Archive for June, 2009

June 30 – Euro 96 Final

“Germany against England was the real final of Euro 96. That is why the competition now seems over even though the last game is still to come.” The words of Der Kaiser himself, Franz Beckenbauer.

But it wasn’t over and whatever Germany fans might have thought about the trophy being theirs to lose after dispatching England in the semi-final, they still had to actually go and beat the impressive Czech Republic, who had got to the final in their first Euros since the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

The two teams lined up at Wembley on this day in a match that, as Beckenbauer said, felt like something of an anticlimax after the latest chapter of the England/Germany rivalry.

After a goalless first hlf, it was the underdog Czechs who drew first blood when Patrick Berger converted a penalty with an hour played.

They held on to the lead for less than a quarter of an hour and with just minutes remaining Bierhoff equalised for the Germans.

The teams could not be separated in 90 minutes and so the match went into extra time. On this occasion however, the Germans had no need for their legendary nerves of steel in penalty shoot-outs, as Oliver Bierhoff scored again to win the match, and the tournament, with a golden goal just five minutes in to the extra period. It was the first time a golden goal had been scored in any major tournament and it handed the Germans a third European Championship trophy.

If you’re English, there’s a good chance you couldn’t bring yourself to watch the match so have a look at the key moments below. If you’re German, you’ve almost certainly seen the goals before, but it never hurts to have another look does it?

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Guess what England fans? This was also the day of yet another heartbreaking defeat in a major tournament for the Three Lions! Read all about it right here you lucky old lot.

June 29 – The (First) Miracle on Grass

UNTIL the USA masterminded one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus and ended Spain’s record breaking winning run at the Confederations Cup last week there was one moment in their history that stood above all others.

The term ‘Miracle on Grass’ was first coined today in 1950 when England, the inventors and self-anointed masters of the game were downed by a team of part-time amateurs from a country that had barely heard of the game.

The 1950 World Cup in Brazil was the first that England had played in the tournament, having returned Fifa four years earlier. Before this time they had assumed that they were the best team in the world and didn’t need to lower themselves to appearing in this new competition.

The USA meanwhile had lost their last seven international matches by a combined score of 45-2, and the shambolic nature of their earlier World Cup efforts was summed up when their trainer knocked himself out with his own chloroform at the 1930 World Cup, having to be carried off the pitch. An routine England win seemed to be the only possible outcome.

Even the American’s themselves thought they had no chance and reportedly had been out on the town the night before, dancing until 2am and turning up for the game hungover.

England were so confident that they left out Stanley Matthews, the best player in the world at the time, a decision that journalist Norman Giller later compared to ‘leaving Wellington on the beach at Waterloo.’

Straight from the kick-off they threatened the US goal, with ‘keeper Frank Borghi making his first save after 90 seconds.

The relentless pressure continued until the 37th minute when, in a rare US venture upfield, high school teacher Walter Bahr sent a cross in that was headed home by Joe Gaetjens giving the US a shock lead.

Wave after wave of English attacks followed in the second-half and through a mixture of luck and an inspired performance from Borghi, the likes of Stan Mortensen, Roy Bentley and Tom Finney could not find an equaliser and the US held on to record the biggest upset international football had ever seen.

Upon hearing the scoreline back in London a sub-editor at the Daily Mirror assumed it was an error. Ken Jones, a Mirror correspondent at the time later said: “When the “flash” result was passed to a sub-editor he smiled – understandably assuming an error in transmission; he reached for a pen to correct the score – surely, England 10, USA 1. Still smiling, he turned to a colleague and said ‘England defeated by the United States. Now that would have been some story.’”

Bemused US right-back Harry Keough said after the game: “Boy, I feel sorry for these bastards. How are they ever going to live down the fact that we beat them?”

The day got worse for England as it later emerged that the England cricket team had lost to the West Indies for the first time. Three days later Walter Winterbottom’s England side lost to Spain and went home from the tournament with their tail very much between their legs. The USA meanwhile reverted back to form, losing to Chile in what would be their last game in the competition until 1990.

Read about the arrival of one the games legends that also took place today here and come along tomorrow and we’ll do it all again.

June 28 – Cookie’s Spanish Adventure

AFTER putting up with Mohammed Al-Fayed’s rantings for four years while he was in charge of Fulham, Chris Coleman decided he could do with a spell in the sun, so took the top job at Real Sociedad today in 2007.

