Wednesday, July 30, 2014

30 July 1930 - The First World Cup Final

On 30 July 1930, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 in the first World Cup Final before a standing-room-only crowd of over 100,000 at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario.

FIFA chose Uruguay as the host country because its national team were reigning world champions, having taken the gold medal at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. Argentina had claimed the silver, after playing Uruguay to a 1-1 draw on 10 June 1928, then falling 2-1 in the replay three days later. So the two sides were very familiar with one another leading up to the 1930 World Cup.

Uruguay scored first in the Final, with a 12th-minute goal from striker Pablo Dorado, who shot the ball through the legs of Argentinian keeper Juan Botasso. Argentina rallied, however, and took a 2-1 lead into halftime with goals from right forward Carlos Peucelle (20') and center forward Guillermo Stábile (37'). Stábile's goal was his eighth of the tournament, making him the top scorer.

The second half, though, belonged to the home side. Inside-left forward Pedro Cea scored the equalizer in the 57th minute, then outside-left forward Santos Iriarte netted the eventual match-winner in the 68th minute. Center forward Héctor Castro added another for good measure in the 89th minute, completing Uruguay's victory.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

29 July 2007 - The Boys From Baghdad

On 29 July 2007, Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 before a crowd of 60,000 at the Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta to claim their first AFC Asian Cup title. The 2007 tournament was co-hosted by four countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Organized by the Asian Football Confederation, the Asian Cup was first played in 1956 and is usually played every four years. The AFC scheduled the 2007 tournament, however, only three years after the previous tournament in order to move the Cup off the same cycle as the Summer Olympics and the UEFA European Championship.

In the group stage, Iraq drew against Thailand (1-1) and Oman (0-0). In between, they beat newcomers Australia—who had just joined the AFC in January 2006—by the score of 3-1. Iraq advanced as group leaders, with Australia progressing as second-place finishers.

In the first knockout round, Iraq eliminated Vietnam (2-0), setting up a semi-final match against tournament favorites South Korea. The Korean side had advanced by defeating Iran on penalties, 0-0 (4-2), and forced the semi-final into penalties before falling to Iraq, 0-0 (4-3). (South Korea proceeded to win the third-place match, again on penalties, by defeating holders Japan, 0-0 (6-5)).

In the Final, Iraqi forward and captain Younis Mahmoud scored the match's only goal in the 72nd minute, giving the Iraqis their first major trophy since the beginning of the Gulf War.

Monday, July 28, 2014

28 July 1962 - One League To Rule Them All

On 28 July 1962, the Bundesliga was created in the West German city of Dortmund. The Bundesliga is the top tier of the German football pyramid, with promotion from and relegation to the second tier, known as the 2d Bundesliga.

Football in Germany dates back to the 1870s, when it was introduced by English expatriates. The locals quickly took to the sport and, by 1900, had created so many clubs that the need for some administration was apparent. On 28 January 1900, representatives from 86 clubs met in Leipzig and founded the Deutscher Fußball-Bund ("DFB"). Although the DFB administered football across the nation, it was essentially a collection of regional leagues.

By the 1950s, German football's status began to drop, as many of Germany's best players left for other countries and the German national team struggled in international competitions. Critics blamed the decline on the DFB's league structure, which at that time consisted of five separate regional leagues known as the Oberligen, and issued calls for a national professional league.

On 28 July 1962, after the West German national team was eliminated from the World Cup by Yugoslavia, newly-elected DFB President Hermann Gösmann approved the creation of the new 19-team national league to begin play in the 1963-64 season. 46 clubs from the five Oberligen applied for the 19 available spots, but the five Oberligen champions for 1962-63 earned automatic inclusion, leaving 41 teams to compete for the final nine spots. The remaining teams were ultimately chosen based on a formula that assigned value to their league finishes and cup appearances.

The Bundesliga played its first season in 1963-64 as scheduled, with FC Köln claiming the first title.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

27 July 1994 - The Second Coming Of Barbarossa

On 27 July 1994, defender Alexi Lalas signed with Serie A side Padova, becoming the first American in the modern era to play in Italy's top flight.

Lalas rose to national prominence while playing for Rutgers University, leading them to the NCAA Championship Game in 1990. In 1991, he was named a First Team All American and also won both the Hermann Trophy and the Missouri Athletic Club Player of the Year award.

After graduating from Rutgers in 1991, Lalas did not sign with a club and played exclusively for the United States national team. Between 1991 and 1998, he earned 96 caps and scored 9 goals for the national side.

A charismatic and colorful character, with his trademark long red hair and a beard, Lalas achieved near-celebrity status during the 1994 World Cup. He started and played every minute in the US's four matches, until they were eliminated by eventual winners Brazil in the first knockout round.

Lalas' performance in the World Cup drew the attention of Padova, who had just been promoted to Serie A for the 1994-95 season. Padova finished at the bottom of the table in 1995, but won a relegation playoff to remain in the top flight. At the end of that season, Lalas signed a contract with MLS to play in the new league's inaugural season, but MLS had to delay its start until 1996, so it loaned Lalas back to Padova for the 1995-96 season.

In 1996, Lalas signed for the New England Revolution, where he played until December 1997 (including a brief period on loan with Ecuadorian side Emelec). He spent the next several years with various MLS clubs, including the NY/NJ Metrostars, Kansas City Wizards, and Los Angeles Galaxy.

After his playing career ended, Lalas spent time as a broadcaster as well as serving as the general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes, Metrostars/Red Bulls, and the Galaxy. He is currently working as an analyst and commentator for ESPN.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

26 July 1887 - The Ebb And Flow Of Blackpool

On 26 July 1887, Blackpool F.C. was founded in the town of Blackpool in Lancashire, England.

The club was created after a group of five individuals split from St. John's F.C., another club that had been in Blackpool for almost ten years. During a meeting of the St. John's players, the five argued that the club's name should be changed to reflect the name of the town. When the other members remained unconvinced, the five left the meeting and immediately formed Blackpool F.C. Shortly after, the remaining members of St. John's left that club to join Blackpool and St. John's shut down.

Blackpool were founding members of the Lancashire League, which played its first season in 1889-90. Blackpool won the league title in 1894, but soon after began to struggle and, in 1896, switched its membership to the competing Football League. They have remained in the Football League ever since, with the only exception being a return to the Lancashire League for the 1899-1900 season.

Blackpool were readmitted to the Football League in 1900 as a member of Division Two. Despite flirtations with relegation in the following years, they won the division in 1930 and were promoted to England's top flight over second-place finishers Chelsea. They lasted three seasons in the top flight before being relegated after the 1932-33 season.

Blackpool enjoyed their most successful period in the years following World War II, when they spent 21 consecutive seasons in the top flight from 1946 to 1967, finishing second in 1956 and third in 1951. It was during this period that they attained their greatest achievement to date, winning the FA Cup in 1953 with a 4-3 win over Bolton after being down 1-3.

The club began a slow decline in the 1970s and '80s, getting relegated to the Fourth Division from 1981 to 1985, then again from 1990 to 1992. An upswing in fortune saw them reach the Premier League for the 2010-11 season, but they dropped down to the Championship, England's second tier, the following season and have remained there since.

Friday, July 25, 2014

25 July 2004 - At The Copa, Copa América

On 25 July 2004, Brazil defeated Argentina on penalties, 2-2 (2-4), in the Copa América Final at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru.

First played in 1916, the Copa América is the oldest existing international tournament in the world. It is played among the 10 national sides in the South American football federation, CONMEBOL, along with two additional teams who are invited to round out the field to 12. For 2004, the invited teams were Mexico and Costa Rica.

Argentina finished second in its group to Mexico, then advanced to the final with knockout stage wins over Peru (1-0) and Colombia (3-0). Brazil also finished second in its group, to Paraguay, then defeated Mexico (4-0) and Uruguay (on penalties, 1-1 (5-3)) to reach the Final.

In the Final, Argentina took an early lead with a 20th-minute penalty kick from winger Kily González. Brazil equalized just before halftime, however, with a goal from Luisão in the 45th minute. The teams were just as evenly-matched in the second half, with Argentina going ahead with a strike from winger César Delgado in the 87th minute, only to see Brazilian striker Adriano pull his team level once again.

In penalties, Argentina's opening kick, from Andres D'Alessandro, was blocked by Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar, who guessed correctly with a diving save to his right. Defender Gabriel Heinze then missed Argentina's second attempt, while Brazil's players made all of theirs, giving Brazil their seventh Copa América trophy.

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).