Thursday, May 27, 2010
Veteran coaches and the most minutes
Each time the World Cup rolls around, enduring football memories are created on the biggest stage of them all and the tournament's history books rewritten. Here, Soccernet tells the stories of those players, coaches and teams who can already claim to hold a place in the record books.
Most minutes played, finals: 2,217 - Paolo Maldini (Italy, 1990-2002)
A consummate professional and undoubtedly one of the greatest defenders to play the game, it is perhaps little consolation to Paolo Maldini - who retired from international football four years before Italy's 2006 triumph - that he has played more World Cup minutes than any player in finals history and not lifted the trophy. But it is an achievement that the former Azzurri left-back should be proud of; the record epitomises the longevity of a player who competed at the pinnacle of European football for 24 years with AC Milan, amassing 127 Italy caps over a 14-year international career.
Maldini made his international debut as a fresh-faced 19 year old in 1988, though he had been a first-team regular with Milan for a couple of seasons. His first World Cup was on home soil in 1990 where, sporting the unfamiliar number seven shirt - the number three jersey belonged to captain Giuseppe Bergomi - Maldini formed an impenetrable defensive line alongside Bergomi and Riccardo Ferri, with Franco Baresi playing the libero role. The unflappable Maldini played every minute as Italy kept five clean sheets in a row on their way to the semi-finals, where penalty heartache awaited at the hands of Argentina.
By the time the 1994 finals arrived, Maldini had been made Italy captain by Arrigo Sacchi, who had watched him develop during his time as AC Milan coach. Maldini was again instrumental - and again played every minute - as Italy booked a final berth against a talented Brazil side. Maldini, the only ever-present defender in the USA, played alongside Baresi in the final and the captain helped stifle Brazil's plethora of attacking flair - forcing the match to penalties, where Roberto Baggio's miss meant shootout sorrow once more for the Azzurri.
It was the closest Maldini ever came to lifting the trophy, as the 1998 World Cup in France brought a third consecutive penalty shootout defeat for the captain - courtesy of the hosts in the quarter-finals. It was another complete campaign for the left-back, who didn't miss a minute, and it would be the same again at his fourth and final World Cup in 2002. In Japan/South Korea, Maldini played in the heart of defence with Fabio Cannavaro - the player who would succeed him as captain and overtake his Italy caps record.
Playing in his 23rd World Cup match against South Korea in the second round, he overtook the great Lothar Matthaus' record of 22 finals matches. But there would be no fairytale finish for Maldini, who allowed South Korea striker Ahn Jung Hwan to climb above him to head in a golden goal winner in extra-time and produce one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. It was a devastating end to a remarkable international career, but Maldini's mistake cannot prevent him being remembered as one of the finest players to have graced the world's biggest footballing stage.
Oldest coach: 70 years and 194 days - Gaston Barreau (France vs Mexico, Switzerland 1954)
One record is certain to be broken next month when, barring a dramatic change of heart from the Greek football association, Otto Rehagael will become the oldest coach to take charge of a team at the World Cup finals.
The man who led Greece to a sensational triumph at Euro 2004 will earn his place in the record books when his side take on South Korea on June 12, and will - even if Greece fail to progress - cement his position in the final group game against Argentina on June 22 - when the veteran coach will be 71 years and 316 days young.
FIFA's record books claim that the man who currently holds the record is Cesare Maldini, who was 70 and 131 days when he led out Paraguay in their final game at the 2002 World Cup. But the actual record holder is former France coach Gaston Barreau, who oversaw les Bleus' World Cup campaigns in 1930, 1934, 1938 and 1954.
Barreau was in charge of the French national team for an astonishing 36 years and managed the team on no fewer than 197 occasions - though the first 17 years of these were in an unofficial capacity as head of the team selection committee. Barreau's first involvement came when the French Football Federation was founded in 1919, and he was a key figure in ensuring France's participation at the inaugural finals in 1930, where a French player - Lucien Laurent - netted the first ever World Cup goal. France exited at the group stage in the first tournament and the first round in 1934, but two years later Barreau was officially installed as les Bleus boss.
France hosted the 1938 edition of the tournament and Barreau's side made it to the quarter-finals before reigning champions and eventual winners Italy knocked them out. The war years and subsequent dormancy of the national team make Barreau's remarkable managerial record all the more impressive, as he missed out on a potential four-and-a-half years worth of fixtures. He failed to guide France to the 1950 World Cup but in 1954 engineered qualification for the finals in Switzerland. After losing the opening match 1-0 to Yugoslavia, Mexico were beaten 3-2, as Barreau - aged 70 years and 194 days - set a record that would stand for 56 years.
The victory was, however, not enough for les Bleus to progress and it was finals disappointment again for Barreau, who went on to retire a year later after 84 (official) games at the helm. Barreau witnessed the ascent of France's "Golden Generation" in the mid-50s, spearheaded by the prolific Just Fontaine but died at the age of 74 on June 11, 1958 - the day France lost to Yugoslavia at the World Cup in Sweden, and just over two weeks before Fontaine and co produced one of the most memorable results in finals history when they beat West Germany 6-3 in the third-place play-off.
Most appearances never advancing from the first round: 8 - Scotland (1954, 1958, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1998)
Getting to eight World Cup tournaments is no mean feat and the Scots certainly deserve credit for that achievement, but whenever they have reached the finals they have well and truly failed to deliver when it has mattered most.
Andy Beattie took a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Scotland team to their first World Cup in Switzerland in 1954, where a narrow 1-0 opening-game defeat to Austria - a respectable result considering the Austrians would finish the tournament in third place - was followed up by a 7-0 demolition at the hands of Uruguay in the second game. Scotland were packing their bags.
A second successive appearance in 1958 brought a first World Cup point as Dawson Walker's side drew with Yugoslavia, before losing by one goal to both Paraguay and France - when a certain Just Fontaine was the matchwinner. Scotland finished bottom of their group again and it would be 16 years before the Tartan Army would get another shot at the World Cup.
Led by coach Willie Ormond, a hugely talented side that included Billy Bremner, Kenny Dalglish and former European Footballer of the Year Denis Law recorded the nation's first finals win - a 2-0 victory against Zaire - as lady luck appeared to be finally smiling down. Next up were reigning champions Brazil and though they were a shadow of the side that won the 1970 trophy with such style, Scotland's 0-0 draw was still (up to that point) the best result in the national team's history. A victory was needed against Yugoslavia in the final group game but a 1-1 draw was the final result and Ormond's side agonisingly missed out on qualification.
In 1978, the Brazil result was eclipsed as the greatest in Scotland's history, as a majestic goal from Archie Gemmill gave Alistair MacLeod's charges an unthinkable 3-2 win against eventual runners-up the Netherlands. Unfortunately, a 3-1 reverse to Peru and a 1-1 draw with Iran in the previous two games meant Scotland were heading home early, again. In 1982, goal-difference was again the deciding factor as the Soviet Union went through at the Scots' expense, while even Sir Alex Ferguson could not inspire progression in 1986, as another admirable result - a 2-1 defeat against eventual runners-up West Germany - could not prevent another group stage exit.
Losses to Brazil in both the 1990 and 1998 tournaments contributed to an early plane home from Italy and France respectively, and without a World Cup qualification in 12 years, Scotland's miserable record currently reads: Played 23, Won 4, Drawn 7 and Lost 12. And just to confirm - progressions from the group stage: zero.