Sunday, December 17, 2017

17 December 1953 - A Sign Of Things To Come For France

On 17 December 1953, striker Just Fontaine scored a hat-trick on his debut for France, but still didn't get another cap for three years.

Twenty years old at the time, Fontaine was mid-way through his first season with Nice after spending the first three years of his career with Casablanca, where he scored 62 goals in 48 appearances. He got off to an equally strong start at Nice, leading to his call-up for a World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg.

The match was inconsequential, as Les Bleus had already qualified for the tournament ahead of Luxembourg and the group's other member, Ireland, leading the French selection committee to field a team composed entirely of players making their first national team appearance. But playing before a crowd of 20,146 at the Parc des Princes in Paris, they were motivated to make a strong showing and close out their campaign with a perfect record.

Jean Desgranges got the scoring started in the second minute, followed by a quick brace from Jean Vincent (6', 10'). Fontaine scored in the 21st minute and France took the 4-0 lead into the break. In the second half, Jacques Foix scored in the 57th minute before Fontaine completed his hat-trick with goals in the 75th and 80th minutes. Desgranges added another in the 88th minute to set the final margin at 8-0 for France.

Despite the strong performance, Fontaine waited until 1956 to get his second cap and 1957 for his third. 1958 turned out to be his breakout year, though, as he led all scorers in that year's World Cup with thirteen goals as France claimed third place.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

16 December 1990 - Guardiola Adds Pep To Barça's Step

On 16 December 1990, 19-year old midfielder Josep "Pep" Guardiola made his Barcelona debut in a 2-0 win over Cádiz.

Having joined the club's youth academy seven years earlier, Guardiola started as a right midfielder before manager Johan Cruyff saw him in a reserve match and moved him to a central position. He quickly adapted to his new responsibilities and was called up to the first team for a friendly against Banyoles in May 1989. 

Then, in December 1990, Cruyff gave Guardiola his competitive debut in a league match at home against Cádiz. A crowd of 75,000 witnessed the occasion, causing the young midfielder to suffer a small bout of nerves while waiting to take the pitch. But once there, he played well with a grit and determination not to make a mistake (he did pick up a yellow card in the 33rd minute for a foul on an opposing player).

Barcelona won the match 2-0 with goals from Txiki Begiristain and José Maria Bakero, then went on to win the league. Guardiola made only four other appearances that season, but established himself as a regular the following year and helped the team to another five league titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, and one European Cup before leaving for Brescia in 2001.

He returned to the club in 2007 as an assistant manager, then took full reins of the team from 2008 to 2012, winning another fourteen trophies including three league titles and two Champions League trophies.

Friday, December 15, 2017

15 December 2001 - Ferdinand Hits The Jackpot

On 15 December 2001, Tottenham striker Les Ferdinand scored the Premier League's 10,000th goal, helping to deliver a win for his team and £10,000 to charity.

The milestone goal came during a match against Fulham at White Hart Lane in the Premier League's tenth season. Ferdinand, who had been a prolific scorer at QPR and Newcastle, was in his fifth year with Spurs, but had failed to recapture his previous form. He scored ten goals for Tottenham across all competitions in the 2000-01 campaign, the first time he had cracked double digits for them.

Against Fulham, however, he got off to a quick start, scoring in the 20th minute to put Spurs up 1-0. Thanks to the Tottenham defense--anchored by goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, who kept a clean sheet--it was the only goal they needed, but they got a trio of insurance goals from Darren Anderton (40', from a Ferdinand assist), Simon Davies (71'), and Sergei Rebrov to set the final margin at 4-0.

To commemorate the landmark goal, the Premier League awarded Ferdinand £10,000 for donation to the charity of his choice. He selected two cancer charities, splitting the money evenly between them.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

14 December 1986 - The Debut Of Dennis Bergkamp

On 14 December 1986, Dennis Bergkamp made his professional debut, coming on as a late substitute for Ajax against Roda JC.

