Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 10

England 1-5 Scotland (31 March 1928) Wembley, London

Going into the Home Championship of 1928 England supporters had strong hopes of victory. Their performances during the early 1920s had been dire, but the 1927 tournament had seen them share the trophy with Scotland following an historic victory at Hampden Park. These expectations were soon made to look foolish. England lost their opening fixture against Ireland in Belfast and followed it with a narrow defeat to Wales.

Scotland were similarly in disarray. Normally the great force in the Home Championship, having won or shared 6 of the 8 tournaments of the inter-war era, they had only managed a single point from their opening two fixtures. Furthermore, in preparation for the match a Scottish league XI had been thrashed 6-2 by their English equivalents. For that reason perhaps, the Scottish selectors turned to the English based Scots to form the basis of the team. Only Harkness of Queen’s Park, Jimmy Dunn of Hibs and Alan Morton of Rangers plied their trade North of the border.

England (below) v. Scotland

At the start of the game it was clear the conditions suited Scotland. The Wembley pitch was in pristine condition, with the overnight rain leaving the turf slick and ideal for passing football. The Scottish inter-play, which remained the essential characteristic of the game North of the border, was far more at home on such a surface than the slower style of England. In addition the moist turf made turning at speed hazardous with it virtually impossible to maintain balance for England’s labouring half-backs.

From the kick-off England came close to going ahead. Joe Bradford found Billy Smith on the left-wing with a ranking crossfield pass, the Huddersfield winger profited from Nelson’s slip and blasted a powerful shot which hit the inside of the post and rolled along the goal-line before the Scots could clear. The English appealed for a goal but their protests were ignored by the referee who waved play on.

Three minutes later the Scots were in front with a move of poetic brilliance. McMullen, James, Gibson and Gallacher played neat inter-passing which eluded the English defenders before they set Morton away down the left-wing. The Rangers winger lofted a deep cross towards the back post where Alex Jackson was waiting to head in. Before half-time the Scots added a second. Alex James beat Wilson, Healless and Jones before rifling a thunderous left-footed shot into the roof of the net from the inside-right position.

England were shell-shocked by the Scots, and with the exception of their early effort on goal had largely been passengers, rarely did they get close to their opponents. The second-half saw more of the same. Jackson added a third for the Scots when Morton fired another deep cross from the left which allowed him to head in almost unopposed. The fourth of the game came from James and was a shot hit with such power that Jones, in the English goal, was almost carried into the net by it.

The Scots’ fifth goal was arguably the best of the lot. Jimmy McMullen hit a sweeping diagonal 40 yard pass which Morton raced on to, another deep cross found Jackson who volleyed the ball into the roof of the net from 5 yards out. The Scottish wingers had torn the English defence to shreds, with the same cross from Morton to Jackson resulting in three goals. England pulled one back at the death with a free-kick from Bob Kelly, but that could not dampen the mood of the travelling Scottish supporters.

The “Wembley Wizards” had consigned England to the wooden spoon in the Home Championship, but the game had been more than that. Scotland had given the English a master-class in the passing game and had evidenced the importance of brains over brawn. England were unable to cope with either the brilliance of their individuality, Morton and Jackson’s dribbling, or the combination play which saw neat passing carve open the defence. Despite the brilliance of the Scottish forward line it was in the midfield where the game was won. Gibson, Bradshaw and McMullen out-thought and out-fought Healless and Wilson, with only Edwards proving a match for them. While Scotland could only finish third in the Home Championship that year, many considered the performance of the “wee blue devils” to be the finest that Wembley ever saw.  

