviet Union. Standing between the sticks for the U.S.S.R. at the ’76 Montreal Games would be CSKA Moscow goalkeeper VLADIMIR ASTAPOVSKY, the 30-year-old army club veteran who only did ever get eleven matches with the senior national team.

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DAVID KIPIANI of Dinamo Tiblisi (right) was the only one of fifteen field players to not appear even one single minute for the Soviet Union at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder, who was only selected 19 times by the U.S.S.R. despite scoring seven goals in those matches, went on to win the award for Soviet Footballer of the Year in 1977 and help Georgian side Dinamo Tiblisi lift the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1981. Most experts believe Kipiani would have been a shoe-in for the 1982 World Cup squad but for a crippling injury sustained just a couple of months before the final tournament.
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Entering the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, the Soviet Union were also hoping to shed some of the embarrassment generated in their failure to qualify for the 1974 FIFA World Cup in West Germany. As winners of Group IX in Europe, the U.S.S.R. had been obliged to engage Chile, the winner of Group III in South America, on a two-legged, home and away aggregate basis for the right to progress to the final tournament. In the first leg at Moscow’s massive Grand Sports Arena of the Olympic Sports Complex, the two opposing nations ground out a goalless draw on September 26, 1973.

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The Soviet Union face France in a goalless international friendly football match at the Parc des Princes in Paris in early October of 1977.
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The decisive return leg was all set to be played in the Estadio Nacional de Chile. But reports had already surfaced that the athletic facility was being used by the right-wing military regime of General Augusto Pinochet, who had overthrown the government in early September of 1973, as a detention center for political prisoners and so the Soviet Union decided to lodge a formal protest with the ruling body of world football. An official committee was sent by F.I.F.A. to investigate the situation and an offer to move the second leg match to another stadium in Chile was offered as an attempt to mediate.

The Soviets stated that nowhere in the country would be good enough and vowed not to show up. When they did not, the Chileans were more than happy to jubilantly walk the ball from the midfield stripe all the way down the field into an empty net to formally secure passage to the 1974 FIFA World Cup. But that would be another story.

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