Sunday, August 20, 2017

20 August 2003 - Pizarro Was Quick On His Feet

On 20 August 2003, Claudio Pizarro scored the fastest goal in the history of the Peruvian national team, coming just 18 seconds into a friendly against Mexico.

The teams met at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where Pizarro (pictured) got the game off to a quick start, unleashing a left-footed blast from just outside the penalty spot to put Peru up 1-0. It was the first goal conceded by Mexico in six matches.

They did not wait long to concede again, though, surrendering a second goal to midfielder Carlos Zegarra in the 31st minute, then a third to Nolberto Solano two minutes later.

Down 3-0 at the break, Mexico eventually got on the scoreboard in the 54th minute with a goal from Mariano Trujillo. It was the last goal of the day, but not the last bit of excitement. A 68th-minute brawl resulted in the ejection of four players, two from each side--Pizarro and John Galliquio for Peru, Omar Briceño and Jared Borgetti for Mexico.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

19 August 1995 - To Be Fair, He Never Claimed To Be A Psychic

On 19 August 1995, pundit Alan Hansen criticized Manchester United's season-opening loss to Aston Villa, stating "you can't win anything with kids." United proved him wrong, however, going on to win a league and FA Cup double.

United had ended the previous season without a trophy, the first time that had happened since 1989. And, before the start of the 1995-96 season, they sold three key players--Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis--without bringing in replacements, preferring instead to rely on rising young players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville, all of whom were just 20 years old when the new season started.

Playing before a crowd of 34,655 at Villa Park, the hosts jumped to a comfortable 3-0 lead with goals from Ian Taylor (14'), Mark Draper (27'), and Dwight Yorke (36') before Beckham scored a consolation goal in the 82nd minute to end the day 3-1 to Villa.

Speaking later on Match of the Day, Hansen made his now-famous pronouncement, adding that "the trick to winning the championship is having strength and depth, and they just haven't got it." But United followed that loss with a ten-game unbeaten streak that included eight wins and pushed them up to second in the table. By March, they claimed the top spot and held it for the remainder of the season, then won the FA Cup final over Liverpool.

Friday, August 18, 2017

18 August 1985 - Many Great Things Have Humble Beginnings

On 18 August 1985, the United States women's team played their first match, losing to Italy 1-0 in the opening game of the Mundialito.

The Mundialito (Spanish for "Little World Cup") was an invitational women's international tournament held in Italy from 1984 to 1988. The 1985 edition consisted of four teams--Italy (the defending champions), England, Denmark, and the United States.

The US squad had been put together earlier that summer by head coach Mike Ryan and included goalkeeper Kim Wyant, midfielder Sharon McMurtry, forward Tucka Healy, and winger Denise Boyer. Discussing the experience years later, all four players remarked on the physical nature of the game and the competitiveness of the Italian team, who went on to win 1-0 after a missed penalty by McMurty.

Italy reached the final where they lost to England, while the US finished in fourth after a 2-2 draw with Denmark, a loss to England, and a loss to Denmark in the third-place match. They did better in the next two tournaments, however, finishing as runners-up in 1986 and claiming third place in 1988.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

17 August 2011 - Barça Gets Off To A Super Start

On 17 August 2011, Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-2 to take their 10th Supercopa de España (and the first one over their Clásico rivals).

The competition, which kicks off the Spanish season, pits the reigning La Liga champions against the Copa del Rey holders in a two-legged series, home and away. Real Madrid and Barcelona had met there four teams previously, in 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997, with Real Madrid claiming the honors each time. But Barça had the recent edge, carrying a six-match unbeaten streak against Madrid in the league (with five wins), as well as eliminating them in the previous season's Champions League. (Madrid, however, had beaten Barcelona in the 2011 Copa del Rey Final).

The two teams met at the Bernabéu on 14 August for the first leg, where they drew 2-2, then reconvened at Camp Nou three days later. There, Andres Iniésta opened the scoring in the 15th minute after an incisive through pass by Lionel Messi left him one-on-one with keeper Iker Casillas, who fell victim to a chip. Cristiano Ronaldo equalized from short range five minutes later, but Messi restored the lead just before the break.

