Marseille Scandal Overshadowed Soccer
LONDON (AP) _ About the same time Olympique Marseille captured Europe’s most prestigious soccer title, the French national team had just won its fifth straight World Cup qualifying game and appeared headed for the finals.
French soccer, it seemed, would be the success story of 1993.
Six months later, however, Marseille was in disgrace over bribery allegations, and France was eliminated from the World Cup when it gave up a goal scored 10 seconds from the end of the final qualifying game.
In a year when the United States girded for the 1994 World Cup, when Diego Maradona returned to World Cup action and injured Dutch superstar Marco van Basten hardly kicked a ball, the Marseille scandal cast a long shadow over soccer.
In May, Bernard Tapie sat a few seats from AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi in Munich’s Olympic Stadium and watched Basile Boli head in the only goal as his Marseille team became the first French club to win a European trophy by lifting the Champions Cup with a 1-0 victory.
By year’s end, Berlusconi’s team was back on top of European soccer, thanks to events off the field.
No sooner had Marseille won the Champions Cup than allegations arose that club officials had offered bribes to players from French club Valenciennes to go easy in a domestic game just before the final.
The allegations exploded into a major bribery scandal. Although nothing had been proved by the end of the year, UEFA, soccer’s European governing body, took action. It stopped short of stripping Marseille of the title, but UEFA threw Tapie’s club out of this season’s Champions Cup. Milan is on course to confirm itself as Europe’s strongest team by gaining its fifth triumph.
The bribery allegations also prevented Marseille from representing Europe in the World Club Cup game against South American titlist, Sao Paulo. Milan faced the Brazilians instead, but lost 3-2.
Milan’s loss to Marseille in the Champions Cup prevented an Italian sweep of all three European titles. Parma won the Cup Winners Cup by beating Royal Antwerp at Wembley, and Juventus downed Borussia Dortmund, winning both legs of the UEFA Cup final.
The French collapse in the World Cup was almost as spectacular as Marseille’s slump at club level.
With two games to go, Gerard Houllier’s team needed just a home tie with either Israel or Bulgaria. France led Israel 2-1 with eight minutes to go but lost, 3-2. It was tied 1-1 with Bulgaria before Emil Kostadinov scored the winner for the visitors with 10 seconds to go.
France was out and, not surprisingly, Houllier quit.
So did England’s Graham Taylor after the nation known as soccer’s birthplace also failed to make it to the 1994 World Cup finals, being held in the United States for the first time.
Losses to Norway and the Netherlands virtually ended England’s hopes, and Taylor quit, even though his team ended with a 7-1 victory at San Marino.
England also went to the U.S. Cup and tumbled 2-0 to the United States. That upset loss piled more misery and ridicule on Taylor.
The final day of qualification saw 16 teams in contention for nine places. European champion Denmark also didn’t make it, but Argentina, the 1990 runner- up, scrambled in after a 1-0 victory over Australia in Buenos Aires.
Maradona, back playing in his homeland with Newell Old Boys and looking far slimmer than when he left Seville in Spain, showed signs he still has the skills that made him the world’s best player before his drug suspension three years ago.
Maradona is almost certain to be on the World Cup stage in the United States to share the spotlight with the players who emerged as the best of 1993, including Brazil’s Romario, Roberto Baggio of Italy and Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp.
Nigeria, Cameroon and Morocco all made it from Africa, South Korea and Saudi Arabia advanced from the Asian group, and Bolivia was the surprise qualifier from South America.
Zambia may well have qualified had it not been for a plane crash in June in which 18 of the national team were killed. With a rebuilt squad, Zambia came close to qualifying - losing 1-0 to Morocco.
The most spectacular result of the qualifying campaign was probably Colombia’s 5-0 victory at Argentina.
Before that loss, Argentina won the South American championship by beating Mexico 2-1 in Ecuador and Mexico overpowered the United States 4-0 in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
World Cup holder Germany won the U.S. Cup ’93 after victories over the United States and England, and a 3-3 tie with Brazil.
One bright spot for England was the revival of Manchester United. Under Alex Ferguson, United won the league title for the first time since 1967.
In the Champions Cup, however, United was upset by Galatasaray of Turkey.
For the first time in English soccer history, the same two clubs made it to the finals of the Football Association and League Cup competitions, with Arsenal beating Sheffield Wednesday in both.
But it was even more remarkable in Scotland, where the Glasgow Rangers won the league, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup, with Aberdeen the runner-up in all three.
In Spain, for the second season in a row, Real Madrid lost to Tenerife on the final day of the season and surrendered the league title to Barcelona.
AC Milan won the Italian title, Feyenoord triumphed in the Netherlands and Werder Bremen was surprise winner in Germany.
Soccer lost one of its finest ambassadors when Bobby Moore, captain of the English team that won the World Cup in 1966, died in February of cancer at age 51.
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