Thursday, July 24, 2014

24 July 2007 - Not To Be Confused With The Danish Top Flight

On 24 July 2007, the first two matches of the inaugural SuperLiga competition were played in California and Texas.

Intended to be a smaller North American version of the UEFA Champions League, the competition includes US and Canadian teams from MLS, as well as teams from Mexico's Primera División, drawing four teams from each league. The teams play a group stage with two 4-team groups. The top two teams from each group then advance to the knockout stages, which consist of the semi-finals and the final.

For the inaugural tournament, the teams were chosen by invitation. MLS selected DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, and LA Galaxy, while the Primera División chose Monarcas Morelia, Pachuca, América, and Guadalajara. In those first matches, FC Dallas drew 1-1 with Guadalajara, while the Galaxy defeated Pachuca 2-1 with an 81st minute matchwinner from Landon Donovan.

Both LA and Pachuca advanced from their group and faced each other again in the Final, where Pachuca got their revenge, winning on penalties 1-1 (3-4).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

23 July 1944 - Which Side Was The Navy Supporting?

On 23 July 1944, a group of French civilians played a match against members of the American Army's 9th Air Force in the town of Saint-Pierre-Église, located in Lower Normandy. Held to celebrate the liberation of the town from the Nazis, the match was played before an audience of 1,000 soldiers and civilians.

Two of the US airmen, Corporal Kurt Wien and PFC Herbert Sorter, had played for Stanford University. Sorter scored late in the first half, but the French side claimed a 4-1 victory.

The match also served as an opportunity to raise funds for refugees from the nearby city of Caen, with the American servicemen contributing 1,643 francs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

22 July 2004 - The Luckiest Of Losers

On 22 July 2004, the football team of the Université National de Bénin lost 1-2 to Jeunesse Sportive de Pobè in the first round of Benin's Coupe de l'Independence.

The Coupe de l'Independence is a league cup-style tournament in which ten teams from Benin's top division participate. Because the first round includes all ten teams, resulting in only five winners, one of the losing sides, known as a "lucky loser," advances to the next round in order to provide an even number of teams. In the case of the 2004 Coupe de l'Independence first round, that team was UNB.

UNB also lost their second-round match, this time to ASJA FC in a penalty shootout, 4-4 (4-5), but again advanced as lucky losers in order to provide a fourth team for the semi-finals. There, UNB recorded their first win of the tournament, beating Soleil FC 2-1 (a.e.t.).

In the Final, UNB faced ASJA again. This time, however, UNB won 1-0, with a 17th minute goal from Paul Koyaya. They thus became the only team in football history to win a cup tournament despite losses in two successive knockout rounds.

Monday, July 21, 2014

21 July 2007 - 12 Minutes, 8 Touches, 0 Assists, 0 Goals

On 21 July 2007, David Beckham made his debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy in a 0-1 friendly loss to English Premier League title holders Chelsea before a capacity crowd of 27,000 at LA's Home Depot Center.

One of the most famous and marketable footballers in the world, Beckham's appearance had been highly anticipated ever since the January 2007 announcement that he was leaving Real Madrid at season's end to sign a 5-year contract with the MLS's Galaxy. At the time the announcement was made, Beckham had fallen out of favor with Real boss Fabio Capello and was spending a significant amount of time on the bench, leading to the general perception that he was coming to the US to wind his career down.

In the months after the announcement, however, his level of play and time on the pitch increased and Real pipped rivals Barcelona to the La Liga title. Real then tried to undo the Galaxy deal, but the MLS side held firm and Beckham crossed the Atlantic.

His Galaxy debut was uneventful, as a nagging ankle injury limited his training time and forced manager Frank Yallop to start the match with Beckham on the bench. Nevertheless, match broadcaster ESPN devoted substantial airtime to Beckham, at times splitting the screen with the match on one side and Beckham on the other.

With the Galaxy down 0-1, Beckham came on in the 78th minute to a standing ovation. His appearance had little impact, however, and the match ended as a 0-1 loss.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

20 July 1974 - Leeds Hits A Clough Patch

On 20 July 1974, controversial manager Brian Clough was named manager of Leeds United. He was dismissed from the post on 12 September 1974, after only 44 days in charge.

A star striker for Middlesbrough (1955-61) and Sunderland (1961-64), Clough's playing career was cut short by a knee injury. He turned to management and, in 1965, took over at Hartlepools United. He was then just 30 years old, making him the youngest manager in the League at that time.