Real Madrid drew level again in the second half through an 82nd-minute goal from striker Karim Benzema, but Messi had the last word with the match-winner in the 88th minute.

That season, Real Madrid went on to win the league, while Barcelona won the Copa del Rey, setting up another Supercopa meeting in 2012.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

16 August 1981 - The Sumner Sets On Fiji

On 16 August 1981, New Zealand notched their record victory, beating Fiji 13-0 in a World Cup qualifier. It is also Fiji's record loss.

The All Whites were looking to reach their first World Cup, having not entered the competition from 1930 through 1966, then not qualifying for the 1970, 1974, and 1978 tournaments. They started their campaign for Spain '82 in April 1981 by drawing 3-3 with Australia, then beating Fiji away 0-4.

By mid-August, they were at the top of the table in their qualifying group, three points clear of Australia, who had two games left to play. New Zealand's last match was in Auckland against Fiji, who had just lost to Australia 10-0. 

New Zealand wasted no time in taking the lead, going up 3-0 in the first nine minutes with goals from striker Steve Wooddin (2'), midfielder and captain Steve Sumner (pictured) (8'), and midfielder Grant Turner (9'). By the break, additional goals from Sumner (45') and Turner (31'), plus strikes from Duncan Cole (36') and Brian Turner (40') put the hosts up 7-0.

Sumner then ran rampant in the second half, scoring four more times (55', 60', 72', 86') to take his tally on the day to six, a national team record. The other two goals were added by Keith Mackay (48') and Brian Turner (85') to reach 13.

The result secured qualification for New Zealand and sent them to Spain, where they unfortunately finished last in their first round group with losses to Brazil, Scotland, and the Soviet Union.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

15 August 2011 - It's Not the "English" Premier League Anymore

On 15 August 2011, Swansea City became the first non-English side to play in the Premier League when they visited Manchester City on the season's opening day.

Despite being based in Wales, Swansea have played in the English league system since their founding in 1912. From 1981 to 1983, they played in the English top flight, following in the footsteps of fellow Welsh side Cardiff City, who spent three different spells in the First Division from 1921-29, 1952-57, and 1960-62. But no club from outside England had reached the top flight since the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

That changed in 2011, as Swansea finished the 2010-11 Championship season in third place, then beat Nottingham Forest and Reading in the promotion play-offs. Their reward was an opening day date at title challengers Manchester City.

Swansea held their own for the first half, playing an attractive passing game that allowed them to control possession and go into the break with a scoreless draw. But Manchester City exploded in the second half, getting goals from Edin Džeko (57'), Sergio Agüero (68', 90'+1), and David Silva (71') to finish the day as 4-0 winners.

While Manchester City went on to win the league title that year, Swansea rallied and finished in an impressive 11th place, the highest of that season's newly-promoted teams.

Monday, August 14, 2017

14 August 1971 - Keegan Gets Off To A Flying Start

On 14 August 1971, 20-year old Kevin Keegan debuted for Liverpool, scoring in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest. He went on to score a total of 100 goals for them over six seasons, winning three league titles, an FA Cup, and the European Cup.

Keegan started his professional career with Fourth Division Scunthorpe in 1968 and made 141 appearances there before moving to Liverpool in the summer of 1971 for a transfer fee of £35,000. Initially a midfielder, his scoring ability prompted manager Bill Shankly to move him to forward.

He made 42 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions that first season, scoring a total of 11 goals as the Reds finished third in the league table. He doubled that tally the next season, winning his first league title and the UEFA Cup. Although that was his most prolific scoring season at Anfield, he won the FA Cup in 1974, then won a league and UEFA Cup double in 1976, followed by another league title and the European Cup in 1977. 

In the summer of 1977, after making 323 appearances, he moved to Hamburg for a fee of £500,000.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

13 August 1966 - Gemmill's First History-Making Moment

On 13 August 1966, St. Mirren midfielder Archie Gemmill became the first substitute in Scotland.

