Saturday, October 31, 2009

31 October 1964 - Birth Of The Dutch Master

On 31 October 1964, future World Player of the Year and three-time European Footballer of the Year Marco van Basten was born in Utrecht.

In 1981, the then-16-year old striker signed with Ajax in 1981. He made his first appearance for the senior side in April 1982, scoring a goal on his debut. He secured a starting position for the 1983-84 season and became the Eredivisie's top scorer that year with 28 goals in 26 league appearances. He remained the league's top scorer for the next three seasons.

While at Ajax, the club won three league titles (1981-82, 1982-83, 1984-85), three Dutch Cups (1983, 1986, 1987), and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1987).

In 1987, van Basten transferred to Milan. An ankle injury limited his playing time to 11 matches in that first season, but Milan won the Scudetto. Internationally, van Basten led the Netherlands to the 1988 UEFA European Championship as the tournament's top scorer. He won his first European Footballer of the Year award that year.

The following season, he helped Milan to the Serie A title and the 1989 European Cup trophy, scoring two goals in the Final along the way to claiming his second European Footballer of the Year award.

He won his third European Footballer of the Year award in 1992, along with the FIFA World Footballer of the Year award, after leading Milan to yet another Serie A title as the league's top scorer.

His recurring ankle injury ended his playing career in 1993, though he did not officially retire until 1995.

Friday, October 30, 2009

30 October 1960 - The Albicelestes' Greatest Star Is Born

On 30 October 1960, future Argentinian superstar Diego Maradona was born in the city of Lanús, Argentina.

Raised in poverty on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona joined Argentinos Juniors as a 10-year old youth player. He signed his first professional contract with them in 1976 and made 167 appearances before transferring to Boca Juniors in 1981.

After an impressive performance for Argentina in the 1982 World Cup, he moved to Barcelona for a then-record fee of £5 million. Although successful during his time in Spain, winning a 1983 treble of the Copa del Rey, Copa de la Liga, and Spanish Super Cup, his relationship with the club was tempestuous and he moved to Napoli in 1984 for a new record fee of £6.9 million.

He became a true international superstar in 1986, when he captained Argentina to the World Cup title, playing every minute of every match for the Albicelestes, scoring 5 goals and making 5 assists. Two of those goals came in the legendary 2-1 win over England--the "Hand of God" and the "Goal of the Century," which cemented his status as one of football's greatest players. He followed his World Cup success by winning silverware with Napoli, including two Serie A titles (1987, 1990) and the UEFA Cup (1989). He left Napoli in 1991 and spent time with Sevilla (1992-93), Newell's Old Boys (1993), and a second stint at Boca Juniors (1995-97) before retiring.

Despite a controversial personal life, including a constant struggle with a cocaine addiction, Maradona was voted FIFA's Co-Player of the Century in 2000, along with Pelé.

Maradona currently manages the Argentinian national team, who recently secured their spot in the 2010 World Cup Finals despite a rocky start to qualification.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

29 October 1997 - The Start Of A Century

On 29 October 1997, 19-year old Parma goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his debut for the Italian national team in a 1-1 away draw with Russia in a qualifying playoff match for the 1998 World Cup.

The Azzurri qualifed after defeating Russia 1-0 in Naples on 15 November, but Buffon was an unused substitute for the Cup. He also missed Euro 2000 due to injury. Buffon secured the starting job for the 2002 World Cup, however, and remains Italy's first-choice keeper. As of 10 October 2009, he has made 99 appearances for the Azzurri.

Buffon was an integral part of Italy's World Cup winning side in 2006, giving up only two goals in regulation (an own goal in the group stages against the United States and a penalty in the Final against France). Italy defeated France on penalties, 1-1(5-3) to claim their fourth World Cup trophy. Buffon won the Yashin Award for best keeper in the tournament.

He currently plays for Juventus, with whom he signed in 2001.

[Update: As of 29 October 2011, Buffon now has 110 caps with Italy.]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

28 October 1998 - He's A One-Club Man

On 28 October 1998, 17-year old center back John Terry made his first appearance for Chelsea's senior team, coming on as a second-half substitute in a League Cup match against Aston Villa. Chelsea won 4-1.

Terry was born in London on 7 December 1980 and played for the Chelsea youth team from 1995 to 1998. He signed his professional contract with the Blues for the 1998-99 season, making 6 appearances.

In 2004, new manager Jose Mourinho handed the captain's armband to Terry, who rewarded the decision by leading Chelsea to back to back league titles in 2005 and 2006.

Apart from a brief loan spell with Nottingham Forest in the 1999-2000 season, Terry has spent his entire club career with Chelsea. Through the 2008-09 season, he had made 404 appearances for the London club. In addition to the league titles, he has won three FA Cups (2000, 2007, 2009), two League Cups (2005, 2007), and two Community Shields (2005, 2009).

