Thursday, June 22, 2017

22 June 2004 - Yes, It Was A Very Unusual Result

On 22 June 2004, Sweden and Denmark played to a 2-2 draw, getting just the result they needed for both to advance in the Euros at the expense of Italy.

It was the final matchday of Group C. Italy started the day two points behind Sweden and Denmark, having drawn against both, while both had already beaten Bulgaria, Italy's opponent. In the event of a Sweden-Denmark draw, a win for Italy would only pull them level on points. As a tiebreaker, the rules looked to goal differential, then goals scored, but only as compared among the tied teams.

A draw between Sweden and Denmark would give all three teams the same goal differential, making goals scored the deciding factor. Denmark's match with Italy was scoreless, while Sweden-Italy finished 1-1. So a scoreless result between Sweden and Denmark would put Italy through, while a score draw of 2-2 or higher would eliminate the Italians.

Italy raised the possibility of such a result before the games, but Sweden co-manager Lars Lagerbäck dismissed any possibility of a fix, saying "Machiavelli might have been Italian and Italians might like to think in a Machiavellian way, but it would not be possible to play for a 2-2 draw against Denmark and I don't think it will end 2-2 – that is a very unusual result."

But 2-2 is what they got. Denmark took a 28th-minute lead from Jon Dahl Tomasson, then Sweden's Henrik Larsson equalized with a 47th-minute penalty. The Danes reclaimed the lead with another goal from Tomasson (66'), but Sweden again drew level, this time with a strike from Mattias Jonson (89'). Italy beat Bulgaria 2-1, but that was their last contest of the tournament.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

21 June 2002 - Germany Probably Would Have Won A Penalty Shootout, Anyway

On 21 June 2002, the United States suffered a close--and controversial--loss to Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals.

The two teams met at the Munsu Cup Stadium in Ulsan, South Korea, where a crowd of 37,337 gathered for the event. Despite entering the match as heavy underdogs, the US applied heavy pressure on the three-time World Cup champions from the opening minutes, with forwards Brian McBride and Landon Donovan both forcing early saves from keeper Oliver Kahn. The 20-year old Donovan posed a potent threat throughout the match, peppering the German goal with shots.

The Germans had a couple of early chances of their own before taking the lead with a 39th-minute header from midfielder Michael Ballack. Miroslav Klose almost added another before the break, but was denied by a brilliant save from US keeper Brad Friedel.

Shortly after the restart, the US thought they had a equalizer. A volley from center back Gregg Berhalter beat Kahn and appeared to cross the line, but struck the arm of German defender Torsten Frings and bounced back out. The US players appealed for the referee to award either a goal or a handball penalty, but were unsuccessful. 

Although the Americans outshot the Germans 11 to 6 and dominated possession (58% to 42%), the Germans held on for the 1-0 victory and advanced, eventually finishing as runners-up to Brazil.




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

20 June 1976 - Panenka's Perfect Penalty

On 20 June 1976, Czechoslovakia won the first major international tournament to be decided by a penalty shootout, beating West Germany in the European Championship Final.

Although there were only four teams--and four matches--in the tournament that year, it was hotly contested, with all four matches going to extra time. In the opening game, the Czechs got goals in the 114th and 118th minutes to defeat the Netherlands 3-1, while West Germany, the defending champions, matched them with goals in the 115th and 119th minutes to down Yugoslavia 4-2 (the Netherlands then won the third place match over Yugoslavia 3-2 with a score in the 107th minute).

The Final was played before a crowd of 30,790 at the Crvena Zvezda Stadium in Belgrade. There, Czechoslovakia jumped to a 2-0 lead with strikes from Ján Švehlík (8') and Karol Dobiaš (25'), but West Germany halved the margin three minutes later with a goal from Dieter Müller--it was his fourth goal of the tournament, making him the top scorer. The Germans then found a late equalizer through forward Bernd Hölzenbein (89') to send the match into extra time.

Unlike their previous matches, however, neither team could generate an extra-time goal and the contest went to penalties. Both sides converted their first three kicks and the Czechs made their fourth, but on West Germany's fourth attempt, midfielder Uli Hoeness sent the ball over the bar to give Czechoslovakia a 4-3 edge.

Czech midfielder Antonín Panenka (pictured, right) then stepped up to the spot. As keeper Sepp Maier dove to his left, Panenka chipped the ball right down the middle to secure the title. It was their first and only major trophy, though they went on to win gold at the Olympics in 1980.