Sunday, 29 May 2011

2010-11 Team of the Season


Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04 and Germany)
Schalke’s incredible run to the semi-finals of the Champions League could be strongly attributed to the stellar performances of goalkeeper Neuer. His performance in the Gelsenkirchen club’s semi-final first leg was described by Sir Alex Ferguson as arguably the best he had seen against United in his 25 years of management. Indeed comparisons were made to Peter Schmeichel following the game as Neuer pulled off a string of stunning saves. While Schalke’s Bundesliga  performances were a major disappointment Neuer was one of the few players who  did themselves justice and in truth the season might have been much worse (Schalke only managed a 14th place finish) if it had not been for their inspirational keeper.
Christian Abbiati (AC Milan and Italy)
Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille and France)
Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
Edwin Van der Sar (Manchester United and Holland)

Daniel Alves (Barcelona and Brazil)
Unquestionably the finest full-back in the world this season, Alves’ energy and tireless running are a fundamental part of the success Barca continue to enjoy. As much a right-winger as a right-back, Alves benefits significantly from the overwhelming levels of possession that Barcelona take for granted, but he remains the man who gives much needed width to a team so often keen to play through the middle. His 15 assists in La Liga trailed only Lionel Messi and Mesut Oezil, showing the value he offers offensively. Having missed the 2009 final through suspension he will have been delighted to havemade his presence felt at Wembley for the 2011 victory.
Ignazio Abate (AC Milan and Italy)
Mathieu Debuchy (Lille and France)
Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea and Serbia)
Dario Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk and Croatia)

Marcelo  (Real Madrid and Brazil)
Previously regarded as the weakest link within a fragile Madrid backline, 2010-11 saw Marcelo come of age.  Rampaging forward down the left flank, the 23 year old was reminiscent of his compatriot Roberto Carlos, who dominated the Bernabeu for a decade. Capable of playing as a left-winger when Mourinho needed to shuffle his pack, Marcelo proved a constant threat to opposing defences while his stamina allowed him to cover tremendous amounts of ground. While rumours persist over a potential move for Fabio Coentrao, Marcelo has proven himself this season and will be difficult to shift from the Madrid starting line-up.
Leighton Baines (Everton and England)
Fabio Coentrao (Benfica and Portugal)
Ashley Cole  (Chelsea and England)
Marcel Schmeltzer (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)

Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United and Serbia)
Consistently outstanding in Manchester United’s Premier League victory Vidic has fully vindicated Ferguson’s decision to make him fulltime club captain. So many of United’s victories were narrowly won and were dependent on Vidic’s marshalling of the backline with Ferdinand injured and Evra suffering a dip in form. Most incredible was their record of not conceding a single goal away from home in the Champions League (excluding the final which was played at a neutral venue), a new record for the competition. It was no surprise therefore that he was named as the Barclays Player of the Year in recognition of his phenomenal performances in the league.

Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)
Borussia Dortmund’s surprise Bundesliga crown was based firmly on the performances of a Hummels led defence. Die Schwarzgelben conceded just 22 goals in 34 games in the league, with an incredible home record which saw just 8 let in. The performances of Hummels only served to rub salt in the wounds of Bayern Munich who struggled in central  defence and must still be kicking themselves for allowing the hugely talented 22 year old to leave the Allianz Arena in 2009. It can only be expected that Hummels will now form the corner stone of a phenomenal generation of German talent for years to come.
Ricardo Carvalho (Real Madrid and Portugal)
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City and Belgium)
Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan and Italy)
Gerard Pique (Barcelona and Spain)
Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint-Germain and France)
Thiago Silva (AC Milan and Brazil)
Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund and Serbia)
Jan Vertongen (Ajax and Belgium)
 Defensive midfield

Arturo Vidal (Bayer Levekusen and Chile)
Having finished 4th in the Bundesliga in 2009-10, Leverkusen thought than an influential midfielder might help them improve the following season. However, it was not the returning Michael Ballack that led them to Champions League qualification, but Chilean enforcer Vidal. The former Colo-Colo man was a hive of activity in the Leverkusen midfield, but his industry belies the deft touch and clever passing that he brings to the team. Leverkusen will be keen to retain their star player ahead of their Champions League campaign, but will not be short of suitors for such a complete midfield general.
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain)
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid and Germany)
Yann M’Vila (Rennes and France)
Scott Parker (West Ham and England)
 Central midfield

