Waldemar Victorino was an Uruguayan striker who completed a pretty remarkable record. Over a six month period, he played in three Finals and scored the winning goal in each of them.
It began with the Copa Libertadores in August 1980, moved onto the Mundialito (Little World Cup) in January 1981 and culminated in the Intercontinental Cup in February 1981.
He was playing for one of Uruguay’s top clubs at the time, Nacional. His performances earned him to move to Italy with Cagliari, but his stay was brief. He should’ve been displaying his skills on the biggest stage at Spain ’82 but Uruguay were knocked out by Peru in the qualifiers. So a generation of talented Uruguayans missed their chance of a World Cup appearance.
By the time Mexico ’86 came around he was 34 and plying his trade in Argentina. In all, he played for 10 different clubs in six countries, with two spells at Nacional. He was capped 33 times by his country scoring 15 goals.
Victorino was born in Montevideo in May 1952. His first professional club was Cerro in the nation’s capital. They were a Second Division club at the time, and after four years he moved up a division to Progreso, a short 8km trip east.
By 1975 he had moved to Club Atlético River Plate, still in Montevideo. He was part of the team which won the Second Division three years later.
During his time at River Plate, he was recognised for his form by being handed his international debut in 1976. He made his first international appearance as a sub in a 0-3 defeat to Argentina in Montevideo in June 1976. His first start for his country came two months later when he scored his first goal. He got both in a 2-2 draw in Ecuador. On target again in Colombia a month later gave him a record of three goals in his first three appearances. Not bad.
This gave him his big move to Nacional. They’d been champions 32 times by the time he arrived. Title winners in four consecutive seasons between 1969-1972, but with just one championship in the following seven years.
In that time they’d been superseded by Peñarol, who won six times during that period with Nacional finishing second on five occasions.
In his first season at the club, he was the country’s top scorer with 19 goals. It could be argued his appearance at the top of the goalscoring charts was due to the absence of the league’s all-time goalscorer, Fernando Morena, who’d moved to Spain with Rayo Vallecano.
Despite his goals, Peñarol won their 34th title. But a year later Nacional won the Uruguayan Primera División by six points from Montevideo Wanderers, with Peñarol nine points back.
Nacional were into the Copa Libertadores and drawn in the same group as another Montevideo club, Defensor Sporting, and two Bolivian clubs, The Strongest from La Paz and Oriente Petrolero of Santa Cruz.
Nacional won five of their six group matches with Victorino scoring four. He was the club’s top scorer with Javier Morales, who hit a hat-trick against the Santa Cruz team.
In the Semi-Finals stage, six qualifiers were put into two groups. Nacional were in with Chilean side O’Higgins of Rancagua, who had won their group on goal difference after all four teams finished on six points. They were also up against the defending champions, Paraguayan club Olimpia of Asunción, who earned a bye to this stage as a result.
Having beaten Olimpia away from home, they came into their final group game needing to avoid defeat at home to O’Higgins. Victorino scored in a 2-0 win and they were now into the Final.
During their run of four consecutive league titles at the end of the sixties they appeared in two Copa Finals, winning one in 1971 against Estudiantes. That ended a run of three losing finalist appearances.
In the 1980 Final they were up against the Brazilian club Internacional of Porte Alegre. Yes Nacional against Internacional. They boasted such talent as Falcao, Toninho, and Batista.
The first leg was in Porto Alegre and ended goalless. A week later came the second meeting. Rather than host it in their own stadium, which only held 34,000, the game was moved to the national stadium. 65,000 vociferous and noisy fans packed into the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.
Javier Morales was back in the team having missed the trip to Brazil. He had Nacional’s best chance in the opening half hour as he met a ball in from the right by Bica full on the volley. Gasperin, in the visitor’s goal, was equal to it and tipped it over.
Then Falcao produced the sort of strike he’d light up the world with two years later in Spain, but this sailed just over the bar. Soon after he had another go from further out and this time he was on target, forcing Rodolfo Rodriguez into pushing it over the bar.
With 10 minutes of the first half remaining, the deadlock was broken. Nacional had a free-kick on the right, Bica crossed to the far post where Victorino headed it, relatively unchallenged, past the stranded keeper.
The place erupted in a cacophony of noise and smoke. The second half seemed to be one great celebration for the home crowd, desperate for their team to hold onto the lead. This they did fairly comfortably and Nacional had won their second Copa. Cue more exuberant celebrations.
What must it have been like for the Brazilians in the ground?
The win was Uruguay’s fifth Copa, still a long way behind Argentina (12). It was the country’s first in eight years.