In May 1967, Clough took over at Derby County, then languishing in the Second Division. Clough, along with assistant manager Peter Taylor, reversed Derby's fortunes and led them to the First Division title at the end of the 1971-72 season. Clough and Taylor soon fell out with Derby's Board of Directors over issues including transfer fees and Clough's propensity for making controversial statements (such as his criticism of the Derby supporters as "a disgraceful lot"), and the pair resigned in October 1973.

After a brief and unsuccessful spell at Brighton & Hove Albion during the 1973-74 season, Clough took the reins at Leeds, who were coming off their own First Division title. Taylor remained at Brighton.

Clough's move to Leeds raised more than a few eyebrows, as, during his time at Derby, he had been especially critical of Leeds and their previous manager, Don Revie. In particular, he had accused Revie's Leeds side of playing dirty and suggested that the club should be relegated and Revie himself fined.

Despite his appointment as manager, Clough reportedly remained vociferously critical of Revie and Leeds' prior tactics, which alienated him from many of the team's best players, including the midfield pair of Irish international Johnny Giles and Scottish international Billy Bremner. Clough's Leeds side won only one match and drew two from its first six, after which he was promptly sacked.

Clough cemented his status as a coaching legend, however, after moving to Nottingham Forest in 1975. At that time, Forest was a mid-table Second Division side, but Clough and Taylor (who joined Forest from Brighton in 1976) led them to promotion in 1977 and the Division One title in 1978. At Forest, Clough also achieved his crowning glory, winning back-to-back European Cup titles in 1979 and 1980.

Clough retired in 1993 and died in 2004. In 2006, author David Peace published a fictionalized account of Clough's time at Leeds, titled The Damned Utd. Critics generally praised the book, but Clough's family and former players—including Giles—claimed Peace's portrayals of events was inaccurate and painted Clough in an unfairly negative light. A film version of the book was released in 2009, starring Michael Sheen as Clough.

Friday, July 18, 2014

18 July 1942 - A Player And A Gentleman

On 18 July 1942, former Inter Milan defender and president Giacinto Facchetti was born in Treviglio, Italy.

Facchetti played his youth football as a forward with his hometown club Trevigliese from 1956 to 1960, when he was discovered by Inter manager Helenio Herrera and brought to Milan. Herrera switched him to fullback, where he played an integral role in Herrara's catenaccio system. The system relied heavily on a strong backline in a 5-3-2 formation, with a libero, or sweeper, dropping behind the center backs.

Facchetti was a key member of the Inter team known as "La Grande Inter," which won four Serie A titles between 1962 and 1971, as well as back-to-back European Cup trophies in 1964 and 1965. He spent his entire professional career with the Nerazzurri, making 629 appearances (and scoring 75 goals) before retiring in 1978. In all those appearances, he was sent off only once (for clapping sarcastically in response to a referee's decision).

He also made 94 appearances for the Italian national team, winning the 1968 UEFA European Championship and finishing runner-up to Brazil in the 1970 World Cup.

He was elected President of Inter in January 2004, but served less than three years before dying of pancreatic cancer in September 2006.

He is one of 14 Italian players included on Pelé's March 2004 list of the 150 greatest footballers.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

17 July 1991 - From The Seeds Of Dissension, A Great League Is Born

On 17 July 1991, the 22 clubs in England's First Division executed the Founder Members Agreement, in which they each agreed to set up a new league that would be separate and apart from the existing Football League. The new league, called the Premier League, replaced the First Division as the top tier of English football.

The move was driven by five clubs in particular—Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur—amid concerns about the organization of the 90-member Football League. In particular, the breakaway clubs were unhappy with the fact that each of the 90 clubs in the First through Fourth Divisions of the League had an equal voice in League decisions. They also believed that the League was not taking full advantage of the revenue available from television contracts. Indeed, one of the "basic principles" set forth in the Founder Member Agreement concerned the division of television revenue, with 50% divided equally among the member clubs, 25% shared among the on the basis of league position at the end of the season, and the remaining 25% to be divided equally between the home and visiting teams of each televised match.

The agreement also provided that the system of relegation and promotion would continue as if the new Premier League were the top tier of the Football League, with Premier League teams also eligible to participate in the League Cup and FA Cup competitions. The split has led to some confusion in naming, however, as the former Second through Fourth Divisions are now known as the Championship, League One, and League Two, respectively.

While the founders' original intent was to operate the new Premier League under the authority of the English Football Association, they soon decided to break from the FA as well and, on 22 May 1992, formed a new company as the Football Association Premier League Limited.

The new Premier League began play with the start of the 1992-93 season with 22 members: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Wimbledon.

Manchester United claimed the first Premier League title. Since then, only five clubs have won it: Manchester United (13 titles total), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3), Manchester City (2), and Blackburn Rovers (1).