Monday, November 19, 2012

Soccer Memories-Part 11

Hellas Verona 1985: How a small team triumphed in the World’s toughest League

To say Verona’s 1985 Scudetto was a surprise would be an understatement. It was almost unthinkable that a provincial team could win in a League then dominated by Platini’s Juventus, Falcao’a Roma and Altobelli’s Internazionale.

Verona had been promoted to the Serie A in 1982 and had surprisingly finished fourth for the 1982/83 season and qualified for the UEFA Cup.
They had also reached the Final of Coppa Italia but had lost to Juventus.

The following season (1983/84), they did not fare as good in the League, just missing out in UEFA Cup qualification.
They once again reached the Final of Coppa Italia, this time losing to AS Roma.

The summer of 1984 was dominated by the transfers of Diego Maradona , from Barcelona to Napoli, and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, from Bayern Munich to Internazionale Milano.
As a result Verona’s acquisitions of West German International Hans-Peter Briegel from Kaiserslautern and Danish Forward Preben Elkjaer from Lokeren were not as hyped.
Briegel had been a solid International for years, whose greatest achievement at club level were a number of UEFA Cup qualifications with Kaiserslautern.

Photo From: L’Annee du Football, 1985
(Verona’s Danish star, Preben Elkjaer)

Elkjaer was unknown at the world stage before his impressive performances for Denmark during the recent European Championships just a couple of months earlier in France.
This Verona squad was managed by well-respected Osvaldo Bagnoli, who had managed mostly small teams such as Cesena.
Verona was led at the back by the solid goalkeeper Claudio Garella.
The defense consisted of sweeper Roberto Tricella, who had failed to make the grade at Internazionale, but was now seen as heir apparent to Gaetano Scirea for the National Team.
The right back was Mauro Ferroni and former AS Roma player Luciano Marangon occupied the left back position.
The rest of the defense comprised of Silvano Fontolan as stopper and Luciano Marangon’s younger brother Fabio.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, June 1999
(Claudio Garella and Roberto Tricella)

Briegel had been pushed into the midfield and operated with Domenico Volpati, International winger Pietro Fanna and new International playmaker Antonio Di Gennaro.
Other midfielders such as Luciano Bruni, Luigi Sacchetti and Dario Donà, also made noteworthy contributions during the season.

Photo From: Onze, May 1985
(Pietro Fanna, April 14, 1985, Verona 1-Torino 2)

The strike force consisted of former Juventus striker Giuseppe Galderisi and Elkjaer, with Franco Turchetta in reserve.

The season opener with Napoli was supposed to be Maradona’s grand introduction to the Serie A, however, it turned out to be a statement of intent by Verona.
Verona won convincingly 3 to 1 and it was Briegel who was the foreign star on the field and not Maradona.

Photo From: Onze, May 1985
(Giuseppe Galderisi, April 14, 1985, Verona 1-Torino 2)

The two usual giants, Juventus and Roma, were both having poor seasons and were off the pace from early on.
Verona’s challengers for the Scudetto were Torino, led by Brazilian Junior and Austrian Walter Schachner and Internazionale of Rummenigge and Liam Brady.
Verona was undefeated until losing at Avellino on the last match of the first half of the season.

Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, January 9-15, 1985
(Verona’s West German star Hans-Peter Briegel, December 23, 1984, Como 0-Verona 0)

Along the way, they had defeated Juventus and Torino and tied with Inter away and at this stage looked likely winners.
Despite a late surge by Torino, they remained at the top and won the title with one match remaining by tying at Atalanta.
Verona had won half of its matches (15) and had tied 13 others. Besides the Avellino match, they had lost only one other match, at home to nearest challengers Torino.
They had the best defense with only 19 goals conceded.
Briegel had been outstanding and Tricella, Fanna, Di Gennaro and Galderisi were seen as the future of the national team, now that the Juventus contingent was showing signs of age.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, June 1999
(Antonio Di Gennaro)

However, Verona could not sustain this ascent for the coming years.
During the off-season, Pietro Fanna and Luciano Marangon joined Internazionale (in fact they had controversially been approached during the mid season, at a time when Inter were their nearest challengers).
Goalkeeper Claudio Garella also left and joined Napoli.
Verona was unable to find suitable replacements for these key losses.
The following season (1985/86), they were unimpressive and finished in mid table.
During the summer of 1986, Briegel left and joined Sampdoria.
Galderisi transferred to AC Milan and in exchange the once great Paolo Rossi traveled in the opposite direction.
Verona also acquired the promising and future International Luigi De Agostini from Udinese.
They finished that season (1986/87) surprisingly at fourth place and qualified for the UEFA Cup.
Despite acquiring West German defender Thomas Berthold from Eintracht Frankfurt during the summer of 1987, they lost more key players as both De Agostini and Tricella left to join Juventus.
From that point on Verona continued to slide and were eventually relegated in 1990.
After relegation, Osvaldo Bagnoli and left and joined and built an attractive team at Genoa for the next few seasons.
In 1992 he was finally appointed as a manager of one of the bigger teams, Internazionale. He resigned in early 1994.

Verona has since been no more than a yo-yo team, fluctuating between Serie A and B.
These days it is neighbors Chievo who are seen as the top dogs in Verona.

A small team like Verona winning the Scudetto is a rare exception in any era. The closest example in recent memory would be Sampdoria’s win in 1991.
Most critics point out that in these particular seasons, all the top teams have exceptionally poor seasons and that’s why smaller teams can take advantage.
That could be true, however, to finish at the top of the League, any team would have to be consistently good an entire season and two losses for Verona and three for Sampdoria in 1991 speak for themselves.
But as shown in both cases, this level of success is fleeting and temporary and can not be sustained in the long term due to lack of funds.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, June 1999
(Verona’s title winning squad, 1984/85)

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