Xavi (Barcelona and Spain)
Yet another superb season for the world’s finest metronome. His ability to set the pace and tempo of almost every game he plays in is unparalleled and as such he is arguably the most important cog in the Barcelona machine. This season saw him pass Migueli as the man with the most appearances for Barcelona as he led them to yet more glory, captaining the team in the Champions League final in the absence of the injured Carles Puyol. Although far from a prolific goalscorer he came up with some crucial goals at important times in the season, with the first in Barca’s 5-0 thrashing of Real Madrid and against Arsenal in the Champions League second-round. He also played a huge role in the final with a fabulous pass to Pedro for the opening goal and strangled the United midfield with his 141 completed passes.
Hernanes (Lazio and Brazil)
Luka Modric (TottenhamHotspur and Croatia)
Joao Moutinho (Porto and Portugal)
Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund and Turkey)
Attacking midfield

Mesut Oezil (Real Madrid and Germany)
Following his stellar performances at the World Cup, Oezil established himself firmly at the top of the pecking order within Real Madrid’s congested midfield. His 17 assists (only Lionel Messi managed more) were instrumental in Madrid’s concerted challenge to Barca, while his 6 in the Champions League were unmatched. If there was a criticism to be raised it was that he failed to deliver in the games against Barcelona, but that should not mar what was a fabulous debut season in Spain. The Madrid based press tipped the German as a potential Ballon D’Or winner in future and if he continues to improve at his current rate he will be sure to challenge Messi and Ronaldo before too long.
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain)
Marek Hamsik (Napoli and Slovakia)
Samir Nasri (Arsenal and France)
Alex da Souza (Fenerbahce and Brazil)
Forwards and wingers

Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
What more is there to be said about the genius from Rosario? Let’s start first with the numbers. 53 goals and 24 assists in 54 games this season speaks for itself, while his 12 goals in the Champions League equalled Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record for a single season. But those numbers don’t begin to do justice to the brilliance of the Barca No. 10. Even without the goals, his ability to beat a man or find a yard of space when he appears to be well marked are priceless. Furthemore he continues to knock down all the points that stand against him. Before Barca’s clash with Real Madrid he had never scored in the semi-finals of the Champions League, yet two moments of brilliance put paid to any question marks over his ability to do so. The first of those was a piece of movement and finishing that Ian Rush would have been proud of, the second a trademark slaloming dribble that left four defenders trailing in his wake. Before the final it was observed that he had never scored in England but his emphatically hit second goal took away one of the few blots on his copy book. The world’s best player just got even better.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal)
In any other season Ronaldo’s 40 goals in La Liga, eclipsing the long standing record of Telmo Zarra and Hugo Sanchez, would have been the story of the season. Not this year, but it remains an incredible feat. Doubters pointed to the fact that 11 of those goals came in the final four games of the season when the title was effectively already gone, but what about the 29 that went before them? Ronaldo also broke his duck against Barca with a penalty in the league, before his pinpoint header wrapped up the Copa del Rey. He might not be the best player in the world, but Ronaldo’s combination of pace, skill and power makes him a force of nature that very few defenders are able to cope with.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur and Wales)
Santi Cazorla (Villarreal and Spain)
Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid and Portugal)
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese and Italy)
Eden Hazard (Lille and Belgium)
Nani (Manchester United and Portugal)
Alexis Sanchez (Udinese and Chile)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City and Argentina)

Radamel Falcao (Porto and Colombia)
No club team enjoyed quite such a successful story as Porto this season. Completing an unbeaten campaign in the league, victory in the Portuguese Cup and a Europa League crown to top it off. In such a successful season it was difficult to pick out individual stars, but Falcao shone brighter than them all. His 16 league goals in 22 games was a slight decline on the previous year, but it was in the Europa League that he really came to the fore. 17 goals in just 14 games broke Jurgen Klinsmann’s record for the competition, with an amazing four goals scored in their second-half demolition of a strong Villarreal side in the semi-finals. While Villas-Boas, the Porto manager, is desperate to keep his squad together for the Champions League next season it looks inevitable that Falcao will be on the shopping list of Europe’s most prestigious clubs.
Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay)
Samuel Eto’o (Inter and Cameroon)
Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich and Germany)
Moussa Sow (Lille and Senegal)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 9

Sparta Prague 6-2  Rapid Vienna (30 October 1927) Letna Stadium, Prague

No man did more for the development of football in the inter-war years than Hugo Meisl. A manager, referee and administrator his influence could be felt through tournaments, tactics and everything in between. He was football’s great renaissance man. Even his brother Willy (an Austrian international goalkeeper in his own right), would make a lasting contribution to the history of the game via his seminal work, Soccer Revolution.