The use of substitutes in football dates back to the 1860s, but as the rules became codified, they became disfavored and disallowed. By the 1950s, however, people began reintroducing them, with FIFA allowing them in qualification matches for the 1954 World Cup.

England and Scotland slowly began to reconsider the rule, with England adopting the use of a single substitute per team starting with the 1965-66 season, but even then only to replace an injured player. One year later, Scotland applied an identical rule.

Gemmill, then just 19 years old and two years into his career with St. Mirren, was the first player in Scotland to come on as a substitute, replacing an injured Jim Clunie after 23 minutes in a Scottish League Cup match against Clyde. Unfortunately for Gemmill and St. Mirren, it was a milestone made in a losing effort, as they fell to Clyde 1-0.

Gemmill went on to enjoy a lengthy career in Scotland and England (and a brief spell in the United States) that lasted until his retirement in 1984. He also earned 43 caps for Scotland, for whom he scored one of the World Cup's most memorable goals in a 1978 match against the Netherlands.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

12 August 1964 - A Small Degree Of Separation Is Enough

On 12 August 1964, Independiente won the first of their record seven Copa Libertadores titles, beating Nacional on points.

It was the fifth edition of the tournament and the first appearance in the final for both teams. They each won their first-round group with identical records of three wins and a draw to advance to the semifinals. There, Independiente topped two-time defending champions Santos by winning both legs, while Nacional did the same to Colo-Colo.

The final was played over two legs, home and away, with the champion determined by points. The teams met at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo for the first leg on 6 August, where they split the points by playing to a scoreless draw, then reconvened six days later at the Estadio de Independiente for the second leg.

The second leg was another close affair, with the teams separated only by a 35th-minute goal from Independiente's Mario Rodríguez, but it was enough for the hosts to claim the trophy.

Independiente repeated as champion in 1965, then proceeded to win it again in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1984. Nacional finally won it in 1971, then again in 1980 and 1988.

Friday, August 11, 2017

11 August 1984 - Les Bleus Claim L'Or

On 11 August 1984, France and Brazil reached the first Olympic final for both teams, with France winning 2-0.

France had enjoyed more success in previous tournaments, claiming the silver medal in 1900 (albeit as one of only three participating teams). In 1908, France actually entered two teams, with one reaching the semifinals. An additional semifinal appearance followed in 1920, then they reached the quarterfinals in 1924, 1948, 1968, and 1976.

Brazil, on the other hand, did not participate in the Olympics until 1952. Though they made it to the quarterfinals that year, they suffered first-round exits in the next four tournaments. In 1976, they reached the quarterfinals again, losing to the Soviet Union.

Both teams missed the 1980 tournament in Moscow and showed up in 1984 eager to claim a medal. Brazil breezed through the group stage, winning all three of their games, then advanced to the final with victories over Canada (on penalties) and Italy (after extra time). France, meanwhile, topped their own group despite winning only one of the matches, then advanced over Egypt and Yugoslavia (on penalties).

Playing before a crowd of 101,799 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, the teams finished the first half at 0-0, but that scoreline did not last much longer. In the 55th minute, Lens striker François Brisson put France up 1-0, then his fellow striker, Daniel Xuereb (pictured)--who also played for Lens--doubled the lead five minutes later. It was Xuereb's fifth goal of the tournament, tying him with two other players for top-scorer honors.

It was the last appearance in the final for France, but Brazil returned in 1988, 2012, and 2016, winning the latter.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

10 August 2010 - The Kid Just Might Have A Future

On 10 August 2010, Neymar made his Brazil debut--and scored his first international goal--in a 2-0 win over the United States.

The 18-year old striker had risen to prominence for Santos since signing with them in 2009 and had already made three appearances for Brazil's U-17 team. His performances there led to a loud public outcry for his inclusion in Brazil's squad for the 2010 World Cup, including strong support from Brazilina legend Pelé, but manager Dunga chose not select him, claiming he was still too inexperienced.

Brazil replaced Dunga with Mano Menezes on 24 July 2010 and, two days later, the new coach included Neymar in his first squad, picked to face the United States in a friendly. The teams met in New Jersey, with Neymar starting for Brazil.

