Sunday, June 30, 2013

30 June 2012 - There's Magic In Those Feet

On 30 June 2012, San Jose's Sam Cronin quickly recovered from an apparent injury after being struck by a well-placed ball from David Beckham.

The even occurred in stoppage time of San Jose's 4-3 win over Los Angeles. The Galaxy took a 3-1 lead in the first half with goals from Beckham and Landon Donovan, as well as an own-goal from Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez, but Víctor Bernárdez pulled one back for San Jose in the 44th minute to cut the margin to 3-2.

In the second half, Cronin scored a 47th-minute equalizer, followed by Chris Wondolowski's go-ahead strike in the 61st minute. But the day's real highlight came during injury time.

With San Jose holding on to their lead, Cronin collided with a Galaxy player and dropped to the turf, holding his head. After several seconds, an irritated Beckham, who was 20 yards away, delivered a pinpoint kick that struck Cronin in the leg (then bounced up and hit the referee). His injury forgotten, Cronin immediately jumped up and protested to the ref.

Beckham received a yellow card, resulting in a one-game suspension, as San Jose got the win.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

29 June 1997 - Brazil Hits The Heights

On 29 June 1997, Brazil won their fifth South American Championship/Copa América, beating hosts Bolivia 3-1.

The reigning World Cup champions rolled through the group stage, winning all three of their matches, then advanced to the final with a 2-0 win over Paraguay and a 7-0 demolition of Peru. There, they faced Bolivia, the only other team in the tournament with a perfect record up to that point.

They met at Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, whose altitude of almost 12,000 feet above sea level has proven to be an asset to Bolivia, as visiting teams often have trouble acclimating. The tournament organizers clearly intended to use the location strategically, as Bolivia played all of their earlier matches there, while Brazil had played all of theirs in Santa Cruz, with a much lower altitude of 1,365 feet.

But Brazil managed to adapt. After going into the break level at 1-1, they went ahead with a goal from Ronaldo in the 79th minute, then sealed the win with a 90th-minute strike from Zé Roberto.

Friday, June 28, 2013

28 June 2001 - The Edge Of Experience

On 28 June 2001, Boca Juniors won their second consecutive Copa Libertadores--and fourth overall--beating Cruz Azul on penalties, 1-1 (3-1).

The Argentinians were in their sixth final, having won it in 1977, 1978, and 2000 and going to penalties in two of those. Cruz Azul, meanwhile, were in the final for the first time. They hosted the first leg in Mexico City, where, despite a partisan crowd of 115,000 at the Azteca, Boca Juniors won 0-1 with an 85th-minute goal from Marcelo Delgado.

But in the return leg at the Bombanera in Buenos Aires, Cruz Azul forward Juan Palencia scored in the 42nd minute to bring the sides level. That score held through extra-time to send the final to a penalty shootout.

There, Palencia scored with Cruz Azul's first attempt, but the three shooters that followed him all failed to convert, while Boca went three-of-four from the spot to clinch the trophy. Since then, they have returned to the final four more times, winning it in 2003 and 2007, while Cruz Azul have yet to make it back.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

27 June 1977 - The Rise Of Raúl

On 27 June 1977, Raúl González was born in Madrid. He went on to become Real Madrid's all-time leader in goals and appearances.

The striker joined the club's youth squad in 1992 after spells at San Cristobal (1987-90) and Atlético Madrid (1990-92) and made his professional debut with the first team on 29 October 1994. Only 17 years and 124 days old at the time, he set his first club record as the youngest player to appear for the club (though it was broken later that season). He made a total of 30 appearances that season, scoring 10 goals.

It was a sign of things to come; over the next fifteen seasons, Raúl made a total of 741 appearances and scored 323 goals, both club records. Along the way, he won six league titles, three Champions League trophies, and two Intercontinental Cups. He also twice won the Pichichi as La Liga's top scorer.

(He was also once Spain's top scorer, with 44 goals in 106 caps between 1996 and 2006, but David Villa has since overtaken him.)