Lifting the Copa gave them entry as South America’s representative in the Intercontinental Cup the following February. By then they knew who their opponents would be too. Nottingham Forest had beaten Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg to retain the European Cup and they would provide stiff opposition.
The Intercontinental Cup was the forerunner to the World Club Cup and was a match played between the winners of the Copa Libertadores in South America and the European Cup.
Victorino could now concentrate on maintaining his club form in order to earn a place in the Uruguay squad for the upcoming Mundialito.
By December the Primera División was secured. Nacional’s 34th league title.
The Mundialito, or Little World Cup was a tournament organised by FIFA to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the inaugural tournament.
The six winners of the tournament were invited. England declined so their invitation went to Netherlands, runners-up in the two previous finals. It was fitting Uruguay would host the tournament and all the matches were played in the Estadio Centenario, Montevideo.
There was great excitement in the country at the prospect of being the world’s focus once again. But it was with some trepidation they considered whether the team would have a chance to lift the trophy or not.
The Copa America in the summer of ’79 had not been a success. Victorino scored twice from the spot during the group stage where they finished behind Paraguay.
A two week European tour saw them lose three of their four matches, with Victorino’s goal against Luxembourg the only bright point.
But from November things really kicked into shape. Finland (6-0), Bolivia (5-0) and Switzerland (4-0) were sent packing in home friendlies.
When Victorino lined up with his teammates against the Dutch on 30 December 1980, they were up against a much-changed team. The van der Kerkhof brothers, Ernie Brandts and Pim Doesburg were the only survivors from the ’78 team.
Uruguay were hardly troubled as 75,000 partisan fans cheered on a 2-0 win, with Victorino scoring the second.
Four days later he was on target again in another 2-0 win. This time Italy were the victim, with him grabbing the second goal in a heated game.
He’d won a penalty which Julio Cesar Morales dispatched successfully. He hit the deck giving the ref the opportunity to point to the spot. Clearly, the Italians recognised a dive when they saw one, and the fact he ran off celebrating once the ref had made his decision probably inflamed the situation.
That put them into the Final where they met Brazil. The talk before the game was of the Maracanazo when Uruguay broke the hearts of all of Brazil by winning the 1950 World Cup, with the final held in Rio.
The result was the same this time around, with Victorino scoring his third of the tournament with just 10 minutes to go. Scores were level when the home side had a free-kick on the right. Ramos took it, aiming for the near post where Morales came in, but he couldn’t get his head to it. This committed Brazilian keeper, Leite and allowed Victorino to head it into an empty net.
Two cup finals and two winning goals. A month later he was back in action for his club as they were in the Intercontinental Cup against Nottingham Forest.
Originally an idea cooked up between João Havelange, then Brazilian FA president and a French journalist, the first meeting between the champions of Europe and champions of South America occurred in 1960 when Real Madrid beat Peñarol, 5-1 in the Centenario, Montevideo.
By the late 70s, European teams had become disinterested in the competition, with many of the European Cup runners-up taking part in place of the champions. Throughout the decade on two occasions the match never took place and only in 1972 (Ajax) and 1976 (Bayern Munich) had the European Cup winners competed.
Before binning the concept, Toyota emerged as a surprise saviour. The cup had previously been contested over two legs to give both continents’ supporters a chance to welcome it. Toyota’s idea was a one-off match in Tokyo.
1980 would be the first in this new rejuvenated format, even though it took place in 1981. The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo was the venue.
Nacional travelled to take on Nottingham Forest. Forest were managed by Brian Clough. He and his assistant Peter Taylor had masterminded a coup d’Etat on the league title, taking the Midlands club from mid-table in the Second Division to English champions at their first attempt. Not content with taking on English football, they then lifted the European Cup at the first time of asking too. Not only that they defended it too. Forest had retained their European Cup title the previous May when they beat Hamburg 1-0 in Madrid. They’d beaten Swedish champions, Malmö, the previous season, yet it was the Swedes who contested the Intercontinental Cup, losing to Olimpia.
By February 1981 they were a much-changed team. This was the third season since their league title but now they’d already lost almost a third of their matches and were down in eighth. Gone were Garry Birtles, Ian Bowyer, Frank Clark and Tony Woodcock. On paper Peter Ward, Ian Wallace, Raimondo Ponte and Stuart Gray appeared able replacements but they were struggling for any sort of consistency. Trevor Francis, Britain’s first million pound footballer, was now given the responsibility of leading the attack. As many clubs, and his country found, this was often a step too far for a man who as a precocious teenager appeared to have the world at his feet.
