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DEPORTIVO & THE WORLD CUP

30 Jun 2014
For the first time in twenty years there are no representatives of Deportivo in a World Cup. In six tournaments there were players from the club playing the biggest tournament in the planet, including the Brazil’s team that won the event in 1994.

Within the last two decades there were five FIFA World Cups and in every one of those tournaments there were always at least one representative of Deportivo. Now the “tradition” has been broken as no one from the Galician club is playing the tournament in Brazil 2014.

The true is that before 1994 there were 14 World Cups and only once Depor had a player disputing the event. It was precisely in the first World Cup played in Brazil as goalkeeper Juan Acuña was picked by Spain.

Acuña is one of the myths of Deportivo and probably the best keeper ever in the history of the Galician club. At the time Depor were coming after an historic second place at Primera and Acuña was consider as the “toughest keeper to beat” in the league. Still, he never played a World Cup game, because coach Guillermo Eizaguirre used Antonio Ramallets as the starting choice.

It was necessary to wait 44 years before seeing a Deportivo’s player taking part of a World Cup. Before, there’s a curious history for Spain 1982; after ending the Cup that was won by Italy, the Galician club hired Honduran midfielder Héctor Zelaya, who disputed the tournament with his country scoring a goal in the 1-1 tie against Spain –Honduras’ first goal in a World Cup- But he never played an official game with Deportivo due to a knee injury that forced him to retire at the age of 24.



Héctor ‘Pecho de Aguila’ Zelaya after the game in which he scored against Spain

Statistically it doesn’t count as a Depor’s player disputing a World Cup, because the signing took place after the tournament ended. It’s something similar to what could occur now as Deportivo have been linked with Cameroonian Eyong Enoh, who played as a starter in the three games of Cameroon in Brazil 2014 before been eliminated.

Ahead of the 1994 Cup disputed in the United States, Spain was impressed by the performance of the ‘Super Depor’ that lost the title by the missed penalty against Valencia CF. It was then that the story of Depor and the World Cup began. Three players from the squad coached by Arsenio Iglesias were picked for the event.

One of them was defender Salvador González ‘Voro’, who was picked by Spain playing the 90 minutes of the 3-1 win over Bolivia. The other two men had a more starring role with Brazil, team that ended clinching the title: Mauro Silva and Bebeto.

The midfielder was a starter in the seven games played in the tournament, including the final against Italy. The striker was also a starter in the seven matches and also scored three goals in three different meetings: 3-0 Vs.  Cameroon; 1-0 Vs. USA and 3-2 Vs. The Netherlands. Mauro Silva and Bebeto are the only two players that have won a World Cup belonging to Deportivo.



Mazinho, Bebeto and Romario in the historic celebration of the goal against The Netherlands


Mauro Silva during the final game against Italy


After a couple of solid seasons for Depor, the Galicians could only end 12th during the Primera tournament 1997/98; still there were five players picked for the World Cup disputed in France in 1998. It’s the highest number in the history of the club.

Curiously all of them were African players. Three were picked by Morocco: centre-back Noureddine Naybet, playmaker Mustafa El Hadji and striker Salaheddine Bassir. Naybet was the captain of the team and played the three games of the first round. Bassir and El Hadji also played the three games as starters and even scored goals.

El Hadji scored in the 2-2 draw against Norway, while Bassir scored twice against Scotland (3-0) turning to be the only player in the history of Depor to score a brace in a World Cup match. Unfortunately Morocco was eliminated ending third in the group stage (4 points).



Bassir celebrating one of his goals against Scotland

The other two players that played the tournament were the goalkeepers of the team. Peter Rufai was the substitute at Depor, but had the best performance in France 1998. He was the starting goalie of Nigeria; his country won their group winning two of the three games, including a 3-2 victory over Spain. Later the team was eliminated in the last-16 round by Denmark (1-4).

In the case of Jacques Songo’o his participation was a disaster. He was the substitute keeper for Cameroon. He was on the bench for the first two games and then was a starter in the 1-6 loss before Russia, historic game in which Oleg Salenko scored five times –the highest mark in the history of the World Cup- Cameroon ended as the last place of group B.



Songo’o was beaten five times by Oleg Salenko

The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan arrived with Deportivo living a sweet moment, just months after the Centenariazo against Real Madrid. Once again there were five players picked for the event. This time four of them were playing for Spain, which meant the World Cup with more Depor’s players playing for ‘La Roja’.

The picked players for the tournament were left-back Enrique Romero, centre midfielder Sergio Gonzalez, playmaker Juan Carlos Valerón and striker Diego Tristán. The true is that, apart from Valerón, the Depor’s players barely shone with Spain during the tournament.

Tristán was coming from an injury and didn’t have a good performance in the first two games against Slovenia and Paraguay, so he was benched and didn’t play again. Then Sergio only played 37 minutes in the third game against South Africa. In the case of Romero he played three times: substitute against Slovenia, starter against South Africa and against South Korea in the quarterfinals, in the latter game Spain was eliminated in the penalty shootout.

Valerón was the player having the most regular performance in this World Cup. He was a starter in four of the five games disputed with Spain in the tournament, and the Canarian even scored a goal in the 3-1 win over Slovenia. In this way El Flaco is the only player of Deportivo that has scored a goal for Spain in a World Cup.



Valerón celebrating the goal against Slovenia

To mention that Albert Luque was also part of the Spanish team and he was transferred to Depor from RCD Mallorca after the tournament ended. The other player of Depor that played the 2002 World Cup was Sebastián Abreu, though it was a special case as the striker didn’t play with Depor during the season 2001/02 as he was loaned at Mexican outfit Cruz Azul.

Abreu played as a starter in the three games of the group stage, but didn’t score as Uruguay was eliminated. Among his team mates was Gustavo Munúa, who was the substitute keeper; in 2003 he was transferred to Deportivo coming from Nacional.

Another curious history of the 2002 World Cup was related to Djalminha, the Brazilian playmaker was going to be picked by the Brazil’s team coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, but was left out at the last minute after the coach got upset due to the incident of the player with former coach Javier Irureta (a header during a training session in May of 2002). His name was removed from the list after the coach watched the incident on TV and he was replaced by Kaká.

In 2006 the World Cup was disputed in Germany, at the time Depor were already going down after living its golden years, so there were no players picked by Spain. But there were two men picked by Argentina: centre-back Fabricio Coloccini and midfielder Lionel Scaloni.

Both men weren’t fixed starters at the team coached by Jose Pekerman, but at least played as starters in some games. Scaloni was a starter in the 2-1 win over Mexico during the last-16 round, while Coloccini played 66 minutes in the 0-0 draw with the Netherlands replacing injured Burdisso and was later a starter in the 1-1 draw against Germany in the quarterfinals, game that meant the elimination of Argentina in the tournament (penalty shootout).



Coloccini during the World Cup in 2006

Also worth to mention the situation with Jorge Andrade, the centre-back was the captain of Portugal and should have played the tournament, but a serious knee injury sustained in a league match against FC Barcelona pulled him out of the team coached by  Luiz Felipe Scolari.

For South Africa 2010, Depor were still struggling to survive at Primera and the only player picked for the World Cup was winger Andrés Guardado. The Mexican played 35 minutes in the opening game against the locals and was later a starter in the defeats against Uruguay (0-1) and Argentina (1-3), the latter meant the elimination of the team (last-16 round).

ARCHIVE NEWS JUNE/14

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