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By ESPN Staff

Belgian coaching legend Goethals dies

BRUSSELS, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Former Belgium coach Raymond Goethals, who took his country to third place at the European Championship in 1972, died of cancer on Monday aged 83.

He won the European Cup as coach of Olympique Marseille in 1993 when the French team beat AC Milan 1-0 and had a successful spell with Belgian side Anderlecht who lifted the 1978 European Cup Winners' Cup with a 4-0 win over Austria Vienna.

Goethals also steered Belgium to the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico before his team finished third at Euro 1972.

His record of success in the domestic game was similarly impressive with his Marseille team winning the French title three years in a row from 1991 -- when he also won the Golden Bench award given to the best European coach.

Goethals enjoyed success in Belgium too, taking Standard Liege to consecutive championships in 1982 and 1983.

He was a colourful character with many nicknames including the sorcerer, Columbo (because in his trench coat he resembled the eccentric TV detective played by actor Peter Falk), the magician, Raimundo and Raymond La Science.

A heavy smoker who never drank alcohol, Goethals developed a passion for the ball game pelote as coach of Marseille and quickly became a firm favourite of French football fans despite speaking their language with an incredible Brussels accent.

He would often entertain the media at length with his funny descriptions and analysis of the game and was a favourite pundit on television partly because he was fluent in French and Dutch.

Goethals was renowned for his tactics and every player knew exactly what they had to accomplish on the pitch.

A decent goalkeeper with Daring de Bruxelles, he was always impressed by the athleticism of keepers and defenders.

'You don't have to be naive, you always need at least one central defender who can cut a player in two,' he said.

But he also appreciated great forwards such as Dutch left winger Robbie Rensenbrink during his time at Anderlecht.

Goethals played with a zonal defence when he started as a coach in the Belgian first division in the 1960s with St Truiden and was also an advocate of the offside trap.

'You have to have very intelligent players to play like that but there are other ways to have a great defence -- remember, a good defender does not play on his heels, he has got to be aggressive, to go to the ball, not run backwards,' he said.

'I do not need defenders who are afraid'.

Goethals also coached Hannut, Waremme, Standard and Racing Jet in Belgium plus French team Bordeaux, Portugal's Vitoria Guimaraes and FC Sao Paulo in Brazil where he went after being suspended by the Belgian FA following the 1984 match-fixing scandal dubbed the Standard-Waterschei affair.

A keen student of the game, Goethals gave classes as part of the Belgian FA's coaches development programme until last year.

A couple of weeks ago he told Reuters in a telephone interview why he had given up attending matches.

'I don't feel like going anymore and that is a bad sign, huh? But I am following everything and, from time to time, I still go to play cards with friends'.