Wednesday, July 26, 2017

26 July 1948 - The Olympics Return

On 26 July 1948, Olympic football kicked off in London, ending a 12-year hiatus imposed by the outbreak of World War II.

The last Olympic games were held in Berlin in 1936, with Italy taking the gold medal in football. Tokyo was scheduled to host the 1940 games, with London following in 1944. But the eruption of World War II in 1939 forced the cancellation of the games for the duration (some countries suspended league play as well).

When the war ended in 1945, the Olympic organizers resumed their plans for a 1948 tournament and chose London as hosts, foregoing Tokyo because of Japan's role in the conflict. Although opening ceremonies were not until 29 July, the football tournament started three days early with a four-team preliminary round.

The Netherlands beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0 at Fratton Park in Portsmouth. Meanwhile, Luxembourg dominated Afghanistan 6-0 at the Goldstone Ground in Brighton, setting their record victory in the process. Unfortunately for both teams, their success did not carry into the first round, as the Dutch lost to Great Britain in extra time, 4-3, and Luxembourg fell to Yugoslavia 6-1 despite taking the lead in the tenth minute.

Great Britain advanced to the semi-finals before losing to Yugoslavia, who took silver after falling to Sweden in the final.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

25 July 1993 - Height Has Its Advantages

On 25 July 1993, Bolivia handed Brazil their first-ever World Cup qualification defeat, beating them 2-0 in La Paz.

Bolivia had, to that point, only participated in two World Cups (1930 and 1950), while Brazil had already won three of them (1958, 1962, 1970). And the Brazilians had never lost a World Cup qualifier since FIFA instituted them for the 1934 tournament (though they did not play first one until 1954, having qualified automatically for the 1934, 1938, and 1950 World Cups).

For the 1994 campaign, they met Bolivia at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz. Situated 11,932 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest professional stadiums in the world. A crowd of 42,611 gathered for the match, which remained scoreless until the last few minutes.

In the 88th minute, Bolivian midfielder Marco Etcheverry (pictured) took control of the ball near the midfield stripe, then raced down the left channel all the way to the goal line, holding off pressure from a couple of Brazilian defenders. He fired the ball across the face of the goal, where it struck the leg of goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel and deflected into the net.

Brazil sent players forward in a desperate attempt to find an equalizer, but Bolivia used the space in the back to double their lead. Etcheverry sent the ball forward to substitute striker Álvaro Peña, who beat Taffarel with a side-footed shot from the edge of the six-yard box to cap the 2-0 victory.

Both teams eventually qualified for the tournament, with Brazil capturing their fourth title while Bolivia exited in the first round.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

23 July 2010 - "Allez Les Bleus" Indeed

On 23 July 2010, the French Football Federation suspended all 23 members of their World Cup squad at the request of new manager Laurent Blanc.

The sanction was a result of a player revolt during the tournament. The French campaign already looked doomed after losing their first two matches to Uruguay and Mexico, but the situation grew worse when manager Raymond Domenech sent striker Nicolas Anelka home after the player argued with him during halftime of the game against Mexico. In support of Anelka, other players in the French camp refused to train and Les Blues ended up losing to South Africa and finishing at the bottom of their group.

Following the tournament, FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes resigned his post and Domenech was sacked. Blanc, who had recently led Bordeaux to the 2008-09 Ligue 1 title, stepped in as his replacement. he acknowledged that the federation could not condone the team's actions during the tournament and recommended a one-game ban for the entire squad.

For Frace's next match, a friendly against Norway, they used an entirely different squad and lost, 2-1.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

22 July 1927 - A Capital Idea For A New Club

On 22 July 1927, Roma held their first meeting, consolidating three previously-established clubs from the Italian capital. They have since gone on to win a total of twelve domestic trophies.

The new club was the idea of Italo Foschi, who wanted to create a strong club in Rome to challenge the powerful teams from Northern Italy. He approached the city's four major teams--Alba-Audace, Fortitudo-Pro Roma, Lazio, and Roman FC--with all but Lazio agreeing to the merger. (Lazio and Roma now share the same stadium and contest the heated Derby della Capitale). They held their first official meeting in an office near the center of the city at 35 Via Uffici del Vicario, where they adopted the maroon and orange colors of the city standard and selected a wolf, taken from the legend of Romulus and Remus, as their symbol.

Roma quickly established themselves as a national power, finishing as runners-up to Juventus in 1931, then again in 1936. They finally captured their first league title in 1942, finishing three points clear of Torino, but then went another forty-one years before winning their second title in 1983. They won a third title in 2001 and most recently finished seventh in the 2011-12 season. They have had more success in the Coppa Italia, winning it nine times between 1964 and 2008.


Friday, July 21, 2017

21 July 1960 - Trevor Fords The North Sea

On 21 July 1960, striker Trevor Ford returned to Great Britain after serving a three-year ban related to an illegal payment scheme.

A Welsh international considered by many to be one of the greatest forwards of his era, Ford once set a British transfer record for his position when Sunderland paid £30,000 to sign him from Aston Villa in 1950. He justified the expense by scoring 67 times in 108 league appearances. After three and a half seasons, he moved to Cardiff for a club-record £29,500.

After retiring in 1956, he published his autobiography, I Lead the Attack, in which he claimed to have been involved in an illegal payment scheme while at Sunderland. The Football League pressed him for details and his refusal to provide any information led them to ban him from the league.

He came out of retirement in 1957, but had to go overseas due to the ban. He signed with PSV Eindhoven and stayed there until the Football League lifted the ban in 1960. Upon his return, he signed with Division Three side Newport County, though he made only eight appearances and scored only three goals before ending his league career after the season.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

20 July 2011 - There's Something To Be Said For Consistency

On 20 July 2011, Paraguay advanced to the Copa América Final despite not winning any of their previous matches in the tournament. They didn't win the Final either, losing to Uruguay 3-0.

Paraguay, who won the tournament in 1953 and 1979, opened their 2011 campaign by drawing 0-0 with Ecuador. They followed that with draws with Brazil (2-2) and Venezuela (3-3) to finish third in their group. But they advanced to the knockout rounds as their three points made them the second-best third-place finisher from the group stage.

In the quarterfinals, they faced Brazil again and held them to a scoreless draw through extra-time. They won the ensuing penalty shootout 2-0, but under FIFA rules, the shootout is not part of the match, which is officially considered a draw. They advanced to a semifinal rematch with Venezuela on 20 July where they again played to a scoreless draw through extra-time and advanced on penalties.

The pattern failed to hold in the Final, however, played at the Monumental in Buenos Aires on 24 July. There, a goal from Luis Suárez (11') and a brace from Diego Forlán (41', 89') ensured Uruguay's victory at the end of 90 minutes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

19 July 2009 - We're Not Saying Nepotism Had Anything To Do With It

On 19 July 2009, striker Mauricio Baldivieso became the youngest professional player in South American history, making his debut three days short of his thirteenth birthday.

Born in Cochabamba, Bolivia on 22 July 1996, he joined the youth side of his hometown team, Club Aurora, in 2007. After Aurora won the Bolivian Clausura in 2008, the manager, Julio César Baldivieso, who also happened to be Mauricio's father, called him into the first team for the following season.

His record-breaking debut came in a league match against La Paz, with Baldivieso appearing as a late substitute. He had enough time to become involved in some fireworks, though, receiving a painful challenge from an opponent that started a brawl between the two teams, though he managed to finish the match.

Baldivieso remained with Aurora for three seasons, but made only one more league appearance. In 2012, he transferred to Real Potosí, which by that time was also managed by his father. He currently plays for Club San José.