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: 1986 World Cup, 2012 European Championship, ABC, Alan Green, Alan Merrick, Alkis Panagoulias, Aris Thessaloniki, Arnie Mausser, Cosmos, Costa Rica, Dale Ervine, Dan Canter, Falls Church, Gdansk, Germany, Greece, Iraklis, Jeff Durgan, Jeff Hooker, Kevin Crow, Los Angeles Games, Mexico, Mike Fox, New York Greek Americans, New York Times, North American Soccer League, NYU, Olympiakos, Olympics, Paul Caligiuri, Perry Van der Beck, Steve Sharp, Team America, Ticos, Torrance, U.S. National Open Cup, U.S. National Team, U.S. Soccer Federation, Walter Chyzowych, Washington DC, World Cup
Alkis Panagoulias, coach of the U.S. National Team from 1983 to 19985, has died at his home in Falls Church, Virginia, at age 78.
The native of Greece and naturalized U.S. citizen posted a 6-5-7 record as the USA’s coach, second in wins at the time to Walter Chyzowych (8-14-10 from 1976 to 1980).
Greek players were to wear black armbands in his memory during their upcoming European Championship quarterfinal match with Germany in Gdansk. Panagoulias coached Greece from 1973 to 1981 and fom 1992 to 1994, guiding the Greeks to their first-ever World Cup appearance, in ’94. He guided Olympiakos to Greek titles in 1982, ’83 and ’87, and he also coached Aris Thessaloniki and Iraklis. [June 18]
Comment: Panagoulias had the misfortune of presiding over perhaps the most frustrating and fruitless period in U.S. National Team history. Worse still, it seemed as if no one cared–no one, that is, but Alketas “Alkis” Panagoulias.
A national team coach, of course, is paid to care. But Panagoulias gave the U.S. Soccer Federation far more than it’s money’s worth in that department. Chomping a cigar and sprinkling his brutally frank comments with profanities, the burly Greek battled with the federation and battled with the North American Soccer League, all the while leaving his players with no doubt as to who was in charge. (He once told me in an interview that the team had “all these goddam California surfers,” such as Mike Fox, Paul Caligiuri, Kevin Crow, Jeff Hooker, Dale Ervine and Steve Sharp.) Above all, he was unabashedly patriotic when it came to his adopted country and absolutely passionate as an advocate of the national team, trying with little success to explain to the media and public in general its importance in a country overwhelmingly indifferent to soccer.
A player for Aris before moving to America to earn a degree at NYU, Panagoulias turned to coaching and steered the New York Greek Americans to three straight U.S. National Open Cups beginning in 1967, back when that cup was more or less the championship for the country’s ethnic semipro clubs.
In 1983, with the U.S. having played only one match since a World Cup qualifier in 1980, Panagoulias was chosen by the USSF to succeed Chyzowych as coach of both the national and Olympic teams–a foreign-born coach with international experience and, presumably, an understanding of the American player. And in a unique twist, his players were to play in the NASL as Team America.
Panagoulias recalled in a 2006 interview with the New York Times, “It was very difficult. I first had to sell the league people and owners on the idea that the national team has to be the No. 1 team in the country. We needed their players. I was almost crying when I talked about the national team. They looked at me like I was crazy. They didn’t know from the national team.”
NASL club owners dragged their feet over what some regarded as a flawed grandstand play, most of the Cosmos players invited to join this grand experiment chose to stay in New York and Team America, based in Washington DC and featuring naturalized Americans like Alan Merrick and Alan Green and national team regulars Arnie Mausser, Perry Van der Beck, Dan Canter and Jeff Durgan, stumbled to a league-worst 10-20 record in their only season.
The following year, with Olympic soccer’s amateur restrictions rapidly crumbling, the U.S. was allowed to field its national team at the Los Angeles Games. The Americans went 1-1-1 but it wasn’t enough to get them into the quarterfinals, and a golden opportunity to put soccer on front pages across the nation–or at least get the sport some airtime on Olympic broadcaster ABC–was missed.
Then in 1985, the U.S., needing just a draw at home to advance to the final three-team round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, lost to Costa Rica, 1-0, before a small but overwhelmingly pro-Ticos crowd in Torrance, Calif.
