Winning the World Cup – invariably constructed in Europe

WHEN ARGENTINA won the controversial World Cup in Qatar, they used no less than 17 players in the final against France. The 17 were drawn from 13 different clubs across five countries; not a single player who featured in the final played for an Argentinian side. This highlights the global nature of modern football, but also the very mobile nature of Argentina’s players, from the great Lionel Messi, who has never played in Argentina as an adult, to the latest star to emerge, Juliàn Álvarez, who moved from River Plate to Manchester City and looks destined for great things.

In their total 26-man squad, only one player was employed by an Argentine club, goalkeeper Franco Armani, the 36 year-old River Plate veteran. Nine of the 26 were over 30 years of age, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the 2022 champions. With most of the manpower Europe-based, it does pose the question, how much of Argentina’s football is a reflection of the South American style. Indeed, does such a thing really exist anymore? Does it get driven out of players who are exported to Europe at a very young age?

Four years earlier, in 2018, France won the World Cup with another nomadic group, although there were far more playing in domestic football than Argentina 2022. But France’s first choice line-up included only two players employed by Ligue 1 clubs. French players are always in demand, as evidenced by the list of teams they turned out for: Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, among others. France used 14 players in their 4-2 victory against Croatia in Moscow, drawn from 12 different clubs. They really were scattered broadly across Europe.

This has not always been the case for World Cup winners, for obvious reasons. In the days when trans-Atlantic travel was a rarity and places like Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro were relatively inaccessible, footballers spent their entire careers in their homeland. Others were paid well enough to keep them at home. Some were simply not allowed to leave.

Argentina were the 10th South American winners of the World Cup and the first from that continent since 2002. They were arguably the most workmanlike of the past champions, despite having Messi in their team. But they were also the most “international” of past winners of the competition from South America.

In 1930, Uruguay’s champions were all playing for Uruguayan clubs and of their 22-man squad, 16 were born in Montevideo and 14 played for the country’s big two, Peñarol and Nacional. Twenty years on, Uruguay’s winning team was also home-based.

Do teams built around a core from one club fare well? For Germany, that seems to have largely been the case. In 1954, West Germany’s miracle-makers in Bern included, in the final, five players from Kaiserslautern, while in 1974, Helmut Schön’s champions had six Bayern Munich players – Maier, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner, Hoeneß and Müller. In 2014, Bayern provided no less than seven of the 14 who turned out in the final for Germany against Argentina. Four years earlier, Spain’s World Cup winners included six Barcelona players in their 1-0 win against the Dutch.

Interestingly, when England won the World Cup in 1966, the team in the final came from eight different clubs, including Fulham and Blackpool. West Ham United provided three – Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst. Overall, 15 clubs were called upon, with Manchester United and Liverpool also well represented with three apiece.

Brazil’s squads down the years have illustrated the changing dynamics within football. In 1970, their glorious team came from eight Brazilian clubs, including three players – Carlos Alberto, Clodoaldo and Pelé – from Santos. In their finals of 1958 and 1962, Botafogo were the most prominent club side. But by 1994, their team was split between home-based and exported players. The 2022 squad of 26 included only two players playing in Brazil, while 12 were from the Premier League and five from La Liga.

Exporting players is clearly an important part of football business in South America and it is recognised that in order to make Brazilian and Argentinian football more competitive, there has to be a way to keep players longer, which essentially boils down to money. Until that happens, these countries will continue to be nurseries for Europe, which makes European leagues stronger and weakens the top clubs in Argentina, Brazil et al.

Newcastle United 1968-69 – the last chorus of Blaydon Races

NEWCASTLE UNITED fans like to think of their club as one of the truly big footballing institutions in the country, and in terms of the Magpies’ support, heritage and potential, they are not too far wrong. But the problem is that Newcastle’s glory days are now more than half a century away and the era in which they were indeed the top club in Britain go back to the gas-lamp.

Mystery Magpies

The last triumph was in 1968-69, the curiously-named Inter Cities Fairs Cup, the tongue-tied elder brother of the UEFA Cup, which was the father of the bastard child that is now the Europa League. The pity of it is that the Fairs’ Cup is guilty by association and while in 1969, it meant something real, the plight of Europa has devalued the entire series of competitions. A shame, because as you will discover, the old Fairs and UEFA Cups were very strong – “harder to win”, said one journalist when comparing it to the old European Cup.

That Newcastle were in the competition at all was something of a mystery. In 1967-68, they finished 10th, but because of the Fairs’ Cup’s “one club, one city” rule, Newcastle scraped in. Liverpool (3rd) and Leeds (4th) were both qualifiers, Everton (5th) were not permitted, Chelsea (6th) were in, Tottenham (7th) were not permitted, WBA (8th) had qualified for the European Cup Winners’ Cup, Arsenal (9th) were not permitted, so the final place went to 10th placed Newcastle!