Born in Bohemia in 1881, Meisl moved to Vienna, along with his family, at the age of 6 and it was in the Austrian capital that he would demonstrate his prowess as a winger for the Vienna Cricket and Football Club. At the age of just 25 he qualified as a referee and began to become increasingly involved at the Austrian Football Association. The breadth of his participation saw him not only act as part of the Austrian selection committee at the 1912 Olympic Games, but also referee some of the matches involving other teams. However, arguably his greatest contribution was borne out through his unstinting passion to internationalise the game.  

Hugo Meisl

International involvement within football had expanded in the early years of the 20th century with the broadening of participation in the Olympics and the creation of the Copa America, but club competitions remained resolutely domestic. Meisl was determined to change that. Although it is unclear as to when the decision to create such a tournament was taken (some say it was in Vienna in March 1927, others that it was in Venice in the July of that year) nobody denies that Meisl was the mover behind it.

The brainchild of Meisl became known as the Mitropa Cup (reflecting the participation of central European nations in it) and it was organised on a knock-out home and away basis. In the first two years the tournament played host to teams from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Each nation was invited to send either the top two teams from the league or the league champions and cup winners to participate.

Meisl’s preference for a home and away format marked the first time that such a system would be used in a major cup competition. The advantages of playing games over two legs in this manner were obvious in that it not only avoided offering one team home advantage, but also provided increased revenues for participants by increasing the potential for gate receipts. The difficulty was in finding time to play the games and the Germans were deterred from entering the tournament due to their inability to fit such matches into the existing schedule.

Sparta Prague

The first season saw some notable mismatches as the Yugoslavian teams found themselves out of their depth. Rapid Vienna thrashed Hadjuk Split 9-1 on aggregate, while Hungaria FC beat SK Belgrade 8-2 over two legs. Similar thrashings the next year saw the Yugoslavians replaced by teams from Italy who were far more capable. However, the format in the first season proved a resounding success and demonstrated that Meisl was on to something.

The final saw Sparta Prague, of Czechoslovakia, take on the Austrian Cup winners, Rapid Vienna. Both sides had a host of prominent players of the age. The Czech team was founded on Karel Pesek Kada, later described in the classic tome Association Football as “a centre-half in the John Charles class”. Sparta Prague’s top attacker was inside-forward Josef Silny, while the Austrians were heavily reliant on half-back Josef Smistik who ran the game from midfield. Rapid though had recently lost their star player Josef Uridil (a striker known as “tank”), who combined playing football with acting in films, and was so famous that he had a song written about him and a brand of beer named after him.

Rapid Vienna (above) v. Sparta Prague

As with the rest of the tournament the final was played over two legs, but in truth the tie was over after the first 90 minutes. In the first round Sparta has beaten Admira Vienna 5-1 and they repeated the winning margin against Admira’s Viennese neighbours in a comprehensive 6-2 victory.  The Austrians were able to reduce the arrears in the second leg with a narrow 2-1 victory on home soil but they never looked likely to overturn the deficit and Sparta Prague were crowned as the inaugural Mitropa Cup champions.

The tournament would go on to be played until the early 1990s (with an obvious gap for WWII and a varying list of participants), but it was most important as the fore-runner of the modern European Cup or Champions League. Meisl was not a man to be satisfied with just one creation and that same autumn of 1927 he was behind the creation of the International European Cup. Effectively the Mitropa Cup for national teams, it was the inspiration for the European Championships and would itself run (off and on) until 1960, later being renamed the Dr Gero Cup. Meisl’s desire for improving the game knew no bounds.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 8

Uruguay 7-0 Yugoslavia (25 May 1924) Colombes, Paris
The position of football in the early years of the modern Olympics was far from prominent. In the Olympiads of Paris in 1900 and St Louis in 1904 the tournament organised was at best haphazard. Both competitions saw only three teams participate and in neither of them did all teams face each other. As such the victories of Upton Park (Great Britain) in 1900 and Galt FC (Canada) in 1904 were far from marking the coronation of genuine world champions. The first Olympic tournament to have a sliver of credibility was the 1908 London Olympiad which saw the England amateur team prevail, and they retained their title in Stockholm 4 years later.

