Tuesday, December 6, 2016

6 December 2010 - Just Another Step In Their Plan For World Domination

On 6 December 2010, FIFA and France Football magazine announced the three finalists for the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or. And all three were from FC Barcelona.

The award was a combination of France Football's Ballon d'Or, started in 1956, and FIFA's World Player of the Year award, which began in 1991. In 2010, the two organizations agreed to merge their awards, calling the new honor the FIFA Ballon d'Or.

They announced their shortlist of 23 players on 27 October, then culled the list to the top three vote-getters on 6 December. The three were Barcelona's Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, and Lionel Messi, who had won both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009. Although Barcelona had won La Liga in 2010, the inclusion of Xavi and Iniesta was due in part to their World Cup-winning run with Spain the previous summer. But Messi went on to win the award when it was announced in January 2011.

It was not the first time that a single club took the top three spots in Ballon d'Or voting: AC Milan did it in 1988, when Marco van Basten beat out Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, then again in 1989, when van Basten won it again, that time over Rijkaard and Franco Baresi.

Monday, December 5, 2016

5 December 2009 - Clearly, They Didn't Believe In Cover Jinxes

On 5 December 2009, the Sun celebrated England's draw for the 2010 World Cup by using their opponents' names to form the word "EASY" on their cover. It turned out to be a little more difficult than they thought, however.

The draw, which had taken place the previous day in South Africa, placed England in a group with the United States, Algeria, and Slovenia. Calling it "the best English group since the Beatles," the Sun headline touted the draw as "England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks." Several commentators agreed, with former English international Jack Charlton going so far to say "I think it is probably the easiest of the World Cup groups."

It turned out to be anything but, as England struggled to draws with the United States and Algeria in their two opening matches. Going into the group's last match day, they were level on points with the United States and needed a result against leaders Slovenia to ensure their progress into the next round.

As it turned out, they advanced with a 1-0 win over Slovenia, but did so as the group's second place team after the US topped the group by defeating Algeria. The relief was short-lived, however, as both England and the US were knocked out in the next round with losses to Germany and Ghana, respectively.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

4 December 1933 - Arsenal Takes Down The Wunderteam

On 4 December 1933, Arsenal faced off against the Austrian Wunderteam and won, 4-2.

Guided by manager Hugo Meisl and captain Matthias Sidelar (pictured), Austria were one of Europe's most dominant teams of the 1930s, earning the nickname "Wunderteam." They rattled off a 14-game unbeaten streak in 1931-32, including routs of Scotland (5-0), Germany (6-0, 5-0), and Hungary (8-2). They also won the 1932 Central European International Cup with a 4-2 victory over Italy in the final.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were enjoying a successful period of their own, having recently won the 1930 FA Cup and the 1931 and 1933 league titles under manager Herbert Chapman.

Chapman was friends with Meisl, prompting the friendly. But FA rules prohibited English clubs from playing international sides, so Austria arrived at Highbury for the match thinly disguised as FC Vienna. The Times called it a "thrilling match," with Arsenal taking a 3-1 lead before the teams swapped late goals to finish the day 4-2.

Austria went on to finish fourth in the 1934 World Cup, then went into decline after the death of Meisl in 1937. Arsenal proceeded to win the league title in 1934, but manager Herbert Chapman was not there to see it, as he died on 6 January 1934, just over a month after the win over Austria.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

3 December 1906 - The Rise And Fall Of An Italian Superclub

On 3 December 1906, a group that included some former Juventus players and future Italy manager Vittorio Pozzo founded AC Torino, alternatively one of Italy's most successful and most tragic clubs.

The founders met at the Voigt brewery in Turin and included a number of former Juventus players, including Alfredo Dick, who were upset by their former club's discussions about moving out of Turin. The group also included Swiss businessman Hans Schoenbrod, who served as the club's first chairman, and 20-year old former Grasshopper Zürich player Vittorio Pozzo, who went on to manage the club before later taking charge of Italy for three separate spells, including their victorious 1934 and 1938 World Cup campaigns.

Torino won their first league title in 1928, but became Italy's dominant team in the 1940s with a team known as Il Grande Torino. They won five scudettos in the decade, including four straight from 1946 to 1949. Their run of incredible success ended in tragedy, however, as a plane crash in May 1949 killed 18 players and several club officials, journalists, and the crew.

