Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1924 Paris Olympics, 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, 1930 World Cup, 1972 European Championship, 1974 World Cup, 1997 Copa America, 1998 World Cup, 1999 Copa America, 2002 World Cup, 2004 Copa America, 2012 European Championship, Brazil, Cesare Prandelli, Cesc Fabrigas, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, David Silva, ESPN, Fernando Torres, France, Germany, Gianluigi Buffon, Italy, Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Kiev, Pele, Spain, Thiago Motta, Uruguay, Vicente de Bosque, West Germany, World Cup, Xavi
Defending World Cup champion Spain became the first country to win a second consecutive European Championship, humbling a shorthanded Italy, 4-0, in the 2012 final in Kiev.
The triumph made Spain, which won its first Euro crown in 1964, the second three-time winner of Europe’s biggest prize after West Germany/Germany (1972, 1980, 1996).
David Silva got the rout underway in the 14th minute when he headed in Cesc Fabrigas’ short cross. Jordi Alba latched onto a pass by Xavi to beat Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon four minutes before halftime to put the match out of reach.
Substitute Fernando Torres, who also scored against Germany in Spain’s 1-0 victory in the 2008 final, scored in the 84th minute, and Juan Mata, set up by Torres, applied the finishing touch at 88 minutes. Italy lost Thiago Motta to injury in the 62nd minute after coach Cesare Prandelli had used his three substitutions–the last of them Motta in the 57th–and appeared nearly helpless on the Torres and Mata goals. [July 1]
Comment: Spain’s dominating performance put a much-needed shine on a tournament that for the most part was downright dull. But those quick to brand this team as the best of all time need to take a deep breath.
Is Spain the best? Those who disagree might start with the West German team that won the 1972 European Championship and the ’74 World Cup. That team also lost the ’76 Euro final to Czechoslovakia on penalty kicks before winning its second Euro four years later. Others would point to Brazil’s Pele-led 1970 World Cup champs. And so on.
So are the Spaniards the best ever over an extended period? Various media reports branded coach Vicente del Bosque’s ball-possession magicians as the first to win three consecutive major titles. ESPN, which televised Euro 2012, was among them. But the first was Uruguay, winners of the 1924 Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam–back when Olympic soccer was the sport’s de facto world championship. The Uruguayans so dazzled the Continent on those occasions that they fueled the drive to create the World Cup in 1930, which that year was hosted and won by Uruguay. De facto or no, that was three world titles in a row over a half-dozen years.
Too long ago, when soccer wasn’t quite the global game it is today? Then for hardware in the modern era, go with another South American team, Brazil, just a decade ago. Except for an interruption by Colombia at the 2001 Copa America, the Brazilians, three years removed from their win at USA ’94, won the next two South American championships, in 1997 and ’99, finished second at the 1998 World Cup to host France, then won their fifth world championship at Korea/Japan 2002, followed by another Copa in 2004.
But then, when it comes to soccer and other matters, we live in a Eurocentric world.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2002 World Cup, Ahn Jung-Hwan, Azzurri, Barcelona Guayaquil, Brooklyn, Byron Moreno, Christian Panucci, Corriere dello Sport, Croatia, Daejeon, Damiano Tommasi, Deportivo Cuenca, Deportivo Quito, Ecuador, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Francesco Totti, Gianluigi Buffon, heroin, JFK Airport, La Gazzetta dello Sport, La Quito, Lee Young-Pyo, Mexico, Quito, Seol Ki-Hyeon, Seoul, South Korea, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States
Former FIFA referee Byron Moreno, a hated figure in Italy for calls he made in the 2002 World Cup that helped eliminate the Azzurri, was arrested in New York by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after he was caught at JFK Airport with more than 10 pounds of heroin.
Moreno had arrived in New York on a commercial flight from his native Ecuador when the heroin was discovered during a routine search. Moreno “became visibly nervous” during the inspection, and agents eventually found 10 plastic bags attached to his stomach, back and legs. A federal judge in Brooklyn ordered him held without bail on a drug smuggling charge.
The news of the arrest was greeted in Italy with another round of derision.
“I think Moreno already had the (heroin) in 2002, but not in his underwear–in his body,” said Gianluigi Buffon, who was the goalkeeper the day Moreno’s controversial decisions allowed World Cup co-host South Korea beat Italy in overtime. ”Joking aside, when sports people get involved in drug cases it means they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. It also means they’ve lost the real meaning of the sport, which is also to save kids from the street and various dangers, like drugs.” [September 21]
Comment: An opportunity to run an excerpt from the “Referees” chapter in Soccer Stories, entitled “The Curious Officiating of Byron Moreno”:
Soccer is the most international of games. In what other sport could an Ecuadoran cause nationwide joy in South Korea and despair throughout Italy on a single day?