He did not take long to make an impact. In just the 29th minute, he got onto the end of a cross from André Santos and headed it past US keeper Tim Howard. His teammate Pato doubled the lead right before the break and the day ended as a 2-0 victory for Brazil.

Since then, Neymar has become a star for the national team, scoring 52 goals in 77 appearances and winning the Olympic gold medal in 2016.   

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

9 August 1973 - Inzaghi Crosses The Line

On 9 August 1973, Italian striker Filippo "Pippo" Inzaghi was born in Piacenza. He went on to become one of the country's most prolific scorers.

He signed his first professional contract in 1991, joining his hometown club, Piacenza Calcio, but made only three appearances before moving to Leffe in 1992. A series of other moves followed, including stays at Verona, another turn at Piacenza, Parma, and Atalanta before he joined Juventus in 1997.

In his first season with Juve, he scored a career-high 27 goals in 47 appearances across all competitions as the club won Serie A and reached the Champions League final. After four seasons in Turin, he moved to AC Milan, where he proceeded to win two more league titles (2004, 2011) and two Champions League trophies (2003, 2007). Meanwhile, he also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.

Known for playing on the edge of the offside line, his style of play once prompted Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson to say "That lad must have been born offside." He retired in 2012, having scored a career total 288 goals in 623 club appearances (with another 25 goals for the national team). Seventy of those goals came in UEFA club competitions, ranking him second overall in that category just behind Raúl González (77).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

8 August 2009 - One Man's Record Loss Is Another's Job Audition

On 8 August 2009, Norwich suffered their worst home defeat in club history, losing 1-7 to Colchester on opening day.

Norwich had ended a four-year run in the Championship, England's second division, with relegation to the third-tier League One at the end of the 2008-09 season. Many observers tipped them for a quick return to the Championship, with their first hurdle coming at home against Colchester, who had themselves just dropped into League One in 2008.

Playing before a crowd of 25,217, Norwich's plans quickly came undone as Colchester striker Kevin Lisbie scored in just the tenth minute, then his striking partner Clive Platt scored three minutes later. By the break, a stunned Norwich were down 0-5, with additional goals from Platt (19') and Lisbie (38') sandwiched around one from David Fox (22').

Norwich eventually managed to bag one of their own, with a 72nd-minute strike from Cody McDonald, but Colchester substitute David Perkins restored the margin four minutes later. Then Scott Vernon, who had come on for Lisbie, added insult to injury with a 90th-minute tap-in to end the day at 1-7.

The loss cost manager Brian Gunn his job as the club sacked him six days later. To replace him, they hired Colchester manager Paul Lambert, who guided them to promotion at the end of the season, then to the Premier League in 2011.

The 1-7 scoreline remains their worst home loss, but the worst overall defeat was a 10-2 drubbing at Swindon Town in 1908.

Monday, August 7, 2017

7 August 1999 - What's Black, White, And Red All Over?

On 7 August 1999, Alan Shearer marked his 100th appearance for Newcastle by receiving the first red card of his career.

The striker joined Newcastle, his hometown club, in 1996 after five seasons at Southampton and four at Blackburn Rovers (with whom he won the Premier League in 1995) and had made 99 appearances for the club prior to the start of the 1999-2000 season. He had acquired the nickname "Mary Poppins" for his squeaky-clean public image, due in large part to the fact that he had never been sent off.

That changed in 1999. Newcastle were hosting Aston Villa in the season opener and the match remained scoreless deep into the second half. In the 70th minute, Shearer, who was already on a yellow card, battled Villa's Colin Calderwood for the ball, leaving the defender on the ground. Referee Uriah Rennie ruled that Shearer was guilty of "excessive use of the elbows" and showed the striker a second yellow, ejecting him from the match. Villa went on to win 0-1 with a 75th-minute goal from Julian Joachim.

Just over two years later, Shearer received a second red in a match against Charlton, but it was later rescinded.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

6 August 2003 - That's How You Make A First Impression

On 6 August 2003, Manchester United lost to Sporting in a friendly that introduced them to the Portuguese side's dynamic young winger, Cristiano Ronaldo.