But they still retained the core of the league & European Cup winning side. Peter Shilton, John Robertson, Viv Anderson, Larry Lloyd, Kenny Burns and Martin O’Neill still formed an important part of the team.
Nacional were managed by former player, Juan Martin Mujica. He’d only finished his playing career in 1979 and Nacional was his first managerial appointment. After lifting the Primera División, then the Copa Libertadores, he and his charges were looking at emulating the legendary Washington Etchamendi’s 1971 side which walked away with a historic treble. Mujica himself was part of that team. He was poised to become just the third man to win the Copa as a player and a manager, and the first non-Argentinian to do so.
Six Nacional players, Rodolfo Rodriguez, José Moreira, Eduardo de la Peña, Victorino, Julio Morales, Arsenio Luzardo named in Uruguay’s squad for the Mundialito the month before. Fair to say these players were riding the crest of the biggest of all club football waves. De la Peña was unfortunate to miss out through injury.
They were captained by 36-year old Victor Espárrago, who’d been a member of Uruguay’s World Cup 1970 squad but whose 67-cap international career was over four years later. He was one of three over-30’s in the team.
One of the issues Forest were up against right from the start was the pitch. It was a mixture of compacted sand and mud. No grass. Forest weren’t unused to no grass, as the City Ground pitch was essentially a mud-filled cow field. But the sandy nature made for a much faster surface than they were accustomed to.
Make the surface difficult for football-playing sides, fill the team full of hard-working individuals and they could compete. Clough adopted a similar tactic which worked successfully at Derby County, who had beaten Real Madrid and Benfica on that pitch.
Another issue, which would hamper Liverpool in December, was jetlag. Nacional arrived a week in advance to give themselves time to acclimatise. Forest played a league game at Maine Road against Manchester City on the Saturday afternoon, then flew out on the Sunday. The game took place on mid-day Wednesday.
Forest began brightly, but it was clear the Uruguayans had done their homework and saw Robertson on the left wing as the chief threat. Within the opening minutes, right-back Moreira was particularly aggressive in his first tackle.
After 10 minutes Moreira was in attack as he was sent away down the right wing. He crossed into the penalty area and Victorino pounced on hesitation from Burns. His control was perfect and he shot into the roof of the net, giving Shilton no chance.
What a start. It was a magnificent moment for Victorino, who must’ve been feeling particularly euphoric.
Burns tried to redeem himself with a shot from long range but it went just wide. Wallace also went close with a neat turn and shot.
Then Nacional scored again, or so they thought. Good work down the left saw Blanco launch a cross high in the air. Frank Gray and Lloyd struggled to deal with it, and the ball fell to Luzardo who controlled it on his thigh and fired a left-foot shot past Shilton.
But the flag went up immediately up. Although not interfering with play, Victorino was standing in an offside position, and in those days that was enough for the goal to be ruled out.
Victorino was a constant thorn in Forest’s defence with both Lloyd and Burns struggling to deal with his movement and pace.
Then Forest had a great chance to level things. Francis, who spent most of the half on either wing, beat his man down the right and crossed into the box. Wallace went up with González but both missed it. Robertson was first to react and had a free header which he put wide.
Forest made most of the running in the first half, but then they were a goal behind. They had a pretty good shout for a penalty turned down after González appeared to control the ball with his hand.
In the second half, the Uruguayans again had the ball in the net. The bounce off the pitch caught the Forest defence out and Frank Gray’s pass back to Shilton was far too tame. Victorino nipped in but his shot was charged down by the Forest keeper. Bica was on hand to put into the empty net but the flag had gone up for offside.
The English side were laying siege to the South Americans’ goal, with Francis and Robertson having several chances. Then Stuart Gray got up highest to a Robertson cross but his header hit the post.
Eventually, Nacional hung on to register a 1-0 win. The skipper, Espárrago, lifted his third major trophy in six months. Victorino had completed a wonderful personal landmark. Three cup finals, three winning goals. Add the league title and he had four winners’ medals over the same period.
A year later he moved to Deportivo Cali in Colombia. He eventually made it to Europe when Cagliari signed him. He didn’t last the season and was back in South America, with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina. He finished his career in Ecuador and then Peru, giving him six different countries on his CV.
His international career ended eight months after the Mundialito. Typically he found the net in a 1-1 draw in Bogota. The game ended Uruguay’s hopes of qualifying for Spain ’82.
There are many players who have scored more goals for both Uruguay and Nacional, but no one else can boast his record of those three cup final winning goals in just six months.