Group A Preview

On Friday 6th November 1992 in Geneva, Switzerland Rangers entered into the draw for the group stages of the Champions League as British football’s first ever representative. In a completely open draw Rangers would be placed into Group A alongside Marseille, Club Brugge and CSKA Moscow, three teams who had ventured along very different journeys to this point in the competition.


The story of Marseille’s exploits at the end of the last century is as fascinating as it is depressing, with the clubs rise toward the summit of European football as accelerated as its demise back to domestic mediocrity. The central character in this cautionary tale is successful French businessman Bernard Tapie, a man who had entered the world of sport when he purchased a cycling team that went on to win the Tour de France in both 1985 and 1986. This led onto his purchase of Marseille in 1986, a club with a fanatical fanbase but who had spent much of the 80s in French football’s second tier. His impact was immediate, the signing of Jean Pierre Papin signaled a change in mindset that saw them challenge Bordeaux for the title and qualify for European football for the first time in over a decade. Marseille’s progression continued and in the 88/89 season Marseille would claim a league and cup double, bringing them the domestic glory they so desired but also the added cache of European Cup participation.

Marseille were quietly building the framework of a young and vibrant squad, adding Didier Deschamps from FC Nantes, Basil Boli from Auxerre, Franck Sauzee from FC Sochaux, Eric Di Meco from FC Martigues and Abedi Pele from Mulhouse, all of whom went on to have very stellar careers at the club. A certain Eric Cantona would also join from Auxerre at this time, but his stay was probably best remembered for his tempestuous behaviour. Tapie also ventured into the foreign market, adding some sparkle in the form of Tottenham winger Chris Waddle, Benfica’s Brazilian defender Carlos Mozer, Uruguayan striker Enzo Francescoli, and the highly rated Yugoslavian midfielder Dragan Stojkovic.

By 1991 Marseille had built a squad that was comparable with any of the top sides from Europe’s top leagues, a sentiment that was vindicated by their defeat over AC Milan in the quarter final of the European Cup. Marseille would progress to the final in 1991 but would lose out to Red Star Belgrade on penalties, a match that was probably best remembered as an example of two teams conspiring to cancel each other out.

Following their 3rd Ligue 1 victory in a row Marseille would return to the European Cup for the 91/92 season, with the added incentive of the newly introduced Group Stage that would take over after the second round. This would provide Marseille with an opportunity to take part in six additional top level matches and make use of the income associated with them. What Marseille clearly hadn’t accounted for was not reaching that stage, a reality that would be found out after their exit following an away goals defeat to Sparta Prague in the second round. After a summer in which Tapie had spent roughly 12 million pounds in a transfer haul of Trevor Steven from Rangers, Jocelyn Angloma from PSG, Alen Boksic from Hadjuk Split and Leonardo Rodriguez from San Lorenzo, this had proven to be a highly expensive gamble that hadn’t paid off.

The 92/93 incarnation of Marseille is perhaps the most fascinating of Bernard Tapie’s reign, as it would turn out to be his most successful yet was easily his most lean in terms of squad augmentation.

The largesse for the previous years had saw Chris Waddle and Trevor Steven return to Britain, Waddle to Sheffield Wednesday and Steven back to Rangers, for a fraction of their true valuation. The South American duo of Leonardo Rodriguez and Carlos Mozer soon followed, with Rodriguez moving to Atalanta and Mozer to Benfica in cut price deals. Perhaps the biggest loss of them all was Jean-Pierre Papin who’s 38 goals in 45 appearances throughout 91/92 had caught the attention of AC Milan, yet the 10m transfer fee certainly went some way to stabilizing Marseille’s balance sheet.

Marseille’s incoming transfers during the summer of 1992 appeared to be taking a more prudent approach, as they hoovered up two of Ligue 1’s exciting younger talents in Fabien Barthez and Marcel Desailly from FC Nantes. They also signed Francois Omam-Biyik, a fine striker who joined from Cannes and had been one of the stars of the Cameroon team that reached the quarter finals at the Italia 90 World Cup. Tapie would still venture into the foreign market, with his most notable signing being veteran German striker Rudi Voller from AS Roma. A return was also actioned for Croatian striker Alen Boksic who had been sent to Cannes on loan for the duration of the 91/92 season, but injury had prevented him from making more than a handful of appearances. Given Boksic’s relative anonymity and the signing of Rudi Voller, now well into his mid-thirties, it was regarded by many as a significant downgrade on the previous year’s side. While these feelings are often born out of an irrational fear of losing legitimacy, Marseille’s form in the opening rounds of European competition would certainly go some way to dispelling any notion this was a team on the slide.

Marseille opened their 92/93 Champions League campaign against Northern Irish champions Glentoran, with a trip to Belfast on the 16th September 1992. Goals from Voller, Sauzee, Ferreri and a double from Vazquez, would see the French champions put one foot into the next round with a resounding 5-0 win.

In the return leg on the 30th of September Omam-Biyik, Pele and Boli would once again put the Northern Irish side to the sword, securing Marseille’s safe passage to the second round with a 8-0 aggregate score.

The second round saw Marseille drawn against the Romanian champions Dinamo Bucharest, who had recently broken the Steaua Bucharest strangle hold on Romanian football. On the 21st of October Marseille would travel to Romania for the 1st leg, leaving with a creditable 0-0 draw to take back to France. The footage below is captured in that classic eastern European grainy fashion, that made it look more like 1972 than 1992.

On the 4th of November, In front of a raucous Stade Velodrome, Marseille returned to claim a 2-0 victory in the second leg. A match in which an Alen Boksic double not only cemented his spot in the hearts of the Marseille fans but would also secure his sides participation in the inaugural Champion’s League group stage.

Club Brugge

Belgium’s performance at the 1986 World Cup underlined that football in the Benelux region was not solely confined to the Netherlands. Losing out to eventual winners Argentina is still regarded as a defining moment in Belgian football history. The 86’ World Cup squad contained four Club Brugge players, Leo and Franky Van der Elst, Hugo Broos and national team Captain Jan Ceulemans. All four would return to play a pivotal role in wrestling the title from Anderlecht, re-establishing Club Brugge as Belgium’s top side for the first time since the 70s.

Club Brugge were slowly piecing together a squad of top players from within Belgium, with Lorenzo Staelens and Foeke Booy joining from KV Kortrijk, Pascal Plovie from Antwerp, Marc Schaessens from Standard Liege and Stephen Van der Heyden from KSK Beveren. They would also make astute signings from further afield in Tomasz Dziubinski from Wisla Krakow in Poland, Daniel Amokatchi from Ranchers Bee in Nigeria and Laszlo Disztl from Honved in Hungary. This, added onto the club stalwarts such as Verlinden, Van der Elst and Querter, would form the nucleus of a side that progressed together over four successful seasons. 

At the start of the 91/92 season the Club Brugge management would hire the recently retired club legend Hugo Broos as the new Head Coach, a move would not only see them claim their 3rd league title in 6 years but also reach the Semi Final of the Cup Winners Cup. A Daniel Amokatchi strike would give Club Brugge a 1-0 lead over Werder Bremen to take to Germany, however Werder would prove too strong and recorded a 2-0 reversal to advance to the final. A final, which its important to add, they would win 2-0 over Arsene Wenger’s Monaco, featuring George Weah, Emmanuel Petit, Lilian Thuram and Youri Djorkaeff.

The only notable departure in the summer of 92/93 would come in the form of legendary club captain Jan Ceulemens retiring at the age of 34. The creative midfielder, who had once turned down a move to AC Milan, retired due to a recurring knee injury and would move into coaching. After dropping down to the lower levels of Belgian football to serve his apprenticeship, he would return to Club Brugge as Head Coach in 2005. Replacing Ceulemens in the creative midfield role was Gert Verheyen from rivals Anderlecht, a technically excellent footballer who at 21 was to become a permanent fixture for both club and country throughout the 90s and early 00’s.

Club Brugge headed into the 92/93 Champions League with a cohesive squad that was very much at the peak of it’s powers. With an average age of 26 they had a blend of youthful energy and grizzled experience both at club and International level. Their last appearance in the European cup came during the 90/91 season, where they lost 1-0 to AC Milan in the second round. With most of the squad still intact from that era, we can be certain there was a willingness to better their previous distance in the competition.

On the 16th September 1992 Club Brugge would face off against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the first round, who were to be the first ever side from Israel to take part in a European club competition. Lorenzo Staelens would score in Tel Aviv to give Club Brugge a 1-0 win, which was followed up on the 30th of September with a 3-0 win at home.

If Club Brugge’s opening opponents had lacked experience at this level, their second round opponents certainly couldn’t be accused of the same. On 21st October Club Brugge would host 2nd round opponents Austria Wien at the Olympiastadion, which saw goals from Verheyen and Booy to give the Belgian’s a 2-0 victory and a decent margin to protect in their away match in Austria.

After a relatively straight forward 1st leg, the 2nd leg would be an altogether different affair with Austria Wien taking the lead on 49 minutes. Despite Van der Heyden equalizing on 64 minutes to give Club Brugge a 3-1 aggregate lead, two further goals from Fridrikas and, current Southampton manager, Ralph Hassenhuttl would bring the tie to 3-3 on aggregate with minutes remaining. Club Brugge would survive a frantic closing period of the match, advancing into the group stages of the inaugural Champions League.

CSKA Moscow

CSKA’s history in Russian football dates back to the 1930’s, where they formed part of the aptly named “Four-wheeled cart” of Moscow clubs that represented various parts of society. Spartak were said to be the club of the people, Dynamo the club of the police, Torpedo the club of the auto workers, and CSKA were the club of the red army. Later they would be joined in the top League by Lokomotiv, a club in the image of the railroad workers of the time.

By 1970 football had developed to form what was called the Soviet Supreme League aggregating all of the top teams across the region, namely from Russia and Ukraine but would also feature sides from Armenia, Georgia and Belarus. CSKA would finish as Champions of the competition’s opening campaign in 1970, yet hadn’t come close to repeating the feat until 1990 when they finished in second place behind Ukrainian powerhouse Dynamo Kyiv. To give us some perspective of the quality within that Kyiv side we only need to look at the Soviet Union squad at that summer’s World Cup in Italy, where 9 of the active participants were part of Dynamo’s title winning team.

Such was the draconian nature of football under communist regime of the time, players simply didn’t have anywhere near the freedom to relocate that they enjoy today. Once a player had reached a certain age or had started to physically regress, it was only then that clubs would entertain transfer requests out of the country. In a time where a player’s profile would be boosted significantly after a strong World Cup performance, in the post-Italia 90 wave of transfers Kyiv would see ten first team players head off to pastures new. Notable transfers included Oleg Kuznetsov to Rangers, Mikhailichenko to Sampdoria and Oleg Pratsov to Olympiacos, leaving behind a club to replenish its side with new upcoming talent from within it’s youth ranks.

With Kyiv working to re-establish itself CSKA’s biggest rival to the title in 1991 would be city rivals Spartak. In a closely fought championship CSKA would take top spot but were ran extremely close only beating Spartak by two points. In what was supposed to be a time joy and happiness, this title was won against the backdrop of significant political and economic uncertainty, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union taking place in December of 1991. UEFA confirmed that as the Soviet Union had already qualified for the European Championships in Sweden in 1992, they were able to compete under the name CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) as a way of maintaining the competition’s integrity. Conversely UEFA did choose to exclude Yugoslavia from the competition, with civil war breaking out in the region in April of 1992. This famously brought about Denmark’s inclusion at Euro 92 and subsequent Cinderella story to the championship trophy that would follow.

In January of 1992 each of the newly independent countries within the former Soviet Union would form their own national league, as well as put together a national team program of its own. This provided some challenges given the nature of the region’s football calendar, which was offset from the rest of Europe. Traditionally they had ran a March to November season, which in CSKA’s case meant they would have to wait until September 92 to take part in the European Cup. But for the remaining countries they had to squeeze in shortened seasons between March and July of 92 to anoint an entrant into the UEFA club competitions for the 92/93 season. To make matters more interesting, in the eyes of UEFA Russia would assume both the qualification spots and the co-efficient points from the previous Soviet Football Championship. Similarly, Russia would also inherit the Soviet Union co-efficient points for it’s national team, which brought about added importance when UEFA allowed players who had been capped for the Soviet Union to choose which of the newly formed national teams they wished to compete for. Andrei Kanchelskis and Victor Onopko were probably the two highest profile examples of Ukranian born players who would choose to represent Russia.

Dynamo Kyiv were perhaps the most notable casualty of the new qualification system, as they struggled to balance the demands of a condensed 1992 Ukranian season and the travel required to compete in the latter stages of the 91/92 European Cup group stage. This led to them falling short of the Ukranian title to Tavriya Simferopol, who would enter as Ukraine’s first Champions League qualifier, leaving Dynamo to enter in the qualifying round of the UEFA cup despite their storied past. 

CSKA would kick off 1992 in the newly formed Russian Premier League, which would take 20 teams from across the vast Russian landscape and compete within two divisions of 10 (selected by last year’s placement within the Soviet Football pyramid). The top four sides from groups A and B would then advance to a further Championship group, during which point the European qualification spots would be decided.

