Monday, June 27, 2016

27 June 1984 - For France, There's No Place Like Home

On 27 June 1984, France won their first international trophy, beating Spain 2-0 in the Final of the European Championship. Perhaps not coincidentally, France hosted the tournament.

Les Bleus had enjoyed some prior international success, finishing in third at the 1958 World Cup, fourth in the 1982 World Cup, and fourth at the 1960 European Championship, but had not reached a final. That changed in 1984, when, as hosts of that year's European Championship and led by midfielder Michel Platini, they successfully navigated through their first-round group, winning all three matches. Platini scored in all three and recorded hat-tricks in two of them. In the semi-finals, they defeated Portugal in extra time thanks to a 119th-minute Platini goal to advance to the final against Spain.

The final was played before a capacity crowd of 47,368 at the Parc des Prince in Paris. After a scoreless first half, Platini struck again with a 57th-minute goal to give France the lead. His tournament-best ninth goal, it came from a free kick that slipped through the hands of Spanish keeper Luis Arconada. Striker Bruno Bellone sealed the win with a 90th-minute goal.

In 1998, France claimed their second international trophy by winning the World Cup, which they also hosted. Two years later, they won their first international trophy on foreign soil, beating Italy in the European Championship final in Rotterdam.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

26 June 2006 - The Great Swiss Wind-Up

On 26 June 2006, Switzerland set a couple of World Cup records. Unfortunately for them, however, neither of them was one they wanted to set.

The Swiss had surprised most observers by winning their first-round group with a scoreless draw against France and a couple of 2-0 victories over Togo and South Korea. That performance sent them through to the Round of 16, where they met the Ukraine.

Playing before a crowd of 45,000 in Cologne, the two teams were locked in a defensive struggle. The Ukraine's best chance came from Andriy Shevchenko, who sent a header off the bar, while Switzerland's Alexander Frei also hit the woodwork. But nobody managed to find the back of the net through extra time, so the match went to a penalty shootout.

Shevchenko took the first kick, but sent it right into the arms of Swiss keeper Pascal Zuberbuehler. Switzerland's euphoria was short-lived, however, as their first shooter, Marco Streller, did the same. Then, after Ukraine converted their next two kicks, Switzerland proceeded to miss theirs, sending one over the bar and the other right to Ukraine keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy (pictured). Ukrainian midfielder Oleh Husyev then scored on the next kick to send the Ukraine through, 0-0 (3-0).

The result earned Switzerland the dubious distinction of becoming the first team to get eliminated from the World Cup without conceding a single goal. They also became the first team in a World Cup to miss all of their kicks in a penalty shootout.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

25 June 1960 - Buchan's Goodbye

On 25 June 1960, former Sunderland and Arsenal forward Charlie Buchan died in Monte Carlo at the age of 68. One of the best footballers of his age, he is also remembered for his post-playing career as a football journalist and editor of Charlie Buchan's Football Monthly.

Born in Plumstead, London, Buchan began his career in 1909 as an amateur with Woolwich Arsenal, but left the club over a disagreement with the manager about expenses. In 1911, he signed with Sunderland and proceeded to win the league with them in 1913. That same year, Sunderland advanced to the FA Cup Final, but lost to Aston Villa 1-0.

Buchan made 370 league appearances for Sunderland between 1911 and 1925 (a period interrupted by World War I), and was their leading scorer in seven of those seasons. In 1925, he returned to Arsenal (who had dropped the "Woolwich" by then). He returned to the FA Cup Final with them in 1927, but was again on the losing side.

By the time he retired in 1928, he had scored 257 league goals, making him the Football League's all-time sixth-highest goalscorer. But he contributed more than goals, helping Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman develop the influential new W-M formation that led to great success for the Gunners in the 1930s.

After his playing days ended, he turned to journalism, writing for the Daily News and co-founding the Football Writer's Association. In September 1951, he started Charlie Buchan's Football Monthly, which ran until June 1974, fourteen years after his death.

Friday, June 24, 2016

24 June 2004 - Ricardo Rises To The Occasion

On 24 June 2004, goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira was the hero of the day, first saving a kick from England's Darius Vassell in a penalty shootout, then converting the next kick to send Portugal through to the Euro 2004 semifinals.

Playing before a crowd of 65,000 at Lisbon's Estádio da Luz, England led for most of the match thanks to a 3rd-minute goal from striker Michael Owen. But in the 83rd minute, substitute striker Hélder Postiga equalized for the hosts to send the match into extra time. There, the two teams traded goals from Rui Costa (110') and Frank Lampard (115') to force a decision by penalty shootout.

The first kick was taken by England's David Beckham, who, in a shocking miss, sent the ball well over the bar (later reports claimed he had slipped a bit on the sandy pitch). But England were handed a reprieve five kicks later as Rui Costa also drove his shot over. After six kicks each, the teams were level at 5-5. Darius Vassell then stepped up to the spot for England, having come on as a first-half substitute for an injured Wayne Rooney.