The Basque club had just suffered relegation from La Liga and turned to the Welshman after he was recommended by his compatriot and former Sociedad gaffer John Toshack.

After a strong start in Spain Cookie hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when he turned up 90 minutes late for a press conference, claiming that his watching machine had broken and flooded his flat.

“My Spanish isn’t great, so when the plumber came it took longer to sort it out,” said a somewhat bleary-eyed Coleman when he finally arrived at the press conference.

This excuse didn’t wash with the gaggle of grumpy Spanish hacks, who sent their spies out to find the truth.

The next day the tabloid newspapers were in a spin with rumours that Cookie had been seen out at 5am partying at student disco. Time for the former Swansea defender to come clean: “I was out until late in a place where I should not have been,” he ‘fessed.

“The other day I gave you an excuse, above all to take the pressure off the club. Tomorrow I will talk with the president and I have already apologised to the players before the game. I have to ask for forgiveness from the fans and everybody connected with the club because there are no excuses. I have given ammunition for people to damage the club. It was a mistake.

“I have been at the club for just five months and it is the first time that something like this has happened.”

Coleman managed to ride out the storm, but when Inaki Badiola was elected preseident in January 2008 Coleman quit the club, despite them sitting in fifth place in the Segunda Division and having lost only one of their last 11 games.

These days Cookie can be found bothering plumbers in the Coventry area, having taken the helm at the Sky Blues a month after returning from Spain. For some referee-based tomfoolery from today click here and we’ll be back tomorrow to help banish those Monday blues.

June 27 – Zola’s Golden Chair

FOOTBALL is supposed to be a team game, but being human, we can’t help but single people out even within the team.

There always has to be a man of the match and even after a 20-pass move with 10 players that ended in a simple tap in for the striker, it is the goal scorer who gets the plaudits.

Then there are the individual awards. Player of the season, for club, league, country etc, and then the really big hitters like the Ballon d’Or or the Golden Boot at the World Cup.

Today in 1999 former Chelsea favourite Gianfranco Zola was celebrating when he was the recipient of the one of the daftest-named awards in football, nay the world.

The pocket-sized Italian was the proud winner of the prestigious Golden Chair award. No, that is not the Wycombe Wanderers player of the year award, but rather the gong handed out to the best Italian footballer playing abroad and so-called because it is sponsored by firms in the northeast of Italy who produce most of Europe’s chairs. How brilliantly random. Italy’s top overseas stars better hope the award sponsorship deal is never taken on by a toilet manufacturer or a purveyor of manure.

A panel of judges declared the top 10 as: 1 Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea), 2 Benito Carbone (Sheffield Wednesday), 3 Lorenzo Amoruso (Rangers), 4 Fabrizio Ravanelli (Marseille), 5 Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea), 6 Amedeo Carboni (Valencia), 7 Roberto Di Matteo (Chelsea), 8 Michele Serena (Atletico Madrid), 9 Gianluca Festa (Middlesbrough), 10 Marco Simone (Paris St Germain).

Zola arrived in England in 1996 from Parma and was an immediate hit with the Chelsea faithful, and even helped them win the FA Cup in his debut season, with a memorable goal against Liverpool as Chelsea came from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

In his seven years at Stamford Bridge Zola’s sublime skill and cartoon-sized smile won him the hearts of the supporters who, in 2003, voted him the best ever Chelsea player.

Sadly, we have not been able to find out whether Franco received an actual golden chair as part of his prize, or whether he has now installed said chair behind his desk in the managers office at Upton Park, but if he has (and we’d like to imagine that he has) perhaps he sits back in it and contemplates some of his best moments like these:

Of course now he his making a name for himself across the capital in East London as a bright managerial prospect, much as this man once was in Yorkshire. We’ll have more for you tomorrow sports fans, so check it out.

June 26 – In the last minute of extra time!

OH the eternal and inevitable disappointment of being a football fan. Does it never end? Well, not really, or if it does, only very occasionally. Football is designed in such a way that almost all fans of almost every club end every season in disappointment – that’s what happens when you have 92 league clubs and only three domestic trophies anybody’s heard of, it means at least 89 clubs will end the season having won nothing. How typical of football.

For your international side the prospects are even worse, with only one chance every two years of winning anything. And even then the chances are tiny. No wonder we football fans are a melancholy lot.

