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Tuesday, June 22, 2010
ESPNsoccernet: June 22, 3:58 AM UK
On This World Cup Day - June 22

Cris Freddi

1986 The Hand of the Baskervilles. Palm Sunday. The day Maradona raised a finger to knock England out of the World Cup. After the puns, the anger: England had won their last two matches 3-0 and can't have feared Argentina in the quarter-finals. Happy enough with a goalless first half, they conceded two quick goals early in the second, the first when Steve Hodge sliced a clearance kick back towards his own penalty spot. The two captains went for the ball together. Only one of them was allowed to use his hands, but the other one did instead, Maradona making up for his lack of inches by getting his hand to the ball before Peter Shilton's punch, sending the ball bouncing into the empty net. The referee took his share of the flak, but it happened fast enough to deceive most people in the stadium, and anyway it wasn't the referee who handled the ball. A grubby little moment, with major implications when Maradona scored one of the almighty goals, picking the ball up near halfway and beating four men before dummying Shilton. BBC commentator Barry Davies got it exactly right: 'You have to say that's magnificent.' By then, coach Carlos Bilardo had already beaten Bobby Robson in the tactical war. Always flexible, he varied his tactics again to match the opposition's strengths, man-marking Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley and stationing a man wide on the right to block Hodge. This effectively left Argentina without conventional fullbacks - but Robson, not thinking on his feet, didn't bring on a winger until Maradona had done the damage. Then John Barnes beat men on the left before sending in crosses that made a headed goal for Lineker and a chance he only just missed. Losing to the Hand of God was gut-wrenching, of course - but at least someone got something out of it. Having helped Maradona score the first goal, Hodge got the little devil's shirt at the end, his biggest achievement in international football. On the same day, Belgium set up a semi-final with Maradona by beating Spain on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Jan Ceulemans scored with a strong falling header and Juan Antonio Señor equalised from 20 yards with only six minutes left. 1998 Michael Owen's first World Cup goal wasn't enough to save England, but it put down a marker for the big one against Argentina. And at the time it seemed to have earned a draw, which would have kept England top of the group ahead of Romania after both won their opening matches. Gheorghe Hagi was past his best, but there was no getting away from him. He fouled Paul Ince and was booked for tripping Sol Campbell, moaned at the referee, shot wildly throughout the first half, and did little in the second except stand on the left touchline - and make the opening goal. Wheeling away from Graeme Le Saux in receiving a throw-in on the right, he lobbed in a cross which Viorel Moldovan chested down before volleying home. The 18-year-old Owen volleyed in a loose ball with only seven minutes to go - but in injury time Le Saux suddenly lost the duel with his Chelsea club mate Dan Petrescu, who held him off with an elbow across the windpipe before shooting between David Seaman's legs. Both of Romania's goals had been scored by their two players with English clubs, including Moldovan who'd scored only one League goal for Coventry City that season. There was still time for Owen to hit a post from long range, but England were now faced with a winner-takes-all match against Colombia, who beat Tunisia 1-0 today. 2006 The day an English referee booked the same player three times. It added to a fun mix. Australia needed a draw to reach the next round, Croatia a win. Seven of the Australian squad were of Croatian descent, three of Croatia's squad were born in Australia, including Josip Simunic, who marked Mark Viduka, his old room mate at the Australian Institute of Sport. Simunic marked Viduka too enthusiastically at times, because Graham Poll eventually gave him a red card after showing him three yellows. Croatia took the lead in only two minutes. Darijo Srna, who'd missed a penalty against Japan, hammered in a free kick from more than twice the distance. Then the teams traded gifts. A daft handball by Stjepan Tomas allowed Craig Moore to equalise from the penalty spot. Guus Hiddink had replaced Mark Schwarzer in goal with Zeljko Kalac, who was 6' 8, the tallest player in any Word Cup finals match - so getting down low was a bit of a task. When he fumbled Niko Kovac's ordinary shot, Croatia were back in front. But with eleven minutes to go, Harry Kewell scored the equaliser that sent Australia through. As things warmed up in the last five minutes, Poll showed