United were in Lisbon to help Sporting inaugurate their new home, the Estádio José Alvalade. The Red Devils had just completed a four-game tour of the United States and seemed to be suffering from tired legs as the hosts romped to a 3-1 victory with goals from Luís Felipe (26') and João Pinto (62', 81'). Even United's consolation goal came courtesy of the Portuguese, as defender Hugo put the ball into his own net with two minutes remaining.

The day wasn't a total waste for United, though. Afterward, several players spoke to manager Alex Ferguson, raving about the performance of Sporting's 18-year old midfielder, Ronaldo, and urging their boss to sign him. Although Ronaldo had already attracted the interest of Arsenal and Liverpool, United swooped in and signed him that summer for a fee of £12.24M. 

Ronaldo remained at Old Trafford for six seasons, making a total of 292 appearances in which he scored 118 goals. Along the way, he helped the club to three consecutive Premier League titles from 2007 to 2009 and won the Champions League in 2008.

In the summer of 2009, Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid for the then world-record transfer fee of £80M, a profit of almost £68M for United.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

5 August 2005 - There's No Place Like A New Home

On 5 August 2005, Bayern Munich hosted the first competitive match at the new Allianz Arena, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0.

Built with a capacity of 66,000 (and later expanded to 69,000) the Arena replaced the Olympic Stadium as home to both Bayern and 1860 Munich, and also serves the German national team. In recognition of its multiple tenants, it includes an exterior surface that changes color based on the team playing--red for Bayern, blue for 1860 Munich, and white for the national team.

Construction began in 2002 and the stadium officially opened on 30 May 2005 with an exhibition between 1860 Munich and Nuremberg. Bayern and the German national team faced each other there in a friendly the following day.

In that first competitive match, a Bundesliga contest, Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves scored the opening goal, curling a right-footed shot into the far top corner from just inside the box in the 28th minute. His teammate, striker Roy Makaay, doubled, then tripled, the lead with goals in the 86th and 89th minutes.

It was the start of an excellent year for the hosts, who went on to win the double that season, taking both the league title and the German Cup.

Friday, August 4, 2017

4 August 1952 - Football For The People

On 4 August 1952, the People's Republic of China played their first football match, losing 4-0 to hosts Finland.

China has had a national team since 1924, when the original Chinese Football Association formed, and they played a handful of matches over the next twenty years, including a couple of Olympic appearances in 1936 and 1948. But following the Chinese revolution, the government of the Republic of China was forced to Taiwan, taking the original association along with them.

Their departure left a gap on the mainland, where the new People's Republic of China created their own Chinese Football Association in 1949. As one of the few countries to recognize the new government, Finland  offered to host the new team and duly beat them 4-0.

Since then, China have slowly improved, qualifying for the 2002 World Cup and twice finishing as runners-up in the Asian Cup (1984, 2004).

Thursday, August 3, 2017

3 August 1950 - Lyon Takes A Leap

On 3 August 1950, a group led by Dr. Albert Trillat founded Olympique Lyonnais, one of France's most successful clubs.

They were originally part of Lyon Olympique Universitaire, a multi-sports club who established a football section in 1899 and went on to win the French title in 1910. But by the late 1940s, rifts appeared in the club over the question of whether to allow professional players. Unable to come to a resolution, a group led by Dr. Trillat left LOU to form a separate club, which they named Olympique Lyonnais.

Starting in the French second division, Lyon played their first official match on 26 August 1950, beating CA Paris 3-0. They won promotion to the top flight in 1951, but dropped back down one year later.

They won their first major honor in 1964, beating Bordeaux in the Coupe de France final, then repeated as champions in 1967 and 1973. After a lengthy lull that included another spell in Ligue 2, they roared back in 2002, winning the first of seven consecutive league titles (and another Coupe de France in 2008).

Since that historic run, they have yet to win another league title, most recently finishing in fourth, but they added another Coupe de France in 2012.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

2 August 1908 - The King Of All Clásicos

On 2 August 1908, Boca Juniors hosted River Plate in the first Superclásico between the two teams and won, 2-1.

