Thursday, March 31, 2011

31 March 2004 - Centenariazo!

On 31 March 2004, visitors Venezuela upset Uruguay 0-3 in a World Cup qualification match.

Going into their qualification campaign, Uruguay manager Juan Ramon Carrasco had reworked the side's rigid defensive style into an open and attacking flow, resulting in wins over Bolivia (5-0) and Chile (2-1), as well as an explosive 3-3 draw with Brazil (though they also suffered a crushing 4-1 loss at Paraguay). Venezuela, meanwhile, had opened with losses to Ecuador (2-0) and Argentina (0-3) before rallying with narrow wins over Colombia (0-1) and Bolivia (2-1).

Playing before a crowd of 40,094 at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, the hosts attacked from the opening whistle, applying furious pressure on the Venezuelan goal. But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 19th minute with a long-range blast from midfielder Gabriel Urdaneta. Uruguay renewed their energy on offense and were twice denied by the woodwork in the first half.

Venezuela doubled their lead in the 67th minute with a goal from Héctor "El Turbo" Gonzalez on a counter. Ten minutes later, Gonzalez delivered a cutting pass that fellow midfielder Juan Arango easily stabbed home for the final 0-3 margin. Venezuelan supporters dubbed the match "the Centenariazo," after Uruguay's famous "Marazanazo" victory over Brazil in 1950. Uruguay manager Carrasco, meanwhile, called the match "a stain on the history of Uruguayan football."

Ultimately, neither team qualified for the 2006 World Cup, as Venezuela's form faded and they finished 9th out the 10 CONMEBOL teams. Uruguay finished 5th and advanced to the CONMEBOL/OFC playoff where they lost to Australia on penalties.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30 March 1904 - What If They Held A Final, But Nobody Came?

On 30 March 1904, Club Español de Madrid showed up for the Copa del Rey final, but had no opponent. And they still didn't win the cup.

The 1904 non-final was the culmination of a controversial tournament for the club. After two years of being run by Madrid CF, the 1904 edition was organized by the Madrid Football Federation, whose president was also the president of Español de Madrid. Four teams participated in the initial rounds, with the winner scheduled to play in the Final against the previous year's champions, Athletic Bilbao (pictured in 1904).

Español de Madrid drew their first match with Madrid-Moderno, 5-5, on 13 March. The two sides decided to schedule a replay rather than go to extra time, but could not agree on the timing. Español wanted to have it the following day, while Madrid-Moderno wanted to have at least a 48-hour break between matches. When Madrid-Moderno failed to show up on 14 March, the Madrid Football Federation declared Español the winners.

They advanced to the semi-final match against Moncloa FC on 27 March, but an injury to an Español player forced the teams to abandon the game. Again, the teams were unable to agree on a replay date and, again, the Madrid Football Federation declared Español to be the winners. The federation set 30 March as the date for the Final, moved from the originally-scheduled date of 26 March.

Meanwhile, Bilbao had arrived to play the Final on the originally scheduled date, but had no opponent. When they did not show up for the rescheduled match on 30 March, the president of the Madrid Football Federation tried once again to declare Español the winners. But the other teams protested the decision and decided that Bilbao should retain the title.

Español de Madrid finished as runners-up in 1909 and 1910, while Bilbao went on to win the tournament a total of 23 times, second only to Barcelona's 25.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

29 March 2008 - A New Low For Derby County

On 29 March 2008, a 2-2 draw with Fulham guaranteed Derby County's relegation--the earliest such guarantee in the history of the Premier League.

Derby had earned promotion to the Premier League the year before under new manager Billy Davies, who had joined the club in June 2006. But they struggled in the top flight, winning only one match all season (a 1-0 victory over Newcastle on 17 September). They dropped into last place in the fourth week, then rose to 19th before getting pinned to the bottom again in the eleventh week and staying there for the remainder of the season. Billy Davies left the club in November, replaced by Paul Jewell.

They entered the match against Fulham with only 10 points, 17 points shy of safety. With only seven games left, Derby needed a win to preserve any hope of survival. And Fulham were ideal opponents, as they were in the relegation zone themselves, only one spot above Derby.

Derby struck first with a 10th-minute goal from Emanuel Villa, but the visiting Cottagers claimed the lead after a header from Diomansy Kamara (24') and an own-goal from Derby's Dean Leacock (78'). Villa salvaged a point for Derby with a late goal in the 80th minute, but it was too little to save their season. They were 19 points from safety with only six matches remaining, thus ensuring their drop from the top flight. It is the earliest in the season that any team has been mathematically relegated, breaking the previous record set by Sunderland on 12 April 2003.