three red cards (eventually!). He retired from international football before he was pushed. Meanwhile group winners Brazil were given a scare by Japan, who were fantasising about the next round after taking the lead. Keiji Tamada hit a huge left-foot shot high at the near post after running across the back of the Brazilian defence. If Japan had held the lead until half-time ... instead Ronaldo headed an equaliser a minute later. The second half was a deluge in the rain, Brazil scoring three more times to extend their finals record to ten World Cup wins in a row. In another group, leaders Italy looked solid in winning 2-0 against a Czech Republic team still traumatised by losing to Ghana. When classy central defender Alessandro Nesta was injured in yet another World Cup, gangling Marco Materazzi came on after only 17 minutes and headed in a corner after 26. Then Jan Polák was sent off right at the end of the first half, and the second was purgatory for the Czechs. A goal down with only ten men, needing a win against a strong defence, they had no chance - which didn't stop their captain giving the performance of his life, which is saying something. One of the greatest players of all time, an attacking midfielder with all the qualities, Pavel Nedvd took on Italy single-handedly. A veteran by now, he turned the match into a personal contest with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who kept him out at long range. It wasn't until the last three minutes that Pippo Inzaghi ran clear from halfway to seal the match. After the pantomime with the USA, Italy looked good again, but this match belonged to a hero from elsewhere. In the other match, the USA needed to beat Ghana, who were missing their two goalscorers for picking up second yellow cards against the Czechs. But there was help from a 12th man. US captain Claudio Reyna was painfully fouled by Haminu Dramani, who ran on to score the opening goal. Then, after Clint Dempsey's emphatic volleyed equaliser, Ghana were awarded a penalty for a non-existent foul. Brian McBride hit a post in the second half as the USA finished a long way short of the semi-finals their coach was aiming for. 1974 Scotland became the first country to be eliminated from a World Cup without losing a match in the finals. In the end, a draw with defending champions Brazil didn't mean as much as the two goals against Zaire: simply not enough. Needing a win against Yugoslavia, they went a goal down with only nine minutes left, Stanislav Karasi's header from a cross by famous left-winger Dragan Dzajic. With only two to go, Joe Jordan volleyed in at the far post after Tommy Hutchison beat his man and crossed low from the left. Hutchison should have been in the team from the start, in place of the dreadfully disappointing Kenny Dalglish ('I was frightened to try things in case they didn't come off'). Meanwhile the sight of Billy Bremner, essentially a ball winner, taking the ball from his goalkeeper showed how little was coming from the midfield. Scotland were the only unbeaten team in the tournament, but there are lies and statistics. Even so, they were only knocked out because Brazil scored one more goal against Zaire, whose goalkeeper Kazadi Mwamba had gifted Scotland's first goal and now did the same with Brazil's third. Brazil's second was wasted on a team like Zaire, Roberto Rivelino shooting so hard that the ball rebounded yards out off the netting. With eleven minutes left, Valdomiro hit a cross-cum-shot from almost on the right-hand goal line, Kazadi fumbling it in at the near post as he tried to clutch it to his chest. Mwepu Ilunga was booked for charging out of the wall at a free kick and kicking the ball away - but it was probably something he'd seen the professionals do. It was about the only thing Zaire learned from their embarrassing three games, which were used to denigrate black African football for years. A socially significant match took place over in Hamburg. The only one ever contested by the two Germanies. The hosts from the West were already through, the neighbours from the East needed at least a draw - and got more than that. After 77 minutes of cloak and no dagger, Jürgen Sparwasser chased a long ball, cleverly headed it away from a defender, and sold the keeper half a dummy. East Germany's prize? A place in a harder group, alongside tournament favourites Holland. For the West, an urgent need to sort things out before their next match. In the same group, the also-rans were also running. After losing both their opening games without scoring a goal, Australia didn't score one against Chile - but they deserved their clean sheet. What is it with referees and World Cup matches involving Australia? It took four minutes and a touchline consultation for this one to realise he'd given Ray Richards a second yellow card - a suitable