River, the older of the two clubs, formed in Buenos Aires's La Boca district in 1901, while Boca Juniors arrived there two years later. Despite their proximity, they did not meet until 1908 in a friendly. Records from the day are sparse, but indicate that Boca won by the score of 2-1. Despite losing that first match, River got a measure of revenge by winning the first competitive meeting 2-1 in 1913.

Since then, the rivalry has grown to become one of the most passionate in football. The teams have played each other a total of 338 times, including friendlies, league matches, Copa Libertadores meetings, and other competitions. Of those, Boca have 132 wins, River have 119, and there have been 115 draws.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1 August 2010 - A Second Big Bang For The Cosmos

On 1 August 2010, Pelé announced the return of the New York Cosmos after a 25-year hiatus, with the former star serving as the club's honorary president.

The earlier incarnation of the Cosmos existed from 1971 to 1985, during which time they captured a global audience through the signings of such high-profile international players as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia alongside homegrown players like Werner Roth and Shep Messing. But the five-time NASL champions went dormant in 1985 after the implosion of the league.

Former general manager Peppe Pinton acquired ownership of the Cosmos, including the rights to the name, logo, and all club records. With the introduction of MLS in 1996, several groups sought to acquire the rights from Pinton, but he refused to sell, citing a belief that the new league would not respect the club's history. But  he eventually relented and sold the rights in 2009 to a group led by former Tottenham vice-chairman Paul Kemsley.

The new owners moved quickly to link themselves with the club's legacy by appointing Pelé as the honorary president and expressed their intent to play in MLS. They soon added Chinaglia as the club's global ambassador and appointed former Manchester United star Eric Cantona as the team's director of soccer. They held their first match on 5 August 2011, playing against Manchester United in a friendly.

Despite the ambitious relaunch, the Cosmos were unable to secure an MLS spot. In July 2012, they announced that they would compete in the North American Soccer League starting in 2013.

Monday, July 31, 2017

31 July 1948 - India's Day Of Firsts

On 31 July 1948, India played their first official international, losing 2-1 to France in the first round of the Olympics.

Football in India dates back to 1889 and the national governing body, the All India Football Federation, formed in 1937. While the AIFF created a national team to tour neighboring countries, India did not join FIFA until 1948, making that summer's Olympics their first official tournament.

They met France in the first round at Cricklefield Stadium in Ilford, East London in front of a crowd of approximately 17,000. The day was wet and cold, which proved to be a problem for the Indian players, most of whom were playing barefoot, the dominant style in India at the time.

Nevertheless, they kept the game close, despite missing two penalties. After France took the lead with a 30th-minute goal from René Courbin, India's Sarangapani Raman (who had missed one of the penalties) equalized in the 70th minute, scoring the national team's first official goal. But France pulled ahead again in the 89th minute with a goal from René Persillon to claim the 2-1 victory.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

30 July 1996 - Shearer Comes Home

On 30 July 1996, Newcastle signed 25-year old striker Alan Shearer from Blackburn for a world record fee of £15M.

Shearer, who was born in Newcastle, started his career with Southampton, where he scored 43 goals in 158 appearances across all competitions from 1987 to 1992. But he blossomed at Blackburn, claiming the Premier League Golden Boot in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, with Rovers winning the league in 1995. He scored over thirty league goals in his last three years there, for a four-season total of 130 in 170 appearances. His scoring prowess attracted the attention of several clubs, including Manchester United. But shortly before he was set to move to Old Trafford, Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan persuaded him to join Newcastle.

He maintained his form at St. James's Park, collecting another Golden Boot for the 1996-97 season with 25 league goals. But injuries and a succession of managerial changes hampered his effectiveness, resulting in uneven production from him over the next several years (he crossed the 20-goal barrier in the league only three more times in his ten seasons at Newcastle) and he retired in 2006. Still, his Newcastle total of 206 remains the most of any player in club history.

Shearer returned to Newcastle as manager in 2009, taking over from Chris Hughton for the last eight games of the season in a bid to save the club from relegation. He was unable to prevent the drop, however, and left at the end of the season.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

29 July 2008 - FIFA Brings Out The Big Stick Against Ethiopia

On 29 July 2008, FIFA suspended Ethiopia from international competition, ending their World Cup qualification campaign after only four matches.

