Forward ANDRZEJ SZARMACH (17), who transferred from Gornik Zabrze to Stal Mielec in the summer of 1976, and national team captain KAZIEMERZ DEYNA (12) of army club Legia Warsaw each scored critical goals for reigning champion POLAND in the decisive Olympic first round match opposite Iran at the Montreal Summer Games.
Defending Olympic gold medalist POLAND, fielding virtually the same side who had won so many admirers while placing third at the 1974 FIFA World Cup, unexpectedly encountered very heavy weather in its first round group with inexperienced IRAN and complete lightweight CUBA at the 1976 Summer Games in Canada.
Poland, powered by a hat trick from then-Gornik Zabrze forward ANDRZEJ SZARMACH, had pounded on Haiti 7-0 at the last World Cup in West Germany. The Cubans, by comparison, had not even bothered to enter the FIFA World Cup since being eliminated by Jamaica and the tiny Netherlands Antilles in qualifying for the 1966 tournament. Given that “beisbol” and not “futbol” was always most popular in the workers’ paradise of Fidel Castro, the result in the Group C opener between the two teams seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
But, for all the Polish firepower on hand in the Canadian capital city, Cuba miraculously managed to keep a clean sheet at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. Neither Legia Warsaw midfielder KAZIEMERZ DEYNA, the leading goal-scorer at the 1972 Olympic Games, nor Stal Mielec forward GRZEGORZ LATO, the top shot at the 1974 FIFA World Cup, could put a ball in the back of the net for the reigning champion. And so the Poles had to settle for a disappointing 0-0 draw.
Iran’s 1-0 victory over Cuba courtesy a goal from striker GHOLAM HOSSAN MAZLOUMI of FC Shahin Tehran two days later in Ontario left it so nothing less than full points would do for Poland when the two teams clashed at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to close out Group C play; the Iranians, who would also qualify for the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina down the line, were proving themselves to be no slouch and featured FC Taj Tehran defender ANDRANIK ESKANDARIAN, who later signed for the star-studded New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in 1979.
Iran, who could have clinced first place with a draw against Poland, stormed to a sixth minute lead on a strike by midfielder ALI PARVIN of FC Persepolis Tehran and, indeed, were ahead when the halftime whistle came, as well. Whatever Poland trainer KAZIEMERZ GORSKI told his troops at the break must have been taken as inspiring. Within three minutes of the re-start, Szarmach scored to level matters and another three minutes on Deyna shot Poland ahead with his 10th career goal at the Summer Olympic Games.
Szarmach added a second goal for the Poles with a quarter of an hour to go and it was decisive that the 26-year-old World Cup veteran did. This because, just four minutes afterwards, striker HASSAN ROWSHAN of FC Taj Tehran pulled one back for Iran to fray the nerves of LKS Lodz netminder JAN TOMASZEWSKI in between the Polish sticks. But Poland were able to hand on for the 3-2 win and two all-important points in the group standings.
Top of the table in Group C rewarded the Poles with a favorable quarterfinal pairing against North Korea whereas Iran would have to face the Soviet Union, the beaten Finalist at the 1972 UEFA European Championships who also earned a share of the bronze medal at the Munich Games later that same year.
1976 Summer Olympic Games
First Round, Group C
7/18 … 22,242 … Lansdowne Park, Ottawa ……….. Poland 0 – Cuba 0
7/20 … 11,324 … Lansdowne Park, Ottawa ……….. Iran 1 – Cuba 0
7/22 … 27,698 … Olympic Stadium, Montreal …… Poland 3 – Iran 2