Saturday, March 28, 2015

28 March 1903 - Ireland's Good Old Goodall

On 28 March 1903, center-half Archie Goodall (pictured) scored the opening goal in Ireland's 2-0 victory over Wales in the 1903 British Home Championship. Goodall was 38 years and 283 days old, making him the oldest goalscorer in the history of the Irish national team.

Born in Belfast in 1864, Goodall spent his entire club career in England, starting with Preston North End in 1887. After one season in Deepdale and one with Aston Villa, he settled with Derby County for whom he made 380 league appearances (and scored 48 goals) between 1889 and 1903.

He received his first call up for Ireland in March 1899. Prior to that time, the Irish FA had refused to allow the national team to select footballers who were playing in clubs outside Ireland, making Goodall one of the first players based in England to don a shirt for the Irish national team.

Ireland's match against Wales on 28 March 1903 was their last of the tournament. Goodall's goal - the second and last of his international career - helped the Irish finish level on points with England and Scotland and, because there was no provision in the tournament rules to break a tie, the three sides shared the trophy equally. It was the first top finish for Ireland, who would finish as runners-up the following season, then win the title outright in 1914.

Goodall left Derby County in 1903 and spent a season with Plymouth Argyle before moving to Glossop North End as player-manager. After one season there, he moved to Wolverhampton in 1905, but made only seven appearances for Wolves before retiring later that year.

Friday, March 27, 2015

27 March 2002 - He May Have Won The Match, But He Got Screwed On The Shirt Deal

On 27 March 2002, the shirt worn by Pelé in the 1970 World Cup Final sold at an auction for a record £157,750. The bid, placed by an anonymous telephone bidder, smashed the expected sale price, estimated by Christie's auction house at a mere £50,000.

The shirt still had grass stains from the Final, in which Pelé scored the opening goal in Brazil's 4-1 win over Italy. The shirt was auctioned by Italian defender Roberto Rosato, who acquired it by swapping shirts with Pelé at the end of the match.

The sale beat the previous auction record of £91,750, paid for the shirt worn by England's Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup Final.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

26 March 2008 - Beckham Hits One Hundred

On 26 March 2008, 32-year old David Beckham reached his 100th cap when he started for England in a friendly against France.

It was milestone that Beckham looked unlikely to reach after England's elimination from the 2006 World Cup. Following their loss to Portugal in quarterfinals, Beckham's 94th international appearance, he resigned as England's captain. Although he expressed a desire to continue with the side in a subservient role, he was dropped altogether by new England boss Steve McClaren. A poor run of form changed McClaren's mind and he recalled Beckham to the national squad in May 2007.

Beckham performed well, but it was not enough to save McClaren's job - he was soon sacked in favor of Beckham's former Real Madrid boss, Fabio Capello. With Beckham sitting on 99 caps, he was not included in Capello's first match in charge, a friendly against Switzerland on 6 February 2008. The decision created speculation that Capello's English side had no place for Beckham, but Beckham was included for Capello's second match in charge - the friendly against France.

The match itself had mixed results for England. France controlled the pace and flow, creating far more scoring chances than the visitors. To their credit, though, the English defense was stout, repeatedly denying the French attack. The match's only goal came from the spot, as Nicolas Anelka drew a foul from his Chelsea teammate John Terry. Franck Ribéry buried the ensuing kick in the 32nd minute.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

25 March 1934 - Somehow, I Doubt Italy Minded Having To Play

On 25 March 1934, Italy played the first - and to date, only - World Cup qualifying match for a host country, beating Greece 4-0 before a crowd of 20,000 at the San Siro in Milan.

The 1934 tournament was only the second World Cup and the first to require qualification at all. FIFA had invited all member countries to compete in the previous tournament, but only 13 accepted the invitation, making qualification unnecessary. By 1934, however, the Cup had become more popular and 32 countries applied to compete. In order to winnow the number down to a manageable 16 for the tournament proper, FIFA split the 32 entrants into twelve groups. Most of the groups had two or three countries, though one had four. The groups were divided geographically, with Italy ending up in Group 3 with Greece.

When Italy and Greece met in Milan on 25 March, the Azzurri dominated the match from start to finish. The Greeks managed to hold the Italians off for the better part of the first half, but created few scoring chances of their own. In the 40th minute, Italy finally cracked the Greek defense with a goal from Brazilian-born Anfilogeno Guarisi. That goal opened the floodgates, as forward Giuseppe Meazza netted a brace (44', 71') around a strike from midfielder Giovanni Ferrari (69').