And it was Derby's last point of the season. They lost all of their remaining games to finish with 11 points, the lowest points total since Stoke City finished with 17 in 1985 and a record low since the league went to three points for a win.

Monday, March 28, 2011

28 March 2010 - Reeling In The Years

On 28 March 2010, midfielder Kristine Lilly came on as a first-half substitute for the US in a friendly against Mexico. By doing so, she became the first person in international football history to represent her country in four different decades.

Lilly made her first appearance for the United States in 1987 when she was just 16 years old. Over the course of her 24-year international career, she has earned 352 caps while winning two World Cups (1991, 1999) and two Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004).

She was on the bench for the match against Mexico, played at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium, but entered in the 32nd minute as a replacement for midfielder Yael Averbuch. The US were already up 1-0 at the point with a 12th-minute goal from forward Amy Rodriguez and proceeded to extend their lead with strikes from Shannon Boxx (43') and Lauren Cheney (72').

Lilly's appearance meant that she played for the US in the '80s, '90s, '00s, and '10s. She received her last call-up on 27 November 2010 for a 1-0 win over Italy in a World Cup qualifier, but was an unused substitute for that match.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

27 March 1989 - The Tigers Declawed

On 27 March 1989, Bradford City held Hull City to a 1-1 draw, starting a club-record streak of 27 winless league matches for the visiting Tigers.

In fairness, Hull hadn't fared too well before the streak, either. By the time they visited Bradford's Valley Parade ground in March, they had won only 11 of their 35 matches in Division Two that season and were sitting in 19th place. They had beaten Plymouth Argyle the week before, but that rare victory stemmed a string of six straight losses. The draw with Bradford City dropped them into 20th place and they barely escaped relegation, finishing the season in 21st after 5 draws and 5 losses in their last 10 matches.

The next season, they picked up where they had left off, going without a league win in their first 16 matches. They finally broke the streak on 11 November 1989, when they returned to Bradford City and managed a 2-3 victory.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

26 March 1986 - Scotland's Only Centurion

On 26 March 1986, Liverpool striker Kenny Dalglish won his 100th cap for Scotland in a 3-0 win over Romania. To date, he is the only player to reach that milestone for the Scottish national team.

He received his first call-up in November 1971, coming on as a substitute in a Euro '72 qualifying victory over Belgium. Although it took him over a year to get his first goal, he eventually scored 30 times for Scotland to match the record set by Denis Law.

Against Romania, manager Alex Ferguson gave the armband Dalglish, his seventh and last time to captain the national team. Scotland's starting XI included nine future managers, including two--Dalglish and midfielder Graeme Souness--who went on to take charge of Liverpool. Dalglish also managed Celtic during his career, as did another teammate of his that day, midfielder Gordon Strachan.

Strachan opened the day's scoring in the 18th minute and was followed shortly by defender Richard Gough (27'). Gough's partner in defense, Roy Aitken, added the third in the 81st minute, his only goal in 57 appearances for Scotland.

Dalglish, meanwhile, went on to earn two more Scottish caps before retiring from the national team later that year.

Friday, March 25, 2011

25 March 1939 - Not The Teams You'd Expect For The Record, Are They?

On 25 March 1939, Manchester United's Old Trafford ground held its largest-ever crowd. And Manchester United weren't playing.

Designed by famed architect Archibald Leitch and completed in 1909, the stadium was originally named United Football Ground, but was renamed to Old Trafford in 1936. With an original terraced capacity of just under 80,000, it was one of England's largest grounds and hosted some prominent matches, including English internationals and FA Cup Finals.

In 1939, it served as the venue for one of the FA Cup semi-finals. A stadium-record crowd of 76,962 people turned out to watch Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Grimsby Town 5-0. The victory sent Wanderers to the Final at Wembley, where they lost to Portsmouth.

In the early 1990s, the club converted the stadium to an all-seater, following the recommendation of the Taylor Report following the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. The capacity dropped at that point to around 44,000. Subsequent additions, however, have increased the stadium close to its pre-Taylor Report levels and it currently boasts a capacity of 75,957.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

24 March 2007 - The Newest Kids On The International Block

On 24 March 2007, Montenegro played their first-ever match, winning 2-1 against Hungary in a friendly.

Despite their recent vintage, international football in Montenegro dates back to 1919 when the area was part of Yugoslavia. In 1991, after the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Montenegro joined with fellow ex-SFR state Serbia as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Then, in 2003, they changed the name of the country to Serbia and Montenegro.

A further shift followed in 2006 when Montenegro claimed independence from Serbia. The administration and history of the formerly combined national team remained with Serbia, who also inherited the membership in FIFA and UEFA. As a result, Montenegro started a brand new football association and national team.