Byron Moreno is the Ecuadoran, a referee whose questionable work during South Korea’s 2-1 victory over the favored Italians in Daejeon in the second round of the 2002 World Cup arguably altered the outcome of the tournament.
The then-three time champions were ahead, 1-0, on a headed goal by striker Christian Vieri in the 18th minute and doing what they do best, protecting a slim lead. The only bump in Italy’s road came back in the fourth minute when a debatable penalty kick was awarded to Korea, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved off the foot of striker Ahn Jung-Hwan. In the 88th, however, Seol Ki-Hyeon slipped in, pounced on a misplay by defender Christian Panucci, and beat Buffon with a low shot to level the score.
Thirteen minutes into overtime, it all began to unravel for Italy as playmaker Francesco Totti dived in the penalty area and was shown a second yellow card by Moreno for attempting to draw a penalty kick.
The shorthanded Italians then had a seemingly valid goal by midfielder Damiano Tommasi nullified by Moreno for offside. Given new life, the Koreans finally produced the winner three minutes from the end of extra time when Lee Young-Pyo floated a cross onto the head of Ahn, who nodded in the golden goal.
More than a million Koreans flooded downtown Seoul in the biggest of the impromptu celebrations staged throughout a country where seemingly everyone was wearing a bright crimson “Be The Reds” T-shirt. Many of the revelers linked the South Korean triumph of 2002 to the North Korea upset of Italy in the 1966 World Cup.
In Italy, the reaction was quite different.
“Shame!” and “Thieves” read the headlines in Italy’s leading sports dailies, La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport, and Italian commentators suggested that Moreno was part of a plot by FIFA to prevent a fourth Italian world championship and/or to deliver South Korea, the tournament co-host, into the quarterfinals. One Italian town named a row of toilets after Moreno.
Italians were already in a snit over the officiating during their team’s earlier 2-1 loss to Croatia, a result that left Italy second to Mexico in its group. A first-place finish would have pitted Italy against what was believed to be a soft touch, the United States, in the second round.
“Italy has been thrown out of a dirty World Cup, where referees and linesmen are used as hitmen,” read a commentary in the normally reserved Corriere della Sport.
FIFA, which selected Moreno to work the match, received approximately 400,000 e-mails from fans of Italy regarding the state of the officiating at the Korea-Italy game, causing the world soccer governing body’s server system to crash. A FIFA spokesman described the e-mails as “virulent, some quite abusive, some of them very threatening, some of them quite disturbing.”
Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter seemed to believe that Moreno and his brother referees had it out for the Azzurri. ”Unfortunately, through exceptional circumstances and coincidences, numerous and consecutive errors were concentrated on the Italian team,” he said.
So the 32-year-old Moreno went home in disgrace. He wasn’t quite done, however.
That September, Moreno was still refereeing–and running for a seat on the Quito city council. While working an Ecuadoran league match between Liga Quito and Barcelona of Guayaquil in Quito, he awarded a hotly disputed PK to each team, ejected two players, and disallowed a goal he originally OK’d. The topper: With 90 minutes gone, Barcelona was leading, 3-2, and Moreno signalled for six minutes of stoppage time. Unfortunately for the visitors, Moreno extended stoppage time for a total of 13 minutes and Liga scored in the 99th and 101st minutes to pull out a 4-3 win.
Exasperated by the performance of its supposed top referee–and by the perception that he was trying to capitalize on his exposure as a ref to win public office–the Ecuadoran soccer federation suspended Moreno for 20 games.
Within weeks, FIFA began an investigation “as a result of a number of controversies regarding referee Byron Moreno in Japan, Italy, and South America over the past few months . . . .” At the new year, he was dropped from FIFA’s list of international referees.
In May 2003, three matches after his 20-game suspension ended, Moreno was at it again, ejecting three Deportivo Quito players during a league match at Deportivo Cuenca. All three were sent off for being cautioned twice. Quito somehow survived, holding Cuenca to a 1-1 draw.
The Ecuadoran referees’ association finally had enough and booted Moreno out in 2004 when it was discovered that he was officiating regional tournaments without authorization.