That heartbreaking defeat ended Panagoulias’ run as U.S. coach, but he bowed out knowing that he was right. The sport desperately needed the rallying point of a successful national team, not yet another NASL championship by the Cosmos. And without one, soccer in America would remain largely rudderless, a game much more fun to play than to watch. Unfortunately for Panagoulias, it would take many years, other coaches and several generations of American players for the country to actually experience what this passionate Greek had been talking about.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2012 African Cup of Nations, Chelsea, Cote d'Ivoire, Didier Drogba, Egypt, Elephants, England, Gabon, Gervinho, Herve Renard, Holland, Ivory Coast, Kalusha Bwalya, Libreville, PSV Eindhoven, Stophira Sunzu, World Cup, Zambia
Zambia defeated Ivory Coast on penalty kicks, 8-7, following a scoreless draw in Libreville, Gabon, to capture the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
The emotional final came down to two misses from the spot by Cote d’Ivoire. In the tiebreaker, after 14 consecutive conversions, a Zambian save and Zambian miss, Arsenal’s Gervinho, a standout during the three-week tournament, misfired for the Elephants and Stophira Sunzu bured his try to give Zambia its first African crown. Back in the second half, Ivory Coast had a chance to settle matters when Gervinho was brought down in the right side of the box, but Chelsea star Didier Drogba botched his PK attempt.
On the Zambian bench was the country’s soccer chief, Kalusha Bwalya, who had hired current coach Herve Renard. In 1993, Bwalya, then a member of PSV Eindhoven, was due to fly from Holland to Africa to play for Zambia in a World Cup qualifier when all of his teammates were killed in a plane crash off the coast of Libreville. Three days before the 2012 final, Bwalya and Renard led the current Zambian squad to a Libreville beach, where they said prayers and scattered flowers. “There was a special spirit with us,” said Renard, a Frenchman, later. “It was written in the sky.”
Zambia came into the tournament as 40-1 longshots while the heavily favored Ivorians, who won the 55-year-old competition back in 1992, went home having gone six games without a loss and without conceding a goal. [February 12]
Comment: Over the din of the silly turmoil in England concerning its captain and coach, over the din of the very real turmoil in Egypt (winners of the previous three African titles) that threatens that country’s ability to field a national team, 2012 has produced a feel-good story, and we haven’t even reached mid-February. For more, scroll down to “Zambia’s Chance for a Bit of Closure,” January 21.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Alexi Lalas, Algeria, American Soccer League, Archie Stark, Babe Ruth of Soccer, Billy Gonsalves, Cantona, Claudio Reyna, Clint Dempsey, Cobi Jones, Ed Sullivan, Eric Wynalda, Everton, Futbol de Primera, Hannover 96, Honda, Hugo Perez, Kasey Keller, Kyle Rote Jr., Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles Times, Maldini, Michael Bradley, MLS, New York Cosmos, Rick Davis, Steve Cherundolo, Tab Ramos, U.S. Player of the Year, World Cup, Xavi, Zidane
Landon Donovan won an unprecedented seventh U.S. Player of the Year award in a landslide over runner-up Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey in balloting involving nearly 200 journalists nationwide.
Donovan, who first won the honor in 2002, attracted 403 points based on three for a first-place vote, two for second and one for third. Bradley picked up 169 points and Dempsey 157. The only other multiple winners in the 20-year history of the award– organized by the national radio show Futbol de Primera and until recently sponsored by Honda–are goalkeeper Kasey Keller (1999 and 2005) and striker Eric Wynalda (1992 and 1996).
The speedy attacking midfielder-withdrawn forward probably became a favorite for the 2010 award with his stellar play early in the year for Everton, but he cinched it by scoring in three of the USA’s four games at the World Cup, including the dramatic winner against Algeria in added-on time that put the Americans into the second round. He then returned home and helped the Los Angeles Galaxy finish the MLS regular season with the league’s best record. [January 5]
Comment: Once dismissed by the Los Angeles Times as ”the overrated Landon Donovan” following the first of his two attempts to make an impact in Europe with Bayer Leverkusen, later criticized for disappearing in this match and that, the USA’s all-time scoring leader in 2010 cemented his status as not only the face of the sport in this country but a face that some average Americans actually recognize.
This country’s first notable soccer player was, probably, Archie Stark, a Scottish-born center forward who dominated the original American Soccer League in the 1920s and was dubbed “The Babe Ruth of Soccer” by a young newspaper columnist named Ed Sullivan. From the early ’30s, oldtimers fondly recall a ball artiste named Billy Gonsalves. Fast-forward to the 1970s, when the NASL tried but failed to make league scoring leader Kyle Rote Jr. its All-American Boy, and the 1980s, when it succeeded, somewhat, in planting that title on New York Cosmos midfielder Rick Davis. Since then, the country has produced several outstanding players, like Hugo Perez, Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna, as well as personalities like bohemian gladfly defender Alexi Lalas, the fiery goal-scorer Wynalda and teen-idol Cobi Jones.
It has been said repeatedly that what American soccer needs is a superstar–whatever that means. It is doubtful, however, that the general American public would appreciate the subtle skills of a Xavi, a Zidane, a Cantona, a Maldini. An incisive pass, a simple swerve, a change of direction, an immaculate take-away: all would be lost on a viewership peering in on soccer only occasionally. Donovan, however, does what Americans understand, has a track record of doing so, and is comfortable before cameras and facing a horde of reporters in front of his locker.
Donovan has asked for a respite after several months of play, so it’s unlikely that he will return to Europe any time soon and add to his credentials this winter. As such, enjoy his reign as “That American Soccer Player.” Certainly, no successor is on the horizon, and that puts the sport’s longterm future on the fickle U.S. pop culture front in doubt.
[Full disclosure: One ballot went to Donovan, Bradley and Steve Cherundolo, who served the role of grown-up on the USA back line in South Africa. At 31 and playing for the obscure Hannover 96, it's doubtful that the smart, energenic Cherundolo will ever get the credit he deserves.]
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Amos Adamu, Argentina, Auckland, CONCACAF, Executive Committee, FIFA, GoUSABid, Jack Warner, Julio Grondona, Mohamed bin Hammam, Nigeria, Oceania Football Confederation, Qatar, Reynald Temarii, Salt Lake City, Tahiti, The Sunday Times of London, Trinidad & Tobago, World Cup
FIFA has provisionally suspended two Executive Committee members in the wake of an alleged World Cup vote-selling scam.
Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, along with four former Executive Committee members, have been barred from soccer-related activities until a probe by the FIFA ethics committee is completed.
Adamu and Temarii were caught in a videotaped sting staged by The Sunday Times of London. Posing as representatives of American corporate interests, the Times team offered to buy Adamu’s World Cup vote. Adamu requested $800,000 for four artificial-turf soccer fields to be built in Nigeria–paid not to his national soccer federation but directly to him. Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederation, had a slightly higher price tag: $2.3 million, ostensibly to fund a soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand. [October 20]
Comment: So two more men wearing the FIFA blazer have been found to be, allegedly, corrupt. They join a long list that includes CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar (World Cup ticket scalping) and FIFA Senior Vice President Julio Grondona of Argentina (TV rights scandals). Some of this new mud, however, may splatter and soil the U.S. bid for 2022.
It should be noted that the Times‘ sting was executed at a time when the U.S. and England were each bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. If the Times was attempting to scuttle the American bid, it has since become moot with the recent announcements that the U.S. would shoot for 2022 only, the English, ’18.
Nevertheless, neither Adamu nor Temarii recoiled in shock when presented with the Times’ bribe offers. That speaks volumes of what the world thinks of what the U.S. is capable of in a high stakes game like the right to host a World Cup, an event in which billions of dollars change hands. Americans don’t win World Cups, but whenever they play anything, they play to win. And in the international sports community, the stench from Salt Lake City’s efforts to secure the 2002 Winter Olympic Games still lingers.
Aspersions have been cast. The efforts of GoUSAbid, based to this point on an overwhelming attack, may now be determined by its ability to hunker down and defend.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1988 European Championship, ESPN, Knowledge Networks, Naples, San Gennaro Hospital, Total Touch, World Cup
Fourteen percent of Americans said they or a friend were far from focused on their work during the 2010 World Cup.
According to a poll by Knowledge Networks’ Total Touch, 77 percent of out-of-home Internet usage during World Cup matches occurred at offices and that half of out-of-home ESPN mobile use was at offices. Moreover, 18 percent of respondents said they or a friend wore a favorite World Cup team’s jersey to work during the tournament, and 5 percent said they or a friend broke up with a significant other because of the World Cup. [September 25]
Comment: Are you guilty?
If so, it could’ve been worse. An item from Soccer Stories, entitled “No Doctor in the House When Italy’s On”:
In November 1987, a group of employees at San Gennaro Hospital in Naples abandoned their stations to watch a telecast of Italy’s 2-1 victory over Sweden in a qualifying game for the 1988 European Championship. Authorities arrested 39 hospital staffers, and criminal charges were filed against 20.