Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30 June 1996 - Bierhoff Strikes Gold

On 30 June 1996, Germany won the UEFA Euro Final with a golden goal in the 95th minute, defeating the Czech Republic 2-1 before a crowd of 73,611 at London's Wembley Stadium.

The teams met earlier in the tournament during the group stage. Germany won by the comfortable margin of 2-0, with both goals coming in the first half.

The goals did not come so quickly for Germany in the Final, as the first half ended scoreless. The Czechs went ahead 1-0 in the second half when midfielder Patrik Berger converted a penalty kick in the 59th minute. In the 69th minute, with the Czech Republic still ahead, German manager Berti Vogts replaced midfielder Mehmet Scholl with forward Oliver Bierhoff. The substitution worked, as Bierhoff equalized for Germany with his first goal of the tournament four minutes later, and regulation time ended with the match tied 1-1.

The 1996 tournament was the first European championship to apply the Golden Goal rule, which meant that the game ended upon the scoring of a goal in extra time. If, after two periods of extra time, no goal were scored, the match would be decided by penalty kicks.

As it turned out, however, no penalty kicks were needed. Bierhoff scored his second goal of the match (and the tournament) in the 95th minute, giving Germany the 2-1 win and the 1996 UEFA Euro title. It was the first major tournament to be decided by a golden goal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

29 June 1950 - The Miracle On Grass

On 29 June 1950, the United States pulled off one of the most improbable upsets in football, defeating England 1-0 in a World Cup group stage match before a crowd of over 10,000 at the Estádio Raimundo Sampaio in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

England had dominated international football after World War II, winning 23 matches, drawing three and losing only four. They also had forward Stanley Matthews, considered by many to be the best footballer of the era. The 1950 tournament was England's first World Cup, as they had not entered the previous tournaments, and expectations were high. Oddsmakers pegged England as 3-1 favorites to win the title.

The United States, by contrast, had lost their last seven matches (a series stretching back to the 1934 World Cup) by the combined score of 45-2, including a 3-1 loss to Spain four days prior. Eight of the US starting 11 were US-born citizens, while the other three - forward Joe Gaetjens, defender Joe Maca, and the US captain, midfielder Ed McIlvenny - were citizens of Haiti, Belgium, and Scotland, respectively, who qualified under the rules at the time by declaring their intent to apply for US citizenship (though, of the three, only Maca eventually became a US citizen).

Matthews had missed England's first match, a 2-0 win against Chile, and was left on the bench against the US, as England's selection committee, over the manager's objection, opted not to change a winning side. The decision was heavily scrutinized after the match; however, even without Matthews, England appeared to be in control, dominating possession and taking 20 shots to the US's one.

It was the one that mattered, though. In the 38th minute, American defender Walter Bahr sent a high, arcing ball into the England penalty area. As English keeper Bert Williams rushed to collect it, Gaetjens ducked, sending the ball off the back of his head and into the net. England applied frantic pressure in an attempt to equalize, but were denied by a combination of the woodwork and the sensational play of American keeper Frank Borghi.

Although the US were eliminated from the tournament after their next match, a 5-2 loss to Chile, and did not qualify for another World Cup until 1990, the 1-0 victory over England is considered a pivotal moment for the US national team.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

28 June 2006 - Yugoslavia Yu-Goes Away

On 28 June 2006, the Football Association of Serbia and Montenegro (the FSSCG) split into two separate associations: the Football Association of Serbia (the FSS) and the Football Association of Montenegro (the the FSCG). The split eliminated the last football remnants of a unified Yugoslavia, as all of its former republics now had their own associations.

The Yugoslavian national football team had existed in various forms since 1920, when it represented the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Its most successful squad during that period was the 1930 team, which reached the World Cup semifinals.

After a hiatus from 1941 to 1945 due to World War II, the team re-emerged under the banner of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. They enjoyed a strong period in the 1960s, finishing in fourth place at the 1962 World Cup and reaching the Final in both the 1960 and 1968 UEFA European Championships. At that time, Yugoslavia comprised six regional republics - Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia - as well as two autonomous provinces - Kosovo and Vojvodina.

In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence, triggering the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic. In 1992, Serbia and Montenegro established the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Despite finishing at the top of their qualifying group for the 1992 UEFA European Championship, the Federal Republic was banned from participating in the tournament due to the ongoing civil wars among the former Yugoslav states. FIFA also banned it from participating in the 1994 World Cup.

In 2003, the Federal Republic officially dropped the name "Yugoslavia" and changed its name to Serbia and Montenegro for both the state and the national team. Montenegro then declared its independence from Serbia in 2006, resulting in the split between the two football associations and ending the last political union between former Yugoslav republics. FIFA recognizes the Serbian side as the successor to Yugoslavia.

At present, Serbia is at the top of its qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup, while Montenegro is near the bottom of its group.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

27 June 2006 - This Ronaldo Played For Real Madrid, Too

On 27 June 2006, Brazilian striker Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima scored in a World Cup match against Ghana. It was Ronaldo's 15th World Cup goal, breaking the previous record of 14 which had been set in 1974 by West German striker Gerhard "Gerd" Müller.

Ronaldo had already netted twice in the group stages of the tournament and was widely tipped to score the record-breaking goal in the Round of 16 against Ghana. Few predicted the speed with which he would score it, however. In the 5th minute, Brazilian midfielder/forward Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite ("Kaká") threaded a pass through to Ronaldo, leaving him one-on-one against the Ghanian keeper. Ronaldo sent the keeper the wrong way, slipped past him and prodded the ball into the empty net.