Vassell fired the ball to Ricardo's left, but the keeper--who had inexplicably removed his gloves before the kick--guessed correctly and pushed it away. He then stepped up to take his own attempt and confidently blasted it to the right of England keeper David James and into the bottom corner. Portugal won 2-2 (6-5) and advanced, making it all the way to the Final where they lost to Greece.

Ricardo and Portugal beat England again in a penalty shootout during the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup, winning 0-0 (1-3).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

23 June 2010 - The Yanks Aren't Dead Yet

On 23 June 2010, Landon Donovan's 91st-minute goal saved the United States from a first-round elimination and won them the top spot in their World Cup group.

The US had opened the tournament with a 1-1 draw against England, followed by a 2-2 draw with Slovenia. In both matches, the Yanks had surrendered early leads and had to claw their way back to earn a point. Against England, they went down 1-0 to a 4th-minute goal from Steven Gerrard before Clint Dempsey's speculative shot in the 40th minute slipped through the hands of keeper Rob Green to level the sides. Against Slovenia, the US were down 2-0 at the break before goals from Donovan (48') and Michael Bradley (82') earned them the draw. They appeared to get a late winner when Maurice Edu struck the ball home off of a Donovan free kick, but the referee disallowed the goal.

Against Algeria in the group's last match, the US managed to avoid giving up an early goal, but struggled to find one of their own. Playing before a crowd of 35,827 at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the teams battled to a scoreless draw for 90 minutes. Had that result stood, both the US and Algeria would have been eliminated.

But in the first minute of stoppage time, US keeper Tim Howard threw the ball upfield to Donovan, who raced forward and passed it to forward Jozy Altidore in the Algerian box. Altidore crossed the ball in for Dempsey, but the Algerian keeper, Raïs M'Bolhi, beat Dempsey to the ball and batted it away. It fell at the feet of a surging Donovan, who fired it home for the win.

In the Round of 16, the US again fell victim to an early goal and were eliminated by Ghana, 1-2 (aet).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

22 June 1974 - One Won The Battle, The Other Won The War

On 22 June 1974, East and West Germany met in the first round of the World Cup, with the top spot of their group at stake. East Germany won, 1-0, but it proved to be a hollow victory.

The teams had met three times previously, all of which came in Olympic competition. They played a two-legged tie during qualification for the 1964 Olympics, with each side winning at home (East Germany advanced on goal differential). In the 1972 Olympics, they met in the second round, with East Germany again advancing. Those three matches involved amateurs, however, making the World Cup meeting the first one with full professionals.

Playing before a crowd of 60,350 at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, both teams had already qualified for the second-round group stage. West Germany were one point ahead of East Germany and needed only a draw to take the group's top spot.

The match's early stages contained little drama, as most of the action occurred in the midfield, with hardly any action in front of either goal. Both sides had chances, though, with West Germany's Gerd Müller hitting the crossbar and East Germany's Hans-Jürgen Kreische firing over it. Then, in the 77th minute, East Germany's second-half substitute midfielder Erich Hamann raced down the right side and floated a cross into the West German box, where his fellow midfielder Jürgen Sparwasser (pictured) was there to meet it. Sparwasser controlled the ball, then slotted it into the net for the 1-0 win.

East Germany advanced as group winners into the second round group stage, where they were joined by Brazil, the Netherlands, and Argentina. They managed only a single point--drawing with Argentina--and were eliminated. The West Germans, meanwhile, won their second round group over Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia, then proceeded to win the Final over the Netherlands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

21 June 1953 - Stuttgart Gets Kaiserslaughtered

On 21 June 1953, Kaiserslautern won their second league title, beating Stuttgart 4-1. The win was the last of a four-year series in which the two teams alternated as German champions.

Founded in 1900, Kaiserslautern finished as league runners-up in 1910 and 1912, but declined in subsequent years, finishing at the bottom of their division in 1944. Their fortunes improved when German football resumed in 1948, as they reached the league final, only to lose to Nuremburg. In 1950, they advanced to the quarterfinals of the German championship, the Meisterschaft, but lost to that year's champions, Stuttgart.

Kaiserslautern won their first title in 1951, while Stuttgart reclaimed the title in 1952. Then, in 1953, the two teams met for the first time in a Meisterschaft Final. Played before a crowd of 80,000 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, that final was never in doubt. Kaiserslautern went up 2-0 with goals from Fritz Walter (pictured, playing for West Germany) (37') and Karl Wanger (57'), before Stuttgart got on the scoreboard (Leo Kronenbitter 72'), then pulled away with two more goals near the end (Erwin Scheffler 78', Wanger 83') to win the match 4-1.

They returned to the final in 1954 and 1955, but did not win another title until 1991, then added a fourth--their last one--in 1998. Stuttgart, meanwhile, have a total of five after winning the league in 1984, 1992, and 2007.