The crash sent Torino into a decline and they have spent the majority of the intervening years moving between Serie A and Serie B, though they did win another league title in 1976. In 2005, the Italian football association expelled Torino from the league for financial reasons, but they returned later that year as Torino FC.

Friday, December 2, 2016

2 December 1997 - Rovers Get Lynched

On 2 December 1997, Wigan Athletic and Bristol Rovers matched an English record by receiving a total of five red cards--four of them in the first half.

The two teams met in a Second Division contest at Wigan's Springfield Park, where a crowd of 2,738 watched the newly-promoted Latics take an early lead against second-place Bristol City with a 20th-minute goal from midfielder Ian Kilford.

But the real excitement started in first-half stoppage time, as referee Kevin Lynch (pictured) issued a second yellow card to Rovers defender David Pritchard. As the remaining players jockeyed for position in front of the Bristol goal for the ensuing free kick, a fight broke out, resulting in three more ejections--for Wigan striker Graeme Jones and Bristol's Jason Perry and Andy Tillson.

The day's final red card came in the 71st minute, as Rovers midfielder Josh Low received a second yellow. Wigan took advantage of their 10-to-7 man advantage and got two goals from winger David Lowe (78', 85').

That last ejection matched the record of 5 set by Chesterfield and Plymouth Argyle just the previous February (with 2 and 3, respectively). It remains a joint record, happening once more in a 2002 match between Exeter City (3) and Cambridge (2).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

1 December 1998 - Raúl Sinks Vasco Da Gama

On 1 December 1998, Real Madrid won their second Intercontinental Cup, beating Vasco da Gama 2-1 in Tokyo with a late strike from Raúl González.

Champions League winners Madrid were making their third appearance in the competition, after winning it in 1960 and losing it in 1966 (both times against Peñarol). It was the first appearance for Vasco, who had won the Copa Libertadores the previous August.

A crowd of 54,514 gathered at Tokyo's National Stadium to watch the match, with Madrid taking a first-half lead thanks to an own goal--in attempt to head away a cross from Roberto Carlos, Vasco midfielder Nasa deflected the ball past his own goalkeeper in the 25th minute. Undaunted, the Brazilians pressed forward for an equalizer and were rewarded in the 56th minute. Madrid's German goalkeeper, Bodo Illgner, parried one shot, but knocked the ball into the path of Nasa's midfield partner Juninho, who placed it perfectly into the top right corner.

Both teams had several chances to take the lead, but were denied repeatedly by brilliant play from both keepers (and, in Vasco's case, a couple of near misses). Real Madrid forward Raul then struck the decisive blow in the 83rd minute when he outraced the Vasco back line to latch onto a long ball, beat two defenders, and slipped the ball past keeper Carlos Germano.

It was Vasco's only appearance in the competition, while Real Madrid returned twice more, winning it again in 2000.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30 November 1983 - Bilbao Bagged By Barça

On 30 November 1983, Barcelona won their first Supercopa de España, beating Athletic Bilbao 3-2 on aggregate. They have since gone on to become the competition's most successful club.

It was only the second Supercopa, which pits the previous season's Copa del Rey winner against the reigning La Liga title holder. But a similar competition, the Copa Eva Duarte, was played from 1947 to 1953m which Barcelona won three times, the most for any club (no other club won it more than once).

Bilbao had won the league the previous season, including two defeats of Barcelona along the way, while Barcelona had taken the honors in the Copa del Rey over Real Madrid. The two teams met Bilbao's Estadio San Mamés on 26 October for the first leg of the Supercopa, with Barcelona claiming a 1-3 victory.

In the second leg, played before a crowd of 18,000 at the Camp Nou, Bilbao forward Endika (pictured) scored in just the 2nd minute to set the stage for a comeback, but it proved to be the only goal of the match as the two defenses held firm and Barcelona took the silverware with an aggregate score of 3-2.

Barça have since won the Supercopa an additional 11 times, most recently in 2016, to become the competion's most successful club. Bilbao, meanwhile, went on to win a league and Copa del Rey double in 1984, making them that year's automatic Supercopa champions. They returned to the Supercopa in 2015, where they beat Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate.