On this day… 8th July 1982

8 Jul

A quick quiz question to start, what has happened to the following fourteen nations that has not happened to any other; Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia? The answer is that they have lost a World Cup Finals penalty shoot-out. Prior to the introduction of the penalties, drawn knockout matches were replayed, as happened several times at the 1938 World Cup. With concerns over scheduling FIFA introduced penalties as a method of separating drawn World Cup ties in 1978, but it was not needed, indeed not since the 1938 tournament had a match remained level at the end of scheduled play. And so the first ever World Cup finals penalty shoot-out took place at the end of an epic semi-final, four years later, on this day in 1982. Continue reading

Match Report: Germany 0-1 Spain

7 Jul

Has it really taken until the semi-final for one of the mascots to get above their station and give a cheeky wink and a wave to the camera as it pans along the line during the Anthems? Someone at FIFA does have a sense of humour though it seems, having ensured one of the tallest mascots of the tournament thus far is placed next to Philipp Lahm. With the match underway Guy Mowbray describes the opening exchanges as being “cagey”, though perhaps it may be fair to wait a little more than two minutes in is a little early to be sure. Continue reading

On this day… 7th July 1974

7 Jul

And so the Netherlands have made it through to their third World Cup Final. Having faced West Germany in Munich in 1974 and Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1978 the Dutch are already in a much better position than their previous two finals, in that for once they will not be the ‘away’ side.  Should Germany defeat Spain later this evening then we will be set for (political reunification of one of the constituent nations considered) a replica of one of those previous finals which took place on this day, thirty-six years ago. Continue reading

Match Preview 62: Spain vs Germany (semi-final)

7 Jul

Germany have, perhaps, announced themselves as favourites for the World Cup crown after back to back four-goal demolitions of genuine contenders Argentina, and… England. They are a deadly counter-attacking force, and have exploited opposition weaknesses better than any other team in the tournament.  In many respects they are ideally placed to defeat a Spain side who are defensively unsteady and operate with a high back-line.  Continue reading

Match Report: Netherlands 3-2 Uruguay

6 Jul

Even on my relatively small screen television I can effectively count Diego Forlan’s nostril hairs during the Uruguayan National Anthem as the cameraman zooms in unsettlingly close to the stand-in captain. During the Dutch Anthem Wesley Sneijder appears genuinely curiously surprised by the presence of the camera in front of him, like he’s just caught sight of himself on a television in the window of Dixons. Clive Tyldesley has already curiously described Netherlands as “the pin-up team” of the competition, but he does go on to point out that they have become “prepared to win ugly”, the camera cutting to a close-up of Arjen Robben on the last word of that phrase with impeccable timing. Tyldsley is flying solo tonight as the hardest working man in showbusiness Jim Beglin has worked too hard. After a month with Tyldsley he can stand no more and has been taken ill. Continue reading

On this day… 6th July 1974

6 Jul

The World Cup third place play-off match is often the tournament’s forgotten game. Played out by the losing semi-finalists to little fanfare or acknowledgement outside of FIFA’s own headquarters the matches are very rarely talked about beyond the tournaments themselves. However, these positional play-offs have provided a number of nations with their greatest ever footballing achievements. Only eleven different nations* have contested the eighteen World Cup Finals to date, whilst twenty-one different countries have ended a World Cup in third or fourth spot. Third in the World is as good as its ever gotten for Austria, Chile, Portugal, Croatia, Turkey and Poland who first achieved that feat on this day thirty-six years ago. Continue reading

Match Preview 61: Netherlands vs Uruguay (semi-final)

6 Jul

Luis Suarez based controversy aside, the Uruguayans have more than earned their place in today’s first semi-final.  Solid in defence and assured in attack, they have taken every chance with which they were presented.  Continue reading

On this day… 5th July 1982

5 Jul

The 1982 World Cup was the last to feature a second round group stage. The six group winners and six runners-up from the first round had progressed to be placed into four groups of three, the winners of which would advance to the semi-finals. The draw for the second round produced arguably the most daunting grouping possible, the ultimate ‘Group of Death’ as holders Argentina, favourites Brazil and strongly fancied Italy all placed together in Group C. Only one of the three could progress and the match which decided who, took place twenty-eight years ago today. Continue reading

World Cup Top Tin; #4 Goal Celebrations

5 Jul

It only takes a second to score a goal, so we can be thankful that a number of World Cup stars have devoted much more time into celebrating their strikes, enabling us to compile this top ten list. Do you remember Brazil’s baby-rocking routine to celebrate Bebeto’s goal against Netherlands at the 1994 World Cup? Good, because its not featured in our top ten. Neither is Diego Maradona’s ‘enhanced’ stare down the lens after his goal against Greece in the same tournament, nor is Brian Laudrup’s relaxed pose following his goal against Brazil at France ’98. Sadly a lack of available footage means that our top ten is also bereft of Gordon Strachan’s ballet moves, performed on an advertising hoarding, after he scored Scotland’s opener against West Germany in 1986, but hopefully you can soldier on regardless and enjoy the following ten celebrations. Continue reading

A History of England at the World Cup Finals

4 Jul

As anyone who watched their performance in the Brazil versus Chile match on ITV will know, the refereeing team of Howard Webb, Mike Mullarky and Darren Cann are the only remaining Englishmen left in the World Cup. Though Clive Tyldsey enthusiastically talked up the chances of the team taking charge of the World Cup Final it now appears more likely that they will officiate one of the semi-finals. I thought therefore that it would be interesting to take a look back at previous World Cups to see the impact Englishmen, or English-born people (not related to the England national side), have had on the World Cup. Continue reading