Joe Harvey’s side went into the 1968-69 season with just one new face, Partick Thistle’s Tommy Gibb. There was little hint that the European campaign would be as exciting as it turned out. Newcastle’s home form was good, but away from home, they were something of a soft touch. With players like the under-rated Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, Welsh international forward Wyn Davies – who had taken his time to settle in after joining the club from Bolton in 1966-  Irish international goalkeeper Iam McFaul and skipper Bobby Moncur, Harvey had some talent to call upon, but consistency and strength in depth was always a problem.


Date of birth



Previous club


Willie Mcfaul


October 1, 1943





David Craig


June 8, 1944





Frank Clark


September 9, 1943

County Durham


Crook Town


Tommy Gibb


December 13, 1944



Partick Thistle


Ollie Burton


November 11, 1941



Norwich City


Bobby Moncur


January 19, 1945





Jim Scott


August 21, 1940





Bryan Robson


November 11, 1945





Wyn Davies


March 20, 1942



Bolton Wands.


Preben Arentoft


November 1, 1942



Greenock Morton


Jackie Sinclair


July 21, 1943

Culross, Fife


Leicester City


Alan Foggon


February 23, 1950

County Durham




Holland, Portugal, Spain and Scotland

In the first round, Newcastle were drawn at home to Feyenoord, who a year later would be crowned European champions. Feyenoord had almost half of the Dutch international side, a nascent team that would eventually almost conquer World football. The first leg was a resounding 4-0 win for the Geordies, surely enough to see Feyenoord off. Over in Rotterdam, the Dutch scored twice but that four-goal win proved too much.

In the next round, Newcastle were seconds away from winning in Lisbon against a formidable Sporting, but conceded a last-gasp equaliser. In the second leg, a magnificent goal from Pop Robson settled the tie 2-1 on aggregate. This was an impressive win – Sporting were runners-up in Portugal to the mighty Benfica.

Real Zaragoza were next and in Spain, Newcastle were beaten 2-3. Back at St.James’ Park, 56,000 people turned up to see the second leg on a bitter night. Robson and Tommy Gibb scored to give United a 2-0 lead but Zaragoza pulled one back making it a nervous finale. Newcastle hung on to go through on the away goals rule. The next round was a meeting with another Portuguese side, Setubal,  but a 5-1 win at home virtually sealed a place in the last four. Setubal won 3-1 in the second leg, so it was 6-4 over the two legs.

Glasgow Rangers were the opponents in the semi-finals. Almost 76,000 saw the first leg at Ibrox Park, a Fairs Cup record crowd. Iam McFaul was Newcastle’s hero, saving a penalty from Andy Penman as the game ended 0-0. The second leg was marred by crowd violence, but goals from Jimmy Smith and Jackie Sinclair sent Joe Harvey’s men through to the final to meet Ujpest Dosza, then referred to – as all Eastern European sides were in those days – as  the crack Hungarians.

Moncur’s moments

Újpest Dózsa breezed past Goztepe Izmir in the semi-final, but it was their two-legged victory (3-0) over Don Revie’s Leeds that prompted people to say Ujpest were “the best team in Europe”. A little elaborate praise, perhaps, but Ujpest were a tough outfit and they had Ferenc Bene, one of the successors to the Mighty Magyars of the 1950s, in their ranks. They had also beaten Aris Thessaloniki and Legia Warsaw on route to the final and received a bye against Union Luxembourg, a game that would surely have caused them no difficulties. Their route to the final had been somewhat easier than the Geordies.

The first leg at St. James’ Park was tight for 45 minutes, but in the early stages of the second half, a free kick by Tommy Gibb was aimed at the head of Wyn Davies, who sent the ball goalwards, only for Újpest Dózsa keeper Antal Szentmihalyi to save. As the ball spun out, Moncur left-footed it just inside the post. His first goal for the club. Ten minutes later, he did it again, playing a wall pass with Danish midfielder Preben Arentoft before hitting another left-foot drive low past the keeper.

Newcastle scored again through Jimmy Scott, a surging run, a one-two with Arentoft and as he squeezed past a defender, he lifted the ball over the advancing goalie. Three-nil to the good, surely Newcastle were home and dry?

It was June before Newcastle travelled to Hungary and were under pressure from the kick-off in the Nep Stadium, the scene of England’s humiliation in the 1950s.  Bene, the danger man, scored after 30 minutes. Just before the interval, Janos Gorocs extended Újpest Dózsa’s lead. By the 50th minute, Newcastle were level, Moncur – incredibly – scoring on 46 and Arentoft, with plenty of space, shooting the equaliser on 50.

With 16 minutes remaining, substitute Alan Foggon, a player rich in promise but ultimately, falling short of fulfilling it, went on a long run, struck the crossbar and followed up to score Newcastle’s third. The aggregate score was now 6-2. Newcastle had their successors to “Wor Jackie”.


Newcastle’s success was considerable. After all, the clubs they beat on the way to winning the Fairs Cup were all highly-ranked. With the exception of themselves, they would mostly be competing in the Champions League today. But Newcastle failed to build upon this achievement. They are still waiting for their next piece of silverware. It’s long overdue, but the “Toon” regulars won’t need reminding of that.