The decision was a political one, stemming from the Ethiopian Football Federation's removal of their president, Ashebir Woldegiorgis the previous January. Although the EFF cited the national team's poor performance as the basis for their decision, FIFA refused the recognize the decision and ordered the federation to work with Dr. Woldegiorgis to "normalise the situation of the EFF and to bring back unity within the Ethiopian football community." They also established a "roadmap" of events intended to guide the process.

But by July 2008, the EFF had failed to meet the requirements set by FIFA, so the governing body issued its suspension, effective immediately. Ethiopia, who were four matches into the qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup, were forced to withdraw. They also missed the 2008 CECAFA Cup for countries from East and Central Africa.

The suspension lasted for one year, with FIFA lifting it in 2009.

Friday, July 28, 2017

28 July 2008 - Making £7M The Easy Way

On 28 July 2008, Tottenham confirmed the £19M sale of striker Robbie Keane to Liverpool, but his stay at Anfield lasted barely 6 months.

Keane had already been well-traveled, playing for Wolves (1997-99), Coventry City (1999-2000), Inter (2000-01), Leeds United (2001-02) before joining Spurs in August 2002. He had a very successful six years at White Hart Lane, scoring 82 times in 197 league appearances and helping to victory over Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup Final.

His success drew the attention of Liverpool, who pried him away from Spurs. The four-year deal included £1.3M in performance incentives that raised the total value to a potential £20.3M. Upon arriving in Liverpool, Keane announced that he had "been a Liverpool fan all [his] life" and that the move was "a dream come true."

But it was a short-lived dream, as he failed to replicate his previous form. After only five goals in nineteen league appearances, Liverpool sold him back to Spurs for £12M. He later went on loan to Celtic and West Ham before joining the LA Galaxy in 2011.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

27 July 2005 - Celtic's Early European Vacation

On 27 July 2005, new Celtic manager Gordon Strachan's tenure started on a low note with a record loss to Artmedia Bratislava in Champions League qualification.

Strachan arrived from Southampton earlier that month, replacing Martin O'Neill. Celtic had finished as runners-up in the league in O'Neill's final season, which put them in Champions League's second qualifying round for 2005-06. There, they met Slovakian league winners Artmedia for what was the first competitive match of Strachan's time at Parkhead.

Playing at the Tehelné Pole Stadium in Bratislava, the former European Cup champions suffered an early setback when they lost striker Chris Sutton to injury. But his absence provided no excuse for the Celtic defense, who surrendered an easy tap-in goal to Juraj Halenár in the 43rd minute, giving Artmedia a 1-0 lead at the break.

Midfielder Blažej Vaščák doubled the hosts' lead in the 57th minute with a nearly identical goal, then Halenár struck again in the 76th minute with a blast from almost 25 yards out. Two minutes later, Martin Mikulič extended the lead to 4-0 by beating Celtic keeper Artur Boruc with a low ball at the near post. Halenár then did the same in the 89th minute to seal the 5-0 victory--Celtic's worst loss in European competition.

The Glasgow side won the second leg 4-0, but lost 5-4 on aggregate to exit the competition. Artmedia, led by manager Vladimir Weiss, eventually reached the group stage where they finished third behind Inter and Rangers.

Strachan remained with Celtic for four seasons, winning three league titles, one Scottish Cup, and two Scottish League Cups.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

26 July 1948 - The Olympics Return

On 26 July 1948, Olympic football kicked off in London, ending a 12-year hiatus imposed by the outbreak of World War II.

The last Olympic games were held in Berlin in 1936, with Italy taking the gold medal in football. Tokyo was scheduled to host the 1940 games, with London following in 1944. But the eruption of World War II in 1939 forced the cancellation of the games for the duration (some countries suspended league play as well).

When the war ended in 1945, the Olympic organizers resumed their plans for a 1948 tournament and chose London as hosts, foregoing Tokyo because of Japan's role in the conflict. Although opening ceremonies were not until 29 July, the football tournament started three days early with a four-team preliminary round.