However, it was at the 1924 Olympics in Paris that the competition of football became a genuinely global affair. The addition of Uruguay and, to a lesser extent, the USA to the list of those competing added some much needed colour to the tournament. The Uruguayans had retained the Copa America in 1924, having won it the previous year, but despite that they remained something of an unknown quantity. The trip itself came about due to the belief of Dr Attilio Narancio that the Uruguayans were a match for the rest of the world. So confident was the good doctor that he mortgaged his house to fund the passage to Europe. In their long international history Uruguay had never before faced European international opposition but their pedigree in South America marked them out as a real force, having already won four of the first seven Copa Americas.

In the years since the first South American international of 1902 significant advances had also been made in tactics. After the first international of 1872 had demonstrated the differences between the play of England and Scotland, the English had soon embraced the formation (2-2-6) used by their neighbours, if not the style of play. By the 1880s teams had gone further, withdrawing an additional forward into the half-back line to a form a system known as the pyramid (the 2-3-5 when set out on the pitch looks like an inverted pyramid).

When the game broke through in South America this formation had already established itself as pre-eminent within British football. Naturally then this was the style adopted in deference to the footballing motherland. While the South Americans might have been conservative when it came to formations (the pyramid would remain the most popular system within Uruguay until the 1950s), they were willing to be more adventurous when it came to the manner in which they played the game.

Formations for Uruguay (below) v. Yugoslavia

The Celestes had built on the classical Scottish style of passing and added significant invention to what had already been such an effective system. In anticipation of Arthur Rowe’s famous “push and run” Spurs side of the 1950s, Uruguay had added considerable movement to the previously static style. Uruguay’s style was increasingly fluid, and relied on players making themselves available to receive a pass at all times. By running off the ball and constantly moving into space the Uruguayans were extremely hard to defend against, and forced the opposing half-backs to focus almost entirely on defence or risk the consequences.

Uruguay’s tactical dominance was vital to their early success in South America, as their movement appeared to provide them with a numerical advantage. Undeniably they relied on an excellent group of players, but what Uruguay demonstrated was the (perhaps obvious) natural supremacy of sides that played as a team rather than a group of individuals. The nature of Uruguay’s tactical advantage over their great South American rivals, Argentina, was later expressed by the Italian journalist, Gianni Brera, who commented “Argentina play football with a lot of imagination and elegance, but technical superiority cannot compensate for the abandonment of tactics. Between the two rioplatense national teams, the ants are the Uruguayans, the cicadas are the Argentinians.”

When the Uruguayans arrived in France they were not overly feared. Their isolation from the European game had made them an unknown quantity and so their first opponents at the Olympics, Yugoslavia, dispatched their scouts to watch them practice. In order to lull the Yugoslavs into a false sense of security the Uruguayans performed deliberately badly in training, leaving the scouts to conclude “It makes you feel sorry, these boys came from so far away…”

It was the Yugoslavs who would be sorry after the game. Such was the lack of knowledge about the tiny country in South America that the Uruguayan flag was flown upside down before the game while the organisers played a Brazilian march rather than the Uruguayan national anthem. Neither of these slights perturbed the Uruguayans.

The Uruguayans raced into a three goal lead at half-time and ran out convincing 7-0 victors at the full-time whistle. The crowd were astonished by the ability of the Uruguayans who were, as Eduardo Galeano would say, “slippery like squirrels, who played chess with a ball”. In particular, Jose Leandro Andrade, the Uruguayan right-half, stood out. By the climax of the tournament he would come to be known as the “black marvel” on account of his skin and his wonderful technical ability. A combination of ball juggling and physical strength, he was unlike any midfielder seen in Europe at the time. Indeed, his 75 yard dribble against France in which he beat 7 players before assisting in the fourth goal was as good a piece of individual ability as the French had ever seen. Having beaten Yugoslavia, the Uruguayans swept past the USA, France, Holland and finally Switzerland to claim their Olympic title.