In 2010, with age and injury combining to diminish his role in Madrid, Raúl left for Schalke, where he spent two successful seasons, including winning the German Cup in 2011. He currently plays for Qatari club Al Sadd.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

26 June 2011 - River Flows Downhill

On 26 June 2011, River Plate were relegated to the Argentine second division for the first time in its 110-year history after drawing 1-1 with Belgrano.

Since winning the 2008 Clausura—their 34th national title—River Plate had fallen on hard times, including a last-place finish in the 2008 Apertura and a series of subsequent mid-table finishes. After a ninth-place finish in the 2011 Clausura, their three-year points-per-game average dropped to 1.237, which placed them 17th in the Primera División relegation table and sent them into a two-legged playoff against Primera B's fourth-place team, Belgrano.

River Plate lost the first leg away, 2-0, then hosted the second leg at the Monumental in Buenos Aires, where Mariano Pavone scored in the sixth minute to close the aggregate gap to 2-1. But they could not find another and instead conceded a goal to Belgrano's Guillermo Farre (62') to finish the series 3-1.

Before the match ended, the home supporters rioted, throwing objects at the players from the stands, then ripping seats out of the concrete. The situation was even worse outside the stadium, where police used tear gas and attack dogs in an attempt to quell the mob.

Despite the drama, River Plate returned to the Primera Division at their first opportunity and finished second in the 2013 Torneo Final.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

25 June 2006 - The Battle Of Nuremberg

On 25 June 2006, referee Valentin Ivanov issued a FIFA-record four red cards and sixteen yellows in a World Cup Round of 16 match between the Netherlands and Portugal.

Both teams arrived at the Frankenstadion in Nuremberg as dark-horse contenders for the trophy. Portugal had won all three of their matches in the group, while the Netherlands won their first two, then drew with Argentina in their third game.

Despite their reputations for playing with style and creativity, the match quickly devolved into a brutal battle of attrition, with two Dutch players--Mark van Bommel and Khalid Boulahrouz--receiving cautions after only seven minutes. The next went to Portuguese midfielder Maniche in the 20th minute, but he scored three minutes later to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The first red card of the day went to Portuguese midfielder Costinha, who received a second yellow in the first minute of first-half stoppage time.

In the second half, Ivanov issued another eleven yellows, resulting in ejections for Boulahrouz (63') and Giovanni van Bronckhorst (90+5') for the Netherlands and Deco (78') for Portugal. The total of twenty cards remains a record high for any FIFA-sponsored competition.

Portugal held on to win the match 1-0 and eventually advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to France.

Monday, June 24, 2013

24 June 1990 - The Holy Water Scandal

On 24 June 1990, Argentina eliminated Brazil from the World Cup, allegedly through the use of a spiked water bottle.

Although Argentina were the defending champions, they had struggled through the group stage, finishing behind Cameroon and Romania, but advanced as the highest-ranked third-place finisher. Brazil, meanwhile, topped their group, winning all three matches.

They met in the first knockout round at Turin's Stadio Delle Alpi, where Brazilian defender Branco helped keep Diego Maradona in check. But during a pause in play, Branco drank from a water bottle handed to him by a member of the Argentinian staff. He later complained that he began feeling drowsy and was unable to keep up with Maradona, who completed a brilliant run with a pass to set up Claudio Caniggia (pictured) for the winning goal. Argentina eventually advanced all the way to the final, where they fell to West Germany 1-0.

Later, Maradona claimed that the water bottle Branco had been given was dosed with tranquilizers. Branco threatened to sue the Argentine Football Association, but they denied any knowledge of the event. Since dubbed the "holy water" scandal, it has added fuel to the already-intense rivalry between the two nations.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

22 June 1994 - Remember, It's Still Just A Game

On 22 June 1994, the United States got their first taste of victory in a World Cup match in 44 years, beating Colombia 2-1. But it came with a hefty price.

Since their famous win over England in 1950, the United States had failed to qualify for the next nine tournaments. They eventually returned to the competition in 1990, but lost all three of their matches.

They qualified automatically in 1994 as the hosts and opened the tournament by drawing 1-1 with Switzerland, then faced off against Colombia, who were a heavy favorite despite a 1-0 loss to Romania in their first game. The match against the US carried heavy political connotations, as the two nations were heavily involved in conflict over Colombia's drug trade.