Born in Amsterdam in 1969, Bergkamp joined the club's youth academy in 1981. He was 17 when he made that first professional appearance at home against Roda, as manager Johan Cruff subbed him in for Rob Witschge in the 66th minute. Ajax were already up 2-0 at the time and that turned out to be the final score.

The striker remained with the club for seven seasons, scoring 122 goals in 237 appearances across all competitions. Along the way, he won one Eredivisie title (1990), two KNVB Cups (1987, 1993), one UEFA Cup (1992), and one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1987) before moving to Inter for a transfer fee of £7.1 million.

He never settled at Inter and left after two seasons for Arsenal, where he regained his previous form. He went on to become one of the club's most highly regarded players, making 425 appearances and winning multiple league titles (1998, 2002, 2004) and FA Cups (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005) before his retirement in 2006.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

13 December 2006 - The Passing Of An American Pioneer

On 13 December 2006, American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt passed away in Dallas. He was 74 years old.

Heir to an oil fortune, Hunt was an enthusiastic supporter of both both soccer and American football. In 1959, after being turned down for a National Football League franchise, he helped found the rival American Football League and formed his own team, the Dallas Texans. He later moved the team to Kansas City, renaming them as the Chiefs, and they eventually joined the NFL when the two leagues merged in 1970. 

His interest in soccer was sparked by a 1962 trip to Ireland, where he took in a Shamrock Rovers match. Five years later, he helped establish the North American Soccer League and founded the Dallas Tornado, who went on to win the league title in 1971.

After the demise of the NASL, Hunt continued to promote the sport in the US. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996 with two Hunt-owned teams, the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards. In 2003, he acquired a third team, FC Dallas and owned all three until his death.

He received several honors and awards over the course of his life, including induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992 and the placement of his statute outside the Columbus Crew Stadium. In 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation renamed the U.S. Open Cup in his honor. Now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, it is the country's longest-running soccer competition.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

9 December 2009 - Using Your Head Isn't Always The Best Decision

On 9 December 2009, Queens Park Rangers suspended manager Jim Magilton for allegedly head-butting one of his own players.

The incident occurred in the tunnel after QPR's away loss to Watford two days earlier. It was their third loss in four games, dropping the team into tenth place and putting pressure on Magilton (pictured), who was in his first season as QPR boss. According to reports, the manager got into an altercation with Rangers midfielder Ákos Buzsáky, then head-butted him. (Coincidentally, he was the second manager in England to be accused of head-butting a player, with the other being Stoke's Tony Pulis).

The club announced the suspension on 9 December with immediate effect and promised an internal investigation. Magilton admitted to having a disagreement with Buzsáky, but denied head-butting him, saying that the reports were incorrect and that he looked forward to reinstatement upon the completion of the club's investigation.

One week later, on 16 December, Magilton left his post as QPR manager. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

8 December 1985 - Juventus Complete Their Collection

On 8 December 1985, Juventus won the Intercontinental Cup on penalties over Argentinos Juniors, becoming the first--and so far only--team to win all of their possible major trophies.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Argentinos forward Carlos Ereros opened the scoring by chipping Juventus goalkeeper Stefano Tacconi in the 55th minute. The sides then traded a pair of disallowed goals before Michel Platini brought Juventus level with a 63rd-minute penalty kick. Soon afterward, Platini found the back of the net with a brilliant move, lifting the ball over a defender with his right foot, then firing home with his left, but the referee disallowed it because another Juventus player was offside.

Instead, Argentinos took the lead in the 75th minute when José Antonio Castro scored from a tight angle into the far side of the net. Not to be outdone, Juventus forward Michael Laudrup scored from a equally narrow degree seven minutes later.