Despite his successes, however, he is famous for the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final in which he slipped and missed the penalty that would have won the trophy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

27 October 2005 - England Does Not Suffer From Triskaidekaphobia

On 27 October 2005, England defeated Hungary 0-13 in a qualifying match for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The two sides met in Tapolca, Hungary for their second match in UEFA Group 5. Coincidentally, both teams' previous match had been against Austria, with England emerging 1-4 victors and Hungary losing 0-3.

Against Hungary, England got off to a quick start with a 3rd minute goal from striker Kelly Smith (pictured) and another in the 5th minute from midfielder Rachel Yankey. Both Smith and Yankey had started their careers with Arsenal Ladies, whom they had recently rejoined after brief spells with the New Jersey Wildcats in the USL W-League.

The match against Hungary was completely one-sided from start to finish, with a total of eight English players finding the back of the net: Smith (3', 43', 80'), Yankey (5'), forward Eniola Aluko (12', 50'), full back/winger Alex Scott (15', 38'), midfielder Katie Chapman (30'), midfielder Fara Williams (61', 88'), substitute Jo Potter (75'), and striker Jody Handley (79').

The teams finished qualification at opposite ends of the table, with England on top and Hungary at the bottom. England advanced to the 2007 World Cup quarterfinals, where they were eliminated by the United States.

The win against Hungary set the largest margin of victory in the history of the English women's team (and tied the record scoreline for the English men's team, who defeated Ireland 0-13 in Belfast on 18 February 1882).

Monday, October 26, 2009

26 October 1863 - Not Just A Football Association, It's THE Football Association

On 26 October 1863, English football's governing body, the Football Association, held its first meeting, making it the oldest national football association in the world.

Twelve clubs sent representatives to the meeting, held at Freemasons' Tavern on Long Acre, Covent Garden, London, in order to agree on a common set of rules. The clubs were Barnes, Civil Service, Crusaders, Forest of Leytonstone, No Names Club (Kilburn), Crystal Palace, Blackheath, Kensington School, Percival House (Blackheath), Surbiton, Blackheath Proprietary School, and Charterhouse (who declined the offer to join).

Prior to the creation of the Football Association, football clubs in England operated under different sets of rules, including the Cambridge Rules, which were used by many clubs throughout the nation, and the Sheffield Rules, which dominated the northeast. Although those two sets of rules contained slight differences, they both prohibited hacking, which would prove to be a point of contention for the new FA.

Indeed, when the FA ultimately adopted a set of rules that closely mirrored the Cambridge Rules, several clubs chose to form a separate Rugby Football Union that allowed hacking. Thus the Football Association was instrumental in triggering the split between association football (or "soccer") and rugby.

The FA currently oversees all association football competitions in England and is in charge of the English men's and women's national teams. As the first football association in history, it is the only one not to include its nationality in its name.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

25 October 1981 - Oriali Bleeds Blue And Black

On 25 October 1981, Inter defeated Milan 1-0 in the Milan Derby. The winning goal was scored in the 69th minute by Inter midfielder Gabriele Oriali (pictured). It was first of five Serie A goals he would score all season.

He also made headlines that day by requiring thirty stitches after being kicked in the face by Milan defender Mauro Tassotti.

A product of the Inter youth academy, Oriali played for the Nerazzurri from 1970 to 1983, scoring 33 goals in 277 league appearances. In that time, he won two Scudettos (1971, 1980) and two Coppa Italia trophies (1978, 1982).
Inter also won the second Milan derby of the season, but finished in fifth position in the table, behind Juventus, Fiorentina, Roma, and Napoli. Milan finished 14th out of 16 teams and were relegated to Serie B.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

24 October 1857 - The World's Oldest Football Club

On 24 October 1857, a group of amateur footballers met at Parkfield House, in the Sheffield suburb of Highfield, and founded Sheffield F.C., the world's oldest football club.

The club was conceived by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, two members of a Sheffield cricket club who were looking for a way to stay fit during the winter. Creswick and Prest were also responsible for crafting the club's rules of play, which included no offside provision and introduced freekicks for fouls. The club formally adopted those rules on 21 in October 1858 and they were subsequently used by several clubs in the North of England. Sheffield joined the Football Association in 1863, but continued to use its own rules until it adopted the FA rules in 1878.

When the FA allowed professional football in 1885, Sheffield remained an amateur club, starting its decline. It currently plays in the Northern Premier League Division One South, which is the eighth level in the English football pyramid.

In 2004, Sheffield became one of only two clubs ever to have received the FIFA Order of Merit. The other club is Real Madrid.