And yet. We still love it. We still come back for more, time and again, knowing that the chances of failure far outweigh the chances of success. Why? Because just occasionally, very occasionally, something goes right, and precisely because of all the years of struggle and underachievement it feels amazing.

As a football fan you are supposed to suffer years and years of struggle and disappointment – it’s the only thing that makes winning every once in a while so good. That’s why you should never trust a Manchester United or Brazil fan. They don’t know what it’s like for the rest of us.

Today it is our pleasure here at OTFD to remind you of one of those days when it went right, for England fans at least. If you are Belgium you might want to look away now.

Today in 1990 England faced Belgium in Bologna, a place in the World Cup quarter-finals at stake. In the first half the Belgians seemed to have the edge as England looked a little off colour but as the break was looming the Three Lions got into gear and both Gary Lineker and John Barnes had goals disallowed, both marginal (wrong) calls.

The game hotted up in the second half as both sides pressed for a goal but it was Belgium who seemed to carry the greater threat as 90 minutes approached.

With no goals the game went to extra time and as so often happens, the pace slowed right down as the players on both sides tired and began to feel niggles and knocks all the more.

With the clock at 118 minutes and a penalty shoot-out just two minutes away, Paul Gascoigne went on one last run from midfield. Eric Gerets tracked him before bringing him down with the sort of tired challenge you see after such a long game.

Gazza chipped the ball into the area but it looked fairly harmless as it fell over David Platt’s shoulder but he somehow managed to turn with the ball to send a magnificent right footed volley back across goal and inside the far post.

Pandemonium. England had done it, as the commentator said, “in the last minute of extra time!” The players went mental, the fans went crazy, and even Bobby Robson did a little dance on the touchline.

It was sport at it’s dramatic best, especially if you were an England fan and more used to being on the wrong end of such results.

Of course, being England, there would be heartbreak before the tournament was out, but for a time, it was a glorious night to be an England fan, and those are all too rare.

Usually, being an England fan is more about this. More tomorrow folks, so until then, be cool and stay in school.

June 25 – Two Great Goals and a Pub Full of Drunken Irishmen

TWO of the best goals we’ve ever seen here at OTFD Towers were scored today, so rather than pitting a pair of the game’s legends in an Apprentice-style board room showdown we’ve found room for them both. And a bunch of mental Irishmen.

First stop is 1986. Three days earlier Diego Maradona had scored two polarising, but equally breathtaking goals to knock Bobby Robson’s England out of the World Cup. Next up for the Argentineans were Belgium for a place in the final, and he only bloomin’ did it again.

Picking the ball up 40 yards away from goal Maradona ghosted past four members of the Flemish defence, who were doing an even better statue impression than messrs Fenwick, Butcher et al had done earlier that week.

All that was left for El Diego was a dink over the ‘keeper and Argentina were all set for the World Cup final, albeit as one of the most obvious one-man teams of all-time.

Fast forward two years and it’s the Euro ’88 final today in Munich. The Netherlands were searching for their first ever tournament win, playing the Soviet Union in the final.

The Dutch led 1-0 thanks to a Ruud Gullit opener when Arnold Muhren lofted in a hopeful deep high cross to Marco Van Basten, who lurked past the far post, at surely an impossible angle to shoot.

It was possible. And don’t call him Shirley. Van Basten hit one of the sweetest volleys there’s ever been, striking the ball with flawless technique and scoring possibly the best ever goal to grace a tournament final and secure his nation’s first ever trophy.

We’re not sure how mental they were going in the pubs and bars across the Netherlands, but it can’t have been anymore manic than the scenes in Ireland today in 1990, when David O’Leary blasted home the decisive penalty to down Romania in the second round World Cup shoot-out. However, we’re pretty sure the makers of The Van, based on Roddy Doyle’s 1991 novel nailed it in the scene below. Enjoy that, read all about the most controversial World Cup final ever that was taking place today here and come on over tomorrow for yet more footy history.

June 24 – Portuguese Squeeze England Out

IT was déjà vu all over again for England today in 2004 when they crashed out of the European Championships at the hands of host nation Portugal.

After an opening match loss to France, England had made unusually smooth process through Euro 2004, with Wayne Rooney bursting onto the international scene and excelling in convincing victories over Switzerland and Croatia to take the Three Lions to the quarter-finals.

Obviously, this got every man and his dog in England extremely over-excited, convinced that Sven had unearthed the game’s next big thing and the now-38-years of hurt was days away from ending.