The new Montenegrin national team officially joined UEFA in January 2007 and FIFA later that year. The match against Hungary was their first official match. Played before a crowd of approximately 12,000 at the Stadion Pod Goricum, Montenegro's national stadium, the visitors took a lead in the first minute, but striker Mirko Vučinić pulled the hosts level with a 63rd-minute penalty kick. Midfielder Igor Burzanović then scored the match winner from the spot in the 81st minute.

Montenegro has risen to 25th in the recent FIFA world rankings and currently top their group for Euro 2012 qualification, over England, Bulgaria, Switzerland, and Wales.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

22 March 1889 - They're The Sharpest Club In Town

On 22 March 1889, Sheffield United formed at the Adelphi Hotel in Sheffield. Nicknamed "the Blades," they went to become champions of England's top flight and four-time FA Cup winners.

The new club was the idea of Sir Charles Clegg, president of the Sheffield Cricket Club, who intended it as a way for his cricket players to keep fit during the close season and to provide revenue for the city's Bramall Lane stadium. Incidentally, Clegg also happened to be the president of Sheffield Wednesday FC.

When the nascent Football League expanded to two divisions in 1892, United joined Division Two and were promoted to the top flight after only one season. They enjoyed moderate success in their first three seasons in Division One before finishing in second place in 1897, then winning the league in 1898 with a record of 17 wins, 8 draws, and only 5 losses. It remains their only league title, though they followed it quickly by winning their first FA Cup in 1899 with a 4-1 victory over Derby County.

They reached another FA Cup Final in 1901, then won it for the second time in 1902. Their other two FA Cups came in 1915 and 1925.

United reached a low point during the late 1970s and early '80s, dropping down to the Fourth Division in 1981. By 1990, however, they were back in the top flight and have since spent their time moving between the top two divisions. They are currently sitting in 22nd place in the Championship.

Monday, March 21, 2011

21 March 1986 - The Pharaohs Reign Again

On 21 March 1986, hosts Egypt won their third Africa Cup of Nations title, beating Cameroon on penalties, 0-0 (5-4).

The Pharoahs had won the very first two tournaments in 1957 and 1959 (the latter as the United Arab Republic), but had managed no better than third in the intervening years. Most recently, they finished fourth in 1984.

Their 1986 campaign got off to a poor start with an opening-day loss to Sengal in Cairo, but they rallied with wins over Côte d'Ivoire and Moambique to top their group. Cameroon, meanwhile, won their own group with wins over Zambia and Algeria and a draw with Morocco.

In the semi-finals, Egypt downed Morocco and Cameroon defeated Côte d'Ivoire with equal 1-0 scorelines to set up the final in Cairo. There, Cameroon's goalkeeper Thomas Nkono, who was named to the team of the tournament, kept Egypt out of the goal, while Egypt, in turn, stymied the tournament's leading scorer, Roger Milla. After extra time, the teams were still scoreless, forcing the match into penalty kicks which Egypt won, 5-4.

Egypt have since gone on to win another four ACN titles, including the last three in a row, making them the competition's most successful nation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

20 March 1990 - Farewell To The Black Spider

On 20 March 1990, Dynamo Moscow star Lev Yashin died. Nicknamed "the Black Spider" for his customary all-black kit, he is remembered by many as the greatest goalkeeper in history.

Born in Moscow, Yashin spent his entire professional career with Dynamo, making 326 league appearances from 1949 to 1971. In the process, he won five league titles and three Soviet Cups. Once, when asked about his incredible record for stopping penalty kicks, he said the secret was "to have a smoke to calm your nerves, then toss back a strong drink to tone your muscles."

Despite his success with Dynamo, he rose to international fame as keeper for the Soviet national team. He earned his first cap in 1954 and was instrumental in their gold medal winning 1956 Summer Olympics campaign, allowing only two goals in the tournament. He was equally frugal in the 1960 European Championship, again allowing only two goals in the tournament as the Soviet Union won the inaugural tournament.

In 1963, the year he captured his fifth league title with Dynamo, he won the Ballon d'Or, becoming the first--and to date only--goalkeeper to win the award.

He suffered a knee injury in 1986 that led to the amputation of one of his legs. That created complications that led to his death in 1990. Four years later, FIFA created the Lev Yashin Award, given to the best goalkeeper at the World Cup.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

19 March 2008 - Better Than Best

On 19 March 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo scored both goals in Manchester United's 2-0 win to pass George Best on the club's ranking for most goals in a single season.