Friday, October 23, 2009

23 October 1940 - If Football Is Your Religion, Today Is Your Christmas

On 23 October 1940, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in Três Corações, Brazil. Better known as "Pelé," he went on to become one of football's first global superstars.

He began his professional football career with Brazilian club Santos, for whom he played from 1956 to 1974. During that time, Santos won loads of silverware, including ten league titles and five Taça Brasil trophies. Pelé made 656 official appearances for Santos in all competitions, scoring 643 goals. He was the Brazilian top flight's top scorer eleven times.

Between 1957 and 1971, he made 92 appearances for the Brazilian national team. He scored 77 goals, making him the national team's all-time top scorer. Along the way, he became the only footballer to be a member of three World Cup-winning teams (1958, 1962, 1970).

In 1975, he signed with the New York Cosmos, helping them to the league title in 1977.

He played his last match on 1 October 1977, an exhibition between the Cosmos and Santos. Pelé played the first half for New York, scoring on a free kick. He then switched sides to play for Santos in the second half. New York won 2-1. After the match, several Cosmos players carried Pelé around the field while he held up the flags of Brazil and the United States.

Pelé reportedly acquired his nickname as a schoolboy due to his mispronounciation of the last name of Vasco de Gama goalkeeper Bilé.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

22 October 1908 - Denmark Spins The A Side

On 22 October 1908, Denmark defeated France in the football semi-finals at the Fourth Olympiad before a crowd of approximately 1,000 at White City Stadium in London. The final score was 17-1.

Only six teams showed up for the tournament, including two from France. The other participants were Great Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Bohemia and Hungary had been scheduled to play, but withdrew before the tournament began.

The Danes advanced to the semi-finals by defeating the French "B" side, 9-0, on the first matchday. Against the French "A" side on 22 October, Denmark quickly picked up where it had left off, drawing first blood in the 3rd minute with a goal from forward Sophus Nielsen. Nielsen added another in the 4th minute, then completed his first hat-trick of the day in the 6th minute.

Nielsen went on to score a total of 10 goals that day (3', 4', 6', 39', 46', 48', 52', 64', 66', 76'). Denmark's other goals came from August Lindgren (18', 37'), Vilhelm Wolfhagen (60', 72', 82', 89'), and Nils Middelboe (68').

France's only goal was scored by winger Émile Sartorius in the 16th minute. Although the French were supposed to play the Netherlands in the bronze medal match, they were so humiliated by the loss to Denmark that they declined to play (Sweden took their place).

Denmark's offensive might abandoned them in the gold medal match on 24 October. They lost to Great Britain, 2-0.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

21 October 2001 - San Jose Knows The Way

On 21 October 2001, the San Jose Earthquakes claimed their first MLS honors, coming from behind to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 in the MLS Cup Final before a crowd of 21,626 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Los Angeles went ahead in the 21st minute as Galaxy defender Greg Vanney beat the San Jose defense with a 40-yard pass to forward Luis Hernandez. Hernandez received the pass just inside the San Jose 18-yard box and sent a strong right-footed shot past 'Quakes keeper Joe Cannon.

San Jose equalized in the 43rd minute, as forward Landon Donovan ran onto a loose ball in the Galaxy's penalty area and first-touched a powerful shot past Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman.

The two sides played to a stalemate through the remainder of regulation, taking the match into overtime. In the 6th minute of overtime, San Jose forward Dwayne DeRosario (pictured)--who had come on as a substitute in the 85th minute--hit a curling shot from the top of the box. It caromed off the right post and into the net past Hartman's outstretched hands, giving San Jose the sudden-death victory.

It was the only match all season in which the Earthquakes had come from behind to win and only the second MLS Cup Final to be decided in overtime.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

20 October 1976 - The Club Took Their Name Quite Literally

On 20 October 1976, 15-year old Diego Maradona became the youngest player in Argentina's Primera División history when he made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors in a home match against Talleres de Córdoba.

With Argentinos trailing 1-0, he entered the match as a substitute in the 46th minute, wearing the number 16 shirt. Maradona was still 10 days away from his 16th birthday at the time.

Argentinos lost the match, 1-0, but Maradona would go on to make an additional 166 appearances for Argentinos from 1976-80, scoring 115 goals. In 1981, he transferred to Boca Juniors for £1 million. Coincidentially, Maradona's debut for Boca was also against Talleres, but that time his side emerged 4-1 winners.

Maradona's record as the youngest player to appear in the Primera División lasted until 7 July 2003, when Sergio Agüero debuted for Independiente at the age of 15 years, 35 days.

Monday, October 19, 2009

19 October 1957 - The Sun Shines On Celtic

On 19 October 1957, Celtic defeated Rangers 7-1 in the Scottish League Cup Final before a crowd of 82,293 at Hampden Park in Glasgow. The match set the record scoreline for a British cup final, and ranks as the greatest margin of victory in an Old Firm derby as well as Rangers' greatest defeat.