The Netherlands beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0 at Fratton Park in Portsmouth. Meanwhile, Luxembourg dominated Afghanistan 6-0 at the Goldstone Ground in Brighton, setting their record victory in the process. Unfortunately for both teams, their success did not carry into the first round, as the Dutch lost to Great Britain in extra time, 4-3, and Luxembourg fell to Yugoslavia 6-1 despite taking the lead in the tenth minute.

Great Britain advanced to the semi-finals before losing to Yugoslavia, who took silver after falling to Sweden in the final.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

25 July 1993 - Height Has Its Advantages

On 25 July 1993, Bolivia handed Brazil their first-ever World Cup qualification defeat, beating them 2-0 in La Paz.

Bolivia had, to that point, only participated in two World Cups (1930 and 1950), while Brazil had already won three of them (1958, 1962, 1970). And the Brazilians had never lost a World Cup qualifier since FIFA instituted them for the 1934 tournament (though they did not play first one until 1954, having qualified automatically for the 1934, 1938, and 1950 World Cups).

For the 1994 campaign, they met Bolivia at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz. Situated 11,932 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest professional stadiums in the world. A crowd of 42,611 gathered for the match, which remained scoreless until the last few minutes.

In the 88th minute, Bolivian midfielder Marco Etcheverry (pictured) took control of the ball near the midfield stripe, then raced down the left channel all the way to the goal line, holding off pressure from a couple of Brazilian defenders. He fired the ball across the face of the goal, where it struck the leg of goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel and deflected into the net.

Brazil sent players forward in a desperate attempt to find an equalizer, but Bolivia used the space in the back to double their lead. Etcheverry sent the ball forward to substitute striker Álvaro Peña, who beat Taffarel with a side-footed shot from the edge of the six-yard box to cap the 2-0 victory.

Both teams eventually qualified for the tournament, with Brazil capturing their fourth title while Bolivia exited in the first round.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

23 July 2010 - "Allez Les Bleus" Indeed

On 23 July 2010, the French Football Federation suspended all 23 members of their World Cup squad at the request of new manager Laurent Blanc.

The sanction was a result of a player revolt during the tournament. The French campaign already looked doomed after losing their first two matches to Uruguay and Mexico, but the situation grew worse when manager Raymond Domenech sent striker Nicolas Anelka home after the player argued with him during halftime of the game against Mexico. In support of Anelka, other players in the French camp refused to train and Les Blues ended up losing to South Africa and finishing at the bottom of their group.

Following the tournament, FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes resigned his post and Domenech was sacked. Blanc, who had recently led Bordeaux to the 2008-09 Ligue 1 title, stepped in as his replacement. he acknowledged that the federation could not condone the team's actions during the tournament and recommended a one-game ban for the entire squad.

For Frace's next match, a friendly against Norway, they used an entirely different squad and lost, 2-1.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

22 July 1927 - A Capital Idea For A New Club

On 22 July 1927, Roma held their first meeting, consolidating three previously-established clubs from the Italian capital. They have since gone on to win a total of twelve domestic trophies.

The new club was the idea of Italo Foschi, who wanted to create a strong club in Rome to challenge the powerful teams from Northern Italy. He approached the city's four major teams--Alba-Audace, Fortitudo-Pro Roma, Lazio, and Roman FC--with all but Lazio agreeing to the merger. (Lazio and Roma now share the same stadium and contest the heated Derby della Capitale). They held their first official meeting in an office near the center of the city at 35 Via Uffici del Vicario, where they adopted the maroon and orange colors of the city standard and selected a wolf, taken from the legend of Romulus and Remus, as their symbol.

Roma quickly established themselves as a national power, finishing as runners-up to Juventus in 1931, then again in 1936. They finally captured their first league title in 1942, finishing three points clear of Torino, but then went another forty-one years before winning their second title in 1983. They won a third title in 2001 and most recently finished seventh in the 2011-12 season. They have had more success in the Coppa Italia, winning it nine times between 1964 and 2008.

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.