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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

18 July 2007 - San Jose Shakes Again

On 18 July 2007, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that the San Jose Earthquakes would be returning to the league after a two-year absence.

The Earthquakes were one of the ten founding members of MLS, though they were initially known as the San Jose Clash. In 1999, they changed their name to the Earthquakes, taking it from the defunct NASL team. Two years later, driven by manager Frank Yallop and midfielder Landon Donovan, they won their first MLS Cup, then repeated as champions in 2003.

Despite their success, frustration over their inability to build a soccer-specific stadium led the owners to move the team to Houston for the 2006 season. MLS, however, decreed that the team's name, colors, and records would remain in San Jose while the Houston team was rebranded as the Dynamo and went on to win the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007.

The league added Toronto as an expansion team in 2007, then, when the time came to add another team for 2008, selected San Jose. The new Earthquakes joined the league for the 2008 season and finished dead last, with only eight wins out of thirty matches.

Although they have yet to replicate the success of their previous incarnation, they reached the MLS Cup semifinals in 2010 before losing to that season's eventual champions, Colorado.

Monday, July 17, 2017

17 July 2011 - The World Cup Turns Japanese

On 17 July 2011, Japan won the Women's World Cup, beating the US on penalties, 2-2 (3-1).

It was the capstone of a remarkable run for Japan, whose history in the competition included one quarterfinal appearance (in 1995) to go with four group-stage exits. But they had put the rest of the world on notice by reaching the semi-finals in the 2008 Olympics before losing to the United States.

They finished second in their World Cup group to England to set up a stunning extra-time won over hosts Germany in the quarterfinals, then beat Sweden 3-1 in the semis to fix their date with two-time champions the United States.

Playing before a crowd of 48,817 at Frankfurt's Commerzbank-Arena, the two teams played to a scoreless stalemate in the first half due in large part to outstanding performances from the two keepers, Ayumi Kaihori and Hope Solo. At the break, US manager Pia Sundhage replaced support striker Lauren Cheney with forward Alex Morgan, who delivered a go-ahead strike in the 69th minute. But Japanese winger Aya Miyama equalized in the 81st minute to send the match into extra time.

There, the Americans again pulled ahead courtesy of a 104th-minute goal from forward Abby Wambach, but Japan again drew level, this time with an amazing strike from midfielder and captain Homare Sawa, who deflected a corner kick into the goal in the 117th minute using the outside of her foot.

In the shootout, Kaihori saved two of the Americans' first three attempts, with the other going over the bar. Solo made a save of her own, so the tally was 2-0 for Japan after three kicks each. Wambach converted the next shot for the US, but central defender Saki Kumagai then beat Solo to capture the trophy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

16 July 2004 - For Lippi, The First Time's The Charm

On 16 July 2004, Juventus manager Marcello Lippi took charge of the Italian national team and guided them to World Cup glory two years later.

The 56-year old manager had been well-traveled, coaching eleven different teams in Italy since the start of his managerial career in 1982. But his greatest success had come with Juventus, where he won five Serie A titles, the Champions League, and the Intercontinental Cup in two spells from 1994 to 1999 and 2001 to 2004 (spending one season at Inter in between).

He replaced Giovanni Trapattoni at Italy after the Azzurri suffered an embarrassing group-stage exit at Euro 2004. He quickly righted the ship, guiding them to the top of their World Cup qualification group with an impressive record of seven wins, two draws, and only one loss. They continued their impressive form in the tournament itself with a march to the final that included an extra-time win over hosts Germany in the semi-finals. In the final, they beat France in a memorable penalty shootout to claim their fourth World Cup trophy.

Lippi resigned after the tournament, but was recalled for the 2010 World Cup after the dismissal of his successor, Roberto Donadoni. Unfortunately, he could not recapture the magic from his earlier spell and Italy exited the competition after going winless in the group stage, leading to Lippi's second resignation.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

15 July 2007 - Thanks, Argentina, But They Didn't Need The Help

On 15 July 2007, Brazil won their fourth Copa América with a dominating 3-0 victory over Argentina.

The Brazilians stumbled out of the gate at the start of the tournament, losing 2-0 to Mexico, but rallied with wins over Chile (3-0) and Ecuador (1-0) to finish second in their group and advance to the knockout rounds, where they beat Chile again (6-1), then Uruguay (2-2 (5-4)) to reach the Final.

Argentina, meanwhile, won their group with wins over the United States (4-1), Colombia (4-2), and Paraguay (1-0), then beat Peru (4-0) and Mexico (3-0) to set their date with Brazil.

Playing before a crowd of 40,000 in Maracaibo, Brazil took a quick lead with a stunning goal from Júlio Baptista in the fourth minute. Elano sent a long ball forward from just inside the midfield stripe, which Baptista corralled in the Argentina box. He beat a defender, then fired the ball into the top far corner.

Their second goal came in the 40th minute when Argentina's Roberto Ayala tried to reach a Brazilian cross and turned the ball into his own net. The capper came in the 69th minute, when defender Dani Alves, who had come on as a first-half substitute for the injured Elano, surged up the right flank and fired a powerful blast past Argentina keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri into the far side of the goal.