The goal also set another record - with his third of the tournament, Ronaldo joined German striker Jürgen Klinsmann as the only two people to score at least three goals in three separate World Cups.

Brazil went on to defeat Ghana 3-0, but lost to France 0-1 in the quarterfinals.

Friday, June 26, 2009

26 June 1992 - Is There A Danish Word For "Cinderella"?

On 26 June 1992, Denmark won the UEFA European Championship, defeating Germany 2-0 before a crowd of 37,800 at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The Danes were unlikely champions, having initially failed to qualify for the tournament. They finished second in their qualifying group, losing out to Yugoslavia by a single point. On 30 May 1992, however, just eleven days before the opening day of the tournament, the United Nations issued a trade embargo against Yugoslavia in response to that country's ongoing ethnic conflicts. Yugoslavia was thus disqualified from participating and Denmark was called in as a replacement.

As to be expected from a team that had not been planning to play in the tournament, the Danish side got off to a shaky start, drawing with England (0-0) and losing to hosts Sweden (1-0), before finally securing a win against France (2-1) in its last group stage match. The win placed Denmark second in its group, just one point of ahead of both France and England, and sent the Danes through to the knockout rounds.

In its first knockout match, Denmark faced the Netherlands, who were the defending Euro title holders. After trading goals to finish 2-2 at the end of extra time, Denmark won on penalties, 5-4, to advance to the Final against defending World Cup champions Germany.

In the Final, Danish midfielder John Jensen (pictured) opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Describing his goal after the match, Jensen told the press: "The first 20 minutes of football were the hardest most of us had ever faced. The Germans were all over the pitch and we couldn't get into our play. We were working tirelessly and suddenly I had the chance to have a shot at goal. I remember the manager had said to me before the game that if I have a chance to take a shot, then I should go for it."

The Danes kept Germany from scoring and, in the 78th minute, Jensen's midfield partner Kim Vilfort added a second goal as unnecessary insurance. The match ended at 2-0, giving the Danes their first major trophy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

25 June 1990 - Nine Months Later, Many Irish Babies Were Born

On 25 June 1990, the Republic of Ireland, competing in its first ever World Cup, defeated Romania 5-4 on penalties before a crowd of 31,818 at Genoa's Stadio Luigi Ferraris. The win sent Ireland through to the quarterfinals, which is the farthest the Republic has ever advanced in World Cup competition.

Ireland survived the group stage despite scoring only two goals and drawing all three matches with the other members of the group: 1-1 against England, 0-0 against Egypt, and 1-1 against the Netherlands. The Netherlands had similarly drawn all of its group matches and scored only two goals, so that Ireland and the Dutch side were tied for second place in the group, even on points (3), goal differential (0), goals for (2), and goals against (2). In order to determine the final placement, FIFA officials drew lots. Ireland won to claim second place. (The Netherlands still advanced, as their 3 points placed them among the top four third-place teams, all of whom qualified for the knockout rounds under the rules in place that year.)

The Irish seemed intent on drawing the match with Romania as well. While the Romanians played with flair and style, the Irish matched them with grit and determination. Neither side was able to score through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, so the match went to penalty kicks. Even then, there was little to separate the sides, as the first four kickers from each team successfully converted.

That changed, however, when Romanian forward Daniel Timofte stepped up to take his side's fifth kick. Timofte, who had come on as a substitute in the 96th minute, sent his shot to the left, where Irish keeper Pat "Packie" Bonner (pictured) dove to meet it and swatted it away. Forward David O'Leary, who had come on in the 95th minute, then put his shot past Romanian keeper and captain, Silviu Lung, giving Ireland the victory.

After the match, the Irish team's English manager, Jack Charlton, told the press: ''The pubs will sell more booze tonight than they have in the last year. There's going to be a party this town has never seen the likes of before, a party Dublin has never seen the likes of before." Although Ireland lost in the quarterfinals to Italy, the shootout with Romania has become famous and was later immortalized in the film version of Roddy Doyle's The Van.

[Note: The clip below has some language that might be considered NSFW.]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

24 June 2007 - It Must Have Been One Heck Of A Halftime Speech

On 24 June 2007, the United States successfully defended their 2006 CONCACAF Gold Cup title, defeating Mexico in the 2007 Final before a crowd of 60,000 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

The 2007 tournament was the ninth Gold Cup competition, which includes teams from the CONCACAF regions of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The North American teams dominated the group stage, with only two losses among them. Both the United States and Canada finished at the top of their groups, with Mexico finishing second to Honduras in its group on goal differential.

In the knockout stages, the United States advanced to the Final with victories over Panama (2-1) and Canada (2-1), while Mexico secured its spot with wins over Costa Rica (1-0, a.e.t.) and Guadeloupe (1-0).

Both sides played aggressively, with El Tri dictating a fast pace. The United States struggled defensively in the first half and paid the price in the 44th minute as Nery Castillo placed a perfect cross for Andrés Guardado, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net.

The US came out after the break with even more energy. They equalized in the 66th minute, as forward Brian Ching was pulled down in the box by Jonny Magallón and US captain Landon Donovan drilled the ensuing spot kick home. Mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez played well, but was eventually beaten in the 73rd minute by a thunderous game-winning volley from US midfielder Benny Feilhaber.