The stage was set for high drama from the beginning, as it was the first League Cup Final to be contested by the Old Firm. Celtic entered the match as Cup holders, having won it the previous season, while Rangers were the defending league champions.

The Hoops dominated the first half, though Rangers managed to keep a fairly respectable scoreline. Celtic forward Sammy Wilson scored the first goal from a cross in the 22nd minute and winger Neil Mochan doubled the advantage in the 44th minute.

After the break, Celtic forward Billy McPhail extended the lead to 3-0 in the 53rd minute before Rangers forward Billy Simpson pulled one back in the 58th minute. Then the floodgates opened. McPhail scored his second in the 67th minute, then Mochan did likewise in the 75th. McPhail netted another in the 80th minute to complete his hat-trick. He was fouled in the box in the 90th minute, but deferred the kick to right-half Willie Fernie, who converted to close the scoring at 7-1.

The match was nicknamed "Hampden in the Sun," after a song sung by Celtic supporters to the tune of Harry Belafonte's hit song "Island in the Sun," which had climbed the UK singles charts that summer.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

18 October 2005 - Henry's Record Goal

On 18 October 2005, Thierry Henry scored a brace to lift Arsenal past Sparta Prague on the third matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stage. In doing so, he passed former record holder Ian Wright to become the club's top goalscorer.

The match was played at Sparta Stadium in Prague before a crowd of over 12,500. Arsenal were heavy favorites, on top of the group with two wins, while Sparta were on bottom with a draw and a loss. Henry, who had just come off a near six-week layoff due to a groin injury, put Arsenal ahead in the 21st minute, tying Ian Wright's Arsenal scoring record of 185. The record-breaking 186th goal came in the 74th minute, as Henry calmly controlled a long ball with his heel, then curled the strike in from the edge of the area.

Arsenal made it to the Final in Paris that year, but lost to Barcelona, 2-1.

Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007, after amassing a total of 226 goals for the London club.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

17 October 2007 - Steve Staunton's Last Stand

On 17 October 2007, the Republic of Ireland narrowly avoided what would have been one of their worst home defeats in history by scoring in the last minute of stoppage time to draw with Cyprus, 1-1. The match was a Euro 2008 qualifer played before a crowd of 54,000 at Croke Park in Dublin.

The Irish side went into the match vowing to exact revenge for a 5-2 loss inflicted by the Cypriots in Nicosia on 7 October 2006. That loss placed immense pressure on Republic boss Steve Staunton, who had assumed the post in January 2006.

In the rematch, Ireland tested the Cypriots early, but were unable to beat goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides. Irish captain Robbie Keane had the best chance to put the Republic ahead in the 75th minute, but his header went inches wide. Instead, it was Cyprus who took the lead when, in the 80th minute, defender Stelios Okkarides headed the ball in past Irish keeper Shay Given.

The Republic's chances appeared all but over until the 93rd minute, when Ireland defender Steve Finnan found the back of the net with what was nearly the last kick of the match.

The last-gasp goal may have preserved the Republic's pride, but the draw eliminated them from Euro 2008 with one match left to play. Staunton, who still holds the most caps for the Republic at 102, was sacked one week later.

Friday, October 16, 2009

16 October 2004 - Eastwood Was Quick On The Draw

On 16 October 2004, 19-year old Welsh forward Freddy Eastwood made his first League start in record-setting fashion, scoring for Southend United in the first few seconds. He added two more goals later to complete his hat-trick, leading Southend to a 4-2 win over Swansea City.

Eastwood started his football career with Southend as a member of their youth squad from 1997 to 1999. In 1999, he moved to West Ham's youth academy and signed his first professional contract with the Hammers in 2002. He was released in 2003, having failed to make any League appearances.

He signed with non-League side Grays Athletic for the 2003-04 season, and became the club's top scorer that season with 37 goals. In October 2004, he returned on loan to Southend, then in League Two.

In that first match, he headed home a cross in 7.7 seconds, a League record for a debut. His scored his second in the 58th minute, then his third in the 87th minute.

Eastwood left Southend after the 2006-07 season, having scored 49 league goals in 111 appearances. He currently plays for Coventry City.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

15 October 1968 - Birth Of The Golden Generation

On 15 October 1968, former French national team captain and current Marseille manager Didier Deschamps was born in Bayonne, France.

A defensive midfielder, Deschamps began his professional playing career with Nantes in 1985, making 110 appearances, but is best known for his time with Olympique de Marseille (1989-90, 1991-94) and Juventus (1994-99).