Locked at 2-2, the match went into a penalty shootout. After a miss from Laudrup and two from Argentinos, Platini converted the final kick to give Juventus the trophy. It marked a complete silverware collection for the team from Turin, who had already won all of the domestic and European competitions available to them.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

7 December 2011 - Lyon Beats The Odds

On 7 December 2011, Lyon advanced in the Champions League despite starting the day from what seemed to be an impossible position.

It was the last day of the group stage and Lyon were in third, behind leaders Real Madrid and second-place Ajax. Lyon were three points behind the Dutch and needed both an Ajax loss and a win of their own over Dinamo Zagreb in order to draw level on points. But the challenge did not stop there. They also needed to make up a 7-goal gap in differential, which was a tough ask given that Lyon had scored only twice in their other five group stage matches (both against Zagreb).

Playing at Dinamo's Stadion Maksimir, the hill grew even steeper after Zagreb took the lead with a 40th-minute goal from midfielder Mateo Kovačić (despite losing midfielder Jerko Leko to a 28th-minute red card). But Bafétimbi Gomis equalized for Lyon just before the break.

The second half belonged to Lyon. By the 70th minute, they were up 1-6 with a goal from Maxime Gonalons (47'), one from Lisandro López (64'), and three more from Gomis (48', 52', 70'). At the same time, Real Madrid were on top of Ajax 0-2, bringing Lyon level with the Dutch on goal differential. Then Jimmy Briand pushed Lyon ahead with a final goal against Zagreb in the 75th minute and Real Madrid added another against Ajax in stoppage time to put Ajax's differential at zero and Lyon's at +2.

Lyon's reward for the improbable result was a trip to the Round of 16, where they were eliminated on penalties by APOEL.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

6 December 1993 - Sawa Starts To Soar

On 6 December 1993, Homare Sawa earned her first cap for Japan. 

She was only 15 years old at the time, but had been playing professionally for three years with L. League team Yomiura Beleza, where her performances led to her being named to the league's Best XI for 1993 and a national team call-up the same year.

That first match was against the Philippines in the 1993 AFC Women's Championship. After missing Japan's opener, a 6-1 win over Chinese Taipei, Sawa delivered against the Philippines, scoring four goals in the 15-0 victory. They then went on to win their next match over Hong Kong, but were eliminated by China in the semifinals.

In 2011, she captained the team to the World Cup title, then followed that by winning that year's Ballon d'Or. By the time she retired in 2015, she set the team records for appearances (205) and goals (83). 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

5 December 1905 - The Gunners Unload


On 5 December 1905, Arsenal beat a Paris XI in a  friendly by the record score of 26-1.

The Gunners, still known at the time as Woolwich Arsenal, were in their second season under manager Phil Kelso, who had guided them to a tenth-place league finish the previous spring. Although he was looking to improve that finish in the new season, his team had gotten off to a poor start, losing eight of their first fifteen matches. They were sitting in sixteenth place when they hosted the friendly at the Manor Ground in Plumstead.

Their opponents were a collection of players based in Paris. Though no official records of the match remain, it is widely believed that the side included many members of the French national team, with one notable exception--the side was short a man, so borrowed the services of an Arsenal reserve believed to be W.J. "Chips" Hodge.

It is known for certain that Arsenal won 26-1, a scoreline that remains a club record. The top scorer of the day was inside forward Bob Watson, who provided seven goals. He never displayed that kind of form in the league, however, scoring only once in ten competitive appearances for the club.

Monday, December 4, 2017

4 December 2011 - Socrates Passes Away

On 4 December 2011, former Brazil captain Socrates passed away from complications related to food poisoning. He was 57.

One of the most inventive and dynamic players of his generation, the towering midfielder started his career with Botafogo in 1974. But spent the majority of it with Corinthians, for whom he made 297 league appearances and scored 172 goals between 1978 and 1984 and won three league titles (1979, 1982, 1984).

He earned his first cap from Brazil in 1979 and went on to make a total of 60 appearances, including a spell as captain for the 1982 World Cup. Unfortunately for him, Brazil were eliminated in the second group stage of that tournament and never won a major title during Socrates' tenure, with their best finish being runners-up in the 1982 Copa America.