Three minutes into the game at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon brochure-enthusiast Michael Owen struck after an error from Francisco Costinha and England had an early lead.

Instead of charging regardless, as Kevin Keegan had instructed his troops to do against the same opposition four years earlier, England looked content to protect their lead, but suffered their first piece of bad luck just before the half-hour, when Rooney fell victim to an England player’s favourite mid-2000s injury, the broken metatarsal.

With Darius Vassell on for the Everton youngster England held onto their lead until the 83rd minute when piece of bad luck number came their way.

Substitute striker Helder Postiga had just come off the back of a torrid season at White Hart Lane, scoring only one league goal after a £5.5m move, but it took him less than ten minutes to beat David James in the England goal to score Portugal’s equaliser.

Showing some textbook England grit, Sol Campbell found the net in the 90th minute, but just as had happened six years earlier against Argentina, he saw his winning goal snatched away from him by the referee, as John Terry fouled Ricardo in the Portuguese goal.

Extra-time was called upon, with Rui Costa and Frank Lampard swapping goals in the second extra period and England’s nemesis, the penalty shoot-out reared it’s ugly head.

David Beckham was in his ‘lead by example’ mindset, stepping up first, but his skyed effort was not the best marker for his troops. Rui Costa’s miss on Portugal’s third spot-kick evened up proceedings and got England fans believing again, but Vassell saw his effort saved by Ricardo. The Sporting stopper, who had taken off his gloves for the shoot-out was feeling rather pleased with himself and stepped up to blast the winner past his English counterpart and the Three Lions were again suffering penalty heart-ache.

Portugal meanwhile made it all the way to the final but they were unable to stop the almighty colossus that was… er… Greece in the final. Read about one of Europe’s greatest rivalries that was taking place today and join us tomorrow for more of the same.

June 23 – Gaffer Idol

IT seems that no TV programme today is complete with a public vote to decide the outcome. How long until the likes of Eastenders have to film two alternative endings to each show so the public can vote which way it should go. “Text ‘MURDER’ to 61188 if you want to see Phil shoot Ian Beale in his chip shop, or text ‘EARRINGS’ if you want to see Pat doling out some useful grounded advice to Ricky.”

Even football is not immune. Last year we had Ebbsfleet United taken over by the thousands of members of MyFootballClub.com who now vote online for important decisions like new signings. But Ebbsfleet were beaten to the public vote thang but Luton Town.

Today in 2003 the new owner of the Hatters, the shady John Gurney, conducted a bizarre telephone vote to decide on the new manager of the club.

Gurney had sacked the previous incumbent, the popular Joe Kinnear and his assistant Mick Harford upon taking the club over – a move that left most fans furious and bewildered.

When the votes were counted, the recently-sacked Hartlepool manager Mike Newell was announced as the winner, having beaten Kinnear by just four votes.

“The vote was much closer than we anticipated,” said Gurney. “I would now make an appeal for anyone connected the club to get behind the club.”

Newell said: “The supporters will have a big say in this club and I’ve got to win them over. The only way you do that is with results.

“But I not only have to win over the supporters, I have to win over the players as well. I can only do that by being honest with them and proving I’m capable of doing the job.”

It then emerged that the players had held a separate vote in which they backed Kinnear to return. Newell responded: added: “I think it’s a natural thing for the players to have stayed loyal to Joe and I understand that fully.

“I think if the same thing had happened to me at Hartlepool I would have been guaranteed the players’ vote as well.”

But, as we’ve learned to expect from public votes, there was something afoot. For a start, Newell was very much the outsider, with Kinnear expected to easily win the telephone vote after garnering a lot of support during his time as manager at the club, not least among fans who were unhappy at the way he was sacked.

Even allowing for malicious Watford fans backing Newell in the vote it seemed odd that the rank outsider had beaten the heavily fancies favourite. There were also suggestions that Newell had ben offered – and signed – a contract before the results were in.

But, such is football with its twists and turns, whether the vote was rigged or not, it turned out to be a pretty good appointment for the Kenilworth Road club.

Despite off-field and financial problems Newell steadied the ship in his first season, and then took the club up as champions the following term. He followed that up by finishing an excellent tenth place in his first season in the Championship before an increasingly loose-cannon mouth and a down turn in results got him the sack.

Still, it was a novel way to appoint a manager, but we wouldn’t want Simon Cowell or John Gurney near our club.