In April 1989, during his last season with Nantes, Deschamps earned his first cap for France, a 0-0 home draw against Yugoslavia. France failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1990 and 1994, but Deschamps took over as captain in 1996 and led the side to a period of success known as "the Golden Generation."

Under Deschamps' leadership, France advanced to the semi-finals in Euro '96 before losing on penalties to the Czech Republic. France then claimed the ultimate prize by winning the 1998 World Cup with a 3-0 win over Brazil in the Final. Two years later, Les Bleus won Euro 2000, becoming the first team to hold both titles simultaneously since West Germany did it in 1974.

Deschamps retired from international play in 2000 after making 103 appearances.

In 2001, he turned to management, starting with Monaco. He moved to Juventus for the 2006-07 season, then moved back to France to helm his old club, Marseille.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

14 October 1878 - This Time, The Stars Were Above The Pitch, Not On It.

On 14 October 1878, Sheffield's Bramall Lane ground hosted a match between two sides pulled from local players. It was the first match in history to be played under floodlights. The lighting system, designed by electrician John Tasker, used four sets of lights on wooden towers, powered by Siemens generators.

The experiment in nighttime football was a success, as approximately 20,000 people attended the match (though it was perhaps a qualified success, as the darkness allowed a reported 6,000 of them to sneak into the match). That was a larger crowd than the one for that year's FA Cup Final.

Unfortunately, the lighting systems in use at the time proved unsafe and the Football League banned them at the start of the 1888-89 season. Lights were not used in the Football League until Portsmouth played Newcastle at Fratton Park on 22 February 1956.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

13 October 1993 - Koeman Kicks England Out Of The World Cup

On 13 October 1993, the Netherlands defeated England 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier played before a crowd of approximately 48,000 at Rotterdam's de Kuip Stadion. The defeat meant that England no longer controlled its own destiny with regard to qualification and the side ultimately missed the 1994 World Cup.

Going into the match, England were in second place of UEFA Group 2 on 10 points, three points behind group leaders Norway and one point ahead of the third-place Netherlands. A win would have secured them in second place and automatically qualified them for the World Cup, while a draw would have kept them ahead of the Dutch side.

After a scoreless second half, England captain David Platt was clear through to the goal in the 57th minute and appeared ready to score when his shirt was grabbed by the last man, Dutch captain Ronald Koeman. Although the foul happened a yard inside the box, the referee ignored England's clamor for a penalty and awarded a free kick on the 18-yard line. The Dutch wall safely charged down the kick, taken by defender Tony Dorigo.

Koeman then added to England's misery by scoring from a free kick in the 61st minute. His first attempt was blocked, but the referee ordered it to be retaken, claiming that midfielder Paul Ince had left the wall too early. Koeman took advantage of the second chance, chipping the ball into the top of the net past keeper David Seaman.

It only got worse for England, as Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp appeared to handle the ball before shooting it past Seaman to extend the lead in the 68th minute.

After the loss, England were two points behind the Netherlands for second place and needed a win against San Marino in the last match, combined with a Dutch loss or draw against Poland. England battered San Marino to a 1-7 win, but the Dutch killed off England's World Cup hopes by defeating Poland 1-3.

Monday, October 12, 2009

12 October 1902 - After The Match, Johann Dropped The "Nicka"

On 12 October 1902, Austria defeated Hungary 5-0 in a Vienna friendly. It was the first match for both national sides and the first international match in history to feature two non-British teams.

The match was played at the ground of Wiener A.C. and the Viennese club's players scored all five goals in the Austrian victory. Striker Josef Taurer put the Austrians ahead with a goal in the 5th minute, then striker Johann Studnicka (pictured) added a second in the 10th minute. Studnicka and Gustav Huber then extended the lead to 4-0 before Studnicka scored the final goal to complete his hat-trick.

Eventually, both sides went on to claim glory as two of Europe's most successful teams. Austria's "Wunderteam" rose to prominence in the 1930s, winning the 1932 Central European Cup (the predecessor of the European Championship), while Hungary's "Golden Team" went on a 50-match unbeaten run between 1950 and 1957 and won the gold medal in the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

11 October 1958 - "Now Out Of This Nettle, Danger, Did He Pluck The Flower, Safety."

On 11 October 1958, Tottenham Hotspur defeated Everton 10-4 at White Hart Lane. It was the first match in charge for new manager Bill Nicholson, who had just been appointed that afternoon.

Nicholson got his start with Spurs in 1936 working for the grounds staff. In 1938, he signed a professional contract with them and spent his entire career with the London club, making 214 league appearances before hanging up his boots in 1955.

He joined the Tottenham coaching staff in 1955 and was the first-team coach in 1958 when then-manager Jimmy Anderson was sacked. At the time, Spurs were sixth from bottom of the First Division table. They finished the season at fifth from bottom, but Nicholson eventually turned the club around, winning the Double in 1961.

