Since its inception in 1960, the annual Intercontinental Cup between the winners of the Europe’s Champions Cup and South America’s Copa Libertadores had been marred with violence.
The home and away series had become synonymous with fights and multiple sending offs. Most particularly Argentina’s Estudiantes (featuring Carlos Bilardo) in the late 60s had turned these series into all out wars.
The prestige of the Tournament had declined to such a point that in certain years European winners refused to take part, as they could not see the glory nor the hassle in winning a title that would most certainly involve fights and injuries to their players.
It was at this point that Japanese Motor Corporation Toyota decided to take control and sponsor the competition. The single match event would take place annually in Tokyo (neutral territory). The teams and Confederations would be contractually obligated to participate or risk a lawsuit. In Addition to the Intercontinental Cup, the teams would also receive ‘The Toyota Cup.’
It was hoped this would re-invigorate the fading competition.
Furthermore, the ‘Man of the Match’ as elected by Japanese Journalists would receive a Toyota Car.
The very first Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo was to take place on February 11th, 1981.
The participating teams were England’s Nottingham Forest and Uruguay’s Nacional Montevideo. Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest had won their second straight Champions Cup on May 28, 1980 by defeating SV Hamburg (1-0).
Photo From: Onze, Issue 64, April 1981(Victorino and Lloyd, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
Photo From: Onze, Issue 64, April 1981(Frank Gray and Bica, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
The team was led in goal by Peter Shilton and contained many British internationals such as Englishmen Viv Anderson and Trevor Francis, Northern Irish International Martin O’Neill and Scotsmen Kenny Burns and John Roberston.
Uruguay’s Nacional Montevideo had defeated Brazil’s Internacional in the Finals of the Copa Libertadores (July 30th, 0-0 and August 6th, 1-0).
Photo From: Onze, Issue 64, April 1981(February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
Their Manager ,Juan Martin Mujica, had been heavily influenced from his playing days in the French League and had imposed a European, more physical style of tactics for his team. The team played with a Sweeper, Stopper and permanent pressing game. They had a tactical discipline rare for a South American side.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 64, April 1981(Milar, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
The team was led by three veterans in their thirties, who had returned after stints in Europe: Victor Esparrago, Juan Carlos Blanco and Julio Cesar Morales.
Their main goalscoring threat was from Waldemar Victorino. Their counterattacking game relied on Victorino holding the ball with his back to the goal.
Just a month prior, Uruguay had triumphed in the Mundialito with Victorino scoring three goals including the winner in the Final vs. Brazil.
Nacional were handicapped by the transfer of key defender Hugo De Leon, who had joined Brazil’s Gremio after their victory in the Libertadores Cup.
In addition, key midfielder Eduardo Maria De La Peña was to miss this match through injury.
As far as preparations for the match, the Uruguayans appeared to have taken it more seriosuly. They traveled to Tokyo one week ahead of the match to acclimatize to the conditions.
In contrast Nottingham Forest had played a League match on the previous Saturday and had flown on Sunday. Their journey had been long and tiring.
To minimize the effects of time change, the players had been given sleeping pills on the plane, and on the Monday were even restricted to go to bed before 4 AM Tokyo time.
They had also arrived with a small squad, only 14 players. Even reserve goalkeeper Lee Smelt did not travel with the team.
The match was played on midday Wednesday. It was a National Holliday in Japan (Foundation Day) and there was a large crowd in the Stadium.
The only High level UEFA dignitary in attendance was the Swiss Secretay Genral Hans Bargerter.
Upon arriving the teams were surprised to see that the field did not have grass.
Nottinghan Forest lost their Captain John McGovern who failed a late fitness test. Kenny Burns assumed the Captaincy in his absence.
Prior to kickoff, the Forest players paid homage to their hosts by running around the field carrying a Japanese flag.
Nacional took the lead in the tenth minute. José Moreira crossed from the right side for Victorino who smashed home the winner.
Photo From: World Soccer, April 1981(Victorino scoring the winner, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
For the rest of the match, Nottingham Forest were in control and according to many (even themselves) should really have won the match.
Nacional had two goals ruled out for Offside. Luzardo scored a goal in first half that was disallowed (Victorino in offside position).