The match was Ronaldo's first as captain, in the absence of regular skippers Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Rio Ferdinand, and he responded to the challenge well. His first goal came in just the ninth minute as he volleyed a corner kick past Bolton keeper Ali Al Habsi and his second followed just eleven minutes later. After being fouled by Bolton's Abdoulaye Méité in the 20th minute, Ronaldo delivered a stunningly precise free kick that easily beat Al Habsi.

That second goal was Ronaldo's 33rd goal of the season in all competitions, surpassing Best's best tally of 32, set in 1967-68. He finished the year with a total of 42, only four behind Denis Law's club record of 46 in 1963-64.

The win put United three points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table, where they would remain for the rest of the season to claim their 18th league title.

Friday, March 18, 2011

18 March 1900 - Ajax The Great

On 18 March 1900, AFC Ajax were founded in Amsterdam. They have since become one of the world's most successful clubs, pioneering total football and collecting a haul of silverware that includes 29 Dutch league titles, 18 KNVB Cups, and four European Cups/Champions League trophies.

Named after the Greek hero from the Iliad, the club's early days gave little sign of the greatness to follow as their first 10 seasons were spent in the Dutch second division. They won their first major trophy, the KNVB Cup, in 1917 and followed it with back-to-back league titles in 1918 and 1919. They enjoyed tremendous success through the 1930s and 1950s, but rose to even greater heights in the 1960s due to the combination of manager Rinus Michels and star midfielder Johan Cruyff.

Michels refined Ajax's style of play known as "total football" in which players shifted responsibilities based on the flow of the match. With Cruyff at its core, Ajax rose to European heights, winning three consecutive European Cups (1971, 1972, and 1973).

Ajax continued their success through the '80s, '90s, and 2000s. But while they continue to collect KNVB Cups on a regular basis, most recently winning it in 2010, they have not won a league title since 2004.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

17 March 1961 - The Don Of Elland Road

On 17 March 1961, 33-year Don Revie took over Leeds United as player-manager. He would go on to become the club's most successful manager with two league titles, an FA Cup, and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups.

A center forward, Revie joined Leeds United in November 1958 from Sunderland (for a transfer fee of £12,000 that, combined with the fees paid to his previous clubs over the years, made him the most expensive footballer in English history at the time). In 1960, they finished second from the bottom in Division One and were relegated to Division Two, which is where they were when Revie took over.

He quickly put his own personal mark on the club, in part by changing their strip from yellow and blue to an all-white kit in the style of Real Madrid. He retired from playing in 1962 to concentrate on management and led Leeds back to the top flight for the 1964-65 season. They immediately challenged for honors upon their return, finishing second in the league and advancing to the FA Cup Final in 1965.

After finishing as league runners-up again in 1966, they won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 over Ferencváros, then won their first Division One title in 1969 after topping the table for the last 14 weeks of the season. Three more second-place league finishes followed in 1970, 1971, and 1972 before they won their next league title in 1974. Along the way, they also won the 1971 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the 1972 FA Cup.

In 1974, Revie left Elland Road to become manager of England, but could not reproduce his success from Leeds. He resigned in 1977, then retired in 1985 after spells in charge of the United Arab Emirates, Al-Nassr, and Al-Ahly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

16 March 1938 - The Bombing Of Barcelona

On 16 March 1938, a bomb struck the offices of FC Barcelona during a raid by Italy's Legionary Air Force.

The LAF conducted the bombing to aid Francisco Franco, whose Nationalist forces were seeking to subjugate Spain. The semi-autonomous region of Catalonia was one of the last areas in Spain to resist Franco, whose allies included Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Both Germany and Italy provided men and equipment to Franco, including the LAF who were specifically tasked to provide air support in Spain.

A few months after the raid, Catalonia fell to the Nationalist forces, who then sought to eradicate the symbols of Catalonian independence. Barça were forced to remove the Catalonian flag from their crest and also had to change their name from the English "Football Club Barcelona" to the Spanish "Club de Fútbol Barcelona." Supporters continued to sing songs in Catalan, however, and cheer against Franco's favored Real Madrid, so the club soon became itself a symbol of anti-Nationalist sentiment.

In 1974, after Franco's declining health forced him to step down as head of state, Barça restored the Catalan flag to their crest and took the name Futbol Club Barcelona.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

15 March 1947 - He Certainly Added Experience To The Side

On 15 March 1947, Neil McBain took the pitch for New Brighton AFC at the age of 51 years and 120 days. He still holds the record as the Football League's oldest-ever player.