end to a match which had been held up by a demonstration against Augusto Pinochet's military coup. The next time Chile reached the finals, eight years later, he was still in power, after murdering and 'disappearing' thousands of his own people. After this end to a barren campaign, the next time Australia reached the finals, they scored goals and won a game. Substitute Harry Williams was the first Aboriginal to play international football. Team captain Peter Wilson became one of Australia's most famous recluses. By the early 2000s, when he was tracked down to a mountain retreat ringed with barbed wire, he was covered in Harley Davidson tattooes and hadn't given an interview for more than twenty years. Richards, sent off in his last international, probably had. 1994 The own goal that cost a player his life. When the draw was made, there was every prospect of the host nation being eliminated at the group stage for the first time - but the USA had few problems with this ghost of a Colombian team. After both sides had hit a post, Andrés Escobar turned a cross shot into his own net. Then Earnie Stewart touched a shot in off the near post. The USA should have gone 3-0 up, but Alexi Lalas had a thumping goal wrongly disallowed for offside. Colombia's last-minute goal couldn't stop the USA winning a finals match for the first time since beating England in 1950. The game had an horrific postscript when Escobar was shot dead on 2 July. In the same group, Romania's impressive opening win over Colombia made their next result a complete shock. When Gheorghe Hagi equalised from 25 yards, they were already almost in the next round - but the Swiss scored three goals in the second half. To complete Romania's disarray, Ion Vladoiu was sent off three minutes after coming on as a sub. It was Switzerland's first win in the finals since 1954. Their coach was an Englishman called Roy Hodgson. 1982 Another draw, another elimination for Scotland. Their big defeat by Brazil left them needing to beat the USSR to reach the next stage, and again Jordan scored one of their goals, this time giving them a lead they still held after an hour. Then the Soviets scored two irritating goals. Their captain Aleksandr Chivadze kicked the ball into the ground and in, and Willie Miller and Alan Hansen collided under a long ball by their right-hand touchline, a favourite TV gaffe. The ball went loose for Ramaz Shengalia to run on and swerve past the keeper. Scotland's captain Graeme Souness equalised with only three minutes left, but it only emphasised his overall contribution. With the team needing real generalship at the highest level, he didn't deliver. But if manager Jock Stein deserved a better crop of players, at least after 1978 the exit was dignified. In other group deciders, Poland were held goalless at half-time - but then Peru left their floodgates open. Poland's running, on and off the ball, brought them five goals. Peru pulled one back near the end, but it was a dismal end to the international career of Teofilo Cubillas, star of 1970 and 1978. Hungary's thrashing by Maradona & Co made their ten goals against El Salvador irrelevant. Belgium's opening win over the champions left them needing only a draw in this final match. They got it but suffered first. Jozsef Varga put Hungary in front after 27 minutes and Belgium didn't equalise until 13 to go, when Jan Ceulemans broke two tackles before finding Alex Czerniatynski. Belgium's captain, their great right-back Eric Gerets, missed the rest of the tournament with concussion after colliding with his own goalkeeper. 2002 South Korea's journey through their own World Cup showed no signs of ending. In the quarter-finals, they beat the fancied Spaniards on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Although Spain had two days' more rest, the hosts hadn't played anything like the same number of games during the season. And they had the luck that was going. In extra time, Fernando Morientes had a headed goal disallowed because the linesman wrongly decided the ball had gone out of play before Joaquín crossed it. Then Morientes volleyed against the far post. Having beaten the Republic of Ireland on penalties, Spain had no complaints in this shoot-out. They flew home with their Great Under-Achievers trophy still in their baggage. A little undeservedly this time. Turkey reached the semi-finals too, after a battle of the not-good-enoughs. Again the match was lost by the team with a couple of extra days in bed. As in their opening win over France, Senegal didn't use any substitutes, which cost them in extra time. 0lhan Mansiz came on for Turkey's totemic captain, the useless Hakan ^ükür, and scored the only goal with a confident strike at the near post. Next up: a chance for revenge over Brazil.


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