Playing before a crowd of almost 94,000 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the US took a surprise lead with Colombian defender Andrés Escobar turned the ball into his own net in the 35th minute. The stunned visitors then surrendered a goal to forward Earnie Stewart in the 52nd minute to fall behind 2-0.

Substitute forward Adolfo Valencia, who had come on at the start of the second half, eventually pulled one back for Colombia in the 90th minute, but that was as close as they got and the match ended 2-1.

The loss ensured Colombia's exit from the tournament at the end of the group stage. After returning to Colombia just over a week later, Escobar was gunned down in what many people believe was a killing motivated by the own goal.

Friday, June 21, 2013

21 June 1998 - Iran All Over The US

On 21 June 1998, Iran secured their first-ever World Cup victory, beating the United States in the group stage, 1-2.

1998 marked Iran's return to the tournament after a 20-year absence (they had previously qualified for the World Cup in 1978, but exited in the first round after two losses sandwiched around a 1-1 draw with Scotland) and they opened their campaign with a narrow 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia.

Their second match was against the United States and drew worldwide attention due to the heated political relations between the two countries following the Iranian revolution of 1979. Anti-American sentiments in Iran grew to fiery heights in the 1980s, particularly after the US launched a military strike against Iran in 1988. In 1990, then-President Clinton issued an Iranian embargo.

Playing before a crowd of almost 40,000 in Lyon, the two teams tried to minimize any political relevance for the match, exchanging gifts and posing for a group photo prior to kick-off. In Iran, however, the match was celebrated as much for the opponent as for the result--Iran won convincingly after getting goals from midfielder Hamid Estili (40') and winger Mehdi Mahdavikia (84'). Striker Brian McBride scored a consolation goal for the Americans in the 87th minute to end the match as a 1-2 win for Iran.

Both teams went on to lose their remaining matches and were eliminated in the group stage.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

20 June 2007 - Riquelme's Glorious Return

On 20 June 2007, a brace from Juan Román Riquelme secured a sixth Copa Libertadores for Boca Juniors.

It was their ninth appearance in the final, matching the record held at the time by Peñarol (though both had won it five times, two behind Independiente's seven titles). It was the fourth appearance for their opponents, Grêmio, who had lifted the trophy twice.

Riquelme, who had started his career with Boca Juniors in 1996, was back on loan after four years in Spain playing for Barcelona and Villarreal. He had won the Copa Libertadores in 2000 and 2001, with the latter being his last piece of silverware with the club. Upon his return, his impact in the league was minimal, with two goals in fifteen appearances, but he had had more of an impact in the tournament, scoring five goals in nine matches.

He added a sixth goal in the final's first leg, a 3-0 win at the Bombanera on 13 June. But he really shined in the second leg at Grêmio's Estádio Olímpico, scoring the day's only goals with strikes in the 68th and 81st minutes to seal the title. His performance led Boca to sign him on a permanent basis and he has remained with them ever since.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

19 June 2012 - The Controversy That Never Ends

On 19 June 2012, England beat Ukraine in their last group stage match of the Euros, but not without a little goal-line controversy.

They started the day separated by a single point in the Group D table. England were on top with four points, while France and Ukraine were behind them on three points each and Sweden were at the bottom with no points at all. As the top two teams advanced, everybody was still in the mix.

Playing at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine had the support of a partisan home crowd, but England quieted them somewhat after Wayne Rooney's 48th-minute header gave the Three Lions a 1-0 lead. Their voice returned in force in the 62nd minute, however, when the referee refused to award a goal for Marko Dević. The striker's high arcing shot was cleared by a scrambling John Terry, but replays showed that the ball crossed the line before Terry got to it. The match ended 1-0.

Afterward, Ukraine manager Oleg Blokhin was so angry that he invited one reporter to step outside for what he called "a man conversation." Dević expressed disappointment with the non-goal, suggesting a 1-1 draw with more than 25 minutes to go could have drastically altered the outcome. As it stood, however, England and France advanced, though both were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

In addition to eliminating Ukraine, the loss to England was also the last international match for their captain, Andriy Shevchenko.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

18 June 1995 - Norway Finds The Right Combination

On 18 June 1995, Norway won the Women's World Cup with a balanced mix of overpowering offense and stifling defense.

It was the second consecutive final for the Norwegians, who lost the inaugural final to the United States in 1991. When they returned to the tournament in 1995, they quickly set the standard of quality, beating Nigeria 8-0 in their first match.They went on to win every game on their way to the final, including a 1-0 defeat of the United States in the semi-finals, conceding only a single goal and scoring a total of 21.

Their opponents in the final, Germany, had done almost as well, losing only once--a 3-2 defeat to Sweden in the group stage.

Playing at the Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm, Norway continued their demonstrate their balance, taking a 2-0 lead at the break with goals from midfielder Hege Riise (37') and forward Marianne Pettersen (pictured) (40'). It turned out to be the final margin, delivering the trophy that Norway had narrowly missed in 1991.

Since then, Norway have not finished higher than fourth, which they did in 1999 and 2007, while Germany won back-to-back trophies in 2003 and 2007.

Monday, June 17, 2013

17 June 1994 - To Be Fair, I Always Pictured Her As A Defender

On 17 June 1994, Diana Ross opened the World Cup with one of the worst penalty kicks ever.

To celebrate hosting their first World Cup, the United States brought in a host of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Daryl Hall, Jon Secada, and Ross for the opening ceremonies at Chicago's Soldier Field before a match between Germany and Bolivia. The day got off to an inauspicious start when Winfrey fell on stage after introducing Ross, but the former Supreme managed to outdo that flub.

After her introduction, Ross performed her hit single "I'm Coming Out" while jogging across the field. Just before taking the stage, she was supposed to score a penalty kick against a waiting goalkeeper, then the goalposts would split apart, allowing her to run through the goal and onto the stage.But when she got to the spot, she sent her kick wide to the left. The posts split as scheduled and she ran up to the stage under a chorus of boos from the crowd of over 63,000.

The crowd was rewarded with a close game, though, as Germany edged Bolivia 1-0 with a 61st-minute goal from Jürgen Klinsmann.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

16 June 2010 - But It's Not How You Start, It's How You Finish That Matters

On 16 June 2010, Spain started the World Cup with a shocking 1-0 loss to Switzerland. But it turned out to be their only loss of the tournament.

The reigning European champions, Spain carried a lot of expectations into the World Cup, with many people considering them the heavy favorites to win the tournament. Few thought that Switzerland would present much of a challenge to them, even though they had advanced to the Round of 16 in 2006 and won their qualification group.

But when the two teams met in Durban, the Swiss provided one of the tournament's biggest upsets. Although Spain dominated possession (67% to 33%) and outshot Switzerland 22 to 6, the day's only goal came from Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes (pictured) in the 52nd minute, when he reached the ball after a goalmouth scramble and fired it home just before Spanish keeper Iker Casillas could knock it away.

Not content to sit on their lead, Switzerland pressed forward and almost doubled their lead with a shot that hit the post. Spain, meanwhile, almost found an equalizer, but were denied by the bar.The 1-0 final was Switzerland's first-ever win over Spain.

Spain apparently took the loss as a wake-up call, going on to win every one of their remaining matches to lift the cup, while Switzerland followed the victory with a draw and a loss to exit the tournament at the end of the group stage.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

15 June 1975 - If He Can Make It There, He Can Make It Anywhere

On 15 June 1975, Pelé debuted for the New York Cosmos, scoring one goal and assisting another in a 2-2 draw with the Dallas Tornado.

The Brazilian superstar had just retired from Santos the previous year, ending his 19-year official tenure with the club that had been his only professional home (though he continued to play for them on an occasional basis). The move opened the door for the Cosmos, who had long been pursuing him in an attempt to raise interest in the eight-year old North American Soccer League, and finally tempted him with a three-year deal worth $2.8 million.