He began his career in 1914 as a wing-half with Ayr United and played for a variety of clubs in Scotland and England for the next 16 seasons, including Manchester United (1921-23), Everton (1923-26), St. Johnstone (1926-28), Liverpool (1928), and Watford (1928-31). In 1929, while at Watford, he was promoted to player-manager. Though he retired from playing in 1931, he remained there as manager until 1937.

After spells in charge of Ayr United (1937-38) and Luton Town (1938-39), he eventually took the reins at New Brighton in the summer of 1946. Late in his first season there, the team suffered a spate of injuries that left them short of goalkeepers. So, on 15 March, McBain put his playing boots back on and took the position in goal against Hartlepool United.

It was not a successful return to playing for him, as New Brighton conceded three goals and scored none. McBain stayed with them for one more season (though he never played another match) and was sacked in February 1948. He continued to manage until 1963, including return stints at Watford and Ayr United, and passed away in 1974.

Monday, March 14, 2011

14 March 1973 - Plymouth Rocks Pelé

On 14 March 1973, fresh off their defeat to Fulham two days earlier, Santos FC continued their England tour with a friendly against Third Division side Plymouth Argyle. And lost again.

Controversy erupted before the Brazilian side even took the pitch. According to Argyle chairman Robert Daniel, Santos officials refused to let the team play unless the hosts ponied up an additional £2,500 more than the contracted fee. Daniel initially refused, but with a capacity crowd of over 37,000 at Plymouth's Home Park to see world-famous players such as 1970 World Cup winners Carlos Alberto, Edú, and the most celebrated player of all, Pelé, he eventually capitulated and paid the extra amount.

He was glad he did, as Argyle took a 3rd-minute lead with a rocket from Mike Dowling, who fired the ball from outside the box into the top right corner of the net. A diving header from Derek Rickard doubled their lead, then a failed attempt by Santos keeper Claudio to corral a cross allowed Argyle's Jimmy Hinch to slot in from close range and extend the margin to 3-0 by the break. When the halftime whistle blew, supporters rushed onto the pitch and swarmed around Pelé seeking autographs.

The second half was a different story, as a penalty kick from Pelé and a late goal from Edú closed the gap to 3-2, but that was it. Argyle held on until full time to claim one of their most historic victories.

(For video of the match, please visit

Sunday, March 13, 2011

13 March 2001 - The City Of Fights

On 13 March 2001, Paris Saint-Germain and Galatasaray faced off in a Champions League match marred by violence in the stands.

The clubs were at the Parc des Princes for their second meeting of the tournament's second group stage, with the Turks having won the first meeting, 1-0. It was the group's last match day and Galatasaray were challenging for the top spot, while PSG were looking for their first win of the round.

They staked their claim early, with Brazilian international striker Christian giving them the lead in the third minute, then doubling it 24 minutes later. Frustrated by their team's performance, the traveling Galatasaray supporters began voicing their displeasure. Their words turned to actions in the second half, as they began ripping up seats and throwing them into the crowd. Fights erupted across the stadium and several bloodied supporters spilled out of the stands.

In the 59th minute, referee Vitor Manuel Pereira stopped play and directed the players to leave the pitch as officials debated whether to call the match off. But after a 20-minute intermission, they decided to continue and the match ended 2-0.

UEFA subsequently fined both clubs--£410,000 to PSG and £82,000 to Galatasaray--and also banned PSG from playing at the Parc des Princes for their next three European matches.

PSG-Galatasaray 13 mars 2001 by cimbomparis

Saturday, March 12, 2011

12 March 1973 - Pelé Comes To London

On 12 March 1973, Pelé and Santos FC visited London for a friendly against Second Division Fulham. And lost 2-1.

Although Pelé had been in England with Brazil for the 1966 World Cup, all of Brazil's matches had been played at Goodison Park, making the Fulham match his first in the English capital. His Santos teammates that day included fellow 1970 World Cup winners Carlos Alberto and Edú.

A season-high crowd of 21,464 turned out at Craven Cottage for the game. Pelé, who was already an established international star, was the center of attention, receiving rounds of applause every time he touched of the ball. But Edú turned in the most impressive performance for the visitors with a combination of speed and style.

Santos went ahead with a penalty kick from Pelé, who slipped the ball past Fulham keeper Peter Mellor, but the Cottagers fought back. Midfielder Alan Pinkney, not generally known as a scorer, provided the equalizer, while striker Steve Earle scored the winning goal. It was a hard-fought victory for the hosts; post-match reports described the Fulham players as looking exhausted, while the Brazilians appeared to have barely broken a sweat.

Afterward, a dispute arose between the two clubs, as Santos believed that Fulham had short-changed them on their percentage of the gate. Any animosity between Fulham and Pelé did not last, though, as he later went on to scout for the club in 2002.

Friday, March 11, 2011

11 March 1934 - A Pair Of Nines

On 11 March 1934, both Spain and Germany opened their World Cup qualification campaigns with dominant wins over their neighbors, scoring 9 goals each.

The day represented the first involvement in the tournament for both of the future winners, neither of whom had participated in the 1930 World Cup. Unlike that first one, which had only 13 countries competing, the 1934 edition had so many interested teams that FIFA instituted a qualification process. Spain went into a two-team qualification group with Portugal, while Germany joined France and Luxembourg in a group of three.

Spain enjoyed the biggest win of qualification, beating Portugal 9-0 in Madrid. They scored their first goal after only three minutes and never looked back, going up 3-0 by the break. The 9-0 final score included five goals from Real Oviedo striker Isidro Lángara (pictured).

Germany also scored their first goal after only three minutes with a goal from Vfl Benrath forward Josef Rasselnberg. Playing at Luxembourg's Stade Municipal, Germany were up 0-3 when the hosts scored in the 27th minute, then extended their lead to 1-5 before halftime. Rasselnberg added three more goals to the final score of 1-9.

Both Spain and Germany qualified easily--Spain beat Portugal again, 1-2, while Germany did not need another match. In their group's next game, France beat Luxembourg 1-6, so both France and Germany advanced without having to play their group's final scheduled match. In the tournament proper, Spain fell to eventual winners Italy in the quarterfinals, while Germany lost to eventual runners-up Czechoslovakia in the semifinals.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

10 March 1971 - The Bluebirds Soar Over Madrid

On 10 March 1971, Cardiff City delivered the shock of the season and one of the club's most famous victories, upsetting Real Madrid 1-0.

The two teams met in the quarterfinals of the European Cup Winners' Cup. Cardiff, who were then in Division Two, qualified by winning the previous season's Welsh Cup. They weren't strangers to the competition, having participated in it four previous times including an impressive run in 1967-68 that ended with a semifinal loss to Hamburg.

In 1970-71, the Bluebirds flew through the first two rounds, advancing past Pezoporikos Larnacas (8-0 agg.) and Nantes (7-2 agg.) to set up their date with six-time European Cup champions Real Madrid.

Playing before a crowd of approximately 50,000 at Cardiff's Ninian Park, the hosts attacked the visitors with a blend of tenacity and quickness. They were rewarded in the 31st minute, when a surge down the left side resulted in a cross that was headed home powerfully by striker Brian Clark (pictured). Not content to sit on the lead, Cardiff continued to attack and Real Madrid were fortunate to escape with a narrow 1-0 loss.

Madrid won the second leg 2-0 to advance, eventually finishing as runners-up to Chelsea, but the first-leg victory remains one of football's greatest upsets.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

9 March 2007 - Wembley Reborn

On 9 March 2007, construction was completed on the new Wembley Stadium and the keys handed over to the Football Association after multiple delays and a loss of almost £200 million to the stadium's general contractor.

With construction starting in 2000, initial plans for the stadium called for its completion in 2003. But legal issues and problems with financing quickly pushed the scheduled opening back to May 2006. Problems with construction dogged the new project, however, including delays related to the building of the stadium's iconic arch that resulted in the replacement of the subcontractors in charge of it.

In 2004, 54-year old carpenter Patrick O'Sullivan died when a scaffolding collapsed. More problems followed in 2006, including damage to the sewers underneath the stadium due to improper installation, pushing the completion date again, this time into 2007. Multiplex, the stadium's general contractor, claimed that many of the delays were the fault of subcontractor WNSL, resulting in litigation between the two companies.

The 90,000-seat stadium was finally completed in March 2007 at a total cost of approximately £1 billion. Multiplex reportedly suffered a loss of £187 million on the project.

The first competitive football match played at the new stadium was the 2007 FA Trophy Final between Kidderminster Harriers and Stevenage Borough. It has since hosted several cup finals and English national team matches, as well as concerts. It is also the venue for the upcoming 2011 UEFA Champions League Final.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

8 March 1949 - The Coming Of Hugo

On 8 March 1949, Barcelona star and 1975 Copa America hero Hugo Sotil was born in Ica, Peru. A striker and attacking midfielder, Sotil's skill on the ball has been compared to that of George Best. Unfortunately, the comparisons don't stop there, as drinking problems led to his premature decline.

Sotil made his professional debut in 1968 with CD Municipal, where he scored 49 goals in five seasons. In 1973, he moved to Barcelona and, alongside Johann Cruyff, he helped them win the league in his first season--Barça's first league title in 14 years. His problems with alcohol surfaced in his second season and he temporarily lost his starting position to newcomer Johann Neeskens, though he reclaimed it during the 1975-76 season.