Jose Leandro Andrade

Uruguay’s success made Europe sit up and take notice of the previously unheralded, brilliance of South America. With so little prior contact between the two continents from a footballing perspective, the tournament served as a reminder that the game had blossomed beyond European borders. The European powers could no longer claim pre-eminence, now there would be at least two continents vying for supremacy. Uruguay, as Dr Narancio would say, was “no longer just a tiny spot on the map of the world.”

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 7

  Bolton Wanderers 2-0 West Ham United (28 April 1923) Wembley, London

In its early years the FA Cup led a nomadic life. From the first final of 1872 between the Wanderers and the Royal Engineers until 1893 the climax of the tournament was hosted at the Oval. However, Surrey Cricket Club, the owners of the Oval refused permission for the ground to be used as the venue of the 1893 Cup final for fear of damage to the cricket squares.

At short notice the game was held in Fallowfield in Manchester (today the home of the University of Manchester sports teams), but it was not a success. A crowd of 45,000 gathered for the match between Everton and Wolves, double that which had been at the Oval the year before, and more than the ground could cope with. Such was the crush of bodies that spectators flooded on to the pitch to avoid a catastrophe and the ground was not used again for such a high-profile occasion.

The following year Goodison Park, the newly acquired home of Everton, was the choice for the final. Mercifully it passed without incident, with a reduced crowd of 37,000 seeing Notts County defeat Bolton 4-1 to become the first team from the second division to lift the Cup. The FA remained though a London-centric organisation and as such were keen for the showpiece event of their competition to be hosted in the capital.

Between 1895 and 1914 the Cup final was held at Crystal Palace in London (though replays were held in the North at Goodison Park, Old Trafford and Bramall Lane) as the competition seemed to have found a suitable home. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 put the importance of football into perspective. During the conflict Crystal Palace became a service depot to assist in the war efforts and the FA were forced to find a new location again. The 1915 final, the last before the war forced a halt to the game, was held at Old Trafford and came to be known as the “khaki Cup Final” as the majority of spectators were servicemen either home on leave or due to set off for the war.

When the war ended in 1918 it took some time for the competition to restart. With Crystal Palace still not available for use for the 1919-20 tournament the FA looked for another venue in London to host the Cup. The only venue in the capital with sufficient capacity at the time was Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea, and the ground played host to the Cup final from 1920 to 1922. At this point though the FA were tired of the constant search for a new home for the tournament and the idea of a permanent site became more and more attractive.

On 8 May 1921 the FA Ground Committee visited Wembley and signed an agreement to host the FA Cup final there for the next 21 years. What emerged there was the finest stadium in the world. At a cost of £750,000 and composed of 25,000 tons of concrete with a further 2,000 tons of steel, the Empire Stadium at Wembley was the envy of the world. The official capacity of 127,000 spectators would end any chance of such a crush as was seen in Fallowfield in 1892, or so the organisers hoped.

The first final to be played at the newly opened ground was the 1923 final between Bolton and West Ham. The level of anticipation of the game was feverish. With a London club involved and the promise to see the magnificent new stadium between 250-300,000 fans turned up to take their place. What ensued was pandemonium.

Fans swarm the pitch

In an era before all-ticket matches thousands more were admitted to the ground than it could possibly hope to hold. The numbers within the stadium were simply far too great, and the crowd spilled on to the field to avoid a possible crush. At this point King George V arrived to take his position in the Royal Box, and his presence changed the mood of a restless crowd. When the band struck up the national anthem the crowd turned in unison to sing.

With some calm restored to the scene, the police set about clearing the pitch of spectators. In this crowd of bodies one figure stood out. Billy, a 13 year old white horse, ridden by George Scorey became the emblem of the restoration of order to the situation. Such was the iconic role of the horse in the clearing of the pitch and thus allowing the match to be played at all that the game would forever be known as “the White Horse final”.

Formations of Bolton (below) and West Ham

When the game got underway, 45 minutes later than originally scheduled, it got off to an incredible start. Tresadern, the West Ham left-half, went into the crowd to retrieve the ball for a throw in and was trapped off the pitch when David Jack opened the scoring. Jack, one of the leading forwards of the day, demonstrated great skill as he feinted to pass to Butler before dribbling through the West Ham defence and firing a fierce shot past Hufton from close range. West Ham came close to equalising minutes later when Pym, the Bolton goalkeeper, misjudged a corner and left the goal wide open only for Watson to blaze his shot over the bar.