His debut came at New York's Randall Island ground, which was unprepared for the attention. When CBS announced that they would broadcast the game, the club spray-painted the dirt patches green so they would not show up on television. But Pelé delivered, scoring with an assist from Mordechai Shpigler, then returning the favor as Shpigler added a second to earn the 2-2 draw.

The Cosmos ended the season with a disappointing record of 10 wins and 12 losses and missed the playoffs, but eventually won the title (their second overall) in 1977, Pelé's last season.

Friday, June 14, 2013

14 June 2012 - Death By (Almost) A Thousand Passes

On 14 June 2012, Spain beat Ireland in the European Championship by the score of 4-0. And that wasn't even the most impressive stat.

It was the second match for both teams in Group C, with Spain, the defending European and World Cup champions, having drawn their first game with Italy and Ireland losing their first one to Croatia. They met at the PGE Arena in Gdánsk, where Spain wasted little time in setting the tone, taking a 1-0 lead with a goal from Fernando Torres in the 4th minute. Ireland managed to stem the tide for a while, but David Silva doubled the lead in the 49th minute, then Torres (70') and Cesc Fàbregas (83') completed the rout.

Spain's domination was reflected in the statistics, including possession (78% to Ireland's 22%) and shots (27 to 5, with 22 and 4 being on goal). But the most telling number was Spain's 859 passes--the most of any match in European Championship history. Xavi provided 136 of those, setting an individual Euro record.

The win sent Spain to the top of the group and they eventually reached the final, where they beat Italy 4-0 to repeat as champions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

13 June 1998 - The Wheels Of Justice Move Slowly And Ineffectively

On 13 June 1998, Diego Maradona received a suspended jail sentence of two years and ten months for shooting four people with an air rifle.

The incident occurred over four years earlier in February 1994. As a group of reporters and photographers gathered outside the gates of Maradona's Buenos Aires estate, he appeared with two other men behind a car  and began firing an air rifle into the crowd. Four people were left injured and bleeding as a result.

At his subsequent trial, Maradona denied being the shooter, but his claims were unpersuasive in light of video that showed him crouching behind the car firing the gun. His initial sentence was later reduced to two years even, still suspended so that he did not serve any jail time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

12 June 2010 - Dempsey Has To Get A Little Credit For Taking The Shot, Right?

On 12 June 2010, a highly-anticipated World Cup meeting between the US and England ended as a draw after a shocking error by one of the goalkeepers.

It was the first match of the tournament in Group C, which also included Algeria and Slovenia. England were heavy favorites, having come through UEFA qualification with ease by winning nine of their ten matches. The United States cut it a little closer, winning six and losing two of their ten games, but were still the top finisher in CONCACAF.

They met at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, where a vuvuzela-fueled crowd of almost 39,000 gathered for the occasion. England quickly took the lead with a 4th-minute goal from captain Steven Gerrard, who received the ball at the top of the penalty area, beat one defender, then slotted it home past keeper Tim Howard.

But their dream start was spoiled just before the break. In the 40th minute, US midfielder Clint Dempsey took a speculative left-footed shot from 25 yards out. England keeper Robert Green was well-placed to stop the low ball and appeared ready to cradle it up into his arms when it slipped by him to his right and rolled over the line. The English press dubbed the howler "the Hand of Clod."

England controlled most of the second half, but could not beat Howard and the game ended as a 1-1 draw. The US and England went on to finish first and second in the group, respectively, after a win and draw in their other two matches, then both were eliminated in the first knockout round.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

11 June 2009 - That Kind Of Interest Would Turn My Head, Too

On 11 June 2009, a lengthy transfer saga reached its conclusion when Manchester United accepted Real Madrid's £80M offer for winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Spanish team had been pursuing the 24-year old Ronaldo, the 2008 Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year, since the previous summer. Their interest was so overt that, in June 2008, Manchester United lodged a formal complaint with FIFA accusing Real Madrid of trying to unsettle him. And, after winning a third consecutive league title in 2009, Ronaldo appeared to be both ready and willing to leave.