Nicholson went on to become one of Tottenham's most successful managers, winning two more FA Cups (1962, 1967), two League Cups (1971, 1973), the European Cup Winners' Cup (1963), and the UEFA Cup (1972). He took Spurs to the 1974 UEFA Cup Final, where they lost to Feyenoord, and resigned shortly afterward.

He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and passed away the following year.

Nicholson's 10-4 debut victory over Everton was a club record at the time, but was broken the next season when Spurs defeated Crewe Alexandra 13-2 in the FA Cup on 3 February 1960.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10 October 1998 - Totti Gets Capped

On 10 October 1998, Roma midfielder/second striker Francesco Totti earned his first cap for Italy in a 2-0 win over Switzerland in a Euro 2000 qualifer.

Totti, who was born in Rome in 1976, has played his entire club career for hometown club Roma, whom he joined as a youth player in 1989. By the time the 22-year old Totti received his first call-up to Italy's senior side, he had already won international honors for his country, claiming the 1996 UEFA U-21 European Championship.

In the Euro 2000 tournament, Totti helped the Azzurri reach the Final, contributing a goal to their 2-0 win over Belgium in the group stage, another in their 2-0 win over Romania in the first knockout round, and a penalty kick in their 0-0 (1-3) win over Holland in the semi-finals. Italy lost to France 2-1 in the Final, however, after French striker David Trezeguet scored the golden goal in the 103rd minute. Totti's play earned him inclusion in the 23-player UEFA Team of the Tournament.

Totti and Italy got their revenge on France six years later when they defeated Les Bleus in the 2006 World Cup Final, Totti's last match for Italy. In all, he made 58 appearances for the Azzurri, scoring 9 goals.

Friday, October 9, 2009

9 October 1949 - Messing Makes His First Appearance In His Birthday Suit

On 9 October 1949, future US international and New York Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing was born in the Bronx, New York.

Messing first rose to prominence as the goalkeeper for New York University's football team, for whom he played during his freshman and sophmore years (1968-69). In his second season, he was named second team All-America. He transferred to Harvard University for his junior and senior years (1970-71), again earning second team All-America honors in 1971.

He joined the US national team at the 1971 Pan American games in Colombia and again for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. His only appearance was a 7-0 loss to Germany in the United States' final group stage match of the Olympics.

Messing graduated from Harvard in 1973 and signed for the New York Cosmos of the NASL as a backup keeper. He appeared for them only nine times before being transferred to the Boston Minutemen in 1975. Reportedly, his transfer was partially due to the Cosmos management's unhappiness with his having posed for a nude photo shoot that appeared in Viva magazine. Messing later joked that the photo shoot gave the Cosmos more media exposure than they had received up to that point.

Messing rejoined the Cosmos in 1976 and was the starting keeper for the side that won the 1977 Soccer Bowl, alongside Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia. He left New York after the 1977 season and played for several teams from 1978 to 1987, spending six years (1979-1984) with the Rochester Lancers/New York Arrows.

He is currently a broadcaster and analyst covering the MLS and European matches.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

8 October 2005 - Down To The Wire In Africa

On 8 October 2005, African qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup came to an exciting conclusion, as four nations secured spots for their first-ever World Cup Finals on the final day.

In Group 1, Togo came from behind twice to defeat Congo 2-3 in Brazzaville. Forward Mohamed Kader (pictured) scored the 70th minute matchwinner after netting an equalizer in the 60th minute. The win put Togo two points clear of Senegal at the top of the table.

Ghana, who needed only a draw to secure their first World Cup berth, topped Group 2 with an 0-4 away drubbing of Cape Verde. The win sent them five points clear of both Congo and South Africa, who played to a 2-2 draw on the final day.

Group 3 was won by Côte d'Ivoire with a 1-3 away win at Sudan. They finished one point ahead of Cameroon, who drew 1-1 at home against Egypt after Cameroonian back Pierre Wome failed to convert a penalty kick in added time, hitting the outside of the post.

Angola guaranteed their trip to Germany with a 0-1 away victory over Group 4 bottom-dwellers Rwanda. The win put Angola level on points with group favorites Nigeria, but Angola advanced on their head-to-head record, having earned a win and a draw against Nigeria earlier in qualification.

The four debutants were joined in the World Cup by Group 5 winners Tunisia, who were making their fourth appearance in the tournament. Of the five African sides, only Ghana advanced out of the group stages with wins over the Czech Republic (2-0) and the United States (2-1), but then fell to Brazil in the first knockout round.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

7 October 2007 - Rumors Of Lyon's Death Were Slightly Exaggerated

On 7 October 2007, Lyon defeated Bordeaux, 1-3, at Bordeaux's Stade Chaban Delmas. The win put Lyon on top of the Ligue 1 table.

Lyon were the reigning Ligue 1 champions, but had stumbled to start the season with away losses to Toulouse and Lorient in the league, as well as two 3-0 losses to Barcelona and Rangers in the UEFA Champions League. Nevertheless, they were still sitting in second place when they visited fourth-place Bordeaux. The Girondins had been tipped as challengers for the league, but the match proved that Lyon were not ready to relinquish their title ambitions.

Lyon opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Brazilian defender Anderson Cléber Beraldo headed home from a trademark Juninho free kick. French striker Karim Benzema added to the lead in the 23rd minute, then another Juninho free kick in the 60th minute led to a goal from Swedish midfielder Kim Källström. Bordeaux's Brazilian striker Jussiê pulled one back in the 83rd minute, but the Girondins could not create another and the match ended 3-1 to Lyon.

Lyon finished the season at the top of the table to claim their seventh consecutive title, four points ahead of second-place Bordeaux. The match was Bordeaux's last home defeat and they went on to claim the Ligue 1 title at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

6 October 2001 - Beckham Bends It

On 6 October 2001, England midfielder and captain David Beckham converted a spectacular free kick in the last minute of stoppage time to equalize with Greece 2-2 in a World Cup qualifier at Old Trafford in Manchester, England.

England went into the match needing a win or a draw in order to ensure automatic qualification for the 2002 World Cup Finals. The Greek side disrupted those plans with a 36th-minute strike from forward Angelos Charisteas to go up 0-1.

Still down in the 67th minute, England manager Sven Göran Eriksson subbed striker Robbie Fowler out in favor of striker Teddy Sheringham. Sheringham quickly rewarded Eriksson's faith, heading in an equalizer within ten seconds of stepping foot on the pitch--the fastest goal ever by an England substitute. England's euphoria did not last long, however, as in the 69th minute, Greek striker Demis Nikolaidis evaded defender Rio Ferdinand and fired the Greeks back into the lead.

England continued to trail, when, in the 93rd minute, they were awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out in the center of the pitch. Beckham, who had already taken five unsuccessful long-range free kicks in the match, stepped up and delivered a powerful bending right-foot shot into the top left corner of the goal.

The whistle blew shortly afterward, with England claiming the 2-2 draw and automatic qualification for the 2002 World Cup. It was a watershed moment for Beckham, who had previously been hounded by the British press and supporters for his red-card performance in England's loss to Argentina in the knockout stages of the previous World Cup. The goal against Greece, as well as Beckham's overall inspired play and leadership, transformed him from national villain to national hero.

Monday, October 5, 2009

5 October 1957 - The Marvelous José Andrade

On 5 October 1957, José Leandro Andrade died of tuberculosis at a nursing home in Montevideo at the age of 55. The left half earned multiple honors with the Uruguayan national team, including two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup trophy.

Born in Salto, Uruguay in 1902, Andrade played for a number of Uruguayan and Argentinian clubs in his career, but spent the majority of his time with Uruguayan clubs Nacional and Peñarol. He first appeared for the national side in 1923 and was a key member of the team that defeated Switzerland 3-0 in the gold medal match for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. At that tournament, he became the first black man to play competitive football at the international level on the continent and earned the nickname "The Black Marvel."

He repeated that gold medal success with Uruguay in the 1928 Summer Olympics, defeating Argentina in the final, but suffered an eye injury during a semi-final match against Italy that eventually left him blind in one eye.

In 1930, Uruguay hosted the first World Cup and, fittingly, claimed the first trophy, again defeating Argentina in the Final. Andrade was named to the tournament's All Star Team. The Final was his last appearance for the national side.

In 1994, France Football magazine named him #10 in their list of the top 100 players in the World Cup.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

4 October 1933 - Busby's Brief International Career

On 4 October 1933, wing half Matt Busby debuted for Scotland in a 3-2 loss to Wales at Ninian Park in the British Home Championship. He played for Scotland seven more times during World War II, but the 1933 appearance was his only official one for the Scottish national side.

Busby was in the midst of an impressive playing career for Manchester City, for whom he made a total of 229 appearances between 1928 and 1936, scoring 14 goals and winning the 1935 FA Cup. (The photo to the right shows Busby meeting the future King George VI at the 1933 FA Cup Final.)

In 1936, he transferred to Liverpool, where he played until 1939, making 122 appearances. His playing career officially ended with the outbreak of World War II as he, along with many other Liverpool players, signed up for military service with the King's Liverpool Regiment.

Wales went on to win the 1933-34 British Home Championship with a 2-1 win over England and a 1-1 draw with Ireland. Scotland finished at the bottom of the table, losing all three of their matches.