It was the United States' fourth Gold Cup trophy, which tied them with Mexico for total Gold Cup titles. As winners, the US earned a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

23 June 1972 - ZZ On Top

On 23 June 1972, French star midfielder Zinedine Zidane was born in Marseille. His parents were Kabyle Muslims from the village of Aguemone in Algeria. They moved to Paris in 1953 and settled in Marseille a few years later.

Zidane, nicknamed "Zizzou," started his professional career with Cannes, where he played from 1988 to 1992. He transferred to Bordeaux for the 1992-93 season and helped them to win the Intertoto Cup in 1995. In all, he made 174 appearances for the Girondins, scoring 37 goals. He also earned individual recognition, being named the Ligue 1 Best Young Player in 1994 and Best Player in 1996.

In 1996, he moved to Juventus and helped them claim back-to-back Scudettos in his first two seasons. They also made consecutive appearances in the UEFA Champions League Finals those years, but lost to Borussia Dortmund in 1996 and Real Madrid in 1997. In 1998, he won the Ballon d'Or, due in part to his role in leading France to the 1998 World Cup title. He also won the 1998 FIFA World Player of the Year award, which he won again 2000.

In 2001, Zidane moved again, this time to Real Madrid for what was then the world record transfer fee of €76 million. He culminated his first season in Madrid by scoring the winning goal in Real's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final. In 2003, he again won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, becoming only the second person to claim the honor three times (along with his Real teammate Ronaldo).

Despite all of his success on the pitch, he is probably best remembered for the 2006 World Cup in which he was sent off for head-butting Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 110th minute of the Final. It was his last professional match, as he retired from football after the tournament.

Zidane currently serves as an advisor for Real Madrid.

Monday, June 22, 2009

22 June 1986 - The Hand Of God And The Goal Of The Century

On 22 June 1986, Argentina defeated England 2-1 in a World Cup quarterfinal match before a crowd of 114,580 at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca.

The Falklands War between the two countries had ended just over four years prior, which added to an already intense rivalry between the national sides and raised the emotional stakes of the match. The Argentinians, managed by Carlos Bilardo, had the better of the first half, with most of the opportunities created by midfielder Diego Maradona. England keeper Peter Shilton held firm, however, and the teams reached halftime with a scoreless draw.

Six minutes after the break, English left midfielder Steve Hodge bobbled a clearance attempt, sending the ball into his own penalty area. Both Shilton and Maradona raced to meet it, with Shilton having an apparent advantage due to his 6' 1" (1.85 m) height, as compared to the 5' 5" (1.65 m) Maradona. Maradona got to the ball first, however, and punched it into the goal with his left hand. The referee, believing that Maradona had headed the ball into the net, allowed the goal to stand. After the match, Maradona told reporters that the goal was scored "un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios" (a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God). The goal thus became famous as the "Hand of God" goal.

Just four minutes later, Maradona scored an even more famous goal. He received the ball just inside his own half and proceeded to dribble through the English side, getting the shot off right before being tackled. The display of individual skill earned the title of "Goal of the Century" in a FIFA poll prior to the 2002 World Cup.

England striker Gary Lineker scored in the 80th minute, but Barry Robson's side was unable to produce an equalizer and Argentina won, 2-1.

The Argentinians went on to win the tournament with a 3-2 victory of West Germany in the Final.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

21 June 1955 - A Legend In His Own Time (And Mind)

On 21 June 1955, renowned French midfielder Michel Platini was born in the tiny commune of Jœuf in northeastern France.

The three-time European Footballer of the Year and former captain of the French national team once told a reporter "I was born in football. My father was a very good football player, and as an Italian immigrant was always passionate about the game. Football is a fantastic and intelligent game which teaches us how to live together, how to share when you are better than others. Football is an extraordinary education for life."

He played his youth football with his hometown side, A.S. Jœuf, from 1966 to 1972, when he signed a senior contract with nearby A.S. Nancy. He won the first major trophy of his career with Nancy, defeating Nice in the 1978 Coupe de France Final. He also started to earn individual recognition, being named France Football Magazine's French Football Player of the Year in 1976 and 1977. He played for Nancy until 1979, then moved to Saint-Étienne, where he helped win the Ligue 1 title in 1981.

In 1982, Platini transferred to Juventus, where he would become one of the world's most distinguished footballers. When being introduced in Turin, the rarely-humble Platini told the crowd "I began by playing for the biggest club in the Lorraine region, went on to the biggest club in France and ended up with the biggest in the world." During his time with Juventus, he earned a string of individual and club honors, including two Serie A titles (1984, 1986), the European Cup Winners Cup (1984), and the European Cup (1985). He also led France to the 1984 European Championship trophy. Individually, he was named European Footballer of the Year in 1983, 1984, and 1985.

Platini retired from playing in 1987 and spent four years as manager of the French national team from 1988-92. He is currently president of UEFA.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

20 June 1995 - The Non-Flying Dutchman Lands In London

On 20 June 1995, Arsenal signed Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp from Inter for a fee of £7.5 million.

Nicknamed "the Non-Flying Dutchman" due to his fear of flying, Bergkamp was a product of the Ajax youth academy and played for the Amsterdam senior side from 1986 to 1993, helping them to the Eredivisie title (1989-90), the KNVB Cup (1987, 1993), the European Cup Winners Cup (1987), and the UEFA Cup (1992). In total, he scored 122 goals in 239 matches for Ajax and was voted Eredivisie Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993.

In 1993, he was signed by Inter for £12 million. He helped them win the UEFA Cup in 1994, but never settled in with the team or the Italian style of play. Over his two seasons in Milan, he scored only 10 goals in 50 appearances before being being signed by Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch in the summer of 1995. Inter president Massimo Moratti, unhappy with the £4.5 million loss, reportedly claimed "They will be lucky if he scores 10 goals this season."

And indeed Bergkamp's Arsenal career started slowly. He made his debut on 19 August 1995 against Middlesbrough, but did not score until his seventh match. He finished the season with 16 goals in 43 appearances. His Arsenal career truly began to flourish, however, with the arrival of manager Arsène Wenger in September 1996 and he was a key member of the Invincibles, Arsenal's unbeaten league side of 2003-04.

In all, Bergkamp made 411 appearances for the Gunners, scoring 120 goals. With Bergkamp, Arsenal won three Premier League titles (1998, 2002, 2004) and four FA Cup trophies (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005). He retired from playing after the 2005-06 season.

Friday, June 19, 2009

19 June 1958 - The Kid Is Alright

On 19 June 1958, Brazil defeated Wales 1-0 in a World Cup quarterfinal match before a crowd of 25,000 at Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Brazilian team was eager to prove itself after an early exit in the previous World Cup. Several new players had been added, as well as a new manager, Vicente Feola. They had finished at the top of their group in the first round without conceding a goal, including wins over Austria (3-0) and the Soviet Union (2-0), and a 0-0 draw with England.

The Welsh side, on the other hand, had advanced to the quarterfinals without a win. They drew with Hungary (1-1), Mexico (1-1), and Sweden (0-0) to finish second in their group.

In the first half, both sides played defensively and neither was able to score. That changed in the 66th minute. Brazil's central midfielder Didi headed the ball into the Welsh penalty area, where it was collected by the youngest player in the tournament--Edison Arantes do Nascimento, nicknamed Pelé, a 17-year, 239-day old Brazilian midfielder who was playing in only his second World Cup match. Pelé chested the ball down and deftly passed it around the Welsh defender before slotting it into the bottom corner of the goal. It was Pelé's first World Cup goal and the only goal of the match, giving Brazil the win.

Brazil advanced and eventually won the tournament, beating Sweden 5-2 in the Final. Pelé scored five more goals in the tournament, including two in the Final against Sweden. He went on to become the all-time leading scorer for the Brazilian national team with 77 goals in 92 appearances and led them to two more World Cup titles in 1962 and 1970.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

18 June 2002 - Ahn Top Of The World

On 18 June 2002, World Cup co-hosts South Korea upset Italy 2-1 in a Round of 16 match before a crowd of 38,588 at South Korea's Daejeon World Cup Stadium.

With three minutes of regulation time remaining, Italy looked certain to advance, holding a 1-0 lead earned with an 18th minute goal from veteran striker Christian Vieri. In the 88th minute, however, Italian defender Christian Panucci mishandled a pass, opening the door for Korean winger Seol Ki-Hyeon, who scored the equalizer.

The late goal shocked the Azzurri and sent the match to extra time. The situation worsened for Italy in the first period of added time, as midfielder Francesco Totti received a second yellow card for an apparent dive and was sent off in the 105th minute.

As the match entered the final minutes of extra time and appeared to be headed for penalties, Korean midfielder Ahn Jung-Hwan scored a header in the 117th minute to give the Korean side the victory. The goal was redemptive for Ahn, whose penalty kick in the 5th minute was saved by Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Ahn was also the only member of the Korean side to play his club football in Italy, at the time on loan with AC Perugia. The day after the match, Perugia canceled Ahn's contract, with Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci reportedly saying "I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football." The club quickly apologized and offered to purchase Ahn's contract, but he declined and moved to Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse.

South Korea followed their epic win with an equally-historic victory over Spain on penalties. They then lost to Germany, but finished the tournament in fourth place.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

17 June 2003 - Beckham's Odyssey Begins

On 17 June 2003, Manchester United sold their long-serving midfielder David Beckham to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Beckham signed with Manchester United in 1991 at the age of 14 and helped secure a number of honors for the Old Trafford club, including six Premier League titles, two FA Cup trophies, and one UEFA Champions League trophy. He also earned numerous individual awards, including the PFA Young Player of the Year (1996-97), the UEFA Club Player of the Year (1999), and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (2001). In all, Beckham made 394 appearances for the Red Devils in all competitions, scoring 85 goals.

By the year 2000, despite his success on the pitch, his relationship with manager Sir Alex Ferguson began to deteriorate, due in part to Beckham's off-pitch commitments and growing celebrity following his marriage to Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams in 1999. The relationship between player and manager hit bottom on 15 February 2003 when, after an FA Cup loss to Arsenal, Ferguson kicked a boot that hit Beckham above the eye, requiring stitches.

At the end of that season, with the relationship beyond salvage, Manchester United sold Beckham to Real Madrid for €35 million (£25M) on 17 June. The transfer was completed on 1 July 2003, making Beckham only the third Englishman to play for the Spanish side.

After spending twelve years with United, the move triggered a peripatetic period in Beckham's career. He spent only four seasons with Real, helping them to the La Liga title in 2006-07. In the summer of 2007, he moved to the United States, joining MLS side L.A. Galaxy. After one and half seasons in L.A., however, he again moved, this time to AC Milan on loan. He is presently scheduled to return to the Galaxy in mid-June for the remainder of the MLS season.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

16 June 1927 - The Real Hebrew Hammer

On 16 June 1927, Yaakov Hodorov was born in Rishon LeZion, Palestine. Remembered as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, he played for the Israeli national team from 1949 to 1964.

Hodorov began his professional career in 1942 at the age of 15 with his hometown club Maccabi Rishon LeZion, but moved after a couple of years to local rival Hapoel Rishon LeZion. In 1947, he moved again, this time to Hapoel Tel Aviv, where he spent the majority of his club career and won his first major honors - the Israeli league championship in 1957 and the Israeli cup in 1960.

One of Hodorov's most memorable matches was a World Cup qualifier against Wales on 5 February 1958. At the time, Israel was playing in the Asian Football Confederation and almost qualified for the 1958 World Cup without playing a match. Israel's first scheduled opponent was Turkey, who refused to compete in the Asian group, allowing Israel to advance. Israel's opponent in the second round, Indonesia, withdrew from qualification after FIFA rejected their request to play Israel on neutral ground. Israel was then scheduled to play Sudan in the third round, but the Sudanese refused to play.

Israel would have qualified automatically, but FIFA ruled that, apart from the hosts and the defending champions, no team could qualify without playing a match and thus drew Wales for a special playoff against Israel. After Wales won the first leg 2-0 in Israel, the teams met in Cardiff on 5 February 1958. Wales again won 2-0, but Hodorov drew high praise for making several outstanding saves and playing after suffering a broken nose in a collision with Welsh striker John Charles.

Hadorov reportedly received numerous offers to play for European clubs including Arsenal, Dundee United, and Fenerbahçe, but chose to play his entire career in Israel.

In 2006, the Israeli government awarded him the Israel Prize for excellence and contribution to sports. He had a stroke shortly before the presentation ceremony, however, and was unable to attend. He died on 31 December 2006 at the age of 79.

Monday, June 15, 2009

15 June 1924 - They Come From The Land Of The Ice And Snow

On 15 June 1924, Sweden came from behind to win the inaugural match of the Nordic Football Championship, defeating Denmark 3-2 at the Idrætsparken in Copenhagen before a crowd of 25,000.

That first tournament was played over the course of five years, with each of the three participating countries - Sweden, Denmark, and Norway - playing each other team twice each year. Finland joined in 1929 at the start of the second tournament and both Iceland and the Faroe Islands joined in 2000.

In that opening match, Denmark took a 2-0 lead early in the second half with goals from Alf Olsen (2') and Ernst Nilsson (47'), before Sweden surged back. Striker Per Kaufeldt started the rally with a goal in the 56th minute and then 19-year-old Sven Rydell equalized in the 65th minute. Rydell completed his brace with the game winner in the 74th minute.

When the tournament ended in 1928, Rydell was the leading goal scorer with 15 (12 of which came in matches against Norway, including two hat-tricks and one match in which he scored four). Denmark claimed the first title, however, finishing with 7 wins, 2 draws, and only 1 loss to top the table with 16 points, three more than second-place finisher Sweden. Norway was last with a single point.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

14 June 1925 - They Seem To Have Recovered Fully By Now

On 14 June 1925, Barcelona played a match that was almost its last.

Barça had organized the 14 June match against Jupiter, another Barcelona club, in honor of the Orfeó Català, an amateur choir founded in 1891. The Orfeó Català, also based in Barcelona, was a touchstone of Catalan culture. At that time, however, Spain was controlled by dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera v Orbaneja, whose goverment was openly hostile to Catalonia and had even banned the Catalan language.

A British Navy ship was docked in the Barcelona harbor and Barça's manager, Englishman Ralph Kirby, invited the ship's band to play at the match. The band played the Spanish national anthem - which the crowd booed - and then the English anthem "God Save the King" - which the crowd applauded.

The government responded by fining the club, forcing the resignation of club president Joan Gamper, and shutting the team down for six months. Unable to play, Barça nearly went bankrupt, but was saved by donations from loyal supporters and a local bank.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

13 June 1956 - Wolverhampton Weren't Invited, Apparently

On 13 June 1956, Real Madrid defeated Stade de Reims 4-3 in the very first European Cup Final, held at the Parc de Princes in Paris before a crowd of 38,239.

The tournament was conceived by Gabriel Hanot, a French sports journalist and editor of L'Équipe, who was motivated by the British press declaring Wolverhampton Wanderers "Champions of the World" after the club's string of successful European friendlies.

Real advanced to the Final with wins over Swiss side Servette (7-0 agg.), Yugoslavian team Partizan (4-3 agg.), and AC Milan (5-4 agg.). Reims secured their place in the Final by defeating Denmark's AGF Aarhus (4-2 agg.), Hungary's Vörös Lobogó, and Scotland's Hibernian, the only British team in the tournament (3-0 agg.).

In the Final, Reims took an shocking early lead with a 6th minute goal from defender Michel Leblond and another in the 10th minute from forward Jean Templin. Real equalized before the break with goals from midfielder Alfredo Di Stéfano (14') and forward Héctor Rial (30').

In the second half, Reims again took the lead with a goal from midfielder Michel Hidalgo (62'), but the Spanish side proved stronger down the stretch, getting an equalizer from defender Marquitos (67') before Rial scored the match winner in the 79th minute.

It was the first of five consecutive European Cup titles for Real, who now hold a record nine titles. Reims made it back to the Finals only once, in 1959, where they again lost to Real Madrid.

Friday, June 12, 2009

12 June 1938 - The Battle of Bordeaux

On 12 June 1938, Brazil and Czechoslovakia drew 1-1 in a World Cup match held at Bordeaux's Parc Lescure before a crowd of 19,000.

Brazil took the lead with a goal in the 30th minute from Leônidas (who would go on to become the tournament's top scorer that year with 7 goals). The Czechs equalized in the 65th minute after being awarded a penalty that was converted by Oldřich Nejedlý (the previous tournament's top scorer with 5 goals). The teams played through thirty minutes of extra time, but ended in a 1-1 draw.

Known as "the Battle of Bordeaux," the match was remarkably violent, with three players sent off for hard fouls - Machado and Zezé Procópio for Brazil and Jan Říha for Czechoslovakia. There were several injuries, with the Czechs faring the worst - Nejedlý suffered a broken right leg, Josef Košťálek was injured in the stomach, and captain František Plánička's right arm was broken. The Brazilians were not unscathed, as both Leônidas and José Perácio left the field with injuries.

The teams replayed the match on 14 June, with both sides fielding several reserves. Leônidas was able to play, however, and scored in Brazil's 2-1 victory.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

11 June 1978 - Gemmill's Gem

On 11 June 1978, Scotland midfielder Archie Gemmill scored against the Netherlands in the group stages of the World Cup.

Playing in front of over 35,000 people at the Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza in Argentina, Scotland started the day tied with Iran at the bottom of the group with only one point each, while the Netherlands were tied at the top with Peru on 3 points. At the time, wins earned only two points, so in order to advance, the Scots needed to defeat the Dutch by 3 goals to pass them in the standings on goal differential.

Scotland's chances took a turn for the worse when the Netherlands were awarded a penalty, which forward Rob Rensenbrink converted in the 34th minute. Scotland equalized in the 44th minute, however, with a goal from forward Kenny Dalglish. Gemmill then scored to put them ahead in the 46th minute. He wasn't finished, though. In the 68th minute, Gemmill shot a goal past the Dutch keeper to give the Scots a 3-1 lead. As described by The Scotsman in the paper's match report, "The little midfield player homed in on goal, played a magnificent one-two with Dalglish, then sprinted into the box and thumped a glorious goal past Jongbloed to revive all the hopes which had died the death this past fortnight. It was an extraordinary goal and an extraordinary moment. Suddenly Scotland were dreaming of glory again."

The euphoria was short-lived, as Dutch winger Johnny Rep netted in the 71st minute and the match ended at 3-2, eliminating the Scots.

Despite the result, Gemmill's goal is remembered to this day as one of the greatest goals ever scored in the World Cup.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

10 June 1925 - The Greatest Gunner

On 10 June 1925, Herbert Chapman resigned as manager of Huddersfield Town to accept the same position with Arsenal.

Chapman enjoyed a long but itinerant playing career as a forward in England from 1895 to 1909, changing clubs every couple of years. In 1907, he started his managerial career as player-manager of Northampton Town before moving to Leeds City in 1912.

Chapman left Leeds City in 1918 amid a brewing scandal about illegal player payments. The club refused to allow the Football League to examine their financial records, which led the League to expel Leeds City in October 1919. The League also issued lifetime bans on five club officials, including Chapman. The club dissolved and its Elland Road grounds were soon taken over by the newly-formed Leeds United.

After a brief period out of football, Chapman successfully appealed his ban and joined Huddersfield Town as assistant manager in February 1921. He became the full manager in March and led the club to the FA Cup trophy in the 1921-22 season and the league titles in the 1923-24 and 1924-25 seasons.

In 1925, Arsenal lured Chapman away by doubling his salary to £2,000. Arsenal finished second that year, five points behind Huddersfield Town. In 1930, Chapman's Arsenal defeated Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup Final, claiming the Gunners' first major trophy. Additional successes soon followed, with league titles in 1930-31 and 1932-33.

He is credited with introducing several innovations to the game, including early adoption of the 3-2-2-3 "WM" formation, putting numbers on the players' shirts, and encouraging physical fitness through the use of strict training plans and physiotherapists. At Arsenal, he is perhaps best known for adding white sleeves to the Gunners' red shirts.

Chapman stayed with Arsenal until his death on 6 January 1934 from pneumonia.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

9 June 1993 - Ince Leads The Three Lions

On 9 June 1993, Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince became the first black captain of the English national team, leading them against the United States in a U.S. Cup match before a crowd of 37,462 at Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts.

Ince, who grew up supporting West Ham, played his youth football for the Hammers and started his professional career there in 1984 before transferring to Manchester United in 1989. He made his senior team debut for England in September 1992, impressing in a 1-0 loss to Spain in a friendly.

For the match against the United States, Ince's impressive form and injuries to team leaders David Platt and Tony Adams convinced manager Graham Taylor to give the captain's armband to Ince. Unfortunately for England, the match did not go their way as the U.S. earned a 2-0 win with goals from Thomas Dooley (42') and Alexi Lalas (72'), who had come on as a substitute for Dooley in the 69th minute.

Ince left Manchester United for Inter Milan in 1995 and subsequently played for Liverpool, Middlesbrough, and Wolves before becoming player-manager of Swindon Town in 2006 and then Macclesfield Town in 2007. He retired from playing after the end of the 2006-2007 season and managed MK Dons for 2007-08 season.

In 2008, he again made history with a move to Blackburn Rovers, where he became the first black manager of a team in England's top flight.

Monday, June 8, 2009

8 June 2005 - Crespo Humbles Brazil

On 8 June 2005, Argentina beat Brazil 3-1 in a World Cup qualifying match at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires.

The Albicelestes stunned the defending World Cup champions, taking a quick lead with a 3rd minute goal from striker Hernán Crespo. Crespo fired a low shot from just inside the edge of Brazil's penalty area and the ball went into the net just past the hands of oustretched keeper Dida.

Midfielder Juan Román Riquelme then doubled Argentina's lead in the 18th minute with a powerful left-footed shot from 30 meters out that flew to Dida's right and into the top corner.

Crespo added a third in the 40th minute with a flying header, completing Argentina's domination of the first half and giving them a 3-0 lead at the break.

Brazil fought back in a physical second half and finally netted a goal with a Roberto Carlos free kick in the 71st minute. They had several chances to add to their tally, but a combination of the woodwork and brilliant play from Argentina's keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri turned away shots from Ze Roberto, Roque Junior, Kaká, Adriano, and Ronaldinho.

Despite the loss, Brazil finished second in CONCACAF to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where both Argentina and Brazil were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

7 June 1970 - Banks Denies Pelé

On 7 June 1970, England keeper Gordon Banks made one of the most memorable saves in football history, stopping a shot from Pelé in the 1970 World Cup Finals.

Cup holders England met Brazil that day in their second match of the group stage. With the match scoreless in the 10th minute, Brazilian right winger Jairzinho collected the ball near the touchline just inside the English half. He sped past left back Terry Cooper and raced toward the box. Just before running out of bounds, he lobbed a long cross to Pelé who was waiting near the far post. Describing the save later, Banks said "Halfway across, I was sure the ball was too high for anyone to reach, but then I saw Pelé. He seemed to climb higher and higher until he got the ball on his forehead, putting everything behind it."

As Pelé forcefully headed the ball down, Banks sprinted across the goal and stretched out with a diving lunge. The ball bounced just in front of the goal line and Banks got his hand on the rebound, sending the ball up and over. According to Pelé, "He came from nowhere. I headed it perfectly towards one corner of the net while Banks was at the other corner. I was already shouting GOOOL!!! when Banks, like a salmon leaping up a falls, threw himself in the air and managed to tip the ball so it slid over the crossbar. It was an impossible play."

Brazil went on to win the match 1-0 with a goal from Jairzinho in the 59th minute, but it is fondly remembered in England for that save.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

6 June 1955 - The Golden Boy Gets Banned

On 6 June 1955, the English Football Association banned forward Wilf Mannion for life.

Mannion, nicknamed "the Golden Boy" due to his blonde hair, was born in Middlesbrough and joined Middlesbrough F.C. in 1936 at the age of 18. He went on the become one of the club's greatest players, making 368 appearances and scoring 110 goals for Boro before moving to Hull City in 1954.

He was capped 26 times for England between 1946 and 1951, scoring 11 goals for the national team, including three in his national team debut (a 7-2 win against Northern Ireland) and two in England's 6-1 win in the 1947 "Match of the Century" against a Rest of the World XI.

Mannion's football career was interrupted by World War II, in which he spent six years with the British Army's Green Howards regiment. He served in Europe and the Middle East and was one of the servicemen evacuated at Dunkirk.

Throughout his career, Mannion was frustrated by the league's wage structure, which set a maximum salary of £10 per week. In 1954, Mannion gave a series of newspaper interviews claiming that several players were receiving illegal payments. The F.A. challenged him to provide evidence, but he refused. As a result, he received a lifetime ban from League football.

The F.A. lifted the ban in 1957, but Mannion, who had been playing with non-League side Cambridge United, decided to stay there until his retirement in 1959.

Mannion died on 14 April 200 at the age of 81.

Friday, June 5, 2009

5 June 2005 - A Starlet Is Born

On 5 June 2005, England beat Finland 3-2 in their opening match of the group stages of the 2005 UEFA Women's European Championship at the City of Manchester Stadium before a crowd of 29,092.

England took an early lead when Finnish defender Sanna Valkonen put the ball into her own net. They then doubled their lead in the 40th minute with a header from striker Amanda Barr. Finland staged a late rally in the second half, however, with an 80th-minute goal from striker Merte Pederson and an 88th-minute equalizer from midfielder Cathrine Paaske Sørenson.

The match appeared to be a certain draw when 17 year old English striker Karen Carney chipped the keeper from 15 yards out in the 91st minute to claim the win. She became an instant star in England, with her style of play drawing favorable comparisons to Wayne Rooney. She also drew attention for the string of expletives that she shouted after scoring the game-winner, for which she was later reprimanded by her mother.

Carney, who started her professional career with Birmingham L.F.C. in 2001, moved to Arsenal L.F.C., where she played from 2006-2009. She currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars in the United States' Womens Professional Soccer league.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

4 June 1977 - The Tartan Army Invades

On 4 June 1977, Scotland defeated England 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in London to claim the British Home Championship title.

The tournament was a round-robin in which each of the four British Home Nations - England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales - played each other once, earning two points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss.

The match between Scotland and England was the last one of the tournament. At the start of the day, Wales, who had drawn with Northern Ireland the day before in the last match for those teams, was at the top of the table with four points. Scotland, the defending champion, was in second with three points. England was third with two points and Northern Ireland was last with only one point.