Real Madrid's increased desire to sign him coincided with the return of Florentino Pérez as club president. The architect of the team's first Galactico period that saw the signing of expensive and high-profile players like Zinedine Zidane, Brazilian striker Ronaldo, and David Beckham, Pérez had already embarked on a second Galactico campaign, signing midfielder Kaká from AC Milan just a day earlier for what was briefly the club's record signing fee of £56M. But they shattered that mark for Ronaldo, setting a world-record transfer fee with their offer of £80M.

Since moving to Madrid, Ronaldo has been a prolific scorer, averaging over 50 goals a season in all competitions, including an incredible 60 goals in 2011-12. But while he continues to be individually successful, the trophies have not followed at quite the same pace, with only one La Liga title and one Copa del Rey in his four seasons there.

Monday, June 10, 2013

10 June 1984 - Barnes Blows By Brazil

On 10 June 1984, England got a rare victory over Brazil thanks in part to a memorable strike from winger John Barnes.

The two teams had played twelve times previously. England won the first game, a 4-2 victory in 1956, but proceeded to lose seven and draw four of the next eleven. So expectations were not high when manager Bobby Robson took his team down to Rio de Janeiro for a friendly.

The Maracaña was only about a quarter full for the match, but those in attendance were rewarded with one of the English national team's most celebrated goals. In the 44th minute, Barnes received the ball deep in the midfield, sprinted his way through five defenders with a weaving run, then side-footed the ball past the keeper from just outside the eight-yard box.

The match ended 0-2 after Mark Hateley doubled the lead in the 64th minute, but it is remembered primarily for Barnes' goal. It was Brazil's first defeat in the Maracaña in twenty years and remains England's only victory there.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

9 June 1971 - Estudiantes Get Taken To School

On 9 June 1971, Nacional won their first Copa Libertadores, beating three-time defending champions Estudiantes in a playoff.

It was the fourth appearance in the final for both teams, but that is where the similarities in their histories ended. Nacional had lost all three of their previous appearances, including a loss to Estudiantes in the 1969 final, while Estudiantes had also won in 1968 and 1970, giving them a perfect record.

The final was played over two legs and decided on points. They met in La Plata for the first leg on 26 May, with Estudiantes taking a 1-0 win. But in the second leg, played in Montevideo on 2 June, Nacional won by the same margin, sending the teams to a playoff to decide the title.

They met at the neutral venue of the Estadio Nacional in Lima, where Nacional again set the margin at 1-0 with a 22md-minute goal from midfielder Víctor Espárrago. They then broke form by adding another from striker Luis Artime, his tournament-best tenth goal, to stretch the final margin to 2-0 and take the trophy from Estudiantes.

Nacional returned to the final twice more, winning it both times (1980, 1988), while Estudiantes made it back in 2009 and won.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

8 June 1990 - The Indomitable Lions Live Up To The Name

On 8 June 1990, Cameroon stunned Argentina in their opening match of the World Cup, beating the defending champions 1-0.

The Indomitable Lions had never won a World Cup match before, drawing all three games at their only previous tournament in 1982. In fact, no sub-Saharan African team had ever won a game at the tournament.

Few people would have predicted that to change when Cameroon took the field against Argentina at the San Siro in 1990, but they managed to contain the Argentinian attack, led by captain Diego Maradona, and played to a scoreless draw through the break. Their chances took a hit in the second half, however, when they lost midfielder André Kana-Biyik to a straight red card in the 61st minute.

Then, in the 67th minute, after a Cameroon free kick deflected high in the air in front Argentina's goal, allowing forward François Omam-Biyik to reach it and head it forward. Keeper Nery Pumpido got a hand to it, but could not corral the ball, which rolled over the line to put Cameroon up 1-0. Argentina pressed for an equalizer, but could not find it, even after Cameroon defender Benjamin Massing was ejected in the 89th-minute, bringing the Lions down to nine men.

Cameroon went on to win the group and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to England 3-2 after extra time. Argentina advanced too, though, and reached the final where they lost to West Germany, 1-0.

Friday, June 7, 2013

7 June 1970 - With That Many, He Could Open His Own Millinery

On 7 June 1970, Marcos Evangelista de Moraes, better known as "Cafu," was born in São Paulo. He went on to become Brazil's all-time appearances leader with 142 caps.

