Soviets Salvage Bronze Medal


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The national teams of the SOVIET UNION (left), featuring 1976 Olympic bronze medal winner OLEG BLOKHIN of Dynamo Kiev, and that of BRAZIL, including ’76 Summer Games goal-scorer JUNIOR of CR Flamengo, line-up prior to the start of the 1982 FIFA World Cup first round, Group 6 match at the Estadio Ramon San Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville, Spain.
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According to the official FIFA attendance figures, the Bronze Medal Match refereed by Abraham Klein of Israel at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal between the SOVIET UNION and BRAZIL attracted 55,647 spectators which was, interestingly enough, exactly the third-largest crowd of the 23 football contests at the 1976 Summer Games in Canada.

National aspirations of a first gold medal in twenty years had been shattered by an Eastern Bloc satellite, East Germany, in the Olympic semifinal at the new arena in the iconic French-Canadian city but the U.S.S.R. could still depart the country with a second consecutive set of bronze medals won at the Summer Games. Soviet trainer VALERY LOBANOVSKY reshuffled his line-up yet again for the Bronze Medal Match and benched midfielder VLADIMIR VEREMEYEV of Dynamo Kiev, the 27-year-old who had notched a goal in the first round defeat of North Korea, while including a fifth defender, MIKHAIL FOMENKO, another 27-year-old also from 1975 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup champion Dynamo Kiev. This defense-oriented side, then, to face a youthful Brazilian squad that had been shutout at the ’76 Olympics by both East Germany in the first round as well as Poland in the semifinal at Toronto.

Trainer CLAUDIO COUTINHO, the former army captain who would be chosen to steer the Brazilian World Cup contingent for the 1978 FIFA World Cup and later coached the Los Angeles Aztecs for a season in the old North American Soccer League, made three changes to the South American team that fell to the Polish at Varsity Stadium. The two fullbacks who had scored a goal each against Spain in the first round, CHICO FRAGA of Internacional Porto Alegre and ROSEMIRO of SE Palmeiras, ceded their places. The 22-year-old midfielder JUNIOR of CR Flamengo, who had scored the final goal in the quarterfinal victory over Israel, was re-deployed at left back.

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Still one more 27-year-old from Dynamo Kiev provided the Soviet Union with a dream start to the Bronze Medal Match in just the fifth minute. VLADIMIR ONISCHENKO, who was in the first team when the U.S.S.R. fell to West Germany in the Final of the 1972 UEFA European Championships at Brussels, scored his third goal of the ’76 Summer Games while giving the Soviet side something to defend. All of a sudden, Lobanovsky’s strategy did not seem so silly, after all.

Onischenko needed to come off five minutes before the break so from the bench arrived LEONID NAZARENKO of army club CSKA Moscow, the 21-year-old who never did appear much (8 caps, 2 goals) for the senior national side of the Soviet Union. But, four minutes into the second half, the inexperienced Nazarenko would net a very big insureance goal in the Bronze Medal Match at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal that was more than enough, as matters turned out. This because Brazil were not doing much to bother Nazarenko’s teammate at CSKA Moscow, the 30-year-old goalkeeper VLADIMIR ASTAPOVSKY.

The Brazilians did have some considerable young talent but the team only ever did score six goals in five Olympic matches in Canada and, therefore, probably never really did deserve higher than a fourth place finish. The Soviets, for whom 1975 European Player of the Year OLEG BLOKHIN of Dynamo Kiev never did find consistent goal-scoring form in North America, could be somewhat content with a bronze medal from the ’76 Summer Games. Brazil and the U.S.S.R. would collide again in the first round at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, but that would be another story.

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The Dynamo Kiev pair of striker OLEG BLOKHIN (left), who scored six goals at the 1972 Olympics in West Germany but managed just one goal at the 1976 Summer Games in Canada, and midfielder LEONID BURYAK would both be included in the Soviet Union’s 22-man squad for the 1982 FIFA World Cup final tournament held in Spain.

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