Socrates won individual awards, though, and was named the 1983 South American Footballer of the Year over Argentina's Ubaldo Fillol and Brazil's Éder.

After leaving Corinthians in 1984, he spent a season in Italy with Fiorentina, then returned to Brazil to play for Flamengo, Santos, and Botafogo before retiring in 1989. Having earned a medical degree during his playing days, he became a practicing physician upon retiring from football and also wrote prolific columns on sports and politics.

At the beginning of December 2011, he went into the hospital for food poisoning and died from related complications.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

3 December 1972 - Last One In Before The Doors Close

On 3 December 1972, Juventus beat Fiorentina 2-1, conceding for the last time before a club-record run of 903 scoreless minutes.

Defending league champions Juventus hosted the Serie A match, starting the day in fourth place, with Fiorentina a single point behind them. Anchored by goalkeeper Dino Zoff, the Juventus defense had given up only eight goals on the season, but had kept only two clean sheets. So it was not particularly surprising when Fiorentina striker Nello Saltutti  found the back of the net in the 41st minute. Nor was a shock that Saltutti's goal was the visitors' only one of the day, as Juventus went on to win 2-1 with strikes from Helmut Haller (60') and José Altafini (70').

Nobody expected what came later, however, as Juventus went on to keep the opposition scoreless for a club-record 903 minutes covering a span of nine games with seven wins and two draws. The scoreless run ended on 18 February with a 2-2 draw with AC Milan.

For the remainder of the season, those two teams battled for the Scudetto, with Juventus eventually finishing one point clear of Milan to claim their 15th national title.

In March 2016, the club set the current scoreless record of 974 minutes. 


Saturday, December 2, 2017

2 December 1997 - Dortmund Cruises Over Cruzeiro

On 2 December 1997, Borussia Dortmund won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Cruzeiro 2-0 in Tokyo.

It was the first appearance in the competition for Dortmund, but the second for Cruzeiro, who lost to Bayern Munich in 1976. That final had been played over two legs, home and away, with the Brazilians losing 2-0 in Germany, then playing to a scoreless draw in Brazil. In 1980, the cup switched to a single-game format, hosted by Japan, and Cruzeiro were hoping for a better result.

But, playing before a crowd of over 51,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium, it was Dortmund who took the lead with a short-range shot from midfielder Michael Zorc in the 34th minute. The ball fell to him just a few feet outside the goal and he beat keeper Dida with a stinging left-footed blast.

Dida had an otherwise strong game, denying several Dortmund chances. But in the 84th minute, he was beaten by another close-range shot, this time from striker Heiko Herrlich, to end the game at 2-0.

It was the last trip to the competition for either club, though Dida went on to win its successor tournament, the FIFA Club World Cup, in 2007 with AC Milan.



Friday, December 1, 2017

1 December 1994 - Experience Isn't Always Enough

On 1 December 1994, Vélez Sársfield won the Intercontinental Cup, beating three-time champions AC Milan 2-0.

It was the first appearance in the competition for Vélez, who had just won the Copa Libertadores that summer. Their opponents were the defending European Cup champions, AC Milan, who had been in the Intercontinental Cup five times, winning it three times. Their most recent appearance was in 1993, when they lost to São Paulo. So they were looking for redemption the following year against Vélez.

But the Argentinians were prepared for the challenge. Playing before a crowd of almost 48,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, they kept them game locked in a scoreless draw at the break. Then, in the second half, they got a pair of goals in an 8-minute span to secure the trophy.

The first goal came through a penalty, converted by defender Roberto Trotta in the 50th minute. In the 57th minute, forward Omar Asad scored an incredible second goal, racing into the box to intercept a poor Milan pass back to the keeper, then turning and firing into the net from a tight angle. The effort led to him being named Man of the Match and took the final score to 2-0.