A right back, Cafu started his professional career with São Paulo in 1990 and played there for five seasons before moving to Spain in 1994 to play for Real Zaragoza. But after only one season in La Liga, he returned to Brazil, joining Palmeiras in 1995. Two years later, he was back in Europe, this time in Italy, where he spent the remainder of his career, first with Roma (1997-2003), then with Milan (2003-2008).

He won silverware at each step along the way, including multiple league titles in Brazil and Italy, the 1992 and 1993 Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cups with São Paulo, the 1995 Cup Winners' Cup with Zaragoza, and the 2007 Champions League with Milan. (His only trophy with Palmeiras was a local one, the 1996 Campeonato Paulista).

But despite those successes, he is best known for his time with the Brazilian national team. After earning his first cap in 1990, he was a member of the teams that won the 1994 and 2002 World Cups (appearing primarily as a substitute in the former), as well as two Copa América titles in 1997 and 1999. His last appearance, however, came during their disappointing 2006 World Cup, as a 1-0 loss to France eliminated Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

6 June 1999 - There's Some Crazy Numerology Going On There

On 6 June 1999, Boca Juniors' Argentinian-record unbeaten streak ended at 40 with a 4-0 loss to Independiente.

Their streak started over a year earlier with a 2-4 win over Huracán in the fifteenth week of the 1998 Clausura and extended through that year's Apertura, which ended with Boca as champions on the back of thirteen wins and only six draws. It then carried over into the 1999 Clausura, as Boca won twelve and drew four of their first sixteen games.

With the streak standing at 40 and only three matches left in the season, they were away at Independiente. The two had played only once during Boca's unbeaten run, a 0-0 draw at the Bombanera the previous November. But it did not take long for the hosts to signal their intent, as striker José Luis Calderón (pictured) scored in the sixth minute.

Boca had a chance to equalize when the referee awarded them a penalty in the tenth minute, but Martín Palermo's shot was blocked by keeper Norberto Scoponi. Two minutes later, the referee awarded a penalty to Independiente, and Calderón converted to stretch the lead to 2-0.

Independiente striker Víctor López added a third in the 61st minute, then Calderón delivered the coup de grâce in the 75th, lobbing the ball over the keeper's head from the edge of the midfield circle to set the final margin at 4-0.

Although their streak ended at 40, Boca took some consolation by lifting the Clausura trophy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 June 1938 - Getting The Tough Job Out Of The Way Early

On 5 June 1938, holders Italy opened the World Cup with an extra-time win over Norway, the closest match they had in their successful bid to defend their title.

They had gone to extra time in the 1934 final before beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in Rome with a 95th-minute goal from Angelo Schiavo. The Norwegians, meanwhile, were playing in their first World Cup match, having chosen not to participate in the 1930 or 1934 tournaments.

The two teams met in the first round at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, where the crowd of 19,000 watched the defending champions go up 1-0 after only two minutes with a goal from Pietro Ferraris (it wasn't the day's first goal, though, as France's Émile Veinante scored in the first minute of their game against Belgium, which started at the same time).

Italy kept their slim lead until the 83rd minute, when Arne Brustad scored the equalizer for Norway and sent the match into extra time. There, Silvio Piola struck in the 94th minute to put the Italians back in front and set the final margin at 2-1.

The win sent Italy into the quarterfinals, where they beat France 3-1. The ensuing 2-1 win over Brazil in the semifinals had the same margin as the Norway game, but Italy were up 2-0 until Brazil got a consolation goal three minutes before the final whistle to make the game seem closer than it really was. Then, in the final, Italy beat Hungary 4-2 to finish as the first two-time champions in World Cup history.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

4 June 1980 - Keeping It In The Family

On 4 June 1980, Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey by beating their own reserve squad, 6-1.

Known at the time as Castilla CF, the reserve team started in 1930 as an independent amateur side, then became affiliated with Real Madrid in 1948, with the larger club providing financial support in exchange for the right of first refusal for Castilla's players. By 1952, they officially became Real Madrid's reserve side.