Records show that CSKA would release ten players over the course of 92/93, the most notable of which being Dmitri Galiamin, Dmitri Kuznetsov, and Igor Korneev who would leave to join Espanyol in La Liga. The last departure actually came during the new season, with Dmitri Kharine’s December transfer to Chelsea for 400k. Kharine was the only CSKA player to be selected for the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States / Former USSR) squad at Euro 92, which perhaps underlines their disparity between CSKA and close rivals Spartak that had six players selected for the CIS squad. In response to the departures CSKA would bolster their squad with no fewer than thirteen players, with Evgeni Bushmanov’s arrival from Spartak drawing the most attention.

The first round of 18 games would precede CSKA’s Champions league campaign, taking place between March and August of 1992. CSKA would be placed in the slightly more competitive Group A, finishing in 4th position with 9 wins from 18 behind Dinamo Moscow, Lokomtiv Moscow and Spartak Vladikavkaz.

Each of the four sides from divisions A and B would advance into the Russian Champions group taking with them the points and goals they had accumulated from their six games against each other in the opening round of games. A slightly more complex way of organizing a competition one would surmise, but it placed CSKA in fourth position before a ball was kicked. It was there they would remain for three weeks as they started their Champions League campaign against Icelandic side Víkingur Reykjavík in the first round.

On September 16th 1992 CSKA would travel to Reykjavic to take on a Vikingur side in from of a reported 329 spectators. Karsakov would give the Russians a 1-0 victory to take back to Moscow, and on the 30th of September the return leg would take place at the Luznhniki Stadium in what was to be a far more intriguing encounter.

Sergeyev would double CSKA’s aggregate advantage on 24 minutes in the second leg, but the Icelandic side fired back 8 minutes later through Ati Einarsson to make it 1-1 on the evening. Despite two more goals from Karsakov and Grishin, Vikingur would once again reduce the deficit on 76 minutes when Gudmunor Steinsson scored a stunning goal from an acute angle. Kolesnikov finally put the Russian’s out of sight with a late winner, seeing CSKA advance 5-2 on aggregate.

The second round brought about a complete role reversal for CSKA, as they would now take the place of the plucky underdog when they were drawn to face current European Cup holders FC Barcelona.

This famous incarnation of the Blaugrana, led by John Cruyff, would travel to the Luzhniki Stadium on October 21st and despite boasting a side with Michael Laudrup, Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov, they would go behind to CSKA after only 16 minutes. Pep Guardiola was caught dwelling on the ball before being disposed by Aleksandr Grishin, who would race through and apply a wonderful finish past Zubizarreta. Barcelona’s control of possession would eventually turn into a goal scoring opportunity after a wonderfully flighted pass from Michael Laudrup found Txiki Begiristain in behind the CSKA back line. Begiristain, the current Manchester City Director of Football, applied a clinical left foot finish past the sprawling arms and wonderfully styled 80s mullet of Dmitri Kharine, giving Barcelona a score draw to back to Spain.

By the time of the return leg on November 4th CSKA had lost out on the Russian title to runaway winners Spartak Moscow, finishing in a dismal 5th position and ten points off the pace. It was fairly evident where CSKA’s attention lay at that time, as their performance in the second leg against Barcelona would attest.

CSKA aren’t the first team to collapse under the overwhelming nature of facing a strong Barcelona side at the Nou Camp, and after 31 minutes the tie appeared to be over as a contest with goals from Nadal and Begiristain giving Barcelona a healthy 3-1 aggregate lead. Despite their technical superiority there was a vulnerability about this Cruyff side, something that CSKA had exposed in the first leg and would do so again. On the stroke of half time Bushmanov’s unmarked run pierced through the Barcelona back line before he received an inch perfect through pass and applied a finish off the underside of the bar and into the Barcelona net. CSKA would again expose Barcelona’s defensive frailties as they equalized on 57 minutes after Mashkarin made an unmarked run at a corner before applying a clinical headed finish. With the scoreline now at 3-3 CSKA had the away goals advantage, but on 61 minutes they would extend their lead further as Karsakov finished off a flowing counter attack. Barcelona turned over possession on the right wing, at which point CSKA embarked on a flurry of combination passes eventually finding Faizulin on the right wing. His cut back found Karsakov at the edge of the six-yard box, where he would apply a finish with a delicate back heel in a style that Hernan Crespo would later make famous. The remaining 30 minutes were played almost exclusively in the CSKA defensive third, but the Russian’s resolute defense remained unbreeched which saw them advance with a 4-3 aggregate win to cause unquestionably the biggest upset of the tournament thus far.

About the Author

Picture of Alistair Bain

Alistair Bain

Alistair is a native of Hamilton, Scotland, and an A License qualified coach with vast experience in the football industry. Currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alistair's resume includes a variety of roles within football clubs in Scotland, England, and the United States.

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