Also on this day, the Scots were taking a leaf out of England’s book with a heroic World Cup failure. More tomorrow folks, so keep it OTFD. And real. Obviously.

June 22 – Psycho’s Penalty Passion

ENGLAND and penalty shoot-outs go together about as well as Newcastle United and Mike Ashley. It’s fair to say England have one of the worst records in the wretched things of all the major football nations.

Since they were adopted as a way of deciding a winner by both Fifa and Uefa in the 1970s, England have lost five games at major tournaments (and thus been knocked out) because of their inability to score from 12 yards.

The Three Lions have only ever won one penalty shoot-out in a major competition: against Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 96 at Wembley on this day.

England had gone into the game expected to sweep past the Spaniards, having destroyed Holland 4-1 in their previous match.

Spain were not the force they are now but England could not find a way past them in 120 minutes of football and with the score at 0-0 after extra time, the dreaded shoot-out followed.

Alan Shearer and David Platt both scored theirs, while Fernando Hierro missed his. Next up for England was Stuart Pearce. Psycho had been one of the players whose spot-kick was saved in the defeat to Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Italy, yet he didn’t hesitate for a moment before volunteering to do his duty.

The whole of England held their breath as he ran up to the ball and then buried it in the back of the net. His reaction was one of the most enduring images of the competition as he punched the air in angry celebration, sex years of hurt finally exorcised.

Miguel Nadal (uncle to Rafa Nadal) missed his kick while Gazza scored and for once, England had done it, and won a penalty shoot-out.

Sadly another one would follow in the next game, the semi-final to you-know-who when Pearce again scored but Gareth Southgate was not so lucky.

Also on this day, it seems some international players could still do with a refresher on the rules of football. More from us tomorrow, so see you then.

June 21 – Franchise FC

FOR the first 40 years of its existence Milton Keynes was most famous for its roundabouts, but today in 2004 England’s newest town had its own football team, albeit in highly controversial circumstances, as the team was soon to dubbed ‘Franchise FC’ by football puritans across the country.

Sports fans in America are used to seeing their teams leave town when the city mayor won’t build them a new stadium. The NFL’s Baltimore Colts even ditched their city overnight, packing up a convoy of trucks with shoulder pads and helmets, turning up in Indianapolis the next day, as shown in this clip.

In England however, this kind of behaviour had not even been considered previously. Some smaller clubs had merged or moved from one side of London to the other in previous years, but when the club formally know as Wimbledon FC were taken over by Peter Winkelman he announced that the clubs would be changing their name to MK Dons and moving 60 miles up the M1.

Prior to this Wimbledon had been struggling, as the days of John Fashanu, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise and the rest of the Crazy Gang were well behind them. The club’s 14-year stay in the top flight ended in 2000 when they were relegated and dwindling attendances meant their finances took a turn for the worse, eventually resulting in administration in June 2003.

This brought about Winkelman’s controversial takeover, with the club now having slipped to League One. Figures throughout the football world condemned the move, arguing that in England football clubs are a part of a town or city’s identity and local fabric, rather than the big-business franchise system of American sports.

Both the Football League and the FA also initially objected, blocking the move, but this was then overturned after the new owners appealed the decision. Adam Crozier, the then-chief executive of the FA was dismayed at the plans and called it an ‘appalling decision.’

Wimbledon’s fans voted with their feet, as they stayed away in the club’s final year at Selhurst Park as attendances struggled to reach 1,500, with most of these being away fans.

This led Winkelman to completely rebrand his team when the move went through, cutting all ties to Wimbledon’s history, changing the name to MK Dons and introducing a new all-white strip.

Disillusioned Womble fans quickly set up a new side at the bottom of the football ladder. AFC Wimbledon began life in 2002 when rumours of Wimbledon FC’s move began to circle and have been a massive success, quickly rising up through the Non-League structure and now finding themselves in the Conference National, one step away from league football. They can also boast of holding the record for the most games unbeaten by a senior English football club after they went 78 without defeat over three seasons.

MK Dons meanwhile are also enjoying life of late, with Roberto Di Matteo continuing Paul Ince’s good work at the club, although they remain one of the most hated teams in the country.

See a short film on the birth of AFC Wimbledon below and click here to see what we were bringing you this time last year. We’ll be back in the morning to help you get over the fact it’s Monday again, so until then, stay classy.