Despite playing in the Segunda División in 1979-80, where they finished in seventh place, they reached the Copa del Rey final by beating a succession of top-flight teams, including Hércules, Bilbao, Real Sociedad, and Sporting de Gijón. Sporting ended up third in the final La Liga table, while Sociedad finished as runners-up, just one point behind Real Madrid.

But when Castilla faced off against their parent club at the Bernabéu for the final, it was no contest. Real Madrid took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Juanito in the 20th minute and never looked back, going up 2-0 at the break, then stretching the lead to 4-0 just after the hour mark (with the fourth goal coming from Vicente del Bosque, who later went on to manage Real Madrid for a successful four-year stint from 1999 to 2003).

Castilla finally scored when Ricardo Álvarez found the back of the net in the 80th minute, but Real Madrid added two late goals to set the final margin at 6-1.

Monday, June 3, 2013

3 June 1964 - The Third Time's The Charm

On 3 June 1964, hosts Israel won the AFC Asian Cup with a 1-2 win over two-time defending champions South Korea.

South Korea won the first two Asian Cups in 1956 and 1960, with Israel finishing as runners-up both times. But by the time the two teams met in 1964, the Koreans were already out of contention after a loss to India in their opening match--their first loss in all three tournaments. India went on to finish with four points on 2 June, putting them level with Israel who had a game in hand and needed only a draw against South Korea to secure the title.

Playing at Ramat Gan Stadium near Tel Aviv, Israel defender Moshe Leon put the hosts up 1-0 in the 20th minute, then Gideon Tish doubled their lead eighteen minutes later. Huh Yoon-Jung scored for South Korea in the 79th minute, but they were unable to find another goal.

The win gave Israel a total of six points and their first Asian Cup title. It would also be their last, as they finished third in 1968, then withdrew from the competition in 1972 before being leaving the confederation in 1974.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2 June 1980 - The USA's Heiress Apparent

On 2 June 1980, forward Abby Wambach was born in Rochester, New York. She is poised to become the USWNT's all-time leading scorer, currently sitting three goals behind Mia Hamm.

After playing for the University of Florida from 1998 to 2001, she began her professional career in 2002 with the Washington Freedom, who selected her as the second overall pick in the WUSA draft (the Carolina Courage chose defender Danielle Slaton with the first pick). She rewarded their faith by scoring 10 goals and providing 9 assists in her first season and was named the league's Rookie of the Year.

Wambach won the Founders Cup with Washington the following year, but the league folded soon after. She returned to Washington with a new league, WPS, in 2009, and remained with them when they relocated to Florida and rebranded as MagicJack. During the WPS's final season in 2011, she served as the team's player-manager. She currently plays for the Western New York Flash in the new NWSL.

Since earning her first cap for the United States in 2003, she has gone on to make a total of 204 appearances and has won a gold medal at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, missing the 2008 tournament due to injury. Her current total of 155 goals is the team's second-highest, behind Mia Hamm's 158 (though Hamm made a total of 275 appearances, giving Wambach a better goals-per-game average of 0.76 to Hamm's 0.57).

[Update: Wambach scored her 159th international goal on 20 June 2013 to become the all-time leading scorer for the US women.]

Saturday, June 1, 2013

1 June 1909 - The Three Lions Take Ten

On 1 June 1909, England won their record 10th consecutive match, beating Austria 1-8 in Vienna. Even more impressively, it came just one day after their ninth win.

Coincidentally, their winning streak started with a victory over Austria almost one year earlier. After beating them 1-6 on 6 June 1908, they went on to defeat them again two days later, 1-11, then followed that with wins over Hungary, Bohemia, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. They returned to Hungary in 1909 to record two more wins, with the second coming on 31 June, then traveled to Vienna to play Austria the following day.

Captain Vivian Woodward (pictured), who had scored four against Hungary the day before, continued his run of form, putting England up against Austria in the third minute. He went on to score twice more to complete his hat-trick and bring his two-day total to seven. He was joined on the scoresheet by Harold Halse and George Holley, who got two each, and Ben Warren, with one.

Austria's lone goal was a second-half penalty scored by Leopold Neubauer.

The winning streak stopped there, as England drew 1-1 with Ireland in their next match, played on 12 February 1910.