Bica scored a goal in the second half that was also ruled out for Offside (Victorino had taken advantage of a Frank Gray backpass, Shilton saved at his feet, and Bica scored on the rebound while in an offside position).
But in General, it was Nottingham Forest who created more chances and Stuart Gray went the closest by heading the post in the 78th minute. Afterwards Kenny Burns felt they should have ‘murdered these Uruguayans’.
Photo From: World Soccer, March 1981(February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
The Uruguayans were also more physical, with Trevor Francis being the favorite target of Nacional Captain Esparrago.
At the end of the match Esparrago apologized for his dangerous tackle on him and reassured him that it was not deliberate, however, Francis gently reminded him that it was MANY fouls.
Nacional Manager Mujica’s chief complaint was about the state of the pitch, which created many awkward bounces of the ball.
Brian Clough also complained about the grassless pitch, especially given the advanced state of Japanese technology.
Nottingham Manager Brian Clough felt they were not unlucky to lose as they had many chances and failed to capitalize. He felt his players were unlucky not to win the car. He would have preferred either Trevor Francis or Kenny Burns to be elected as Man of the Match. That honor went to the goalscorer Waldemar Victorino, who won the Toyota Celica after a vote by the Japanese journalists.
The experience had been a positive one and the competition had found a new home and a new lease on life.
1-Four Middle Eastern Nations refused to broadcast the match because Match Referee Abraham Klein was from Israel.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 64, April 1981
(Nacional players celebrating, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
Photo From: World Soccer, April 1981
(Esparrago lifting the trophy, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
Photo From: World Soccer, April 1981(Victorino (wearing an exchanged jersey) with the car, February 11, 1981, Intercontinental Cup, Nacional Montevideo 1-Nottingham Forest 0)
February 11, 1981
Club Nacional de Football Montevideo (Uruguay) 1-Nottingham Forest Football Club (England) 0
Intercontinental Cup (Toyota Cup)
Venue: Tokyo, National Stadium
Referee: Abraham Klein (Israel)
Goalscorers: (Nacional): Waldemar Victorino 10th
(Nottingham Forest): None
1-Rodolfo Rodríguez , 4-Juan Carlos Blanco, 2-Jose Hermes Moreira, 3-Daniel Enríquez,5-Washington González, 16-Denis Milar, 6-Victor Espárrago, 10-Arsenio Luzardo, 7-Alberto Bica, 9-Waldemar Victorino, 11-Julio Cesar Morales
Coach: Juan Martin Mujica
Booked: Victor Espárrago (after repeated fouls on Trevor Francis)
12-Miguel Angel Pereira, 13-Hector Molina, 14-Wilmar Cabrera, 18-Jose Rosauro Cabrera, 19-Dardo Perez
Team Captain: Victor Espárrago
Shirt Sponsor: None
Uniform Colors: White Shirts, Blue Shorts, Blue Socks
1-Peter Shilton , 2-Viv Anderson, 5-Larry Lloyd, 6-Kenny Burns (Scotland), 3-Frank Gray (Scotland), 7-Martin O'Neill (Northern Ireland), 8-Raimondo Ponte (Switzerland) (12-Peter Ward 68th), 15-Stuart Gray, 11-John Robertson (Scotland), 9-Trevor Francis, 10-Ian Wallace (Scotland)
Note: John McGovern (Scotland) (ruled out injured)
Coach: Brian Clough
Booked: Larry Lloyd (for putting his foot in Rodriguez’s face)
Team Captain: Kenny Burns
Official Kit Supplier/Designer: Adidas
Shirt Sponsor: None
Uniform Colors: Red Shirts, Red Shorts, Red Socks
Man of Match: Waldemar Victorino (Nacional Montevideo)
Onze, Issue 64, April 1981(‘Nacional Montevideo: Champion du Monde’ By Carlos Magnone)
World Soccer, March 1981 (‘Japan may retain the club final’ by Keir Radnedge)
World Soccer, April 1981 (‘Victorino had his eyes on the car’ by Keir Radnedge)France Football, Issue 1819, Februaty 17, 1981 (‘Victorino aime toutes les coupes’)