The Greeks were so disheartened by the beating that they withdrew from the competition despite the fact that they had been scheduled to play a second leg at home. Italy advanced to the First Round where they beat the United States 7-1 on their way to their first World Cup title.

For the 1936 World Cup, FIFA decided that the hosts should qualify automatically. That practice continues to this day, making Italy the only host in history to play a World Cup qualifier.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

24 March 1965 - The Curse Of The Coin Toss

On 24 March 1965, Liverpool and Köln, having already drawn 0-0 over two legs in the European Cup quarterfinals, played a rematch in Rotterdam. As with the 1957 World Cup qualifying rematch between Spain and Turkey, the European Cup tie came down to a coin toss.

In fact, the 1964-65 European Cup competition was rife with outcomes decided by the flip of a coin. Both Anderlecht and Dukla Prague needed one to advance out of the preliminary round after scoreless playoff matches against Bologna and Górnik Zabrze, respectively. In a bit of foreshadowing for Liverpool, both teams were eliminated in the next round - Dukla Prague by Real Madrid and Anderlecht by Liverpool themselves to set up the quarterfinal match-up against Köln.

The first two matches, played in Cologne on 10 February and in Liverpool on 17 March, ended as scoreless draws, requiring a replay at a neutral ground. The teams met in Rotterdam on 24 March and Liverpool jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from forwards Ian St. John (20) and Roger Hunt (37). Given the teams' inability to score in the first two legs, the lead was as improbable as it was seemingly insurmountable.

But the Germans were undaunted and wasted little time in pulling themselves level. One minute after Hunt's goal, striker Karl-Heinz Thielen cut Liverpool's lead in half, then, three minutes into the second half, his fellow striker Hannes Löhr netted the equalizer. That would be the last goal of the match, as the teams finished 2-2. To break the deadlock, the rules at the time called for a coin toss, which Liverpool won. Their reward was a semifinal meeting with Cup holders Inter, who eliminated the English side by an aggregate score of 3-4 on their way to their second consecutive European Cup trophy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

23 March 2009 - He's Dr. Special One Now

On 23 March 2009, the Technical University of Lisbon awarded an honorary doctorate to manager José Mourinho in recognition of his professional success. It is one of 30 individual accolades received by Mourniho during his managerial career.

He had graduated from the university almost 20 years earlier with a five-year degree in sports science. His mother had enrolled him in a business administration program, but Mournho dropped out after the first day and decided to concentrate on sport instead. According to his mother, he went through the physical education program "like a bullet, with excellent marks."

Upon graduation, he took coaching programs offered by the English and Scottish FAs with an eye toward becoming a manager. He got his start as the youth team coach for his hometown club, Vitória de Setúbal, then moved his way up the ladder to take his first head coaching position with Benfica in September 2000.

Since then, he has established himself as one of football's greatest managers with stints at UD Leiria (2001-02), Porto (2002-04), Chelsea (2004-07), Inter (2008-10), and his current club, Real Madrid. Along the way, he has collected a massive haul of silverware that includes six league championships and two Champions League titles. Individually, he has won several manager of the year awards, including the UEFA Manager of the Year (2003, 2004) and the International Sports Press Association Best Manager of the Year award (2010).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

22 March 1992 - When Politics Invade The Pitch

On 22 March 1992, the reigning European Cup holders and Yugoslavia First League champions Red Star Belgrade faced off against bitter derby rivals Partizan in a league match at Red Star's home ground, nicknamed the "Marakana" after the famous Brazilian stadium.

The rivalry between Red Star and Partizan is heated and often marked by violence. Before the match on 22 March, it appeared that the latest installment would be no exception, with several fights breaking out as the teams' supporters made their way into the stadium. Once the match started, the masses of rival supporters' group taunted each other with name calling and threats of continued violence after the match.

Shortly into the match, however, the crowd quieted as a group of about 20 Serbian Tigers - paramilitary soldiers - in full unform, stood in the North Stand and raised a road sign reading "20 miles to Vukovar" - Vukovar being a Croatian town in the path of the Serbian army. As the match progressed, the soldiers raised additional signs - "10 miles to Vukovar," then "Welcome to Vukovar." After Vukovar, signs with other names were raised as more Croatian cities and towns fell to the Serbs.

The crowd, united in nationalistic fervor, roared with approval as each sign was raised, building to a dramatic crescendo when Tiger leader Željko Ražnatović (pictured), better known as "Arkan," rose to accept the crowd's applause. The match ended as a scoreless draw, but few of the supporters seemed to care. The match remains a sobering reminder that the generally postive connection between nationalism and football also has a darker side. 

Red Star went on to win the league that year - their 19th title - in what was to be the last season of the Yugoslavian First League.