He earned 62 caps for Peru during his career, but the most significant one was the 1975 Copa America final against Colombia. Barcelona did not allow him to participate in the preliminary matches, so he flew to Caracas for the final, heading directly to the stadium from the airport and arriving there as his teammates were already warming up. Despite the lack of preparation, he scored the match's only goal in the 25th minute to give Peru the 1-0 victory.

Sotil returned to Peru in 1977 to play for Alianza Lima, winning the league in his only two seasons there. He spent two seasons with Independiente Medellín, two with CD Municipal, and one with Espartanos FC before retiring in 1984 at the age of 35.

Monday, March 7, 2011

7 March 2010 - Twente Go Top

On 7 March 2010, FC Twente leapfrogged PSV Eindhoven to take the top spot in the Eredivisie table. They would hold on to it for the remainder of the season to claim their first league championship.

Founded in 1965, Twente's previous best finish was second, which they first achieved in 1974. They did it again in 2009, under the guidance of new manager Steve McClaren, then in his first season with the club.

Twente got off to a remarkable start in McClaren's second season, winning 17 and drawing four of their first 21 matches. They had reached the top spot and held it for 10 weeks during that spell, but dropped into second place after a couple of scoreless draws in January. PSV, meanwhile, claimed first place with an even better run of 20 wins and five draws in their first 25 matches. But PSV slipped on 6 March, losing 1-2 away to NAC Breda. The loss opened the door for Twente, who were one point back.

On Sunday, 7 March, Twente were away at RKC Waalwijk, whom they had narrowly beaten at home in August, 2-1. The return fixture was equally tight, with only a header from Twente midfielder Kenneth Perez separating the two sides. It was enough, though, to secure the full three points for the visitors, who jumped two points past PSV to top the league.

PSV had a chance to reclaim the lead two weeks later when they hosted Twente, but they played to a 1-1 draw. Twente did lose to Alkmaar in April, but remained on top to claim their first league title while PSV slipped to third.

The two sides are again battling for the title in 2011, with PSV currently sitting on top, three points clear of second-place Twente.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

6 March 2002 - Real Madrid's Unwanted Birthday Present

On 6 March 2002, Real Madrid celebrated their 100th birthday with a loss to Deportivo de La Coruña in the Copa del Rey Final.

With Real Madrid's 100th anniversary falling on 6 March 2002, club president Florentino Pérez arranged to mark the date by hosting the Copa del Rey Final on that day. He further instructed manager Vicente Del Bosque to place a higher priority on the cup, which Madrid had not won since 1993. The previous season, they had been eliminated in the Round of 64 by third-division side Toledo.

But Deportivo, who had won La Liga in 2000 and finished second to Real Madrid in 2001, had no intention of letting the hosts claim the cup as birthday present. They swarmed around the ball in the first half with an energy and determination that quickly caught Madrid off-guard. In just the 6th minute, midfielder Sergio González (pictured) fired Deportivo ahead from close range after beating Madrid captain Fernando Hierro and right back Míchel Salgado to slip the ball through the legs of keeper César. Just over half an hour later, striker Diego Tristán doubled the lead with another close-range shot.

Madrid closed the gap to one with a goal from Raúl Gonzalez, but they would get no closer. The match ended 1-2 to Deportivo, giving them only the second Copa del Rey in club history.

Real Madrid got some consolation a little over two months later when they won their ninth European Cup/Champions League trophy, beating Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 in Glasgow.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

5 March 1940 - Argentina Rolls In The Roca

On 5 March 1940, Argentina beat Brazil 6-1 in Buenos Aires. It remains the largest margin of victory in the rivalry between the two countries.

The match was part of the Roca Cup, an irregular tournament played between Argentina and Brazil that dated back to 1913 when it was founded by General Julio Roca (pictured). Roca was a football enthusiast who also happened to be a former president of Argentina and, in 1913, was their ambassador to Brazil. He proposed the tournament to help develop the sport and also donated the trophy.

The 1940 edition was the fifth tournament, with Brazil and Argentina evenly splitting the previous four--Brazil won in 1914 and 1922, while Argentina won in 1923 and in 1939 (the 1939 tournament actually extended into February 1940). The 1940 tournament kicked off on 5 March with a table format. Three matches were scheduled, with the winners receiving two points for a win and one point for a draw.

Argentina opened the tournament (and defended their recently-won title) with a dominant 6-1 smackdown--the most lopsided victory by either side in the rivalry and Brazil's worst loss since their record 6-0 defeat to Uruguay in 1920. Brazil won the second match, 2-3, but Argentina again rolled in the final match, winning 5-1 to top the final table with four points to Brazil's two.