Monday, June 19, 2017

19 June 1994 - Mimosas Take A Spill

On 19 June 1994, Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas lost their first league game in almost five years, ending their unbeaten streak at a world-record 108 matches.

Founded in 1948, Mimosas are the most successful club in Côte d'Ivoire football history, with 24 Premier Division titles. Five of those came during their record unbeaten run, which started on the first day of the 1990 season. They finished that year with their eighth overall title, then continued their run through the entire 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons, led in part by forward Abdoulaye "Ben Badi" Traoré (pictured), who was the league's top scorer in 1992 (then again in 1994 and 1996).

They nearly extended it through the 1994 season, with eleven wins and a draw in their first twelve matches. But in their thirteenth match, they were upset 2-1 by SO Armée. Mimosas still went on to win the title--they won their next match by the league-record margin of 11-0--but their unbeaten streak stopped at 108, four games past the previous world record of 104, set by Steaua Bucureşti from 1986 to 1989.

Afterward, Mimosas continued their run of success, winning another twelve titles between 1995 and 2010, including seven straight from 2000 to 2006.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

18 June 2010 - The Comeback Kids Strike Again

On 18 June 2010, the United States scored twice in the second half to salvage a 2-2 draw after falling behind to Slovenia in the group stage of the World Cup.

The US had already rescued a point in their first match, equalizing against England to earn a 1-1 draw, while Slovenia claimed the group's top spot with a win over Algeria. The Slovenians looked certain to hold on to their position when they took a 2-0 lead in the first half with goals from winger Valter Birsa (13') and forward Zlatan Ljubijankič (42').

But, as they had in the first match, the US displayed a combination of determination and resilience. They came out firing in the second half and were rewarded when Landon Donovan surged into the Slovenian box in the 48th minute and blasted the ball into the roof of the net from close range to cut the gap to 2-1. The US continued to press for an equalizer and found it in the 82nd minute when a header from forward Jozy Altidore dropped for midfielder Michael Bradley, who then chipped it over the Slovenian keeper.

As improbable as the comeback had been, the US came close to winning it a few minutes later when substitute midfielder Maurice Edu put the ball in the back of the net. But the referee disallowed the goal for reasons that remain unexplained. Still, the point for the draw proved critical for the US, who were tied England on points at the end of the first round, but won the group by virtue of goals scored.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

17 June 1902 - The Canaries Take Flight

On 17 June 1902, a group of players split from their previous club and founded Norwich City. The new club went on to become two-time League Cup champions and a founding member of the Premier League.

The club's founders originally played for Norwich Church of England Young Men's Society, established in 1888. But in 1902, the team captain and vice-captain left the club over what they perceived to be a lack of ambition. They gathered a group of friends at the Criterion Cafe on 17 June to form Norwich City and played their first competitive match the following September.

They played as amateurs for the first two years, then turned professional in 1904 after being expelled from amateur competitions after making payments to players. They joined the Football League's Third Division (South) in 1921 and were promoted to Division Two in 1934. They spent the next several years moving back and forth between the two levels, but during that time, they won the 1962 League Cup over Rochdale.

In 1972, Norwich reached the top tier for the first time, though they remained there for only two seasons before dropping back down to the Second Division. They then fluctuated between the top two levels--and winning another League Cup in 1985--before becoming one of the founding Premier League clubs in 1992.

Friday, June 16, 2017

16 June 1967 - The Young Jürgen Klopp

On 16 June 1967, Liverpool boss and two-time German Manager of the Year Jürgen Klopp was born in Stuttgart.

He spent his entire playing career in the second division with Mainz, joining them as a striker in 1990, then converting to a defender in 1995. He retired in 2001 after scoring 52 goals in 325 league appearances, then took charge of the club in February of that year.

In his fourth season as manager, he led Mainz to the top flight, earning promotion for the 2004-05 season, but they were relegated in 2007. When they failed to return to the top flight in 2008, Klopp resigned. Thenm in May of that year, he signed a two-year contract as manager of Borussia Dortmund.

Dortmund improved significantly in his first season, finishing in sixth place--seven spots higher than they had the previous season. They followed that with a fifth-place finish in 2010, then won the league in 2011 (their first league title in nine years). In 2012, they repeated as Bundesliga champions and won the DFB-Pokal for the first Double in club history. 

Klopp resigned from Dortmund in 2015 at the end of the season and joined Liverpool that October. He recently signed a new deal that will keep him there until 2022.