United as one: Koeman and Mozer

Two schools of defending were showcased in the 1988 European Cup final as PSV Eindhoven's Ronald Koeman met SL Benfica's Carlos Mozer, says Sheridan Bird.

Ronald Koeman (2nd L) celebrates with Edward Linskens, Jan Heintze, Eric Gerets and Wim Kieft
Ronald Koeman (2nd L) celebrates with Edward Linskens, Jan Heintze, Eric Gerets and Wim Kieft ©Getty Images

The 1988 European Champion Clubs' Cup final in Stuttgart was an intriguing battle of football cultures – a tussle between resurgent legends and unfancied first-timers.

From the south of Europe were SL Benfica, Portugal's sleeping giants who had not reached the final since 1968. Their opponents from the north were Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven, who had watched as compatriots Feyenoord and AFC Ajax played in five consecutive finals between 1969 and 1973.

PSV's stingy defence, tenacity and mastery of the away goals rule had helped them to Stuttgart under the guidance of their young Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. They kept clean sheets in four of their eight matches and squeezed through the quarter and semi-finals thanks to 1-1 draws at FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Real Madrid CF, followed by goalless stalemates at home.

Van Breukelen recalls PSV success
Van Breukelen recalls PSV success

Vastly experienced 34-year-old skipper Eric Gerets was the Boeren's leader, but sweeper Ronald Koeman was the exciting emerging talent. With his neat blond hair, Koeman, 25, was a conspicuous, uncompromising presence, yet also a pinpoint passer who was the architect of most of PSV's attacks. Nicknamed 'Tintin' after Hergé's fair-haired cartoon character, he scored his side's second goal in their 3-0 first-round victory over Galatasaray AŞ.

On the same day Koeman and PSV defeated Cimbom, José Carlos Nepomuceno Mozer was on target in Benfica's convincing 4-0 win against Albanian team FK Partizani. The 1961 and 1962 European champions only conceded once in eight games en route to the final.

Carlos Mozer, as he was more commonly known, was the imposing, seemingly clairvoyant totem of the Eagles' back line. A Copa Libertadores winner with CR Flamengo in 1981, the bushy-haired 27-year-old didn't have Koeman's finesse, but the strongman from Rio de Janeiro certainly knew how to nullify strikers.

Considering the stack of clean sheets these clubs kept all season, it was no surprise the final ended goalless. Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo noted: "Inspired by Mozer handling everything, the Portuguese side held firm." Benfica, coached by the pragmatic Toni, played with caution and conservatism in Stuttgart, partially because captain and playmaker Diamantino Miranda was missing through injury.

Carlos Mozer
Carlos Mozer©SL Benfica

The Portuguese were further hampered when prolific forward Rui Águas limped off in the second half. To their credit, Toni's men did a clever job of preventing Koeman from launching attacks. "Benfica were favourites from the start. Their possession of the ball and marking of Koeman were excellent," said Hiddink afterwards.

Ultimately, it was the Dutch debutants who triumphed 5-4 in the inevitable shoot-out. Mozer and Koeman scored their spot kicks, both men putting their shots high to the keeper's right. Hans van Breukelen saved António Veloso's effort to send the trophy to Eindhoven for the first time. Neutrals felt PSV had probably had the better of the match.

One of the most influential liberos of his generation, Koeman was celebrating again within weeks as he won the 1988 UEFA European Championship with the Netherlands. His further adventures included two more European Cup finals (winning with FC Barcelona in 1992 against UC Sampdoria before losing to AC Milan in 1994).

Mozer wasn't as lucky. Sealing a glamour move to Olympique de Marseille in 1989, he helped the French side get to the 1991 showpiece. But after a 0-0 draw, OM lost on penalties to FK Crvena zvezda. Indeed, by converting his spot kick in Bari's San Nicola Stadium, the Brazilian became both the first man to score in separate shoot-outs in European Cup finals and the first to lose two finals without his team conceding a goal.

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