Despite the crushing losses, Brazil came back in the next tournament, played in 1945, and reeled off four straight Roca Cups (1945, 1957, 1960, 1963). The two teams shared the title in 1971 before Brazil won the last tournament in 1976, finishing with eight Cups to Argentina's four.

Friday, March 4, 2011

4 March 1945 - Red Star Rising

On 4 March 1945, European and world champions Red Star Belgrade formed from the ashes of a previous club, SK 1913.

As their name suggests, SK 1913 were founded in 1913, but as SK Velika Srbija. From 1919 to 1941, they were known as SK Jugoslavija and twice won the Yugoslavian championship (1924, 1925). When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia dissolved in 1941, they again changed their name, this time to SK 1913.

In 1945, however, after the end of World War II, the government of the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia labeled accused the club of collaborating with the Axis powers by playing matches during the war. The government formally disbanded the club, handing their stadium, colors, offices, and players to the newly-formed Red Star.

Red Star went on to become a dominant club, with a record 25 league titles and a record 23 national cups as their nation changed from SFR Yugoslavia to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, then to the Federal Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, and to its current status as Serbia. Red Star have also tasted international success, winning the both the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup in 1991.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

3 March 1983 - Gould Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

On 3 March 1983, Bristol Rovers manager Bobby Gould levied an unusual fine--against himself.

Gould was then in his second season in charge of Bristol Rovers, though he had played there for a season as part of a journeyman career that saw the striker suit up for a host of clubs including Coventry City (82 league appearances), Arsenal (65), West Brom (52), and West Ham (51). He retired from playing in 1979 and joined Chelsea that year as Geoff Hurst's assistant.

When the Blues sacked Hurst in April 1981, Gould filled in as caretaker, holding the reins for their last four matches, then took the full-time position at Rovers that October. When he arrived in Bristol, Rovers were launching their Division Three campaign having been relegated from Division Two the previous spring, and Gould led them to a 15th place finish.

In the 1982-83 season, Rovers rose as high as second in the table in the first half of the season before slipping down to sixth on New Year's Day. They were pushing up again, rising to third before losing at Bradford City in February. Gould strongly took issue with the referee's decision-making that day, engaging in what he later described as "mouthing off." But he proved that even the manager was to be held accountable and, on 3 March, fined himself £200 as a consequence.

Rovers finished in seventh position that season and Gould departed for Coventry City. He returned to Bristol Rovers in 1985, then moved to Wimbledon two years later when he won the 1988 FA Cup.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2 March 2008 - Daei Dawns For Iran

On 2 March 2008, Iran ended their lengthy search for a new manager with the surprise appointment of international football's all-time leading scorer Ali Daei. Although he presided over only 24 matches, he is fourth in the list of Iran's longest-tenured managers.

Daei's appointment came as part of Iran's efforts to replace their longest-tenured manager Branko Ivanković, who coached the team for 42 matches, winning 29. Although the Croatian was popular with fans for his success, he was not favored by the Iranian government, who preferred to have an Iranian national in the position. So when the government eventually succeeding in removing Ivanković, along with the head of the Iranian football federation, after the 2006 World Cup, they went through three other Iranian-born managers before eventually picking Daei in 2008.

At the time of his selection, Daie, who had scored a world-best 109 international goals for Iran between 1993 and 2006, was in his second season in charge of Iranian club Saipa FC. He finished that season out for Saipa while taking on the additional responsibility of managing Iran.

Ironically, Daie's national sides had difficulty scoring, resulting in their failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. That resulted in his removal from the post after just over one year, despite a record of 16 wins and 6 draws in 25 matches. His win record of 64% is the best percentage among Iranian managers with more than 10 matches in charge.

Daei currently manages Tehran side Persepolis FC.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

1 March 1979 - The Seventh Time's The Charm

On 1 March 1979, West Brom defeated Leeds United in the teams' seventh meeting of the season.

They first met that season back in August, battling to a scoreless draw in the second round of the League Cup. Another scoreless draw followed before Leeds advanced with a 1-0 victory. They also met twice in the league where they split the results by both losing at home.

Only two days after the second league meeting, they faced off at the Hawthorns in the fourth round of the FA Cup and finally found their shooting form, playing to a 3-3 draw. That result set up the replay for 1 March at Elland Road.

Scoreless at the end of regulation, the replay went to extra time, where West Brom revenged their League Cup exit with a 2-0 win. Unfortunately for the Baggies, they were eliminated in the next round by Southampton (the same team that knocked Leeds out of the League Cup).