After the war, Busby started a successful management career with Manchester United, where he stayed from 1945 to 1969, and then from 1970-71. He also briefly managed a unified British national side in 1948 and the Scottish national team in 1958.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

3 October 1981 - The Sweet-Finishing Swede

On 3 October 1981, Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimović was born in Malmö. The striker, who currently plays for Barcelona, is now one of the highest-paid footballers in the world.

Ibrahimović started his professional career in 1999 with his hometown club, Malmö FF, but transferred to Ajax in 2001. He helped Ajax win the Eredivisie title in his first season. He also made his first appearance for the Swedish national team senior side in 2001.

In 2004, he moved to Juventus and made an immediate impact, scoring 16 goals his first season. Juve won the Serie A title in Ibrahimović's two seasons there, but were forced to relenquish those Scudettos after being found guilty of match-fixing. As an additional punishment, Juve were relegated to Serie B for the 2006-07 season. As a result, Ibrahimović left Juventus and signed with rivals Inter.

Again, Ibrahimović proved to be an instant success, becoming Inter's top scorer his first season with 15 goals and helping the Milanese club to three consecutive Scudettos. Despite his success, however, he has been the subject of frequent criticism for failing to make an impact in critical matches, including matches in the UEFA Champions League.

In 2009, Ibrahimović moived again, this time to reigning La Liga and Champions League holders Barcelona. The transfer was widely publicized, with Inter receiving forward Barça forward Samuel Eto'o (valued at €20 million) and €46 million for the striker. He currently earns €9.5 million per year with the Catalan club.

[2011 Update: In 2010, Ibrahimović moved from Barcelona to AC Milan and is currently in his second season there.]

Friday, October 2, 2009

2 October 1928 - A "Renegade League" Sounds More Exciting Than It Actually Is, Unfortunately

On 2 October 1928, the United States Football Association suspended the nation's top league, the American Soccer League. Established in 1921, the ASL was the United States' first professional league. It was regional, with its teams based primarily around New York and Philadelphia.

The suspension arose from a dispute between the ASL and the USFA over the USFA-run National Challenge Cup (the forerunner of today's U.S. Open Cup). The Challenge Cup was played during the ASL season and was open to all clubs in the nation operating under the USFA umbrella. Thus, ASL clubs often found themselves interrupting their season to travel miles away and play against amateur teams in front of small crowds. The poor crowds combined with high travel expenses to strain the finances of the ASL clubs.

In 1928, the ASL boycotted the Challenge Cup (which they had also done in 1924). Nevertheless, three ASL clubs--Bethlehem Steel, New York Giants, and Newark Skeeters--ignored the boycott and entered the Cup competition. The ASL promptly suspended them, which in turn led the USFA, and later FIFA, to suspend the ASL.

The ASL operated as a renegade league for the rest of the 1928-29 season, while the USFA established a new professional league, the Eastern Professional Soccer League, to take its place. In 1929, at the start of the following season, the ASL agreed to comply with the USFA's demands.

The battle between the ASL and USFA irrevocably damaged the ASL, however, and the league, which had by then merged with the EPSL, dissolved in the spring of 1933.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

1 October 1996 - With That Name, He Had To End Up There Sooner Or Later

On 1 October 1996, Arsène Wenger officially took charge as manager of Arsenal. He would go on to become recognized as one of the best managers in football, becoming the first (and to date only) non-British manager to win the English Double and the first Premier League manager to go a full season undefeated.

Wenger was born in Strasbourg, France on 22 October 1949. He enjoyed a brief and undistinguished playing career as a sweeper for FC Mulhouse (1973-75), ASPV Strasbourg (1975-78), and RC Strasbourg (1978-81) before moving into management as an assistant with AS Cannes in 1983.

He received his first full mangerial position with Ligue 1 side AS Nancy in 1984. He stayed there for only three seasons, the last of which ended with the club being relegated to Ligue 2. In 1987, he moved to AS Monaco, where he earned his first managerial honors, winning Ligue 1 in his first season. His Monaco side also won the Coupe de France in 1991.

Wenger left Monaco in 1994 after the club's board denied him permission to speak with Bayern Munich about their managerial vacancy. In 1995, he went to Japan to manage Nagoya Grampus Eight and in 1996 his side won both the Emperor's Cup and the J-League Super Cup.

He moved to Arsenal in 1996 after the London club sacked previous manager Bruce Rioch. His first match in charge was a 2-0 Premier League away win over Blackburn Rovers on 12 October 1996. Arsenal finished in third place that season, but secured Wenger's record-setting Double the following season, winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup in his first full season in charge.

He won a second Double in the 2001-02 season, then won the league again in 2003-04 without losing a match.