The match itself was fairly unmemorable, with Scotland taking a 2-0 lead with goals from Gordon McQueen and Kenny Dalglish, before England's Mick Channon scored a late consolation goal from the penalty spot.

At the final whistle, Scotland's supporters rushed onto the pitch to celebrate Scotland's first win at Wembley in ten years. Several people took clumps of turf which reportedly ended up in gardens spread across Scotland. The Tartan Army also confiscated the goals, famously snapping one of the crossbars in the process.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

3 June 2008 - A Comparison To Icarus Might Be Appropriate Here

On 3 June 2008, Gretna F.C. resigned from the Scottish Football League.

The club, located in southern Scotland near the English border, was founded in 1946 by soldiers returning home from World War II and played originally in the Carlisle and District League, run by the English Football Association. Despite being a Scottish club, it continued to play in leagues run by England and Wales before finally joining the Scottish Football League in 2002. Gretna entered the SFL's Third Division as a replacement for Airdrieonians F.C., who had dissolved that year.

In 2005, Gretna then began a meteoric rise through the SFL ranks, first winning the Division Three title that year, then winning the Division Two title in 2006 and the Division One title in 2007, and earning promotion to the Scottish Premier League for the 2007-08 season. Along the way, Gretna made it to the 2006 Scottish Cup Final, but lost to Heart of Midlothian on penalties after drawing 1-1 through extra time. Gretna's success during that period was driven in large part by the funds provided by millionaire owner Brooks Mileson.

During the 2007-08 SPL season, however, the club began to struggle. Mileson became ill and withdrew his financial support, leaving the club nearly £4M in debt. Greta began missing payments to its players and, on 12 March 2008, the club's financial woes resulted in it being placed in administration. Later that month, in an effort to cut expenses, the club sacked over 23 players, coaches, and support staff, including captain Chris Innes and eight other members of the senior squad.

Gretna were officially relegated from the SPL on 29 March 2008 after losing 2-0 to St. Mirren, though they went on the win their final SPL match, a 1-0 victory over Hearts. On 29 May 2008, the SFL further relegated them all the way back down to the fourth-tier Third Division as a consequence of their financial situation. The club's administrators were unable to find a purchaser for the club to replace Mileson, so the club officially announced its resignation from the SFL on 3 June and was formally liquidated on 8 August 2008.

On 2 June 2008, Gretna supporters announced the creation of a new club, Gretna 2008 F.C. Officially unrelated to the previous club, the new Gretna plays in Division One of the East of Scotland Football League where it finished in fourth place for the 2008-09 season.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2 June 1985 - Hooligans Get A Looooong Time Out

On 2 June 1985, the governing body of European football, UEFA, banned English clubs from participating in European competitions.

UEFA enacted the ban in response to the Heysel Stadium disaster four days prior. On 29 May, at the 1985 European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, some Liverpool supporters breached a wall separating them from the Juventus supporters and charged at them. The Juventus fans retreated against a retaining wall, which collapsed, injuring approximately 600 people. 39 people died from their injuries.

The English Football Association, in response to pressure from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had already issued its own ban on 29 May to prevent English clubs from playing in Europe. UEFA's ban was thus not particularly surprising, nor even entirely unwelcome in England. In fact, English FA Secretary Ted Croker lauded UEFA's decision, stating "There are many of us who don't want to see us back in Europe until we have our own house in order."

Although UEFA initially announced that the ban was to be indefinite, it lasted only five years for all English clubs except Liverpool, who were banned for a sixth year due to the club's role in the disaster.

Since the ban was lifted, English clubs have won the European Cup/Champions League Final only three times - Manchester United in 1999 and 2008, and Liverpool in 2005 - though four other sides - Arsenal (2006), Liverpool (2007), Chelsea (2008), and Manchester United (2009) - have advanced to the Final.

Monday, June 1, 2009

1 June 1998 - He's Had A Slightly Bigger Impact On Football In The US Than Beckham Did

On 1 June 1998, the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame awarded its first ever Medal of Honor to then-United States Soccer Federation President and Major League Soccer founder Alan Rothenberg.

Born in 1939, Rothenberg's first experience with football came when he was a 28-year-old lawyer working for U.S. sports magnate Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Washington Redskins, the Los Angeles Kings, and the North American Soccer League's Los Angeles Wolves. Rothenberg himself was a part owner of the NASL's Los Angeles Aztecs from 1977 to 1980, a period that saw George Best and Johan Cruyff play for the club.

In 1984, Olympic organizer Peter Ueberroth placed Rothenberg in charge of football for the 1984 summer games, held in Los Angeles. Rothenberg's success in that role drew the attention of FIFA, who appointed him director of the 1994 World Cup, also held in the United States. FIFA also supported Rothenberg's campaign for the presidency of the United States Soccer Federation, a position he held from 1990 until 1998, when he became a vice president of CONCACAF.

As part of the USA's bid for the 1994 World Cup, the USSF agreed to establish a new domestic league. Rothenberg oversaw the effort that led to the establishment of Major League Soccer in 1993, though the first season was not played until 1996. He also served as MLS's first chairman.

Rothenberg has been very active with FIFA, serving as chairman of the 1999 Women's World Cup as well as being a member of the organizing committee for the 2006 World Cup and FIFA's Executive Committee. FIFA awarded Rothenberg with its highest honor, the Order of Merit, in 2006.

For his service to football, Rothenberg was inducted into the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007. He remains a member of the USSF Executive Committee.