Wednesday, June 2, 2010
On This World Cup Day - June 1
Paul Gascoigne admitted he'd had a few sherbets only hours before Glenn Hoddle left him out of England's World Cup squad. "I got drunk quite quickly...but at no point did I think I was doing anything wrong."
Paul Gascoigne played his final England game in a warm-up with Morocco (GettyImages)
When Hoddle gave him the bad news, Gazza lashed out at assorted items of furniture in the hotel room, cutting his leg in the process. He simply hadn't been at his best for some time ("I admit my match fitness may not have been there"), and never played for England again. Without him, they lost in the second round (June 30).
Just before the finals, Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy shot his team in the foot by sending home Roy Keane, his captain and only world-class player, for a bust-up after Keane had complained about training facilities.
Without him, the Republic did well to draw their opening match. Near the end of the first half, Samuel Eto'o beat Steve Staunton and prodded the ball square for Patrick Mboma to put Cameroon ahead. But Ireland came out to attack after the break, and Holland soon hit a low drive just inside a post. Robbie Keane had a terrible match, constantly dispossessed too easily, until he suddenly hit a post with seven minutes left. But the Irish were relieved to come away with a draw.
On the same day in the same group, Germany exposed Saudi Arabia's usual physical frailty (they kept sacking foreign coaches for training them hard) with an aerial bombardment. Five of their goals in an 8-0 win came from headers, by Miroslav Klose (three), Michael Ballack, and defender Thomas Linke. There was even a goal from big Carsten Jancker, who hadn't scored in the league all season. Klose's hat-trick was his second in consecutive internationals.
Also in these finals, Uruguay scored one of the most brilliant goals in any World Cup. When Denmark's Rene Henriksen headed clear from a corner, the ball reached Pablo García outside the penalty area. He kept it up in the air with two touches before knocking it sideways to the left, where Darío Rodríguez ran up and volleyed it in high at the near post. Just fantastic.
But Denmark scored two good goals of their own. A minute before half-time, Jon Dahl Tomasson finished off an excellent team move, full of clever angled passes on the left. Then he headed an elegant late winner off the bar. One in the eye for Newcastle United, who wrote him off as a failure after playing him out of position.
This World Cup, the first ever held in Europe, was a knockout tournament. Penalty shoot-outs were a long way in the future, so today a replay was required - only a day after the original match. Several team changes had to be made after a vicious game which left Italy's Mario Pizziolo with a broken leg and Spain without their great goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora. For the replay, hosts Italy recalled midfield warriors like Luigi Bertolini and Attilio Ferraris. Sources disagree as to whether three or four Spaniards went off injured, and three Italians were seriously crocked. The great Giuseppe Meazza headed the only goal by flinging himself at a corner. The rest was bruises. And Italy had only two days to recover before their semi-final.
For a while, the World Cup had a habit of staging really dismal opening matches (including England-Uruguay in 1966 (11 July). This was the fourth in a row to finish 0-0. Poland and holders West Germany made hardly any chances between them but eventually both qualified for the next round.
Canada, a team of part-timers playing their first ever finals match, almost held out against a France team featuring Michael Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana, Dominique Rocheteau, and Jean-Pierre Papin. By the time Papin headed the only goal with nine minutes left, he'd missed an open goal and volleyed against the bar. Canada were coached by former England goalkeeper Tony Waiters. They were in a real group of death with France, Hungary, and the USSR - so they lost every match without scoring a goal. But they made a game of all three.
Brazil also won their opening match 1-0 - but they looked a ghost of their brilliant 1982 team (18 June). And Spain had no luck. Two first-choice players were ill, and TV replays showed the ball crossing the line when Michel hit the bar. When Brazil's Careca hit the bar after an hour, Sócrates headed in from an offside position. But he and Junior looked past their sell-bys; Paulo Roberto Falcão was only a late sub; and Zico didn't play at all.
Alexi Lalas was born in Michigan. A distinctive figure with his height, long red hair, and goatee beard, he was also a pretty good central defender, winning 96 caps and helping the USA to the second round in the 1994 World Cup held at home (4 July). The previous year, he'd come on as sub and headed the second goal in a 2-0 win over England. He played guitar in a rock band and released a solo album called Ginger.
In Mexico City, police arrested a number of students the day after the opening match in the World Cup. Depending on what happened to them in custody, they may have counted themselves lucky: two years earlier, the Mexican army murdered 200 peaceful demonstrators just before the Olympic Games in the same city.