Bolton came close to extending their advantage before half-time when J.R. Smith headed narrowly wide from Vizard’s cross, an effort that Hufton would have had no chance in saving. Soon after Bolton had a goal disallowed when Butler crossed for J.R. Smith and the striker blasted past Hufton. The referee D.H. Asson ruled out the goal for offside, though it appeared a close decision.

The players did not leave the field at half-time for fear the crowd would return to the pitch, but changed ends after a brief moment of respite. When they did restart West Ham again came close with Watson failing to convert a chance crafted by Kay, and Pym saved easily from some tame West Ham shots. Eight minutes after half-time Bolton extended their lead with a ferocious shot from J.R. Smith which cannoned off the mass of spectators huddled behind the net and flew back into play. Some believed that the ball had not gone in but the referee had no doubt and that goal secured victory for Bolton.     

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 6

Uruguay 0-6 Argentina (16 July 1902) Paso del Molino, Montevideo

Many talk of the great rivalry in South America as being that between Argentina and Brazil, but a far older and fiercer enmity exists between Argentina and Uruguay. Divided by the River Plate, Buenos Aires and Montevideo have between them played host to some of the most explosive encounters in world football history. Indeed no international has been played more frequently than the clash between the two teams which first took place in 1902, the first international outside the British Isles.

As in the rest of the world, the British were responsible for the spread of football to South America. As early 1867 the first organised games of football took place in Buenos Aires. In that year, an English language paper in the city, The Standard, published the laws of the game set out by the FA in 1863 and advertisements in the paper were influential as a way of letting the expat community know of upcoming matches. Thomas Hogg of the Buenos Aires Cricket Club used the paper to publicise the second organised game of football in South America in June 1867.

Argentine Team For First International

The rise of the game in South America in those initial years can be largely be credited to the role of the British schools in the largest cities. Alexander Watson Hutton, a Scot who founded the English High School in Buenos Aires, was of particular note in the development of football in Argentina. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Argentine Association Football League (AAFL) which would go on to this day to be the championship of Argentina.

Those early years of football in Argentina were utterly dominated by the British community. The first two of the Argentine championships were won by Lomas Athletic Club, before Buenos Aires English Highschool (later renamed Alumni Athletic Club) came to the fore. Such was the dominance of the Alumni club that they would win the Argentine title 10 times in the years between 1900 and 1911. Even today they remain the 6th most successful club in the history of Argentine football based exclusively on this early haul of titles.

Over in Montevideo a similar pattern was emerging. Again it was a Scotsman who taught at an English high school, this time William Leslie Poole, who was influential in the growth of the sport. He founded the Albion Cricket Club, and due to a lack of opposition within Uruguay would go as far as Argentina to find competition.

It was against this backdrop that the first South American international took place. A crowd of 8,000 spectators gathered in Montevideo, including as many as 1,000 who had made the trip from Argentina by boat. The passion and expectancy of the fixture was apparent even from the off.

The Argentines fielded a side comprised of five members of the Alumni team, two each from Quilmes and Belgrano, with Lomas and Barracas Athletic each supplying one. The names of the players betrayed their British heritage with two Browns, two Buchanans, a Moore, a Dickinson and a Morgan taking to the field.

Uruguay fielded a side with far less of a British accent to it. The team was primarily composed of players from Nacional, who would go on to be such a force within South American football in the twentieth century, while a smattering of players hailed from the Albion club. The Central Uruguayan Railways Cricket Club (CURCC), who would go on to become Penarol were yet to make a major splash in Uruguayan domestic football. Uruguay too were able to boast two pairs of brothers, the Cespedes and the Sardesons, showing quite how limited the pool of players was at the time.

The match sadly turned out to be a less than competitive affair. Within 3 minutes of kick-off, left-winger Carlos Dickinson had put the visitors in front and from that point on they never looked back. Morgan, Anderson and Jorge Brown all netted for Argentina while Uruguayan defenders Arimalo and Urioste were both unfortunate enough to score own goals. It ended as a 6-0 rout, to this day the worst defeat in Uruguayan history.